Hitodama (人魂, 人玉, Hitodama? "human soul" or "human ball") are believed in Japanese folklore to be the souls of the newly dead taking form of mysterious fireballs.
The word hitodama is a combination of the Japanese words hito, meaning "human", and tama, meaning "soul". Ghostly fires in Japan may also be called onibi (鬼火, onibi? "demon fire"). In Chinese they are called guǐ-huǒ (Pinyin) or gwäe-fo (Cantonese). Hitodama is the Japanese counterpart to the English "Will o' the wisp".
These flames supposedly appear as pale blue, some times green, spheres with long tails and are believed to be tricksters originating from fluorescent gases that can sometimes be seen above human graves.
Hitodama are usually said to be found near graveyards and in gloomy forests in summer time, where they are said to live. They are alleged sometimes seen close to a sick dying person as an apparition of the soul leaving the body before going to the other side. Most hitodama fade away or fall to the ground shortly after being spotted.
The tricks they are known to play on people most is leading travelers off track and thereby making them lost. Some Japanese myths consider hitodama a trick of the kitsune, employing their "fox-fire" (kitsune-bi) to lead travelers astray.
- The Tecmo horror series Fatal Frame shows hitodama being released from spirits that the player manages to successfully exorcise.
- Hitodama is an ally of the main character Okinu in the Ghost Sweeper Mikami anime and manga.
- The characters Yomu Konpaku and Yuyuko Saigyoji in the Toho Project computer games are accompianied by hitodama. Youmu is described as a half-ghost, with her ghostly half residing outside of her human body and taking the shape of a large hitodama; whereas Yuyuko, a ghost princess, is usually seen with several small hitodama.
- Hitodama are also commonly featured as minor enemies in many Japanese video games that have horror, supernatural and folkloric themes, i.e. Pocky & Rocky, Ganbare Goemon, etc.
- In the Shaman King series, some spirits appear sometimes in a Hitodama-like form, most notably Amidamaru.
- Hitodama is a boss fought in the Underworld in the game Legend of Mana.
- In the series Inuyasha the re-animated priestess, Kikyo, is sustained by Hitodama which are harvested for her by special "soul carrier" demons.
- In the video game, Okami, several hitodamas can be seen floating above Demon Scrolls, with the colour of the hitodamas changing to match the Demon Scrolls, while purple-coloured ones can be seen floating above graves at night.
- Hitodamas were the basis for the Pyreflies of the Final Fantasy X series, carried into the Kingdom Hearts series in the Underworld.
- The are usually used as face faults in many anime, usually indicating depression.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, the inhabitants of twilight-covered areas in Hyrule appear as green hitodama, referred to as "spirits" in the game.