Yonaki baba

Greetings yokai fans!

It’s the end of the month, and I bring you the final yokai of this month: yonaki baba. She’s a pretty simple and straightforward yokai, which makes it much easier to translate. 🙂

I was first attracted to this yokai because of the outrageously silly illustration of it as it appears in the Buson youkai emaki (incidentally this scroll also gave us the outrageously silly shirime).

I used that as my model, as I like to stick to the source material as much as possible, but I did try to make her a bit more sad looking. The Buson nakibaba looks so happy, and I wanted to make it a bit more ambiguous as to whether she is mocking or genuinely sad for those she haunts, because the folklore doesn’t agree on whether it’s one or the other.

Anyway, here she is!

Yonaki babā

nakibabaaThis post originally appeared on Patreon.com. You can share in my joy and her sadness by becoming a Patreon supporter. Help support my yokai work for only $1 per month!

Tenjōname

Greeting yokai fans!

Today I present tenjoname, the ceiling licker. I’m pretty sure my house has had a tenjoname in it at some point, because our ceilings are covered in spots. At first we thought they were water stains from a leaky roof, but now… now I’m pretty convinced it was a tenjoname after all. (I’m pretty sure we have a sakabashira as well, so this house is clearly yokai-friendly.)

Tenjōname

tenjoname

This post originally appeared on Patreon.com. Have your ceilings cleaned by a yokai for free by becoming my Patreon supporter. Starts at only $1 per month!

Shumoku Musume

Greetings yokai fans!

Today I present to you shumoku musume, or “hammer girl.”

I fell in love with this yokai the first time I saw her, in one of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi’s prints. Although there’s no description of her in that print, I really wanted to find out more of that strange, snail-like yokai in the background:

She’s actually quite a minor yokai, and is not the subject of any stories or legends. She appears in obake karuta, however, and that is her main claim to fame. While she doesn’t do much except for maybe jump out and spook people, it’s her unique appearance that makes her so appealing, and I’m sure that’s why she was included in the obake karuta.

What’s not to love about that?

Anyway, here she is:

shumokumusume

Shumoku musume

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Appossha

Greetings yokai fans!

It’s been a while since the last post, but I am excited to share with you the appossha! Although this is a winter yokai, I thought it might help to keep you cool in this unquenchable summer heat!

I think that appossha is a really interesting yokai for a number of reasons. First of all, he is a super local yokai, found only in one tiny hamlet here in Fukui prefecture. He’s so local that people in Fukui who aren’t from that village hardly even know of him.

Koshino, Fukui, pop. ~1700 -> probably the same as the number of people who have heard of appossha.

So I love this yokai because he’s so local and so unknown, and also because he’s from Fukui, where I live. But more than that, I love what this yokai represents.

You can read about his origins on yokai.com, so I won’t repeat them here, but I just love the story of how this yokai came about. It’s one of those things where you can visualize almost exactly what happened in your mind’s eye: some foreign-speaking fisherman with only a smattering of Japanese, crawling out of the icy waters, red-faced, covered in sea weed, and banging from door to door begging in his broken language for some food. Of course children would be scared! And yet, when offered food and warmth, he turns out to be not monstrous at all.

What’s more, this yokai is a remnant of a lost aspect of folk religion, which has been blended and absorbed into modern traditions, but can be seen pretty clearly in this example.

The marebito religion is a concept that was put forward by folklorist Orikuchi Shinobu, a student of Yanagita Kunio. It describes a set of folk beliefs centered around what could be described as worship of “the stranger.” It describes an archetypal folk belief found in which a spirit from the world of the dead visits a village, and is offered food, shelter, etc. Yokai like the appossha and the namahage are perfect examples of this, but we also see some elements of this ancient folk religion in the festival of Obon, where the dead are welcomed back to the world of the living for one day. Although this isn’t a “religion” in the sense of having a doctrine or scriptures, it does describe a common set of practices seen throughout Japan, which still echo in contemporary Japanese culture.

Even pop culture can echo this, as we see in the scene where No Face enters the bath house in Spirited Away. No Face himself could be an example of a marebito; he is an unknown creature from an unknown land (unknowable, even, as he wears a mask — just as yokai like appossha wear masks). He brings gifts to the other guests at the bathhouse, but he also brings danger and threatens them. He’s welcomed in a ritualistic way with a song and a ceremonial parade. It’s clear that the storytellers did their research!

This sort of folk belief is of course not restricted to Japan. We see parallels in folk religions all over the world. Masks have been used as important religious devices all across the ancient world, and the concept of the stranger from another world is found all over folk lore, religion, and literature. They worship “the stranger” in the fantasy religion of Westeros. Heck, the movie E.T. is almost a perfect parallel to this type of story.

Well, that may be stretching it a bit, but it’s clear there is something deeply, profoundly human that can be found even in a little-known, somewhat goofy yokai like appossha.

Appossha

Appossha

Appossha

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July Yokai Plans

Greetings yokai fans!

July is here, and the rainy season is keep it at 90% humidity, making everything soaking wet and hot and miserable. But soon everywhere will be bright and sunny and green like in the video above! (And far too hot…)

July feels like the start of yokai season in Japan. As you may be aware, yokai/ghost season takes place in the summer over here, not around Halloween like in the US.
Of course for me that means it’s my busiest season. In addition to looking up yokai art exhibitions and other fun yokai events, I’m in the middle of preparing for a radio interview this week as Fukui city’s local yokai guy. I also just finished recording a podcast episode with The Monster Guys, which should be coming out later this month. Next week I’m heading to Tokai University to give a lecture on yokai (thanks to one of my backers for helping to set that up!). And if anyone is in San Diego, some of my yokai prints will be showing at the Japanese Friendship Garden coinciding with the start of Comic Con. That might mean some of the posts this month will be a bit staggered, so forgive me if that happens!

Join my Patreon project to preview the yokai I’ll be painting this month, or to make a request to have your favorite yokai done soon!