A-Yokai-A-Day: Kannoju

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Translation: liver colony*

Kannoju are long worms with white, snake-like bodies. The tips of their tails and ears are red. They infect the liver, and while Harikikigaki doesn’t explicity say it, it sounds from their name like they live in a huge colony of many worms inside your liver.

When a kannoju becomes mature, it begins to crawl higher and higher up the body, chewing its way up the liver and into the torso. It elongates its body as it straightens out, then its start to wriggle violently. This causes stiffness through its host’s body, followed by violent tremors which cannot be stopped.

There are ways to treat this infection with acupuncture, but these secrets are only passed down orally, and are not included in Harikikigaki. The book notes that treatment of this disease become more difficult after the kannoju have reached maturity.

*The name kannoju is a tricky one to translate. Kan means liver, which is straightforward enough, but unlike the other mushi we’ve looked it, it’s not designated as a mushi or a shaku. Instead, the word ju is used, which implies a gathering or a collection of sorts. It’s not a simple or clear meaning, which makes it hard to translate. To me, it sounds like these creatures gather or amass in the liver, which is why I chose “liver colony” as a translation, but it just as well might be some obscure meaning that isn’t common today, or even a character chosen for its sound rather than its particular meaning.

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