One of the most amusing kinds of yokai is the group known as tsukumogami, or “99-year gods.” Superstition tells us that upon reaching 100-years of age, ordinary household items can gain sentience and come to life. This has lead to a number of fascinatiing stories about kimonos, shoes, umbrellas, and so on attacking people in their homes. Here are a few of the tsukumogami from Night Parade:
Translation: one tan (about 28.8 cm by 10 m) of cotton
Appearance: Ittan-momen is a long, narrow sheet of cloth normally used to make clothes, but reanimated with the spirit of a tsukumogami. They are native to Kagoshima, and can be seen flying through the sky at night, occasionally attacking people.
Behavior: Ittan-momen attack by wrapping their bodies around a person’s face and neck, strangling or smothering them to death. As far as tsukumogami go, they are fairly malicious and often dangerous or deadly instead of simply mischievous.
Translation: kosode (a short sleeved kimono) hands
Appearance: Kosode-no-te is a phenomenon appearing in short-sleeved kimonos formerly owned by prostitutes. It is characterized by a pair of ghostly hands emerging from the sleeves and assaulting nearby people.
Origin: Kosode-no-te can occur for a number of reasons. One common origin is when a prostitute dies in vain, after working for many years to save up the money to buy her freedom from her owner. Upon death, such women usually had their clothes donated to a temple for prayers to be said over them. However, if the woman was still owed money by her clients when she died, her spirit often reanimated her old clothing, and they leave the temple to find her customers and beg them for the owed money.
Another common origin is when, instead of being donated to a temple, a dead person’s kimono is sold to someone else. If the deceased was unable to properly pass on to nirvana upon death, that person’s spirit occasionally comes back and haunts the kimono.
Translation: snake obi (a kimono sash)
Appearance: The jatai is a kimono sash which becomes animated and slithers around like a giant snake during the night.
Origin: An old folk belief from Ehime and other parts of Japan says that if you lay your obi out near your pillow while you sleep, you will have dreams about snakes. Because the word for a snake’s body (jashin) is the same as the word for a wicked heart, it is said that the obi itself can manifest a tsukumogami and turn into a murderous agent of jealousy. This snake obi hunts after men, strangling them in their sleep.
Don’t forget to check out my book, The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons, on Amazon.com to learn about over one hundred other bizarre yokai!