Baku in Japanese – Mythical Dream Eater Origins

The baku, known as the dream eater, is a mythical creature in Japanese folklore that is said to devour nightmares. It has a long history in Japanese culture, originating from Chinese folklore. The term “baku” has two meanings in Japanese, referring to both the traditional dream-devouring creature and the Malayan tapir.

The baku is depicted as a chimera, with the head of an elephant, the body of a bear, the feet of a tiger, the eyes of a rhinoceros, and the tail of an ox. It is believed to have been created from the spare parts left over by the gods when they were creating other animals.

The baku has been a prominent figure in Japanese art, literature, and popular culture, appearing in manga and anime. Its symbolism as a protector against bad dreams and anxieties has made it a beloved and enduring legend in Japanese society.

History and Description of the Baku

The baku, a creature with a rich history in Japanese folklore, has its origins traced back to Chinese mythology. This mystical being, also known as the nightmare-devouring baku, became well-known in Japan during the Muromachi period. Described as a hybrid creature, the baku combines the features of an elephant, bear, tiger, rhinoceros, and ox into a unique and fearsome form.

The baku’s creation is believed to be a result of the spare parts left by the gods when they were forming other animals. With the ability to consume nightmares, the baku offers solace to those plagued by bad dreams. It is said to wander at night, patiently waiting for people to call upon it to eat their frightful visions.

Classical Japanese art, including woodblock prints and carvings found in shrines and temples, often showcases the baku. These artistic representations pay homage to the creature’s importance in Japanese culture and folklore. It serves as a symbol of protection and a means of warding off bad dreams, adding an aura of mystique to the baku’s mythical presence.

Baku Description

Animal Feature
Elephant Head
Bear Body
Tiger Feet
Rhinoceros Eyes
Ox Tail


[1] “Baku,” Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias, accessed May 10, 2022,

The Role of the Baku in Nightmare Prevention

Legend has it that if you wake up from a bad dream, you can call upon the baku for help. In Japan, it is believed that if a child is having a nightmare, they can wake up and repeat three times, “Baku-san, come eat my dream.” The baku is thought to enter the child’s room and devour the bad dream, allowing the child to go back to sleep peacefully.

You can also summon the baku for protection from bad dreams before falling asleep. In the early 20th century, it was common for Japanese children to keep a baku talisman at their bedside. This talisman was believed to ward off nightmares and ensure a restful night’s sleep.

However, it is important to exercise caution when calling upon the baku too frequently. An unsatisfied baku may devour not only your nightmares but also your hopes and desires, leaving you with an empty life. So, while the baku can provide relief from bad dreams, it’s best to use its power sparingly and in moderation.

Baku in Japanese Art and Culture

The baku has a long-standing presence in Japanese art and culture, permeating various forms of artistic expression throughout history. From traditional woodblock prints to modern manga and anime, the baku has captivated the imaginations of artists and audiences alike.

In classical Japanese art, the baku is often depicted in intricate woodblock prints, sculptures, and carvings found in shrines and temples. Talented artists like Katsushika Hokusai, a renowned ukiyo-e artist from the Edo period, have masterfully illustrated the distinctive characteristics of the baku in their works. These artistic representations not only showcase the baku’s unique appearance but also reflect its significance as a protector against nightmares.

See also  Learn How to Say Meme in Japanese - Quick & Easy Guide

Furthermore, the baku has become a prominent figure in Japanese literature. Stories and legends featuring the baku’s dream-eating abilities have captured the fascination of readers throughout the centuries. The baku’s role as a supernatural creature that can devour nightmares has inspired countless tales, adding to its enduring legacy in Japanese culture.

In recent times, the baku has gained popularity in manga and anime, solidifying its status in Japanese pop culture. Japanese artists and storytellers incorporate the baku into their narratives, creating characters and storylines that revolve around the creature’s extraordinary dream-eating abilities. These manga and anime portrayals have allowed the baku to further captivate audiences, appealing to both traditional folklore enthusiasts and contemporary pop culture fans.

baku in Japanese art

Baku Representations in Modern Pop Culture

The baku continues to hold a significant presence in modern pop culture, appearing in various forms across different mediums. From toys to comics and television, the influence of this mythical creature can be seen in several well-known franchises.

In the world of Japanese comics, commonly known as manga, the baku has made its mark. In popular manga series like Pokemon and Digimon, characters resembling the baku can be found.

Pokemon Digimon
Drowzee/Hypno Bakumon/Tapirmon

In Pokemon, the characters Drowzee/Hypno and Munna/Musharna bear a striking resemblance to the baku. They possess dream-related powers or abilities, just like the mythical dream-eating creature.

