A-Yokai-A-Day: Sesshō seki

Like yesterday’s yokai, today’s yokai has been featured once before on this site, years ago. I re-imagined the illustration and made a new writeup on it for The Hour of Meeting Evil Spirits, mainly because it would be impossible to include Tamamo no Mae without including Sesshō seki, the stone which her spirit haunted for many years.

I also think it forms a really nice little capstone on the Tamamo no Mae story—and fortunately for me, this one is totally canon, so there is no question over whether it is “real” folklore or not (as much as I cringe when I describe folklore as real or not…)

Speaking of whether certain aspects of folklore are “real” or not, tomorrow is somewhat of a big day for yokai in the US. Tomorrow, the yokai-themed TV show that has taken taken Japan by storm, Yo-Kai Watch, hits American shores via the Disney channel. Yo-Kai Watch (I hate that they hyphened it, but oh well… I’m sure the hyphen will fade over time as people get used to the seeing word) has become so popular in Japan that it has totally devoured Pokemon. Jibanyan has overtaken Pikachu as the most popular character in Japan, so I’m wondering what the reception will be like over here. Since Pokemon itself is very yokai-like, and a lot of Pokemon even came directly from yokai, it seems like Yo-Kai Watch was invented just to eat into that particular market. And so far it has done a great job.

But you “real” is Yo-Kai watch, really? There are a lot of cute characters, that’s for sure. But while Jibanyan is a nekomata and a few other characters are also recognizable yokai, there is also a large element of artistic license. Usa-pyon, for example, is something completely made up for the show. Will Yo-kai Watch end up changing the definition of the word yokai by adding new characters to the already enormous list of yokai?

While part of me is glad that the word yokai is about to become a household word in America, part of me also grumbles that these are not “real” yokai. But then, I have to ask myself why I really say that… After all, so many of what we consider “real” yokai were just creations by Toriyama Sekien and other Edo period artists. In fact, so many of these were created solely for the purpose of selling books, so you can’t even make the argument that TV shows are purely commercial in nature rather than literary, because so are many of the old yokai! I suspect that after a character has existed for a generation or two, it takes on an air of authenticity. Maybe a few decades from now, characters like Pikachu and Jibanyan will be considered just as authentic yokai as Tofu kozo and Mikoshi nyudo. So I tell myself that I grumble for no reason at all. It is a great thing that a popular TV show will be introducing children over here to the world of yokai, and if it causes them to gain an interest in history and traditional folk tales, all the better. So here’s to Yo-Kai Watch and the soon-to-come yokai explosion in the US!

As always, click on the photo below to learn about today’s yokai. It can can also be found in my new book The Hour of Meeting Evil Spirits. Order it now from Amazon.com.

Sesshō seki

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