A-Yokai-A-Day: Asuko koko

I can’t say it enough: I love October. October is the perfect month! It’s both warm enough and cool enough that you can be comfortable in anything from t-shirt and shorts to a fleece hoodie with a warm blanket wrapped around you. The sun doesn’t bake you the way it does in the summer months, but it’s still bright at noon. The flowers that bloom in October have the best fragrances, the smell of burning leaves and wood stoves fill the air. The changing leaves paint the world in vibrant beautiful colors. Twilight comes earlier and lasts longer, and the days that are dark and overcast have the best moods to them.

That last part is the only part that matters for today’s yokai. Read on!

Asuko koko

Asuko koko
“there and here”

Asuko koko is a yokai which looks like a swirling, gloomy cloud. Within the cloud float all sorts of grotesque faces and claws. (I wonder if they are riding this yokai, or if the heads and arms are actually part of asuko koko…)

Asuko koko comes from the Matsui Bunko Hyakki yagyo emaki. It’s a beautiful and important yokai scroll, with a lot of unique yokai. If you look it up on Wikipedia you’ll probably recognize a number of yokai from yokai.com. Most of the yokai here don’t have back stories or folk talks describing their behaviors, but they do have names which can be illuminating and give us a bit of insight into what they are/do.

While asuko koko may look like just a strange-looking cloud on the surface, there’s something deeper about it that really touches upon the true essence of what yokai means.

  • It’s formless, which is something that is often said about yokai, but gets forgotten when we see the clear shapes and forms of various yokai in colorful woodblock prints. But really, yokai are shifting, formless, and ever-changing.
  • As a smokey cloud, it’s not quite opaque, but not quite transparent either. Yokai are things that we can kind of see in the shadows, but just can’t make out; just like a cloud of smoke. It’s hard to focus on, impossible to grasp, and it can vanish just when you think you see it.
  • And of course if you go into a cloud of smoke, your eyes will sting, you’ll choke—it’s dangerous! If the smoke is toxic you could get quite sick, or it might just be a harmless cloud. Similarly, most yokai are dangerous, but it’s not always quite clear precisely what the threat is.
  • However, the part I like best about this yokai is it’s name: asuko koko means “there, here.” In other words: here, there, everywhere. It lurks in the corner, in the shadows, under your bed, just behind you! One of the important things about yokai is that they can be found everywhere, if you know where to look for them.

The vagueness of asuko koko’s form, its faces, and even its name perfectly matches the uncertainty which is the core of what yokai are.

The takeaway? Even if you can’t name it, can’t describe it, or can’t see it… there are monsters nearby. Here, over there, and all around you.

Boo!


Want more yokai? Visit yokai.com and check out my yokai encyclopedias on amazon.com! Still want more? You can sign up for my Patreon project to support my yokai work, get original yokai postcards and prints, and even make requests for which yokai I paint next!

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