19 Anime Miko, Shrine Maidens and Shinto Priestesses with images

You don’t have to go far to find a bunch of anime about Miko, also called shrine maidens, and Shinto priestesses. In the past, we’ve discussed Shinto’s connection with anime more broadly, and even put together this list of 25 shinto related anime. But here we will hone down even more to look at one of shinto’s most enduring symbols in the anime and manga genres, the Shinto priestess, Miko.

Why are there so many Miko shrine maidens and Shinto priestesses in Anime?

We can identify perhaps three main reasons that the figure of the Miko shrine maiden has become such a trope in anime. These are the miko’s youthful purity, historic perception of divine authority and their ability to adapt well into the supernatural worlds of superpowers often depicted in anime.

  1. Miko shrine maidens are symbols of youthful purity in Japan. 

You will notice that anime are very often, close to exclusively, focused on children or young characters. Miko characters therefore lend themselves very naturally to being a part of this focus.

From this perspective, it is as if the entire anime and manga genres have a preoccupation on the innocent, or pure, side of humanity. More precisely, anime generally focuses on youth’s heroic struggles to overcome a broader evil in the world. 

  1. Miko were powerful keepers of the Shrine in ancient Japan. 

The history of Miko also lends this character to anime, in that Miko were traditionally considered closer to the role of current day Shinto Priests. Miko were the head of the Shrine, the ones bestowed the powers of shamic lore associated with the shrine and kami

It has even been argued that the early history of Japan was largely matriarchal. Today, Japan is seen by most people as being a patriarchal society, but there is a place within the collective psyche of the Japanese people for a mysteriously powerful maiden.

  1. In the anime world of people with supernatural powers and otherworldly abilities, the mysteriously powerful Miko Shrine Maiden is a good fit. 

It makes sense to give a central role to the Shinto priestess in anime and take advantage of these ancient symbols of animistic power. Aside from any amorphous, generalised powers that are ascribed Miko in Japanese culture at large, anime often gives the Shrine Maiden specific powers such as the ability to shoot forces from the hands or the ability to repel magical attacks from the forces of evil.

What is a shrine maiden?

Putting aside the question of the symbolism that Shrine Maidens have in Japanese history, what do Miko do in contemporary Japanese Shrines?

What does a Miko actually do? 

These days, the role of Miko has been altogether downgraded from it’s previous appointment as a shaman responsible for various rites and ceremonies. 

Today you will more often find a Miko manning a gift shop than chanting an incantation. They tend to be fairly low-paid, high school or part time university students. They often have fairly minimal training on the deeper aspects of Shinto practice.

In ceremonial events, such as festivals and weddings, they participate as more of a helper or assistant, than as the main person in charge.

That being said, they may still have roles performing ceremonial dances or chants so their spiritual role has not been totally removed in the modern age. Many of the more outwardly shamanistic and “magical” functions that shrines held were outlawed after the Meiji restoration when Japan embarked on a large-scale scientific modernization project. During this period Shinto became much more mixed with ideas of nationalism. Called “Kokka Shinto” in Japanese, Shinto became something used more to bring the people together on a socio-political level, than a thing to heal them on a mind-body level.

What anime has Miko in it?

We have compiled a list of anime that feature Miko and Shrine Maidens.

List of Miko Anime and the Shinto Priestesses

  1. 君の名は Your Name 

Miko/Shinto Priestess/Shrine Maiden character: Mitsuha Miyamizu

  1. 犬夜叉 Inuyasha

Miko/Shinto Priestess/Shrine Maiden character: Kikyo 

  1. 神無月の巫女 Kannazuki no Miko Destiny of the Shrine Maiden 

Miko/Shinto Priestess/Shrine Maiden character: Himeko Kurusugawa

  1. 温泉幼精ハコネちゃん Onsen Yosei Hakone-Chan

Miko/Shinto Priestess/Shrine Maiden character: Hakone (Actually a deity but portrayed like Miko)

  1. RDG レッドデータガール Red Data Girl (RDG: Red Data Girl)

Miko/Shinto Priestess/Shrine Maiden character: Izumiko Suzuhara

  1. くまみこ Kuma Miko: Girl Meets Bear

Miko/Shinto Priestess/Shrine Maiden character: Amayadori Machi 

  1. ラブ ひな Love Hina 

Miko/Shinto Priestess/Shrine Maiden character:Mokoto Aoyama

  1.  かんなぎ Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maidens (Kannagi)

Miko/Shinto Priestess/Shrine Maiden character: Himemiya Chikane

  1. 我が家のお稲荷様 Our Home’s Fox Deity 

Miko/Shinto Priestess/Shrine Maiden character: Ko (referred to as a “Mamorime” but presents as a Miko)

  1. ぎんぎつね Gingitsune: Messenger Fox of the Gods (Gingitsune)

Miko/Shinto Priestess/Shrine Maiden character: Yuuko

  1. かみちゅ! The Goddess is a Middle School Student (Kamichu!)

Miko/Shinto Priestess/Shrine Maiden character: Miko Saegusa

  1. 朝霧の巫女 Shrine of the Morning Mist (Asagiri no Miko)

Miko/Shinto Priestess/Shrine Maiden character: Yuzu Hieda

  1. ふしぎ遊戯 Fushigi Yugi (Fushigi Yuugi)

Miko/Shinto Priestess/Shrine Maiden character: Miaka Yuki

  1. らき☆すた Lucky Star 

Miko/Shinto Priestess/Shrine Maiden character: Hiiragi Kagami & Tsubasa

  1. ビッグオーダー Big Order

Miko/Shinto Priestess/Shrine Maiden character: Iyo

  1. Blood-C

Miko/Shinto Priestess/Shrine Maiden character: Kisaragi Saya

  1. ひぐらしのなく頃に Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (When They Cry)

Miko/Shinto Priestess/Shrine Maiden character: Furude Rika 

  1. Steins;Gate

Miko/Shinto Priestess/Shrine Maiden character: Urushibara Ruka 

  1. 美少女戦士セーラームーン Crystal Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon Crystal

Miko/Shinto Priestess/Shrine Maiden character: Hino Rei

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts doing a Masters Degree, have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1). I’ve written songs in Japanese and have released several albums through Tokyo label Majikick Records. You can hear my music at my bandcamp page:



Japanese Folklore & Shinto Mythology in Anime – (Talking in Japanese & English) 神道と民話とアニメの話し(日本語と英語)

Talking about the different Japanese folklore, shinto symbols and mythology in anime. Starting from “What is Shinto”, we look at the most common shinto symbols we have noticed in anime including, trees, mountains, Torii, Miko, Tengu, Tanuki etc.
アニメのさまざまな日本の民間伝承と神道の象徴について話します。 「神道とは」から始めて、木、山、鳥居、巫女、天狗、たぬきなど、アニメで私たちが気づいた最も一般的な神道のシンボルを見ていきます。

Japanese Mythology Anime

Anime has a close relationship with Japanese mythology. Anime can be traced back to the traditional Japanese art and forms such as Kamishibai. It became more popular around the world in the late twentieth century and by the 2000s had evolved into a greater cultural phenomenon.

In Japansese mythology there are many gods, goddesses, demons and monsters that have been depicted throughout time through different mediums such as paintings on scrolls or silk screens on sliding doors.

Anime’s use of symbolism is a reflection of the Japanese Buddhist and Shinto religions. The traditional themes in anime are destruction, rebirth, death and reincarnation. Anime often deals with morality issues such as the consequences of violence, the rightfulness of revenge and struggling against destiny.

