We’ve taken a good look at some awesome Ainu yokai this week, but of course not all aquatic yokai are of Ainu origin. Tonight I want to talk about a pair of yokai from northern Japan. These two go together quite nicely, so I put them in the same illustration.
This pair of yokai was one that I originally discovered in the collection of Yumoto Koichi (which I previously talked about on this blog from the book Yokai Museum). They appeared together in a particular scroll, and it was such a funny image, of this octupus harassing an eel wearing a kimono, that I had to do a writeup on it.
The scroll, like many yokai scrolls, had no explanation to go with the illustration. Luckily, I was able to find a huge number of stories relating to these two yokai on the Nichibunken databases. In almost all cases, individual eels were believed to be the guardians of ponds and small lakes—particularly in northern Japan. There are a number of stories about eels weaving, which we also saw in the story about kojin earlier this week. I found it really interesting how weaving cloth was associated with sea creatures in Japan.
I also found it quite interesting how many stories there were about eels fighting other yokai for domination of their ponds. Often the eels would be put into fights to the death with giant crabs and spiders over who would be the guardian spirit of a particular pond. And the eels would take the form of young women and try to seduce human warriors to fight in their place. This is basically the outline of the writeup I did for unagi hime, but I was surprised how many different variations of this same story I found. It must be a common theme…
I don’t know that many stories put these two together, other than the one particular scroll in Yumoto Koichi’s collection, but personally I feel like they make a good match with each other. Click here to read more about tako nyudo and unagi hime.