Baku are Japanese supernatural beings that devour dreams and nightmares. They have a long history in Japanese folklore and art.
The creature has its origins in ancient China where it is described as shy chimera with the trunk of an elephant, paws of a tiger, eyes of a rhino, tail of an ox. It was said it could protect against evils and pestilence, though there was no mention of it devouring dreams until after it was imported to Japan in the late 17th Century.
Legend has it, that a person who wakes up from a bad dream can call out to baku. A child having a nightmare in Japan will wake up and repeat three times “Baku-san, come eat my dream.” Legends say that the baku will come into the child’s room and devour the bad dream, allowing the child to go back to sleep peacefully.
However, calling to the baku must be done sparingly, because if he remains hungry after eating one’s nightmare, he may also devour their hopes and desires as well, leaving them to live an empty life.
The baku can also be summoned for protection from bad dreams prior to falling asleep at night. To this day, it remains common for Japanese children to keep a baku talisman at their bedside.