A-Yokai-A-Day: Kyubi no Kitsune

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The kitsune is one of the most beloved yokai, and is a pretty common spirit throughout East Asian folklore. If you’ve ever been to Japan, you’ve no doubt seen statues of foxes at many shrines. The fox is considered a magical animal in Japan, and Japanese mythology is full of tales of foxes. There are both benevolent and malevolent foxes — good ones are connected to the god Inari — and they are believed to possess both long life and incredible intelligence, as well as magical powers.

The older a fox gets, the more powerful its magic becomes. It is said that after reaching 100 years of age, a fox learns how to shapeshift into a human; and indeed there are many stores of foxes interacting with humans in this way, including falling in love and even marriage. As foxes increase in age, they are also said to grow more tails. After reaching 1000 years old, a fox receives its ninth tail. At this point, it’s fur becomes white or gold, and it is able to hear and see anything happening anywhere in the world, and it gains infinite wisdom. These foxes are called kyubi no kitsune, and this is what I’ve drawn for you today:

Kitsune
Kyubi no Kitsune

Anyway, kitsune are such an important and interesting part of Japanese folklore, I strongly suggest you search around and read more about them. They’re just plain awesome.

A-Yokai-A-Day: Kamaitachi

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Of all the yokai I’ve heard of, today’s has become my favorite. This is the kamaitachi, or to translate its name into English, the sickle weasel. It’s a pretty dangerous beast; it rides on a gust of wind and slices up its victims legs with its sickles. Another version says that it’s actually a trio of weasel brothers, the first of which knocks the victim down, the second of which cuts the victim up, and the third of which applies medicine to the wounds, making them appear to be only scratches, as if the person had run through brambles.

Aside from the name, which is awesome enough on its own, I think one of the reasons I love the kamaitachi so much is because it really just sounds like whoever made it up couldn’t think of anything good, so he just slapped some knives onto a weasel and called it a day. Though my wife tells me that this is definitely something to be feared, I find it hard not to chuckle at it, just a bit. Anyway, it’s a really cool yokai, so I hope you like my illustration!

Kamaitachi
Kamaitachi

Sickle weasel… *snicker*

LoveDen (ラブ電)

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“Love will come to you when you ride the train!”

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to do a poster for the local train company. Last yera a new annual event was created — LoveDen (it’s not as dirty as it sounds; “den” is short for the Japanese word for train) — basically a speed dating kind of thing for singles to go and meet other singles. They ride the local train line and have coffee, tea, and snacks, and I guess at certain stops on the line they change partners (or stay with their current partner if they like each other). It’s a pretty interesting idea, mainly to raise awareness and the reach out to young folks to ride the train more often. One of the couples who met at last year’s LoveDen is getting married soon, so that’s turning into a big piece of publicity for the event.

LoveDen
LoveDen

A-Yokai-A-Day: Azukiarai

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Today’s yokai is Azukiarai, a fairly gentle yokai who lives in the mountains. They are very shy and elusive, so it’s quite difficult to see them. Their name means “bean washer,” and that’s exactly what they do — they wash buckets of red beans in mountain streams, singing their bean-washing song, which goes like this:

“Azuki togou ka? Hito tottekuou ka? Shoki shoki.”
“Should I grind my azuki beans? Or should I snatch a person to eat? Shoki shoki (the sound of washing beans in the bucket).”

It sounds scary, but he really just sings it for fun. Azukiarai doesn’t hurt people or cause mischief, though it is said that anyone approaching close enough to see one will inevitably fall in the water just before he runs away.

Azuki-arai
Azukiarai

The Wedding

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Here’s a bonus chicken painting to follow up on The Commando and The Zulu I posted recently. The gallery that showed Hanamachi invited me to show another piece, this one F20 size — which I soon found out is BIG! Not huge, mind you, but big compared to all my other paintings so far — roughly 727×606 mm, or 5 times the size of the other chicken paintings. So it was a real challenge and a real pleasure to paint The Wedding.

The Wedding
The Wedding

The model for this painting, I’m proud to say, was my own wedding. Much artistic liberty has been taken — aside from the obvious transformation into chickens — the clothing was changed, and the shrine in the background has some tweaks to it, but it goes fairly well with our wedding photos. The chicken models are from a local farm. It took a fair amount of time to do, but even more to dry, and I was finally able to scan it yesterday morning, about half an hour before I took it to the gallery in Kanazawa.

A-Yokai-A-Day: Usu-tsuki-warashi

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Yesterday I showed you Zashiki-warashi, which is named for the zashiki — a kind of room in a Japanese house. I mentioned that there are different kinds of zashiki-warashi, and they vary in terms of pleasantness. Most zashiki-warashi appear as young children, and while they love to play pranks and mess around, they’re generally well-liked yokai.  Today’s yokai has a much less wholesome image. This isUsu-tsuki-warashi. It’s named for a Japanese millstone, and has a slightly less wholesome image. Usu-tsuki-warashi is connected with ancient infanticide customs, in which an unwanted baby would be buried in a warehouse, in a dirt floor, or underneath the millstone.

Usu-tsuki warashi is said to cause general feelings of unease in houses that it inhabits. It crawls out from beneath the dirt floor and creeps about the house, making noises like someone pounding on a millstone (thus its name). It’s not a malevolent yokai, but it certainly can feel that way.

Unfortunately, it’s like that driving it out of the house would have the same ruinous effects that driving its more-pleasant cousin out would have… so a family with a Usu-tsuki-warashi may have to live with the creepy yokai rather than forcing it to leave.

Usu-tsuki-warashi
Usu-tsuki-warashi

The Commando

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This was finished last week, but finally became dry enough to scan yesterday. I wasn’t sure when I should post this, because with the A-Yokai-A-Day project, I didn’t want to step on the heels of my previous post… but I suppose I’ll have to post it now rather than wait until November to do so.

Here is my most recent Chicken of the Word: The Commando. He is a Vietnam War era-inspired soldier.

I’m trying to think of more to say than just that… I guess I hope the painting speaks for itself? I can say, though, that after painting The Zulu and The Commando, I don’t want to do any more jungle foliage for a while.

The Commando
The Commando

On a final note, I have one more chicken painting to post here… but I think I’ll wait until tomorrow so as not to steop on this one’s heels, or the heels of the yokai painting I have to paint and then post tonight. Yikes, I’ve got my hands full!