Kodama (木霊) are small forest spirits from the folklore of Japan.
They are thought to inhabit trees and make strange echoing sounds. If you hear the sound of a falling tree at night, this is also thought to be the sound of a Kodama.
They are said to take on the appearance of atmospheric ghost lights, beasts, and sometimes they can even take on human form.
Some believe that Kodama look just like real trees and are rooted to the ground.
Kodama are beilieved to have magical powers and if someone tries to cut down a tree in which one of these little spirits lives they will be badly cursed.
However, if a Kodama is treated well it will be kind and protect houses and villages.
In some areas of Japan small shrines are created at the bases of trees to honour the Kodama. These shrines are still worshipped at today by some people - showing that a belief in the little tree spirits still exists in some places.
In Hachijo-jima, in a village called Mitsune, they still celebrate the "Kodama-san" with an annual festival where they give thanks and show their respect. During this festival they ask for forgiveness and the Kodamas blessing when they cut down trees.
Kodama also appear in the anime movie Princess Mononoke which was written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki.
In this movie they are shown as cute little bobbled-headed creatures who run around in the forest. (as shown above)
All of Miyazaki's movies are really beautiful with wonderful storylines and characters, with Princess Mononoke being one of his very best! So definitely check it out if you haven't already seen it.