A-Yokai-A-Day: Hiderigami

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Hiderigami (魃 or 日照り神, ひでりがみ)

Today’s yokai originally comes from ancient Chinese myth, but like many mythical Japanese beasts has changed quite a bit from its Chinese form. Its name means “drought spirit” or “drought god,” and can be written a few different ways, as you can see above. The kanji used for hiderigami is normally read batsu, which is the name of the Chinese beast it derived from; however, the reading hiderigami has been slapped on to that character in what is known as an ateji (free Japanese grammar lesson of the day!). It also goes by the name kanbo (旱母), which means “drought mother.”

According to the Wakan Sansai Zue (an 18th century encyclopedia) and Toriyama Sekien, a hiderigami looks like a hairy humanoid, stands between 2 and 3 feet tall, has a single eye on the top of its head, only one arm and one leg, and runs as fast as the wind. (How he does this with only one leg I have no idea…) Additionally, wherever a hidergami goes, rain will not fall — which is how it gets its name.

The original Chinese version of this beast was a god (or rather goddess, as they were all female) of drought. Not surprisingly, it was a god to be feared, as the devastation of a severe drought could be widespread and last a very long time. Despite the incredible threat to humanity that they pose, it is said that if you throw a hiderigami into a toilet, it will die…

I find it interesting that another yokai which came from ancient China, ame-onna, was also once a powerful goddess that sort of devolved into a yokai when it was brought to Japan…


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