Amabie

Greetings yokai fans!

Today is a cool, rainy day, which makes it perfect weather for a nocturnal, water yokai. Today’s yokai is the amabie.

I chose this yokai because I’ve already done jinja hime and kudan, and I really like doing yokai that reference each other. It seems that a lot of yokai were spontaneously “discovered” in the mid-1800’s, and all of them had the same advice: “Look at my picture and you won’t catch a disease.” Coincidentally, there were widespread pandemics of cholera and other diseases going around at this time, so it’s not hard to imagine yokai like amabie et al as a sort of psychological response to the fear of these deadly, contagious diseases. Worldwide deaths from the first three cholera epidemics alone topped 15 million! That’s pretty incredible, and it must have wreaked havoc on the national psychology of the countries affected. I imagine that the hope these “good luck” yokai brought must have been a big relief to the poor peasants of the time.

Of course, those three yokai are not the only prognosticating practitioners. Tons of yokai (like baku) have been used as good luck charms against disease. Sometimes the yokai’s picture, or a small charm, or even just the act of writing the yokai’s name was all it took to protect people. While researching amabie and jinja hime, I came across so many copycat yokai… it would be tempting to do them all, but they are so similar it would end up being a long book full of the same story on every page.

In fact, copycat yokai were so popular at the time, that sometimes newspapers got caught publishing fake stories — in one case a paper in Kumamoto published a story about an “arie” (same thing as an amabie basically) that appeared in a local village. The thing was, that village didn’t even exist! So the newspaper had to print a retraction.

Anyway, on to the story!

Amabie

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