A-Yokai-A-Day: Jumen

No matter how I look at it, today’s yokai strikes me as being very muppet-like. It’s almost a mix between Ernie, Statler & Waldorf, and Mr. Snuffleupagus. Come to think of it, between muppet-yokai and boglin-yokai, someone out there with the right talent could probably make a killing selling yokai puppets. And I, for one, would absolutely watch a yokai-themed puppet show.

Jumen

Jumen
“scowl; grimace”

Jumen comes from the Bakemono tsukushi emaki, like the other yokai we’ve been looking at this week. He is humanoid in appearance, but has a few features that set him apart from people. Most notably, his ears look somewhat elephantine, similar to the shiofuki and the bakan nyudo from the same scroll. He has red rings around his eyes, giving them a bloodshot, glaring look. His mouth is stretched wide, between fishy lips. (He’s got—dare I say it—a bit of the Innsmouth look.) He is bald on top but has some wicked muttonchops and a bushy mustache. Finally, he keeps his hands tucked into his kimono sleeves, as if hiding something.

Like the other yokai in the Bakemono tsukushi emaki, jumen is presented as a name and an illustration only. It doesn’t appear to come from folklore either; it’s just a weird creation made up by the anonymous artist of the scroll. So we can only guess as to what its name means and why it looks the way it does.

The name jumen doesn’t have any inherent meaning. It is written with kanji that mean “full” and “face.” And while this guy certainly does have a “full face,” that’s a little too on the nose for a yokai name. There’s no subtlety; there’s no pun. However, written with different kanji, jumen means scowl or grimace. It literally translates as “bitter/astringent face.” If I could only use one phrase to describe this yokai, I would be hard pressed to think of a better one than bitter face.


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