Mythology Anime Mentioned in Podcast

もののけ姫 Princess Mononoke
天空の城ラピュータ Laputa Castle In The Sky
ぽんぽこ Pom Poko
トトロ My Neighbor Totoro
千と千尋の神隠し Spirited Away
天気の子 weathering With You
有頂天家族 The Eccentric Family
犬夜叉 Inuyasha
かぐや姫 The Tale of Princess Kaguya
鬼滅の刃 Demon Slayer
くまみこ Kuma Miko: Girl Meets Bear
デスノート Death Note
君の名は Your Name
我が家のお稲荷様 Our Home’s Fox Deity
ググれコックリさん Gugure Kokkuri-san
温泉幼精ハコネちゃん Onsen Yosei Hakone-Chan
繰繰れ! コックリさん Gugure Kokkuri-San
有頂天家族 The Eccentric Family
境界のRinne Kyoukai no Rinne
神無月の巫女 Kannazuki no Miko

Japanese Mythology Topics Covered in Talk

00:00:00 intro

00:01:30 What is Shinto?

00:02:15 Connection between shinto and buddhism

00:10:50 What does “Do you believe in god mean?”

00:15:40 What is the difference between in yokai and kami?

00:19:21 Miko 巫女

00:24:55 Princesses 姫

00:30:50 Dolls & Robots 人形とロボット

00:34:04 Rocks 石

00:35:00 念 Unfinished business

00:36:00 Wells & Sarayashiki 井戸と皿屋敷

00:37:45 Wells & Inuyasha 井戸と犬夜叉

00:42:15 Trees 木

00:44:20 Mountains 山

00:46:05 Tanuki たぬき

00:47:20 Ghibli, Miyazaki, environmentalism & Shinto

00:54:00 Foxes 狐

00:55:25 Deer 鹿

00:57:00 Crows カラス

01:01:00 Frogs カエル

01:06:00 Torii 鳥居

01:16:20 Christian imagery

See our list of the top 25 Shinto Anime .
And discussion of Shinto symbols and their meanings here.

Shinto symbols and their meanings in traditional and popular culture

In this article we present a list of a handful of the innumerable shinto-related symbols and look at their meanings. We also show imagery of examples of this shinto imagery appearing in popular culture generally, and in anime in particular.

We have compiled a list of 25 shinto inspired anime here. We also did an entire youtube/podcast talking in Japanese & English about Shinto & Japanese mythology anime here.

What is Shinto?

Shinto is an ancient Japanese belief system that focuses on the natural world and the spiritual values of people’s daily lives. Shinto is rich in symbolism and ritual. Shinto is so ingrained in Japan that it is a worldview that helps tie all Japanese people together, consciously or not.

The word Shinto means “the way of the gods”. Followers of Shinto are devoted to kami, variously, and somewhat inadequately, translated as spirits, deities or gods who are thought to inhabit natural objects, especially mountains, trees and shrines.

Nature as Shinto symbols

Mountains 山

Shinto is all about the natural world, and there is hardly anything more evident in the natural world than the towering mountains. So it is no surprise that mountains are intimately associated with shinto worship. Anyone who has spent any time climbing mountains in Japan will have had several experiences of coming across a Torii gate, or sacred shinto adornments, at particularly beautiful or awe-inspiring points on the slope.

In the Manyoshu, one of the earliest existent collections of Japanese poetry from 759, one poem reads : 

“The lofty peak of Mount Fuji is the kami mysterious who dwells there … the guardian kami of Yamato Province.”

Indeed, even today, you will find Torii gates at the top of Mount Fuji signifying the significance of the site. You will also find there a post office and many vending machines, proving that Japan is not afraid to mix the sacred with the profane.

In popular culture & Anime:

Shinto mixes with environmentalism in the Ghibli film Pom Poko where a group of Tanuki fight to save their mountain from destruction caused by wanton human land development.

ぽんぽこ Pom Poko – Mountain

Mountains feature prominently in the opening of anime Onsen Yosei hakone-Chan

温泉幼精ハコネちゃん Onsen Yosei Hakone-Chan – Mountain and Torii Gate

Trees 木

Trees are an essential part of Shinto and Japanese folklore. Trees provide shelter, give shade, and provide fruit to humans who live in the area. They also provide wood for building materials and paper for writing.

Shinto belief grants special significance to old and large trees. Often these trees and their environs are nominated as Himorogi, dwelling places of Kami. Sacred trees that are considered to be inhabited by spirits or life-force are called shinboku.

Different shrines have different types of wood that they consider to be the most sacred. So the Kasuga Shrine has Sasaki, Inari Shrines have cedar and Hiyoshi Shrines consider Laurel to be the most significant.

But the undisputed most famous tree in shinto belief is the Sakaki. Indeed, it was a Sakaki and a mirror that the prominent Fujiwara clan had transported to Kyoto to demonstrate the authority of their new shrine in the newly nominated capital of Japan.

In popular culture & Anime:

トトロ My Neighbor Totoro – Tree

千と千尋の神隠し Spirited Away

Rocks 石

Stones are often worshipped in Japanese Shinto belief and mythology. Interestingly, there was an ancient belief that stones actually grow over time. This can even be seen in the words of Japan’s national anthem of the present day, which uses words that originally appeared in the Kokinshu of 905:

Rule on, my lord, till what are pebbles now

By age united to mighty rocks shall grow

Unusually shaped rocks and stones throughout Japan can often be found draped in various forms of shinto regalia. Perhaps the most famous example may be the Meoto Iwa,  or “wedded rocks”, seen off the coast of Ise, in Mie prefecture. These are considered to be vehicles of sun worship, and of the kami Amaterasu.

Shintoistic worship of rocks has also blended with Buddhist religion over the years in the often seen wayside statues of Jizo, Dososhin or Sai-no-kami.

In popular culture & Anime:

我が家のお稲荷様 Our Home’s Fox Deity – Stone

Animals as Shinto symbols

Foxes 狐

繰繰れ! コックリさん Gugure Kokkuri-San – Fox

Foxes feature heavily both in popular and traditional Japanese culture. They are associated with the wide spread “Inari” shrines in Japan. They are considered to be envoys for the Inari deity Ukanomitama-no-kami. The Inari kami is a kami of food, especially Japan’s staple food rice. Fox masks are often seen in Japanese festivals. 

The symbolic meaning behind foxes in Japan can vary from region to region. In some regions, foxes are seen as a good luck symbol while in others they are seen as a bad luck symbol. For example, in some parts of Japan, foxes are considered to be an auspicious symbol while in other parts of the country they are viewed as an ominous symbol.

In popular culture & Anime:

我が家のお稲荷様 Our Home’s Fox Deity

Tanuki (Raccoon-dog) たぬき

The Tanuki is a folkloric animal that is known for their ability to shape-shift and copy the movements of other animals. The creature has been well documented in Japanese culture and folklore, and they are said to be a mischief maker who can turn invisible.

A Tanuki is also a real animal in Japan. It gets called by several names in English. It gets referred to as any combinations of “raccoon” “dog” & “badger,” or an Asian species of canine. 

The tanuki in Japan is commonly associated with good fortune and happiness, or with mysticism more generally.

In popular culture & Anime:

有頂天家族 The Eccentric Family – Tanuki

ぽんぽこ Pom Poko – Tanuki

Deer 鹿

Deer are considered sacred creatures as being messengers or emblematic of the Kami Kasuga. Deer are especially closely associated with the Shrines in the city of Nara, where emperor Nimmei called for a new shrine to be built there to help solidify its status as the new capital.

 In Japanese folklore, deer are believed to have a supernatural power. They are a symbol of good luck. In Shinto, the deer is associated with the goddess Amaterasu and its antlers represent masculine power.

Deer may be seen as a paradoxical animal in that it is both revered and hunted in Japan. In Shinto hunting ritual, deer meat is offered to the gods while priests perform rituals to ensure the health of the animals’ spirit after their death.

