Odori Park, by Chris Watkins Odori Park - A webcomic comedy of culture shock in love, life, and family, by Chris Watkins


:: Posts Tagged ‘obakemono’ ::


About a week and some change ago, in most parts of Japan, the country celebrated the season of O-bon, a Buddhist observance that honors departed ancestors. Even though Halloween has started to pick up a little bit in popularity around Japan, O-bon is the traditional scary time of the year, probably because all those dead souls are believed to come back for a visit during the holiday period.

I have plans for a fun and scary storyline that I’m holding in store for the Halloween season, but I didn’t want to let O-bon pass without so much as a nod. So, in fact, I’ll give two:

  • The Obakemono Project is one of my favorite creepy sites. It’s a beautifully illustrated encyclopedia of all kinds of Japanese ghoulies. I really dig it.
  • A blast from my own past: Zombies Around the World, a Halloween strip I did as part of Peter Delgado Jr.’s annual Zombie-a-Go-Go event, back in 2004. Points to folks who recognize the obscure pop culture references in the Japan panel.

Zombies Around the World

In honor of the horrid season of Halloween, I thought I’d give you a peek into the world of Japanese monsters. Or, rather, I’ll give you a link to one of my favorite sites, the Obakemono Project, where you can study up on these occult secrets. Barring ill fate, I’ll aim to post one of these monster links every week this month.

Today, I’d like you to meet the most common of Japanese creeps: the kappa. Kappa figure so much in Japanese folklore that you continue to see them in popular culture today, and anyone who loves sushi has undoubtedly had kappa-maki, a non-fish sushi roll made from the kappa’s favorite snack food: cucumbers. (Beware to those who click, even I was surprised to learn that kappa also love to eat something far more repulsive than cucumbers, so be cautious if you’re squeamish.)

Now, go study up, and watch your step at the river bank.

Continuing the October obake-a-week theme, I present the fearsome umi-bouzu. Before reading about the umi-bouzu at the Obakemono Project, I confess I’d never heard of it, but given the significance of the sea in Japanese culture, a hulking faceless ocean beast seems inevitable. According to said site, the umi-bouzu “is most commonly conceived as something huge and pitch black with ambiguously human features and a common lack of eyes or hair.” So, sort of a deep sea blob with a wicked attitude (maybe a relative of the great C’thulu?). Study up at the Obakemono Project, and beware the dark shapes of the briny deep.

Kuwana - The Sailor Tokuso and the Sea Monster


Many moons ago, shortly after I returned to the States from my year of living in Japan, I came across a fan site for the Japanese Ring phenomenon. Being a complete nut for Ring, and not yet having anyone Stateside with whom I could gush about it (the U.S. remake didn’t come on the scene for a few years), I took the opportunity to strike up correspondence with the site’s proprietor, J. Lopez. It’s been a long time since we last exchanged emails, or cursed video tapes, but I remember J. as a really nice guy. When I dug into drawing the Ring-themed strips you’ll be seeing this month, I thought I’d see if his site was still up. Lo-and-behold, it still lives, and you should check it out: The Ringworld

This site holds a wealth of info for Ring-nuts and intrigued others. And if you run into J., tell him I said hello!

I’d be remiss this week, in light of my Halloween Ring parody, if I didn’t give you a peek at the onryou, usually depicted in stories as the vengeful spirit of a wronged woman. The onryou is one of several classes of ghost (not entirely unlike a class 5 full roaming vapor) found in Japanese folklore. One of the most famous onryou, and the partial basis for Ring, is the spirit of Okiku, a young servant girl murdered in a romantic embroilment and thrown down a well.

You can get the nutshells of three variations of Okiku’s story at Wikipedia, among other places. And do be careful around any open wells or unmarked video tapes.

In the vein of strange and fearsome female spectres, allow me to introduce you to the rokurokubi. Typically depicted as a normal, if mysterious, young woman during the day, the rokurokubi is actually a youkai with the ability to stretch its neck to supernatural lengths after nightfall. Depending on the story, the rokurokubi may be a largely harmless or even unknowingly cursed maiden, or a sinister blood-sucking fiend. Most are tricksters, and delight in scaring the pants off mortals.

Read more about the rokurokubi when you can, and in the meantime: Guys, beware of strange women, and ladies, don’t go sticking your necks out…

Rokurokubi, by Hokusai

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