I mentioned a few days back that we were getting close to the end of the Bakemono tsukushi emaki. Well, by now I’ve done the whole scroll except for two yokai: biyorori and nanjaka. I was planning on skipping these two because they are so vague, so mysterious, that coming up with a full blog post’s worth of text was a serious struggle for me. I thought it would be easier to just translate a different yokai that I could actually say something about than to attempt to say something about these two. But the completionist in me would never forgive myself if I just let them be. They would always haunt the back of my mind…
Wait a minute! Maybe that’s exactly what these two yokai do! They haunt the minds of people trying to figure them out!
Biyorori is depicted in the Bakemono tsukushi emaki as a wavy snake. It kind of looks like a swimming water moccasin or other aquatic species of snake with the way it wiggles and waves back and forth. There’s nothing at all in the picture that gives any impression of supernatural ability. It looks exactly like a normal snake. No extra hands, or eyes, no strange fires, not even any tufts of hair which seem to accompany so many other yokai.
Even its name is vague. Biyorori looks like it should be a play on words, as so many yokai in this scroll are… but what wordplay it could be is a unfathomable. It sounds somewhat like this might be a jumping or a flying snake. Since there’s no water in the illustration, maybe we’re meant to be looking up at a snake flying through the sky, instead of down at one in the water. However, none of the other yokai in this scroll have backgrounds, so it’s not possible to judge either way. And there seems to be a large number of water-based yokai in this particular scroll, so that might tip the scales back towards it being a water snake…
Biyorori doesn’t appear in any other scrolls or books. I searched all of my yokai encyclopedias and dictionaries, and while there are many snake yokai, biyorori doen’t even get a mention in most of them. Even the most esteemed yokai-ologists have been unable to come up with anything on this yokai, and seem equally unwilling to invent a backstory for it with absolutely no clues on.
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