Kanazuchibo & Okka

Greetings yokai fans!

Today I bring you this month’s final yokai (or pair of yokai, rather). Up top we have kanazuchibo and down below we have okka.

kanazuchibou & okka

kanazuchibo & okka

These yokai are similar to the previous ones in that their names were stapled on after the fact, and nothing has ever been written to describe their appearance. They’re also not folkloric yokai, as they only exist in the world of paintings. That said, they appear in a lot of paintings! These guys pop up in almost every yokai picture scroll, and so for a pair of yokai with absolutely nothing to their names (and not even a name, technically!), they are pretty well known.

I have had many requests to paint these guys, going back years. A lot of people want to know more about them, so I never wanted to be the bearer of bad news and say that there really just isn’t much to know about them. However, it’s possible to go to some length about them even though they don’t have any stories or names.

Read on to find out more:

Kanazuchibō

Okka

Furuougi & Hasamidachi

Greetings yokai fans!

It’s been a bit quiet since the last posting… This illustration and these yokai were quite an ordeal! I’m happy with the results of the final image, but boy did I wrestle with these two and the accursed background for a long time!

Worse than the painting, though, was researching. As I mentioned before, there is literally no information on them at all, anywhere. They were invented as images only, and have appeared on the earliest known yokai scrolls as well as many copies in the following centuries.

I took that more as a challenge than a fact, and I searched and searched and searched and searched. I was really hoping to find something interesting, some obscure tale, or anything in older folklore… but ultimately I was only able to confirm that there is no reliable description or folklore related to these two characters. There are some apocryphal stories in English-language books, but they appear to have just been made up by the authors.

I did manage to get their names, which were also invented more recently, of course, but I have a more reliable source for those. They were “named” by a present day yokai researcher who is a member of one of the largest yokai societies in Japan. He put out a book in the early 2000’s and added names to a bunch of these bizarre yokai from the early scrolls, and I figure his naming scheme is good enough for me. You probably won’t find them named Hasamidachi and Furuogi anywhere else, other than in reference to the same book by Aramata Hiroshi, but they are better names than just “fan monster” and “scissors monster.”

Anyway, here they are:

furuougi & hasamidachi

Hasamidachi

Furuōgi

Fugurima yohi

Greetings yokai fans!

Today’s yokai is another companion piece.

This is fuguruma yohi, the strange queen of the book cart.

You can probably guess who her companion is, as they are king and queen. Last month’s chirizuka kaio and today’s fuguruma yohi appear opposite each other in their original publication, Hyakki tsurezure bukuro. Like the strange king, this strange queen was made up by Toriyama Sekien, based on a pun from the Tsurezure gusa.

It’s never specified just what she is queen of (if anything). Presumably, she is just the queen of that book cart and it’s just a fancy name. But maybe she is queen of the tsukumogami entirely, ruling alongside the chirizuka kaio? It’s fun to speculate, but really there’s no answer, as neither of them are folkloric or mythological figures. They were both invented for Sekien’s book and really just mainly as silly puns that sharp-eyed and educated readers would enjoy on a level above just the funny illustration. Toriyama Sekien was a master at creating multi-leveled humor.

But regardless of what she is queen of, she’s a fun character to look at and a good addition to our collection of yokai!

Fuguruma yōhi

fugurimayohiThis post originally appeared on Patreon.com. Support my work and feed your yokai addiction by becoming a backer for only $1 per month!

Amabie

Greetings yokai fans!

Today is a cool, rainy day, which makes it perfect weather for a nocturnal, water yokai. Today’s yokai is the amabie.

I chose this yokai because I’ve already done jinja hime and kudan, and I really like doing yokai that reference each other. It seems that a lot of yokai were spontaneously “discovered” in the mid-1800’s, and all of them had the same advice: “Look at my picture and you won’t catch a disease.” Coincidentally, there were widespread pandemics of cholera and other diseases going around at this time, so it’s not hard to imagine yokai like amabie et al as a sort of psychological response to the fear of these deadly, contagious diseases. Worldwide deaths from the first three cholera epidemics alone topped 15 million! That’s pretty incredible, and it must have wreaked havoc on the national psychology of the countries affected. I imagine that the hope these “good luck” yokai brought must have been a big relief to the poor peasants of the time.

Of course, those three yokai are not the only prognosticating practitioners. Tons of yokai (like baku) have been used as good luck charms against disease. Sometimes the yokai’s picture, or a small charm, or even just the act of writing the yokai’s name was all it took to protect people. While researching amabie and jinja hime, I came across so many copycat yokai… it would be tempting to do them all, but they are so similar it would end up being a long book full of the same story on every page.