In popular culture, Deer like figures can be seen in anime such as Miyazaki Hayao’s Princess Mononoke. In this context, the quasi-deer beast is presented as the ancient giver of life force for the forests and all that live within.

In popular culture & Anime:

もののけ姫 Princess Mononoke

Doves 鳩

Doves in Japanese Shinto tradition are associated with Hachiman shrines. The hachiman deity is tied to both agriculture and war. Given that doves are considered to be the embodiment of Hachiman, they can play widely different roles in Japanese folklore. Doves, for example, appear in Heike Monogatari from circa 1185 a soldier bows down to the doves as a show of respect on a battlefield.

Crows カラス

Crows are closely associated with the numerous Kumano Shrines throughout Japan. It is believed that this relationship began when a crow appeared as a guide to Japanese Emperor Jimmu on a military campaign at Kumano.

In popular culture & Anime:

Crows have appeared in Japanese popular culture in the anime Demon Slayer, where they appear as the mysterious talking-bird messengers of the Demon Slayer Corps. We have written about Demon Slayer Kimetsu no Yaiba meaning here.

鬼滅の刃 Demon Slayer

Frogs カエル

Frogs are associated with some of Japan’s earliest creation myths. 

In the ancient “Kojiki” text for example, The frog-deity Taniguku is seen as one of the pillars that holds up Ashihara no Nakatsukuni, which is an older name for Japan.

Frogs are seen as messengers for the deity Sarutahiko at the Futamiokitama Shrine, near Ise in central Japan.

The Japanese word for frog “Kaeru” is also a homonym for words such as “return” and “change”, so the animal can be seen as a symbol for returning home or changing a situation. They are sometimes also associated with wealth.

In popular culture & Anime:

Frogs appear in popular culture in anime such as The Eccentric Family, where a Frog lives in the bottom of a well (another common mystical symbol) and acts as a sympathetic ear for the main character.

有頂天家族 The Eccentric Family – Frog

Other Shinto common shinto animals:

Given that there are really no limits on where kami can reside in the world in the Japanese worldview, all sorts of animals are often depicted as being representations of Kami. Some of the more common ones are: herons, hens, pheasants, eagles, deer, monkeys, rats, foxes,

boars, bees, tortoises, eels, carps and Phoenixes.


Miko 巫女

Miko are not just priestesses of Shinto, they are the caretakers of the natural world encompassing crops, trees, mountains, rivers and other natural resources. They were often seen as a bridge between the gods and people. They are also responsible for maintaining the purity of human society by purifying people’s minds and souls through rituals, ceremonies and other activities.

Interestingly, in a patriarchal society such as Japan, there is much evidence that women in Japan’s history held positions of power. The post of Miko, reserved women, is illustrative of this.

The word itself is a shortening of Kamu no ko, literally meaning “child of the deity”. This name shows just how close to the central wellspring of power Miko were considered.

With the decline of the matriarchal system in Japan, the power associated with the post of Miko has lessened. Today they are generally more seen as ceremonial helpers or assistants.

The traditional outfit of a miko is called a miko-himo which includes a yukata-style robe (a casual summer kimono), a hakama (a long split skirt) or kilt-like garment that is usually pleated on both sides.

In popular culture & Anime:

Miko, as well as characters wearing Miko-like outfits, have often been depicted in anime including 神無月の巫女 Kannazuki no Miko, 温泉幼精ハコネちゃん Onsen Yosei Hakone-Chan and 我が家のお稲荷様 Our Home’s Fox Deity.

くまみこ Kuma Miko: Girl Meets Bear – Miko

我が家のお稲荷様 Our Home’s Fox Deity

温泉幼精ハコネちゃん Onsen Yosei Hakone-Chan

Hime 姫 

In the same way that Miko are symbolic of an earlier matriarchal Japanese society, there is a crossover with women and girls that called hime, usually translated as something close to “Princess”.  

Miko have sometimes been considered as actually being kami. In this case, they have been referred to as hime-gami.

In popular culture & Anime:

Characters referred to as hime frequently appear in anime, such as in もののけ姫 Princess Mononoke and かぐや姫 The Tale of Princess Kaguya.

かぐや姫 The Tale of Princess Kaguya 

もののけ姫 Princess Mononoke

Monsters, Spirits & Yokai

Tengu 天狗

Tengu are Japanese creatures that are said to be spiritual beings that live in the mountains. They can fly, have long noses, and eat raw fish. Tengu dress in red and carry a sword with them.

In popular culture & Anime:

有頂天家族 The Eccentric Family

Celestial Bodies

Sun 日

The sun is a common symbol in many cultures and religions. The sun has been worshipped as a divine force to give life, warmth and energy to the earth. In Japan, the Sun is associated with the mythical creator goddess Amaterasu.

In Shintoism, Amaterasu was also worshiped as the protector of Japan and all living things on earth. The sun’s importance in Japanese mythology can be seen through its inclusion in many stories.

Moon 月

The moon has always been of great significance to the Japanese people. It is considered the home of many Shinto kani, and also symbolizes fertility, rebirth, and enlightenment.

In Shinto lore, it is believed that the moon was created by Izanami, one of the Japanese deities. She had a romantic relationship with her brother Izanagi, but after they pulled her out of a heavenly body called Takamagahara which she had given birth to him through her nose. When she became pregnant with his child again, he refused to let her go back up because he was afraid she would give birth to another child like herself who would be more powerful than himself. Izanagi cut down on his head with his sword, creating an 8-shaped wound; from this wound emerged Amaterasu.

In popular culture & Anime


The Moon in かぐや姫 Kaguya Hime

Man Made Structures

Shrines 神社

Shinto shrines are significant because they are the physical representation of the god or spirit that is worshipped there. Shrines can also be seen as places for people to come together and reconnect with their spirituality.

Torii Gates 鳥居

There is great variety in the structure of torii.

It varies all the way from the simple Shimmei to the MyOjin, Itsukushima Miwa Torii and Miwa

In popular culture & Anime:

繰繰れ! コックリさん Gugure Kokkuri-San – Torii

千と千尋の神隠し Spirited Away

Wells 井戸

Wells were often central points for community to gather and exchange information in traditional Japan. The water that they contain is vital for life and also intricately related to the central ideas of purity and cleanliness in shinto belief. As such, wells often became places of worship or dwelling places for kami.

Examples of well-deities include Mizuhanome no Kami or Suijin. Fish, such as carp, were sometimes placed in the wells so that people knew that the water was pure enough to sustain life. Sometimes the fish in the well would come to be considered as a kami and many rituals and taboos would come into place.

Wells were seen as gateways to the underworld.

In modern Japanese culture, the well often features as a gateway to another world or dimension. This can be seen in anime such as Inuyasha, where a young girl falls down a well to find herself transported to the ancient world.

Sarayashiki by Hokusai – Well

In popular culture & Anime:

犬夜叉 Inuyasha – Well


Similar to noble families in Japan, there is a long tradition of Japanese shrines having there own crests similar to these:

There is more detailed information about crests in this academic paper.

Sacred Objects


Shide are a type of talisman that have been used in Shintoism for centuries. They can be made from a variety of materials, notably paper and wood.

In popular culture & Anime:

繰繰れ! コックリさん Gugure Kokkuri-San – Shide and Shimenawa


The shimenawa is a straw rope that is hung around sacred places in Shinto. It signifies purification, and it is believed to be warding off bad energy.Shimenawa are often seen in entrances of Shinto temples

The shimenawa has two purposes: one, to signify purification, and two, to ward off evil spirits. It is considered taboo for visitors of the temple to touch the shimenawa


Goshiki-no-hata means “five colored flag.”

