Yōkai are supernatural monsters/ghosts/demons from Japanese folklore. The word itself is made up from the kanji for “bewitching, attractive, and calamity” and “spectre, apparition, mystery, and suspicious.” There are hundreds and hundreds of yōkai, from fairly harmless tricksters, to monsters that prey on human flesh. Being an animal that many are already afraid of, of course there are also spider yōkai.

As a tattoo these creatures are usually done in Japanese style, but can also be neo traditional, American traditional, black and grey, or blackwork.

There are three main types of spider yōkai:

-Ushi Oni: Which is actually classified as an ox demon. This demon is often depicted with the head of an ox and the body of a spider, and is usually near bodies of water. These creatures are always carnivorous and dangerous to humans. They are not always spiders, but this is one of the more popular depictions. The Ushi Oni is described as cruel and vicious, breathing toxic poison, and sometimes inflicting curses or spreading disease.

S Ben Wight at Pyramid Arts Tattoo
Blackwork Japanese piece by Ben Wight at Pyramid Arts Tattoo.
S Brian Faulk Hand of Glory Tattoo
Black and grey Japanese piece by Brian Faulk at Hand of Glory Tattoo.

-Tsuchigumo: A giant spider who can live a very long time, and grow to monstrous sizes. When they get old enough they can transform themselves into other yōkai, even taking the form of humans in order to lure and kill people. These creatures live in forests and mountains, mainly preying on travelers. One famous tale tells of this creature transforming into a beautiful woman who leads an army of yōkai against Japan. A man named Yorimitsu is the first to meet the beast on the battlefield and strikes her, making the army disappear. The Japanese army then follows her back to her cave where she morphs back into a giant spider. Yorimitsu slices her open, unleashing thousands of human sized baby spiders. The Japanese army kills every last one and returns victorious.

S Adrian Evans at Saints and Sinners Tattoo in Dallas
Huge spider with skulls and web by Adrian Evans at Saints and Sinners Tattoo in Dallas.
S Alexander Rusty Cairns at Lighthouse Tattoo in Sydney, Australia
Cover up piece by Alexander Rusty Cairns at Lighthouse Tattoo in Sydney, Australia.
S Gab Lavoie at Tattoo Mania in Montreal
Spider with hannya mask by Gab Lavoie at Tattoo Mania in Montreal, Canada.
S Ganji Tokyo Three Tides Tattoo
Black and grey beast done by Ganji at Tokyo Three Tides Tattoo in Tokyo, Japan.
S Horihiro Mitomo Three Tides Tattoo Tokyo:Osaka
Very traditional Japanese piece done by Horihiro Mitomo at Three Tides Tattoo Tokyo/Osaka, Japan.
S Vond Barta Sacred Monkey Tattoo Melbourne
Brilliant Japanese scalp banger done by Vond Barta at Sacred Monkey Tattoo in Melbourne.

Jorōgumo: This creature was known as the “whore spider” but is now better known as “entangling bride”. She lives both as a beautiful yōkai in human form and as a giant spider. This spider gains the ability to transform after it has lived for 400 years. She uses her human form to lure unsuspecting men to her lair before eating them. They live in caves, forests, or abandoned houses. This creature is often seen as part spider, part woman, generally the body of a spider and head of a woman.

S Eric Alcantara at Ridgewood Tattoo Studio
More American traditional piece with Japanese influence by Eric Alcantara at Ridgewood Tattoo Studio.
S Francesco Giamblanco at Black Horse Tattoo
Colorful piece by Francesco Giamblanco at Black Horse Tattoo.
S George Galloway at Windhorse Tattoo
Half spider half woman by George Galloway at Windhorse Tattoo.
S Hozho at Tattoo Station in Romarin
Colorful neo traditional piece by Hozho at Tattoo Station.
S Nhia Yang at Gook Kind Tattoo in Chicago
Terrifying neo traditional piece with noh mask as the head. Done by Nhia Yang at Goodkind Tattoo in Chicago.
S Nick Crampton at Chapel Tattoo
Spider with skulls by Nick Crampton at Chapel Tattoo.
S Vova Bydin at Citizen Ink Brooklyn NYC
More American traditional piece by Vova Bydin at Citizen Ink in Brooklyn NYC.

All versions of this beast are terrifying, and all make a bold tattoo. Which is your favorite?

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