Welcome back to A-Yokai-A-Day: hell edition! This week we are looking at folklore related to hell and the underworld. We’ve so far seen Meido, King Enma, and Datsueba and Keneou. Today we’re going to look at something really unique: a human who travels back and forth between the underworld!
You may remember from earlier this week that the kings of Japanese hell are based on Chinese Buddhist/Taoist syncretism. They wear the clothing of bureaucrats because they are basically viewed as such; they are the civil servants of the dead.
The supernatural world is essentially a mirror of the human world (or is it the human world that is a mirror of the supernatural world?). Specifically, it is a mirror of the human world as it was when Buddhism was brought from India, through Central Asia, to China and later Japan. China was the Tang Dynasty at that time, and it was a pretty stable and organized society, a golden age of civilization and cosmopolitanism. (Much of Japan’s government and society was modeled after Tang China, which is why a lot of Japan’s folklore has that same visual style.) Tang China was also a highly meritocratic society, and so it makes a lot of sense that even a human could somehow get a political position in the government of the dead if he had the right qualifications.
Well, Ono no Takamura is that man.
Click the image below to read his story.