A-Yokai-A-Day: Yonaki Ishi

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It’s Friday the 13th!!! Which has absolutely nothing to do with yokai… :\ Oh well…

Just a quick update on the Kickstarter before moving on to today’s A-Yokai-A-Day: we will be working with Backerkit to manage pledges after the funding period is over. This should make it a lot easier to choose your add-ons and alter your pledge level if you decide later that you should have gotten the collector’s edition, for example.

Now, for the good stuff. It’s yokai time!

Yonaki ishi
夜泣き石
よなきいし
“night crying stone”

Toriyama Sekien’s yonaki ishi

This is not the first “yonaki” yokai we’ve looked at, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. It’s also not the first strange stone yokai we’ve looked at. But it is a very famous supernatural phenomenon that is found in folklore all across Japan.

In short, yonaki ishi are stones or boulders which cry loudly at night. In many cases, the stones cry because they are possessed by the spirit of someone who was murdered and seeks revenge. However, in some cases it is the stone itself that cries and not a person’s spirit haunting it.

The most famous yonaki ishi comes from Kakegawa City in Shizuoka Prefecture. (Kakegawa is also home to Kakegawa Kachoen, an amazing zoo and probably one of the my favorite places that I have ever been to. I’m sure there’s lots of night crying going on there even today, although I’d wager it’s more from all the various bird calls and less from possessed rocks…) This story is known as one of the “Seven Wonders of Shizuoka:”

Long ago, a pregnant woman was walking home through the steep mountains. She had reached the Sayononakayama Pass when she needed to stop for a rest. She leaned against a large round boulder to catch her breath, but suddenly a bandit appeared. He slashed at her with his blade, and would have cut all the way through her if the sword hadn’t also struck the large boulder she was leaning against. The bandit grabbed her purse and fled into the night. The wound was a fatal one—the woman bled to death.

Thanks to the blade striking the rock, her baby was not hurt by the attack. It emerged from her body through the stab wound. Although the mother was dead, her soul was so driven by the need to protect her child that it got stuck in the boulder. From then on, every night the rock would wail and cry loudly. A priest from a nearby temple heard the rock’s cry, and when he went to investigate it, he discovered the newborn baby. The priest took the baby to the temple and raised him, naming him Otohachi. The crying rock was from then on known as the yonaki ishi.

Sayononakayama’s yonaki ishi, accessible from Kakegawa, Shizuoka

There’s an interesting epilogue to this story: Otohachi grew up and was apprenticed to a sword sharpener. After many years he became an accomplish sword sharpener as well. One day, a samurai appeared before Otohachi and commanded him to repair his chipped katana. Otohachi was surprised by the terribly crack in the blade. The samurai absentmindedly explained that the blade had been chipped many years before when it struck a stone in the Sayononakayama Pass. Otohachi realized that this samurai was the bandit who murdered his mother. Otohachi stood up, gave his name, and then took his revenge!

My yonaki ishi, which will be painted in the coming months

 

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  1. ピンバック: A-Yokai-A-Day: Ashiarai yashiki | MatthewMeyer.net

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