A-Yokai-A-Day: Kamisubaku

If you’d like to join me and many others in painting a yokai a day this month, all you have to do is paint, draw, or create any yokai you like, and share it using the hashtag #ayokaiaday. There’s no set list of yokai you have to paint, but you’re free to browse yokai.com or any other yokai resource and choose your favorites.


Kamisubaku
噛み寸白

Translation: biting white sun* (tapeworm)

Kamisubaku is a long white worm that lives just behind the liver. It is a nasty, vicious little bugger. Its long body is segmented like many worms, only in this guy, every single segment has its own tiny mouth.

As it slithers around its host’s insides, each of these mouths snaps and chews at the internal organs. As you can imagine, this causes intense abdominal pain.

Medicine does not work against this worm. However, there is a treatment! First, you need to finely chop some hairs from the tail of a dapple-grey horse. You mix these hair filings with soba (buckwheat) flour. Then, you add in sake of the finest grade and knead it into a dough. Eating this will exterminate the worm.

If that doesn’t sound like a typical remedy to you, that’s because it’s not. It’s black magic. The idea behind this curse is that the finely chopped up hairs of what was once a long, beautiful horse tail carry with them a residual memory — a grudge — of what was done to them. Once ingested, the pieces of the dough that the kamisubaku eats transfer that grudge to the worm. Its long white body absorbs the residual memory of the long horse hairs, and is torn apart from the inside out.

*A sun is old Japanese unit of measurement equal to about 30.303 millimeters. It’s the same word that we saw earlier in the subakuchu. In old Japanese terminology, subaku refers to segmented tapeworms.


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