A-Yokai-A-Day: Kurobozu

Those of you long-time readers of A-Yokai-A-Day will probably know that I like to build up towards Halloween, with the scariest and most thematically-appropriate yokai saved for the end. This past week we’ve seen yokai dressing up in costumes, old hags, monsters hiding under your floor, the ghosts of people burnt at the stake (sort of), just to name a few. Today’s yokai is one that I find pretty spooky, a little funny, but mostly just darn creepy.

Be warned: kurobōzu is nightmare fuel. If you are the type of person who has to have your blanket tucked under your feet before you can fall asleep (I know I am!) then you might want to not read this before bed!

Kurobōzu
黒坊主
くろぼうず
“black monk”

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi’s depiction of the kurobōzu, from the Hōchi Shinbun issue #663.

As we’ve seen, there’s no shortage of bōzu (priest or monk-shaped) yokai. Heck, even black monk yokai are not in short supply. Kuro bōzu stands out those, because it is a relatively modern yokai. While the others come from the depths of folklore, this one appeared in the early Meiji period, in a newspaper article in the Hōchi Shinbun. It’s a good transitional link between the yokai of old and modern-day urban legends. The report came from the Kanda neighborhood of Tokyo:

At a certain carpenter’s house in Kanda, every night at 12 midnight, a dark, black, shadowy figure resembling a monk would appear in the house.

The creature would creep into their bedroom and stick its tongue in the ears and mouth of the carpenter’s sleeping wife, licking her all over.

The creature smelled so fowl, like rotting raw fish or garbage. The smell was so noxious that the family became ill.

The wife could not put up with this nightly treatment, so she left the house to go live with her relatives. After she left the house, the black monk never returned.

So what was the kurobōzu? Some yokai-ologists say it was a kind of nopperabō, due to its vague and indiscernible features. Others say it was related to a yamachichi, and it was sneaking into houses to steal the breath of sleeping humans.

Of course, less supernatural minded people might jump to the even more fearsome conclusion that some sort of homeless pervert was sneaking into the house and assaulting the wife. Or maybe it was even a hallucination caused by the unwanted advances of a drunk, disgusting husband? Who knows… Whatever it was, it’s difficult to imagine that poor woman’s trauma, and it’s hard to believe she had a good night’s sleep for a long time after that…

Kurobōzu. This one is going to be fun to paint!

Halloween is the final day of the Kickstarter for The Book of the Hakutaku! Don’t miss out on the chance to have over 100 yokai paintings and descriptions in glorious paperback, hardcover, or art prints!

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