The Digimon franchise also features a character called Bakumon/Tapirmon, inspired by the mythological baku. This character showcases the enduring influence of the baku myth in contemporary media.

Beyond comics, the baku has also made appearances in other forms of contemporary fiction. In Neil Gaiman’s acclaimed graphic novel series, The Sandman: The Dream Hunters, the baku plays a significant role in the story. Additionally, the TV series Supernatural has featured episodes centered around the baku, further solidifying its presence in modern pop culture.

The continued representation of the baku in various modern cultural works cements its position as a captivating and enduring figure, maintaining its relevance and capturing the imagination of audiences worldwide.

Symbolism and Beliefs Surrounding the Baku

The baku, with its ability to chase away nightmares, holds great symbolism in Japanese culture. It is often seen as a guardian spirit, providing protection and relief from fear and anxiety. The belief in the baku’s power to consume and remove bad dreams has led to the practice of summoning it in times of distress.

However, there is a cautionary aspect to the baku mythology. Excessive reliance on the creature is believed to be risky, as an overly hungry baku may devour not only nightmares but also one’s hopes and aspirations. It serves as a reminder that balance is necessary, and relying solely on external forces may lead to an unfulfilled life.

To illustrate the significance of the baku’s symbolism and beliefs, let’s take a look at a comparative table:

Symbolism and Beliefs Surrounding the Baku Summary
Protection and Guardian Spirit The baku is seen as a protector, offering relief from fear and anxiety.
Chasing Away Nightmares Believed to have the power to consume and remove bad dreams, providing comfort and peace.
Summoning the Baku People call upon the baku when they need assistance in dealing with nightmares.
Cautionary Aspect of Baku Mythology Excessive reliance on the baku may result in the loss of one’s hopes and aspirations.
See also  Okonomiyaki Meaning in Japanese Explained

Through its symbolism and the beliefs surrounding it, the baku continues to hold a special place in Japanese culture, reminding people of the importance of balance and self-reliance in overcoming their fears and nightmares.

The Enduring Legend of the Baku

The baku is a legendary creature that has captivated the imagination of the Japanese people for centuries. This mythical being, with its ability to devour nightmares, has played a significant role in Japanese folklore and culture. Its existence traces back to Chinese mythology, but it has evolved into its own distinct entity in the rich tapestry of Japanese legends.

The baku is a symbol of protection, known for its power to ward off bad dreams and offer relief from fear and anxiety. People believe that by summoning the baku, they can call upon its dream-eating abilities to chase away their nightmares. This belief has persisted through generations, with children and adults alike seeking the baku’s assistance in ensuring peaceful sleep.

The enduring legacy of the baku extends beyond folklore. It has found its way into various forms of artistic expression, literature, and popular culture. The baku’s striking appearance can be seen in classical Japanese art, such as woodblock prints and sculptures, as well as modern mediums like manga and anime. It has also made appearances in popular works of fiction, further solidifying its status as a mythical creature deeply embedded in Japanese society.

The baku’s enduring legend serves as a reminder of our fascination with the supernatural and our desire for protection and peace of mind. Its representation in art and literature continues to inspire and intrigue, keeping the baku myth alive and thriving in Japanese folklore and popular culture.


What is the origin of the baku in Japanese folklore?

The baku, also known as the dream eater, originated from Chinese folklore and has been familiar in Japan since the Muromachi period.

How is the baku described in Japanese mythology?

The baku is described as a hybrid creature with features borrowed from various animals, including an elephant, bear, tiger, rhinoceros, and ox.

What is the role of the baku in nightmare prevention?

Legend has it that a person who wakes up from a bad dream can call out to the baku for help. In Japan, children can summon the baku to eat their bad dreams and provide protection from nightmares.

How is the baku represented in Japanese art and culture?

The baku is often depicted in classical Japanese art, woodblock prints, and carvings found in shrines and temples.

How is the baku represented in modern pop culture?

The baku can be found in toy form, and its likeness is featured in Japanese comics, such as Pokemon and Digimon. It has also made appearances in contemporary fiction, including Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: The Dream Hunters and the TV series Supernatural.

What does the baku symbolize in Japanese culture?

The baku is often seen as a symbol of protection and a guardian spirit, believed to have the power to chase away nightmares and provide relief from fear and anxiety.

What is the enduring legacy of the baku in Japanese folklore?

The baku’s ability to devour nightmares and its representations in art, literature, and popular culture have contributed to its enduring mythological status in Japanese society.

Leave a Comment