A-Yokai-A-Day: Tonshi no kanmushi

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.


Tonshi no kanmushi
頓死の肝虫

Translation: sudden death liver worm

Tonshi no kanmushi infects the liver (as do all kanmushi). It has a yellow body covered in black speckles, and at the end of its tail there is a white string-like appendage. It has a red mouth and tongue. The top of its head is black (which looks just like hair in the illustration, although the description of this worm doesn’t really go into further detail).

When a tonshi no kanmushi bites down on the liver, its host will die suddenly. Yikes!

Fortunately, it can be treated! Mokkō (Saussurea costus) is an effective cure.


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A-Yokai-A-Day: Kizetsu no kanmushi

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.


Kizetsu no kanmushi
気絶の肝虫

Translation: fainting liver worm

Kizetsu no kanmushi has big boggly eyes and a long blue body with black speckles.

Infected people experience a string of symptoms. First, they begin to lose their hair, which the kizetsu no kanmushi feeds upon. Then, they experience tunnel vision. Moments later, they suffer from shortness of breath. Finally, they collapse, appearing as if dead.

This infection can be cured with the herb gokō (Origanum vulgare; oregano).


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A-Yokai-A-Day: Akubi no mushi

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Akubi no mushi
欠伸の虫

Translation: yawning worm

Akubi no mushi is a red worm with a snake-like belly and fine hairs sprouting from its back. It lives in your heart.

When an akubi no mushi infects a person’s heart, that person begins to yawn uncontrollably. Not only that, this worm disrupts the blood flow to the heart, causing intense fatigue and drowsiness.

The cure for akubi no mushi is to drink a boiled concoction made from the galls of Japanese sumac (Toxicodendron vernicifluum).

I would say that I often feel like there’s a bug inside of me making me sleepy, although I usually try to cure that by drinking tea, not tree galls.


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A-Yokai-A-Day: Kasamushi

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Kasamushi
笠虫

Translation: capped worm

Harikikigaki describes kasamushi as a red worm who lives in either the heart or the small intestine. Its primary symptom is a very high fever. It prefers very bland food, low in salt and miso flavoring. Kasamushi infections are treated with dried ginger root and pepper.

I have to admit that this worm has me stumped. First of all, its name is kasamushi, but it doesn’t have a kasa. We’ve seen a number of worms with conical hat-like objects on their heads, including the hizo no kasamushi on yokai.com. So why doesn’t this guy have a cap? Or why did they call him kasamushi at all? He’s a very plain looking worm with no outstanding features at all.

Then, it says it lives in the heart or the small intestine. Ok… but there’s quite a bit of difference between those two organs… why not the heart and the lungs? Or the small and the large intestine? It’s a weird pair of organs to infect, but I suspect there’s something in Chinese medicine that I don’t know about which explains the connection.

As for it’s food preferences, presumably it imparts these preference to its host as well, as many yokai worms do. That may be the reason that ginger root and pepper are effective. Those both have pretty strong spicy flavor to them, and a worm that only likes bland food would probably be driven off by highly spicy foods.

I wish there was more about this worm in the book. It’s so vague, and leaves me with questions. Like where is its kasa??? Oh well, as I always say: the appeal of yokai is in the mystery.


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A-Yokai-A-Day: Nayami no mushi

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Nayami no mushi
悩みの虫

Translation: worry worm

Nayami no mushi lives in your lungs. Its long white body is coiled up like a spring. It is covered with black spots spaced at even intervals. Its drooping eyes make its facial expression appear weary.

This worm loves sour, acidic foods. People who are infected with it experience strong cravings for those flavors, and find themselves constantly reaching for those kind of snacks. They become pessimistic, and even the smallest things cause them to feel a heavy sense of grief.

Treatment for nayami no mushi is accomplished with herbs. Funabarasō (Vincetoxicum atratum) and mokkō (Saussurea costus) are effective.


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A-Yokai-A-Day: Harawata no mushi

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.


Harawata no mushi
腸の虫

Translation: intestine worm

As you must suspect, the harawata no mushi lives inside of the intestine. Because the large intestine is white, and the small intestine is pink, it is presumed that it lives in the large intestine. This nasty little bugger uses its prickly legs sprouting all over its body to grab, rip, and chew at the body’s internal organs.

The primary symptom of this kind of infection is acute and sever abdominal pain.

It is treated with herbal remedies. Yamahakka (Isodon inflexus), a bitter perennial, is brewed into a tea and drunk to strengthen the stomach.

According to Harikikigaki, in studies, patients who died from this infectious yokai were autopsied, revealing the harawata no mushi tightly clinging to their large intestine.


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A-Yokai-A-Day: Subakuchu

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Subakuchu
寸白虫

Translation: sun* white worm

Subakuchu is a long worm with a dragon-like face and a forked tail. It doesn’t have a fixed home; it travels back and forth between the abdomen and the scrotum. Ordinarily it spends its time stretching left and right around the belly, wriggling up and down below the diaphragm. However, when its host’s body becomes cool, it slithers down into the scrotum and coils itself up, remaining motionless.

Patients infected with a subakuchu suffer from acute bouts of abdominal pain once or twice a year. The longer the subakuchu gets, the more dangerous it becomes. By the time it reaches 15 meters in length, the patient is sure to die.

Subakuchu can be treated with acupuncture, although it is difficult to recover from. The trick for treating this infection is a secret, and is only passed down orally.

*A sun is old Japanese unit of measurement equal to about 30.303 millimeters. From the name, I would guess this worm starts out just over a few cm or so in length, and from there grows to its deadly length of 15 meters. Or, perhaps the segments that we can see in the illustration are each one sun in length. If so, a 15 meter subakuchu would have roughly 495 segments! Nothing in Harikikigaki explains the origin of its name, so it’s just my best guess.


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