Often, jikininki are said to look like decomposing cadavers, perhaps with a few inhuman features such as sharp claws or glowing eyes. They are a horrifying sight, and any mortal who views one finds himself or herself frozen in fear. However, several stories give them the ability to magically disguise themselves as normal Human beings and even to lead normal "lives" by day.
They are often depicted as actually being upset by their condition and wanting peace, though hiding their existence as much as possible, since they would get chased down for the terrible things they have done.
Jikininki are the spirits of greedy, selfish or impious individuals who are cursed after death to seek out and eat human corpses - similar to the "Ghouls" of the Western World. They do this at night, scavenging for newly dead bodies and food offerings left for the dead. They sometimes also loot the corpses they eat for valuables, which they use to bribe local officials to leave them in peace. Nevertheless, jikininki lament their condition and hate their repugnant cravings for dead human flesh.