Five colors are used in the goshiki-no-hata: white, black, red, yellow and blue. These five colors represent the five elements of Buddhism. The white represents the air element; black is for water; red is for fire; yellow is for earth; and blue is for space (or void).

Shimpu & Ofuda

The Shinto shrines often use talismanic “cards” or “tags”referred to as ‘Shimpu’. They are sometimes referred to as o-fuda. They can be fastened on god-shelves, on door posts, attached to various structures or put in fields as symbols of the kami. They can be objects of worship that protect from evil influences or bring good fortune.

Charms, small in size, which are worn on the person in close contact with the body, are called o-mamori. They are considered by people, to this day, as having great power, bestowed by Kami. 

Other Shinto Symbols to look out for:

There is a long list of other Shinto symbols that could be added and are often seen in both traditional and modern popular culture including Mirrors , swords , Jewels, Kamidana, Mikoshi.

How Does Shinto Symbolism Intersect With Other Religious Symbology?

Japan is a country that is known for having mixed religions. Most notably, Shintoism and Buddhism have a long history of intimately coexisting in Japan. They are not considered to be exclusive to one another. Indeed, the merging of these two religions is one of the things that makes Japan so unique.

This flexibility in religious view sometimes extends towards other, non mono-theistic religions such as Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Some examples of other religious imagery in anime can be seen below.


In popular culture & Anime:


In popular culture & Anime:

神無月の巫女 Kannazuki no Miko

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts doing a Masters Degree, have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1). I’ve written songs in Japanese and have released several albums through Tokyo label Majikick Records. You can hear my music at my bandcamp page:



Pokemon in Japanese writing

Pokemon is written in Japanese as:


Where did the word “Pokemon” come from?

The word “pokemon” was made by joining and shortening the English words “pocket” and “monster”. 

It is very common practice in Japanese to take the first two syllables of English words, as they are pronounced in Japanese, and make combine them to make a word that is shorter and easier to say in Japanese.

Foreign words in Japan are written in the script called Katakana. The words “Pocket Monster” are written in Katakana as: 


If you translate these sounds back into Roman Alphabet, you get

Po-kke-to Mo-n-su-ta-

Which is actually quite a mouthful to say. So it is no surprise that the word came to be shortened to Pokemon.

Japanese scripts and how the relate to Pokemon

The Japanese language uses three different scripts: Hiragana, Kanji and Katakana. The first two scripts are used to write native Japanese words and the latter is used to write loanwords. As the word Pokemon comes from a foreign word, it naturally uses Katakana when written in Japanese.

Are there any Kanji for the Japanese word for Pokemon?

As Pokemon is made up of English loan words, there are no Kanji used for writing the word in Japanese.

In China, foreign words are routinely used to write foreign words. So there are Chinese characters for the word Pokemon in China:  宝可夢

Other common Japanese words that use abbreviations

There are literally thousands of words such as this that have been shortened in Japanese. To list just a few examples:

Radiohead: レディへ [redihe]

Red Hot Chili Peppers: レッチリ [recchiri]

Sexual Harrassment: セクハラ[sekuhara]

Working Holiday: ワーホリ[waahori]

Personal Computer: パソコン [pasokon]

And it’s not just foreign loan words that get the shortening treatment. This also happens with Japanese words such as:

おはようございます: オス [osu, Good Morning]

イケている 面: イケメン [ikemen, cool guy]

How common Pokemon Characters are written in Japanese Writing

Pikachu ピカチュウ

Onix イワーク

Mewtwo ミュウツー

Eevee イーブイ


Mew ミュウ

Snorlax カビゴン

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts doing a Masters Degree, have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1). I’ve written songs in Japanese and have released several albums through Tokyo label Majikick Records. You can hear my music at my bandcamp page:



The Eccentric Family Frog Explained!

The mysterious figure of the frog in the well, seen early on The Eccentric Family, playing Shogi and having friendly conversation with lead character Yasubiro is an immediately mysterious and intriguing figure. So who is this curious little amphibian featured in this deeply shinto-influenced anime?

Eccentric Family Frog

Who Is The Eccentric Family frog?

The frog in the “ecstatic family” is actually a shape-shifting Tanuki-raccoon from the Shimogamo family from the show’s title “Eccentric Family”. He is named “Yajiro Shimogamo” and is the second born of the Shimogamo siblings. This makes him the elder brother of lead character Yasaburo Shimogamo.

This lineage is made clear by the character’s names which have “second” and “third” in their names when seen in their original Japanese kanji form (矢二郎 Yajiro, 矢三郎 Yaburo).

Yajiro is characterised as a somewhat listless character, who has inherited more laziness than greatness from his father Soichiro Shimogamo. It is hinted that Yajiro was much more of a go-getter when he was a child. 

Yajiro has come to take the continuing form of a frog and is trapped in an old well in the Rokudouchinnouji Temple area.

We hear that, even when Yajiro was a Tanuki, he was the but of jokes from even the smaller and weaker tanuki from his community. He was very much the “runt” of the litter.

Yajiro the frog as councillor to the Eccentric Family Community

Since assuming his position at the bottom of the well, Yajiro has assumed something of a “counselling” or “therapist” figure to his community of Tanuki, shape-shifters and Tengu. He is the unjudging ear that they turn  to share their troubles. You get the sense that Yajiro, trapped as he is at the bottom of a well, offers a safe place to unload your woes.

The only ones that come to visit Yajiro not just to unload but talk seem to be his fellow Shimogamo brothers Kaisei Iwakawa, and Benten.

Yajiro for his part generally doesn’t really give out any firm advice as much as offer up a listening ear for others to share their stories. 

Why Doesn’t Yajiro Assume His Old Tanuki Form? 

Since finding his place in the well, Yajiro has taken a liking to his new frog form, and role as community confidant. Indeed, he seems to have grown so accustomed to his new form that he has actually forgotten how to change back to his original self.

Yajiro’s pre-frog life

We learn that Yajiro, in his old life, used to like drinking, with a particular liking for fake “Denki Bran”, being a cocktail made from Brandy.

We further learn that, after a night drinking with his father, I used his shake shifting abilities to assume the form of the “Eizan train”, causing quite a stir throughout the city of Kyoto. From this, we can assume that Yajiro’s latent shape-shifting powers are considerable. 

Why has Yajiro assumed the form of a frog in The Eccentric Family?

We learn that yajiro was first driven to take up, and keep, the form of a frog by his father’s death, and the circumstances surrounding his passing. Yajiro’s father’s demise seems to have left Yajiro with even greater issues of self-esteem, without courage or vigor. He has also lost his love of drinking.

Yajiro’s Traits and Personality

In addition to his innate placid nature before his change to frog form within Eccentric Family, Yajiro exhibits a curious personality that is at once pensive, philosophic and at times shows some fragility.

Even while taking the position of someone who has renounced the world, he still exhibits a love and concern for his family. You get that he is perhaps Yasaburos most important support figure.

Yajiro has an affinity with water, the elements and climatic forces. He seems to be able to sense the coming of thunder gods, and have a special connection with the Shimogamo mother.
The Eccentric Family, frog and all, also features in the Japnoscope list of 25 shinto anime.

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts doing a Masters Degree, have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1). I’ve written songs in Japanese and have released several albums through Tokyo label Majikick Records. You can hear my music at my bandcamp page:



25 Shinto Anime Selections

Shinto is so woven into Japanese anime that it is perhaps harder to find an anime example that doesn’t have some kind of Shinto influence than one that does.

But here we have tried to assemble a list of titles where the use of Shinto imagery or concepts is particularly overt. Each one of the 25 items on the shinto anime list includes a link to where it can be streamed online.

