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


:: Posts Tagged ‘yokai’ ::

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

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

To round out this month’s obakemono menagerie, I thought I’d present a horror of urban legend: kuchisake-onna, or literally: “split-mouth woman.”

I first learned about kuchisake-onna from a friend, when I lived in Japan, who told me the mysterious tale of a seemingly beautiful woman you might meet while alone, at night, on a dark city street. The woman–apparently suffering a cold, given the surgical mask she’s wearing–will ask you: “Do you think I’m pretty?” Upon hearing your reply, she’ll rip off her mask to reveal a hideously extended mouth that would put a Glasgow smile to shame, after which she’ll chase you down with something sharp. In short, she’s the Japanese Hook Man.

I was inspired to post about this ghoul by seeing a link (at Pink Tentacle) earlier this week to Matthew Meyer’s “A Yokai-a-Day” series of art blog posts, in which was included a wonderfully creepy painting of the aforementioned specter, and loads of other yokai. I had no idea the kuchisake-onna had a history before her resurgence as an urban legend, but Mr. Meyer’s write-up revealed both the split-mouth woman’s past and the gorier details of how an encounter with her can play out.

So, check out the Yokai-a-Day post, and be careful who you run into this Halloween night!

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