Today the Kickstarter pledge level broke 500%, which means that a new stretch goal has been unlocked and five extra yokai will be added to the book! Everybody wins!
Umi-zatō (海座頭, うみざとう)
Umi-zatō is a gigantic, old, blind zatō who roams about the surface of the sea, tapping the waves with his cane. I talked about zatō earlier this month (on the te-no-me entry), but in summary, zatō is a term for blind men from the Edo period who performed one of a few designated jobs — massage and biwa being two of them. Umi-zatō is usually depicted carrying a large sack for carrying a biwa.
Today’s yokai is truly a mysterious one. There are almost no stories about the umi-zatō, and the earliest known paintings of umi-zatō did not come with any descriptions. It is very likely that it is a yokai invented solely for decoration. However, that has not stopped researchers and folklorists from speculating about its nature…
Because there are no stories about umi-zatō attacking people, it was long believed that they were just peaceful old zatō who roam the seas, not harming people. However, more recently, yokai researchers have speculated that umi-zatō is dangerous after all. Because he bears such a strong resemblance in appearance and in name to another yokai called umi-bōzu, it is now commonly accepted that umi-zatō is a variant species of umi-bōzu. Umi-zatō are said to beckon ships at sea towards them, and when the ships get close enough to reach, they flip them over and capsize them. They also occasionally swallow entire boats whole. The chief difference between umi-zatō and umi-bōzu is that the former seems to be a lot more congenial. If your ship does end up being attacked by an umi-zatō, all you have to do is reply to his demands in a polite and docile manner — the umi-zatō will disappear and leave you alone.
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