But before we present the list, let’s look at some of the key concepts in Shinto and anime. See here for our complete list of Shinto symbols and their meanings as they relate to anime.

We also did an entire youtube/podcast talking in Japanese & English about Shinto & Japanese mythology anime here.

The Relationship Between Shinto and Anime

1. What is Shinto?

Shinto is the indigenous religion of Japan and it has a rich mythology with many anime-worthy themes. The word shinto literally means “the way of gods,” which refers to how the kami (gods) are central to everything in Shinto thought.

Shinto has no founder or scripture; it’s an umbrella term for any number of spiritual traditions with deep roots in ancient Japan. “Kami” can be translated as god, soul, spirit etc depending on the context used which often leads to confusion among Westerners who use these words

The origins of Shinto can be traced back as far as 2000 BCE, when people started worshiping natural objects like mountains or rivers. These natural objects became symbols for what we might call spirits today. However, over time these beliefs evolved into an organized system that was eventually codified with written texts such as Kojiki (712 CE) and Nihon Shoki (720 CE).

2. How does anime fit in with Shinto?

There are anime that cover all aspects of Shinto mythology and folklore. One reference point is with the manga, Inuyasha by Rumiko Takahashi. This series follows Kagome Higurashi as she searches for fragments of a jewel called the Sacred Jewel Of Four Souls in order to break an ancient curse on her family’s bloodline. The anime features many typical Shinto themes like kami-like creatures such as demons or spirits (yokai) who live in various objects around them; torii gates which act as entrances into sacred spaces; foxes who can serve both good and evil purposes depending on their circumstances; miko-san, young religious attendants often wearing white clothing whose role it is help promote peace through rituals

3. Why is there so much shinto imagery in anime?

The first reason that shinto imagery is so common in anime is because, well, shinto imagery is common in Japanese society at large. Japan is often referred to, and refers to itself, as having “no religion”. But it could be argued that, far from having no religion, religion in Japan is so pervasive, so much part of the environment, that it often becomes invisible. Or at least unnoticed.

Even in modern-day life, kami-like beings such as demons and spirits live in various objects in the world; torii gates act as entrances into sacred spaces; foxes can serve both good and evil purposes depending on their circumstances.

Modern anime reflects this modern world-view. So anime features many typical Shinto themes like Miko-san, young religious attendants often wearing white clothing whose role it is to help promote peace through rituals.

Another factor in the popularity of Shinto in anime relates to the fact that Shintoism gives a sense of ancient, somewhat nostalgic, mysticism to a fictitious story. In many ways, it offers the reward of instant depth.

It also connects modern Japan with its ancient past without drawing an overt connection to Japanese nationalism – an idea fraught with nuances of war, aggression and right-wing jingoism.

Shingo relates well to popular Japanese tropes of combat, martial arts, ninjas by connection with the ancient belief system of shinobi.

5. The future of Shinto and anime in Japan and around the world

So what is the future of anime and Shinto in Japan?  As Western anime becomes more popular, some argue that it will become an even greater influence on Japanese anime. Others feel that as anime evolves into a global genre, they may lose their connection to Shintoism altogether. Certainly, at this point, modern anime don’t show any sign of distancing themselves from the use of shintoistic symbology.

In either case, there are those who enjoy anime for its entertainment value alone – and others who find deeper meaning in stories steeped with ancient beliefs. Faithful viewers can’t help but wonder: how much longer before new generations grow up without any knowledge or understanding of these commonly used shinto symbols as they are used in modern anime?

6. Anime as a way to preserve traditional culture

Japanese anime is a way for Japanese culture to be preserved, albeit in a certain romanticized or fantastic form. With anime’s international popularity as well, it helps spread these symbols of Shintoism far and wide. Whether or not these symbols take on the same resonance or meaning when transported abroad is something of a moot point.

7. Common Shinto imagery in Japanese anime

Torii gates: anime culture is saturated with torii gates, the arched entrance to shrines. Torii are normally painted vermillion and white – a double-sided symbol of purification. The red side represents blood or life force while the white stands for purity.  Unpainted stone or wooden Torii are also common.

Foxes: Foxes feature heavily in anime.

Foxes hold a range of different meanings in Japanese culture. They are complex beings, sometimes being symbols of good luck, sometimes bad. They also have some similar connotations to the Western idea of a fox as being cunning or sly and as such having the ability to trick people.

Miko: anime shows often feature miko, who are the female Japanese priests. They can be recognised by their white robes and shimenawa necklace that represents an opened up chest in a physical body. Miko wield the power to cleanse people of evil spirits which is represented with purifying salt and water thrown on them.

  1. Gugure! Kokkuri-san

This anime is available on crunchyroll

Gugure! Kokkuri-san is a manga series created by Japanese artist Tsurusawa Hiroyuki. It was serialized in Square Enix’s Young Gangan magazine.

The story revolves around a young girl who summons a spirit using a Japanese version of an Ouija board. The spirit that arrives is a fox spirit, a very common identity in Shinto symbolism.

There are a couple of novel twists that make Gugure Kokkuri-san an interesting anime. The “girl” is actually a living doll, replete with a somewhat distant, robotic manner. And the fox-deity turns about to be a somewhat vain being with a constant need for external validication.

  1.   Kyoukai no rinne 

This anime is available on crunchyroll

(境界のRINNE), which translates roughly as “The boundary of reincarnation” combines elements of fantasy, youth drama, and comedy. The story revolves around half-man, half deity Rokudo Rinne and Mamiya Sakura, level-headed school girl with the ability to see the spirit world. Together they solve problems and mysteries that cross over from the spirit realm to the school-yard.

  1.   The Eccentric Family (Uchouten Kazoku) 

This anime is available on crunchyroll

“The Eccentric Family” is a show that lives up to its name, giving you a rich story-world inhabited by shape-shifting beings, tanuki and tengu.

This anime centres on a particularly eccentric family of tanuki raccoons. The tanuki family goes by the name of Shimogamo, taking their name from the “Shimogamo Shrine” that exists in real life in Kyoto. Indeed, the whole show is steeped in Kyoto culture and features many of the iconic areas from the ancient capital city, including Maruyama park and Teramachi road.

We’ve written about the Eccentric Family frog character here.

  1.   Hot Springs Fairy Hakone-Chan (Onsen Yousei Hakone-chan) 

This anime is available on 9anime

Hot Springs Fairy Hakone-Chan is a series that features a spirit who takes care of the iconic Hakonie Hot Springs in Japan.

The main character is depicted as a Miko shinto priestess, but is actually a guardian-deity for the spring waters. We learn that the deity is somewhat weakened, making her switch between appearing as a young girl, and a young woman.

  1.   Noragami  

This anime is available on hulu

A slice of life/drama, based on a manga series with the same title. It revolves around Yato who is a minor god and helps people to solve their problems by taking out the things that disturb them. The anime was released in 2014 and season 2 was announced at last year’s Anime Expo convention held in Los Angeles.

  1.   Cool-headed Hoozuki (Hoozuki no Reitetsu)

This anime is available on crunchyroll

Cool-headed Hoozuki (Hoozuki no Reitetsu) is about a demon called Hoozuki. Hoozuki has been a detached civil official for the last 900 years. He works beneath King Enma, who is in charge of judging people’s deeds when they die and sending them to heaven or hell according to their deeds. 

  1.   Mushi-shi (Mushishi) 

This anime is available on crunchyroll
In the world of this insect influenced there are invisible creatures called Mushi (insect). They exist without any goals or purposes aside from simply “being.” They can be found everywhere and can neither be seen nor heard by humans unless they manifest themselves through their powers. These abilities of the Mushi range in size, shape, and function. Some have massive powers to affect the world around them.

