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For anyone in the Philadelphia/South Jersey region this weekend: I will be giving a presentation on yokai and Japanese ghosts at the Camden County library in Voorhees on Saturday at 4 pm. Admission is free. You can preregister here to save a seat, but you don’t have to pre-register to attend.
I’ll be discussing a couple of interesting and strange yokai, talking about the theme of my next book, The Hour of Meeting Evil Spirits, and telling a few scary ghost stories! I’ll also have some books available, or bring your own and I will sign it for you. I hope to see you there!
Now, on to today’s yokai:
Eritategoromo (襟立衣, えりたてごろも)
Eritategoromo is a tsukumogami (a household item possessed by a spirit) of a kimono. Its name means “the cloth with the standing-up collar,” and it refers to a specific type of kimono — the ceremonial robes of a very high Buddhist priest. Certain priest robes have a very large, triangular collar which goes up the back of the head, almost like a hood but not quite. It is this type of robe which became this yokai — the long collar transforming into a long, pointed nose. (It also sprouted eyes and a beard!)
Eritategoromo is not just any old high priest’s robe. It is actually the kimono which once belonged to a tengu! And not just any old tengu either, but specifically Sōjōbō, the King of the Tengu, who lives on Mount Kurama in Kyoto. Sōjōbō is a fearsome and powerful god, with the strength of 1000 ordinary tengu. He is a master swordsman, and was responsible for training a number of famous legendary heroes of Japan, such as Minamoto no Yoshitsune. Though he is a mountain hermit and great trainer, like any tengu, Sōjōbō has a dark side too; he is said to eat children who come into the mountains alone at night.
Sōjōbō was not always a tengu. He was born a human, and became a very famous high priest. Sōjōbō mistakenly believed that he had reach enlightenment during his lifetime and expected to become a Buddha when he died… however, he was wrong and transformed into a tengu instead. (Tengu, of course, being the classic example of pride, lost virtue, and everything else that Buddhism stands against.) Even as a tengu, though, the proud Sōjōbō continued his priestly training, and continued to wear his extravagant high priests robes. Either because of his his extreme pride, or because of the magical nature of tengu, some spirit became attached to his high-collared priest robes and they became this yokai.
How the eritategoromo came to be known by humans is not known. Perhaps some pious monk braved the vicious tengu clans and climbed to the summit of Mount Kurama and nicked it… Maybe Minamoto no Yoshitsune took it back with him… Or perhaps it sprang to life and ran away on its own… Who knows?
Don’t miss your chance to become part of the best English-language yokai book ever! Join The Hour of Meeting Evil Spirits by Halloween night!