A-Yokai-A-Day: Uyauyashi

Does anyone else remember Boglins? When I was a kid I thought they were the coolest toys and I really wanted one. They had that textured rubbery skin and those glassy eyes and you could morph their face into pretty much any facial expression. Looking at today’s yokai, I just can’t help but be reminded of a Boglin.



Uyauyashi comes from the same yokai scroll as yesterday’s yokai: the Bakemono tsukushi emaki, from the personal collection of Yumoto Koichi. As with many of the yokai in this scroll, its name is a bit of a pun. The word uyauyashii means respectful and deferential. However, this yokai’s name is not written with the normal characters for uyauyashii. It’s been written with ateji—nonstandard kanji that are chosen for their sound and often have a secondary meaning.

Still, as the name implies, uyauyashi is depicted as a very respectful yokai. It’s bowing down low to the viewer, almost smashing itself into the ground. It has a serene look on its face, with eyes closed. It looks to be enormously overweight, with fleshy rolls overflowing down its sides. Its flabby skin is covered in white speckles or pocks.

Nothing is known about its true form, but it resembles a blubbery toad. It has also been suggested that it is related to other blubbery yokai, like nuppeppo or nebutori.

One thing that jumps out is that, while appearing peaceful and respectful, uyauyashi has two large, sharp fangs peeking out of its flabby mouth. Could its respectfulness be a trick? Could it just be feigning respect? Could it be a trick meant to make it appear friendly, when it is really just waiting for a chance to bare its fangs and strike? If we consider that yokai are commonly used as explanations or reflections of bad human behavior, that certainly makes this character feel more yokai-ish!

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