8. Mononoke 

This anime is available on crunchyroll

Mononoke, not to be confused with the more well known Ghibli film Princess Mononoke, is a television anime anime by Toei Animation that aired from 2013-2014. It follows an Edo period seller of medicine, who moonlights as a swordsman. 

Mononoke is probably most clearly set apart by it’s highly unique style of animation that seems to reference traditional Japanese arts – as if a sumie or ukiyo-e picture had come to life and ball of energetic movement across the screen. Even the soundtrack for this one sounds like a modern take on Japanese music from the middle ages.

  1.   Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light (Hotarubi no Mori e) 

This anime is available on animesuge

Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light (Hotarubi no Mori e) is a movie with not an ounce of fat nor any excess. Every second is deliberate and meaningful, and every shot feels deliberate and meaningful. It’s so perfect as to be almost… well, eerie in its perfection. It follows the story of a little girl lost in the woods who meets a strange boy who is not like other humans but perhaps more than human – just as many characters in Japanese folklore are believed to have been non-human creatures living in disguise among us mortals. Nothing supernatural happens here; he (Hotaru) is real, albeit mysterious beyond imagination, while she (Sakura) remains a simple young girl.

  1. Natsume’s Book of Friends (Natsume Yuujinchou) 

This anime is available on Crunchyroll
Natsume’s Book of Friends (Natsume Yuujinchou) is an anime that, from its very first episode, had a clear direction for the series. Unlike most other shounen anime out there that focus on action-packed battles and new technology, Natsume has instead gone down a different path: it’s about the connection between humans and yokai. It’s about how people and spirits coexist in the human world; each of them has abilities that are useful to the other half and can help each other with their problems.

  1. Inuyasha  

This anime is available on Netflix
Inuyasha is a half-demon who was trapped in the form of a dog for most of his life. In his quest to obtain the power of the sacred Jewel shards, he comes across Kagome, a young miko with powers of her own. Together they encounter many other characters including Koga – an ally turned rival; Sesshomaru – an arrogant and powerful full demon and Jaken – A small imp that travels alongside them. The journey becomes one in which all involved become increasingly involved until it develops into a battle to protect the jewel from their enemies such as Naraku, Japan’s deadliest villain whose target is nothing less than world domination…

  1. Naruto  

This anime is available on Netflix

There are frequent references to Shinto imagery and concepts in the popular Naruto series. Uzumaki Naruto, for instance, carries within him Kurama spirit from the Nine-Tailed Fox Demon. We’ve written about the meaning and where the name Naruto comes from here.

13. Princess Mononoke

This anime is available on Netflix

Princess Mononoke  is one of the top grossing films in Japan, and is considered by many to be a masterpiece. It combines deep philosophical issues with very human themes, as well as an intense action plot. This makes for a film that is accessible to almost everyone.

Two characters seem very similar to each other. One is Princess Mononoke (Mononoke Hime in Japanese), who lives with a wolf pack; the other is San, a Chinese girl living among wolves on top of a mountain. Both wear animal skins and are strong fighters. But there’s one big difference: while Mononoke is half human-half wolf, San has become completely part of her wolf family — an entirely non-human being capable of extraordinary feats.

  1.  The Tale of The Princess Kaguya 

This anime is available on Netflix

The Tale of Princess Kaguya is another Ghibli masterpiece, based on the traditional story of princess that has descended to earth from the moon. The anime is immediately set apart by its simplistic, hand-drawn style that helps accentuate the traditional, olden-day nature of the story.

A bamboo cutter goes out to cut bamboo in the mountain behind his house and finds a strange-looking grove. He finds a baby girl in a budding baby-bamboo. The girl grows until she becomes the most beautiful princess ever seen by human eyes. But, alas, her true home is not in the terrestrial realm, but in the heavens.

  1. Pom Poko 

This anime is available on Netflix
The Japanese anime Pom Poko is about raccoons (called Tanuki in Japanese). It is also a movie about the struggle of the nature-loving raccoons against the humans who want to build a new expressway through their forest home. The film’s name comes from an old Japanese tale in which raccoons use their rear ends as drums and dance to distract hunters while helping each other escape.

It has to be one of the few films ever to show animals using their own testicals as parachutes. We kid you not.

The film has parallels in Western films. One thinks of how rabbits are depicted in Watership Down or White Fur, two stories about animals struggling for survival against human encroachment on their natural territory. 

  1. Kamisama Kiss 

This anime is available on Hulu
The Japanese anime is Kamisama Kiss is about a high School girl Nanami Momozono who has no place to go and is starving because she ran out of money for food. Out of desperation, she prays to a god, asking him for help. And at that very moment the mysterious (and handsome) Tomoe appears before her. He informs her that he will be staying with her until his other “master” comes back…

  1. Spirited Away 

This anime is available onNetflix

The Studio Ghibli anime Spirited Away is about a young girl Chihiro who finds herself trapped in a strange new world of spirits. The world is inhabited with a world of strange yokai monsters, and filled with various imagery related to shinto belief.

Spirited away became an instant classic on its release by Ghibli Studios and manages to exquisitely mix ancient shinto symbology with eccentric genius of Ghibli’s Miyazaki Hayao.

  1. GeGeGe no Kitaro

This anime is available on crunchyroll

GeGeGe no Kitarō has been around since the 1960s and was an early manga/anime to delve deep into the world of Yokai Japanese monsters. The story follows “Kitaro” or his alter ego “Nezumi-Otoko” which means “Rat Man”, who is able to see and interact with these mythical creatures.

It’s worth GeGeGe just for the parade of wacky Yokai that creep, slither and soar across the screen, if nothing else!

In particular, what’s not to love about a walking, talking eyeball as one of the main charcters.

  1. Kamichu! 

This anime is available on 9anime

The Japanese anime Kamichu! is about a young girl who has been chosen by God to become a Goddess and thus be responsible for the well-being of all the many spirits that populate her world. Kamichu! has parallels, but is not strictly part of the harem anime genre, despite having many potential love interests. 

  1. [email protected] (ささみさん@がんばらない) 

This anime is available on Justwatch

Sasami Tsukuyomi is a loner high school student who rarely leaves the house. Her older brother, Kamiomi, dotes on her as he sees to her everyday needs. It becomes apparent that Sasami possesses god-like powers. 

  1. Destiny of the shrine maiden (Kannazuki no Miko/神無月の巫女) 

This anime is available on animezone

The Japanese anime Destiny of the shrine maiden (Kannazuki no Miko/神無月の巫女) is about a girl named Himeko Tachibana who has a younger sister, Chikane Himemiya.

Chikane is an immortal and reincarnates over the course of 700 years into the body of various women, with Himeko as her final incarnation; in every life she continues to fall for Himeko, and is determined to make her her own.

  1. Kumamiko(くまみこ) 

This anime is available on gogoanime
Kumamiko’s producer is called White Fox (白狐), so this show has shinto links from the very point of production!  Kumamiko(くまみこ) is about a bear-girl who goes to the human world to live with a Japanese high school student. The mise-en-scene of this anime is replete with Torii gates, animism and Miko-san.

  1. Our Home’s Fox Deity(/Wagaya no Oinari Sama/我が家のお稲荷さま。) 

This anime is available on kissanime

The Japanese anime Our Home’s Fox Deity is about a boy named Kohei who was recently orphaned. One day, while taking out the trash at his foster home, he hears someone calling to him from a dumpster. When he opens it up, he finds a girl inside! She introduces herself as Tanpopo and says she is a “deity of the house” (the “fox deity”, or “inari” in Japanese, of the title). She explains that her true form isn’t visible to humans. But Kohei is special because his departed mother was an earth deity also capable of shape-shifting.