In fact, copycat yokai were so popular at the time, that sometimes newspapers got caught publishing fake stories — in one case a paper in Kumamoto published a story about an “arie” (same thing as an amabie basically) that appeared in a local village. The thing was, that village didn’t even exist! So the newspaper had to print a retraction.

Anyway, on to the story!

Amabie

This post originally appeared on Patreon.com. Support my work and feed your yokai addiction by becoming a backer for only $1 per month!

June Yokai Plans

It’s June and the summer heat is slowly creeping its way towards us! But we still have a few weeks before the temperature becomes unbearable!
May and June are really beautiful in rural Japan. The buckwheat is golden, and the rice paddies are flooded and full of fresh green sprouts. There are storks and herons everywhere, hunting bullfrogs and insects in the fields. Pheasants are screaming their mating calls as they patrol the gardens and chase other animals away from their nests.

Of course it’s also a good time for yokai. The changing of the seasons is strongly associated with yokai. In ancient times, season changes were associated with the powerful forces of yin and yang, and the space between the seasons was one of the places where yokai could break into our world from theirs. Aobouzu (from The Hour of Meeting Evil Spirits) is one of these yokai that is associated with the change from spring to summer.

Speaking of that book, I just did an article for Folklore Thursday featuring some of the characters from that book. If you haven’t seen it, here is the link.

Also, I recently started using Instagram again, so if you can find me @matthewmeyerart.

Now, on to this month’s yokai plans!

Last month a few yokai entries mentioned other yokai that I haven’t done yet. I like doing yokai that have “partners” so to speak. So this month we’ll be looking at:

1) Amabie, which was referenced in the jinja hime post.
2) Fuguruma yohi, who goes sort of as a pair with chirizuka kaiou and is also pun based off the same passage of the Tsurezura gusa.
3+) Some tsukumogami! Everyone loves tsukumogami and since we looked at the king of the tsukumogami last month, it’s only fitting that we give him some subjects!

More to come soon!

This post originally appeared on Patreon.com. Support my work and feed your yokai addiction by becoming a backer for only $1 per month!

Chirizuka kaiō

Greetings yokai fans!

Tonight’s entry is a pretty obscure yokai, but he’s a funny one. Despite being another one of Toriyama Sekien’s inventions (he just slapped a name and an explanation onto a yokai that had already been painted in pictures scrolls for hundreds of years) he manages to give it some meaning and flesh it out into a really interesting creature.

Doing the writeup on this yokai forced me to read some of Tsurezuregusa, as well as the song from the Noh play, which was fun but not exactly a quick and easy translation. Sometimes the yokai which are obscure and have precious little written about them can turn into a rabbit hole when trying to unravel their mysteries. And then trimming that down into a concise explanation is another task!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy it:

Chirizuka kaiō

This post was made possible by the generous support of my Patreon backers. If you like yokai and want to learn more, please consider pledging $1 or more per month to support my work.

In addition to the warm, fuzzy feeling patrons get by being a backer of an awesome project, they also get access to my private Patreon steam, which has more details about each yokai, their history, and my creation process—including sketches, line art, and high-resolution artwork. Higher tier backers also get monthly postcards with hand-drawn yokai doodles, art prints, and even original paintings. Click here to join!

Sarugami

Greetings yokai fans!

This one took a bit longer than I had hoped to complete. I fought for a long time with the color scheme. But in the end, I am happy with how it turned out. The warm color scheme was an improvement on the cooler green hues I started out with.

Sarugami is a pretty fascinating yokai. It’s another one that is connected to Koshin, so it joins the ranks of such fun yokai as the sanshi, shokera, and a few others. Also, its legends are extremely similar to the monster-slaying legends you usually hear about oni, omukade, yamata no orochi and other daija. Basically a big ol’ monster for heroes to slay.
And there’s a fun little false etymology story in there as well! Quite a lot to digest with this one! I hope you enjoy it!

Sarugami

This post was made possible by the generous support of my Patreon backers. If you like yokai and want to learn more, please consider pledging $1 or more per month to support my work.

In addition to the warm, fuzzy feeling patrons get by being a backer of an awesome project, they also get access to my private Patreon steam, which has more details about each yokai, their history, and my creation process—including sketches, line art, and high-resolution artwork. Higher tier backers also get monthly postcards with hand-drawn yokai doodles, art prints, and even original paintings. Click here to join!