  1. Red Data Girl (RDG) 

This anime is available on crunchyroll

This anime is about a mysterious girl raised in the woods by a Druid-like priest who has strange powers. 

This not-very-shinto-sounding anime actually oozes with shingo imagery and concepts. Based on a novel the story centres around Izumiko Suzuhara, who has been raised in a shinto shrine. She’s a shy girl who longs for the city, but who has a strange power to destroy any electrical device she touches. She goes on to meet a “himegami” or “princess-god” while on a school excursion. She finds out she is a “Yorimashi”, which explains her mysterious abilities.

  1. Gingitsune (ぎんぎつね) 

This anime is available on Justwatch

Gingitsune (ぎんぎつね) is about  a shrine maiden named Makoto Saeki (佐伯 誠) who travels from her place in the human world to the land of gods. Her story begins with a vision she sees while praying at a small shrine in Tokyo’s Jinbōchō neighborhood.

Bonus Shinto Related Anime:

 Demon Slayer (鬼滅の刃)

This anime is available on Netflix

This world-conquering story about a boy who finds his family slain and his sister possessed by a demon is half Zombie-horror, half traditional Japanese and shinto inflected god-monster-demon story. We’ve done a background on the meaning of Demon Slayer’s name, Kimetsu no yaiba and the Demon Slayer Opening themsong Gurenge here.

If you’re a Ghibli fan we have pages on Ghibli Plush Dolls, Ghibli socks, and Ghibli Posters

Noriyoshi Ohrai Metal Gear Art

Noriyoshi Ohrai metal gear

1. About Noriyoshi Ohrai

Japanese Illustrator Noriyoshi Ohrai has designed some of the most iconic movie and game poster art in the world. Although working as an illustrator from 1962, Noriyoshi got his first big break when, at the age of 45, George Lucas saw one of his Star Wars “fan art” pieces in a magazine and invited Noriyoshi to create some official Star Wars Art

Aside from his work with the Star Wars franchise, and perhaps even more iconic work in Japan on the Godzilla films, Noriyoshi created many designs for games throughout the 1990s into the 2000s. This work included many works for the Metal Gear and Metal Gear Solid games.

2. List of Noriyoshi Ohrai Works for Metal Gear & Metal Gear Solid

A list of Noriyoshi Ohrai artwork for Metal Gear games

  1. “Metal Gear” (NES)
  2. “Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake” (MSX2)
  3. “Metal Gear Solid” (PSOne)
  4. “Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty” (PS2)
  5. “Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater” (PS2)
  6. “Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots” (PS3)
  7. Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops (PSP)

3. Noriyoshi Ohrai Metal Gear & Metal Gear Solid Gallery

Metal Gear Solid 2: The Making
Metal Gear Solid 2 premium package
Metal Gear Solid 3 
Portable Ops
Metal Gear Solid Twin Snakes Art
Metal Gear Solid 3 premium

4. Where to Buy Noriyoshi Ohrai Art Work?

Noriyoshi Ohrai prints art Etsy

Noriyoshi Ohrai art on Amazon

There are some harder to find items from Digital Stampe

CD Japan has some Noriyoshi.

We’ve also written about Noriyoshi’s Star Wars art here.

Japanoscope uses affiliate links. Which means we may receive commisions when you click on some product links. We only link to products we believe in, use ourselves or think are genuinely good. This helps us keep all of the content on the site free of charge. As Monty Python once said, “We’re selling records in the foyer. Some of us have gotta eat too you know”.

Our Fav Japanese Star Wars Posters [2021]

Japan has a long history of creating and adapting Star Wars posters for its domestic market. Notably, artist Noriyoshi Ohrai designed one of the most iconic images for the 1982 dubbed Star Wars release in Japan. The striking image features the millennium falcon, it all its space-junkesque glory, taking up the lion’s share of the poster on the diagonal. The artwork is a masterpiece of composition, giving you the simultaneous sense of weightlessness & gravity, speed & adventure. 

Ohrai went on to make artwork for each of the three original Star Wars Trilogy films. His artwork for the movies was often used as giveaway items at the opening of the films. We’ve also written about Noriyoshi’s popular Metal Gear artwork.

Noriyoshi’s Star Wars pieces are very sort after items now, and are hard to find.

Etsy has a Noriyoshi Ohrai page that you can find some of his works for sale.

Japanese artist Noriyoshi Ohrai's 1982 film poster for the original Star Wars film

Ohrai went on to produce several other iconic Star Wars artwork pieces such as this Empire Strikes Back poster that manages to capture all of the adventure, love, fear and struggle themes from the film in one striking image.

Noriyoshi Ohrai's Japanese Stars Wars poster for The Empire Strikes Back

The Noriyoshi Japanese Star Wars Empire Strikes Back poster can be hard to find. Here is a mounted one on Amazon, but withouth the Japanese text.

Ohrai’s work for Return of The Jedi was simpler, focusing on just a couple of characters. It also emphasized the spaciness of the universe, in the literal and figurative sense. It also featured an ingenius reference to the neon-like light quality of the film’s iconic sabers. 

The Ohrai poster image for Return of the Jedi

A gallery of other Japanese Star Wars Posters

Most people that are looking for Japanese Star Wars posters are probably most interested in posters that most prominently feature Japanese text in the design. There are no shortage of those, especially in the older posters. The newer posters, tracking the trend in Japanese society more generally, are more likely to feature main “Star Wars” text in alphabet.

Japanese Star Wars Empire Strikes Back Poster

Japanese text reads: “Star Wars Series 2!” – “Star Wars, The Empire’s Counter Attack”

  • Large katakana text – instantly recogisable as being a Japanese Star Wars poster.
  • Classi Retro design
  • Has almost all the classic characters in one poster

Japanese Star Wars Return Of The Jedi Back Poster

Japanese text reads: “Star Wars Series 3, complete version” – “Star Wars, The Jedi comes back”

  • Large katakana text – instantly recogisable as being a Japanese Star Wars poster.
  • Striking, symetrical light saber design
  • Classi Retro design
  • Dark & spacey

Star Wars Village as a Ukiyoe Woodblock Print

This maybe taking the “Japanese” Star Wars angle too far, but there is something fun about seeing the Star Wars universe rendered as a traditional Japanese woodblock print…

Japanese Star Wars Return Of The Jedi Back Poster

Japanese text reads: “Star Wars Series 3, complete version” – “Star Wars, The Jedi comes back”

  • Large katakana text – instantly recogisable as being a Japanese Star Wars poster.
  • Wood mounted!
  • Retro design is fairly rough, almost hand made
  • Landscape ratio

Japanese Star Wars Rogue One Poster

Japanese text reads: “Rogue One, Star Wars Story” – “Hope, never dies” – “Another Star Wars”

  • Distinctive Slim Line katakana text – instantly recogisable as being a Japanese Star Wars poster.
  • Includes tagline in Japanese
  • Movie release date and credits on bottom of poster
  • More modern Star Wars Japanese poster

Japanese Star Wars Last Jedi Poster

Japanese text reads: “Star Wars, The Last Jedi” – “Light, or Darkness” 

  • Includes “Light or darkness” tagline in Japanese
  • More modern Star Wars Japanese poster

Japanese Star Wars The Return Of The Empire Poster

Japanese text reads: “Star Wars, Series 2” – “40th Anniversary” – “The Empire’s Counter Attack”

  • Almost all Japanese text
  • Distinctive quasi-art-deco design
  • Classic Darth

Japanese Star Wars The Return Of The Empire Poster

Japanese text reads: “Star Wars” – “Receiver of awards in 7 categories of the 50th Academy awards”

  • Super retro design

May the force be with you in your quest for the ultimate Japanese Star Wars poster!

We also have pages about Japanese Wall Art and Studio Ghibli posters

Japanoscope is a registered affiliate with several online shops and may receive a commission when you click on some of the links within content.

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts doing a Masters Degree, have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).


Japanoscope Translations Podcast #2: Being An Artist In Covid-19 Japan – Getting Back To Nature With Live Painter Kohei Kondo

Kohei Kudo at Haretara sora ni mame maite
Kohei Kudo at Haretara sora ni mame maite

Japanese Reading Difficulty

5/12 Could be read by 5th grade level student in Japan


Art, Painting, Live Painting, Covid-19, Music

Text Type

Social Media Post (from artist's instagram)

About The Artist

Kohei Kondo

I first met Kohei Kondo when we were put on the same bill to play a gig at the magnificently named Tokyo music venue「晴れたら空に豆まいて」”When the weather’s fine throw peas at the sky”.

Japanese Parasol Umbrella from haretara sora ni mame maite
Red Japanese Parasol at Haretara sora ni mame maite

I was playing songs in Japanese and English and Kohei was doing Live Painting. It was one of the first shows I had done with live painting. If you are not familiar with the concept, it’s pretty much how it sounds. The artist makes a painting while a musician does sound. It actually works pretty well. 

In my experience, this goes on a lot more in Japan than in the English speaking world.  It’s hard to know why that is.  It could be as simple as being because Japanese gigs are usually more expensive to get into so there’s a little more money to go around. Japanese gigs also tend to be a lot less raucous, with audiences that sit and listen fairly quietly, so having an artistic element makes a lot more sense.

Liquid Lighting at Emma Russack and Lachlan gig in Melbourne

Kohei makes swirling rainbow-like visions that seem at once vivid and washed out. His style is someone remiscent of liquid lighting techniques popular from the psychadelic 60s. 

His pictures also have some common ground with the visual work of legendary Dirty Three guitarist, Mick Turner.

A translation of an Instagram post from the artist














いつも話ずれちゃうし、「康平くんの話は落ちがなくて、雰囲気勝負だよね」って時々友達に言われてちゃうのだけど今日もそうなっちゃった。。。 とにかく今は画集の絵を頑張っているという報告と。



Gig poster for Peter Joseph Head and Kohei Kondo gig in 2014

May has my favourite festivals, Hoshioto and Green Room. I was also looking forward to doing  live painting at the Ukigensai festival in Taipei, Taiwan, but it’s been cancelled. It’s not all bad though, at least both of the Japanese festivals are still being planned to take place at a later date and have not been canceled, so the fun has just been delayed. I hope the Ukigen Festival will happen at some stage!

These two festivals were to be my current major activities as a painter, consisting of live painting with sale of works at a solo exhibition afterwards.  I’m also working on three other CD jacket and poster projects I’ve been asked for.

So the Live Painting has stopped happening and now I’m constantly at home drawing. I live with my sick elderly father, so I’m happy to have a lot of time to spend with him.  It makes me think, maybe this time is actually like a gift?

Also, I’ve been able to get stuck into tending the rice fields that I wasn’t able to spend much time on last year. Everyday after I’ve done my painting I go out and do the mowing. I’m having a ball. It’s so satisfying to see the tangible results of something like mowing the lawn. In a simple way, I just like the soil, the insects and all the small lifeforms you come across. I’ve been that way since I was a child.

How far have my sensibilities changed? Well, If I come across an earthworm, recklessly trying to cross the road, I find myself picking it up in my fingers to deliver it to the safety of the grass!
After mowing, I plow the soil, I plant the seedlings. . . I’m having a good time
What I’m working on most intently at the moment is a new art collection. I promised the work two years ago, but I’ve been putting it off forever. The publisher only launched themselves two years ago. I was in the children’s book industry, which is a tight knit world, and the publisher is one of the editors that I used to know during this time. I’ve known him since I worked at a picture book store called Crayon House, so maybe I’ve known him for about 15 years! Wow!
Yes, that’s how it was, the editor finished up with the publisher he was with, became independent, and started his own publishing company. I was so happy that he called on me right at the start of his business. You know, I really want to make this art book good.

Also, my father was an editor, so he loves books and paper and I’m happy that I can share my work with him.

For about 3 or 4 years I was spending all my time all-out hustling doing Live Painting, and would do about 150 gigs a year. But it got to the point that I was having so little time to spend with my father, and that it was just too much for me even physically. Well, I guess I had the physical strength, but it was becoming impossible to efficiently allocate time to production for my solo exhibitions. Live painting requires a whole different state of mind, and it is not that easy to just switch the different modes of working. 

I would get into the solo production mode, feeling like “I’m getting into the zone here” and then a week later a Live Painting gig would come along and it would feel like my whole mindstate had just been interrupted.

Even with a single day’s live painting, it still takes me a few days to change modes.

So it feels like having no live painting like this is actually a gift. When I write it like that it sounds like I don’t like Live Painting but actually I love love love love Live Painting.

Ideally, it’s good to organise things so that it’s “production this month” or “Live Painting this month”, but that’s easier said than done!

I love music, I love the musicians I work with, and I love Live Painting.
The thing about live painting is that you can come up with something that is like a direct chemical reaction to what is going on at the time. It’s kind of like you find some kind of infinite horizontal direction.
Solo production is interesting in it’s own way. It’s more like you’re diving deeply inside yourself. Perhaps solo is about the infinite vertical direction?

When I talk, I always seem to go off the rails. My friends tell me, “Kouhei, your stories don’t have a punchline, you’re always trying to bluff it by creating some kind of atmosphere”, and I fear today is no different. Anyway, for now, I guess I’m just reporting that I’m hard at work on a new art collection.

Also, I’m itching, from deep down inside my body, for the day when I can get back to the Live Painting. I tell you, I can’t wait to meet up with everyone.

Kondo Kohei drawing

Visit Kondo’s website here

Visit his web shop here.

Kohei Kondo Artist Profile 

Born in 1975 in Japan, Kohei Kondo is a painter based in Tokyo. He holds a Masters Degree from Tottori University, majoring in forestry. Later he taught himself painting. He is active in a variety of “painting” genres including live painting, clothing line branding, book sleeves, CD jackets and performing arts.

 【Exhibition history】 He has heldsolo exhibitions at large commercial facilities including Laforet Harajuku,  Shinjuku Isetan and Shibuya PARCO. He has held solo exhibitions in various locations across Japan, Taiwan and the United States . 

【Work history】He has provided designs for fashion brands, seasonal visuals at commercial facilities, CD jackets, and has appeared on television. 

【Live Painting Performance】 His performances use painting improvised in accordance with musicians’ performances. While responding & synchronizing with the music, he uses the palm of his hands to paint directly on to large canvases. Audience members often remark “I have never seen painting done live as a performance” or “it felt like I was watching a movie.” He is active in various music festivals, music venues, theaters etc.

【Personal Statement】 My pictures are influenced largely by two things. One, that I spent my childhood in nature. I majored in forestry at university and have studied Japanese environments. As a result, there were many opportunities to get in touch with nature. I became interested in these wonderful habitats which bring out feelings beyond words when touching the sea, the wind, the clouds and forests. Nature is my grand motif. I would like to express the feelings that I get in nature.

The second thing is a Japanese traditional aesthetic sense called “MITATE”. For example, ancient Japanese have seen a rock in the garden as an island floating in the waves. Likewise, they have imaged the plum blossoms in association with the snow. I’d like to make use of this kind of sensibility in my paintings. I’d like to bring “mitate” into one universe and narrative, in a pattern that floats across the canvas.

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Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).