A-Yokai-A-Day: Hizō no kesshaku

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.


Hizō no kesshaku
脾臓の血積

Translation: spleen blood shaku

Hizō no kesshaku are caterpillar-like bugs with have white, segmented bodies, round red tails, and a round head with a blueish exterior and a red interior. As their name implies, they live in the spleen, causing various blood-related illnesses.

Harikikigaki doesn’t go into specific detail about the symptoms of this type of yokai infection, however as the spleen plays an important part in fighting infections, they could potentially cause a great number of problems.

Treatment of this infection is simple. Ingestion of ripe ōbako (Plantago asiatica; asian plantain) seeds will kill this mushi and the patient will fully recover.


If you enjoyed today’s A-Yokai-A-Day entry, please consider becoming a patron and supporting my work by visiting patreon.com/osarusan.

A-Yokai-A-Day: Kagemushi

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.


Kagemushi
陰虫

Translation: shadow bug

Kagemushi are disease yokai which possess the genitals of men and women.

When an infected couple has sexual intercourse, the kagemushi become excited. This excitement culminates during climax, at which point both the male and female kagemushi erupt forth, gushing liquids all over the place. A white liquid is discharged from male hosts, and a red liquid from female hosts*. Although these liquids flow forth from both humans, they are in fact vomited up from mouths of the kagemushi. Afterwards, male and female kagemushi entangle each other in their wire-like limbs, becoming inseparable.

Those possessed by kagemushi display a severely increase libido, perpetual horniness, and constantly behave in a lewd manner. Treatments for kagemushi infections exist, but are only passed down orally. Harikikigaki does not list any.

*This description relates to the ancient Buddhist “red and white drops” theory of sexual reproduction, in which the white drops expelled by the male combine with the red drops expelled by the female, become implanted in the female, and then become a seed. This seed then undergoes a series of metamorphoses before it transforms into a fetus. Harikikigaki attributes the expulsion of these drops to the kagemushi. In other words, it’s not the birds and the bees–it’s the bugs!


If you enjoyed today’s A-Yokai-A-Day entry, please consider becoming a patron and supporting my work by visiting patreon.com/osarusan.

A-Yokai-A-Day: Koshinuke 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.


Koshinuke no mushi
腰抜の虫

Translation: back dislocating bug

Koshinuke no mushi are yokai that infect the lower back. They have the appearance of dragonflies, and they appear suddenly out of nowhere and fly into the body. After successfully entering their host, they flutter about in the lower back area. The entwine their long tails around the spine, squeezing the vertebrae. They strike the spine with their spiked tails, causing strains, slipped disks, and other problems.

When a koshinuke no mushi strikes the spine, its victim is suddenly overcome with acute pain. Their legs buckle and they collapse. Their chest becomes tight, and breathing becomes difficult. They break out in cold sweats. The mushi’s saliva spreads throughout the body, causing heartburn, choking, and vomiting.

Fortunately, koshinuke no mushi infections can be treated by ingesting herbal remedies such as mokkō (Saussurea costus) and kanzo (Glycyrrhiza uralensis).


If you enjoyed today’s A-Yokai-A-Day entry, please consider becoming a patron and supporting my work by visiting patreon.com/osarusan.

A-Yokai-A-Day: In no kameshaku

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.


In no kameshaku
陰の亀積

Translation: yin turtle shaku

In no kameshaku lives in the abdomen. It has a grey head and shell, and its arms and tail are black. Coiled around its body are a number of white snake-like worms.

This nasty little bug kills its host. Afterwards it remains inside of the body for quite some time. Finally, it crawls its way out of the putrid corpse’s belly.

In no kameshaku can treated by ingesting medicine made from kochia (Bassia scoparia). It is a strong herb with diuretic properties. If this herb is mixed with regular meals and ingested, the in no kameshaku will be exterminated.


If you enjoyed today’s A-Yokai-A-Day entry, please consider becoming a patron and supporting my work by visiting patreon.com/osarusan.

A-Yokai-A-Day: Yō no kameshaku

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.


Yō no kameshaku
陽の亀積

Translation: yang turtle shaku

Yō no kameshaku inhabits the stomach. As its name implies, it resembles a turtle.  It also clearly has some connection to yang energy, although Harikigaki does not specify what that is. It has a speckled red shell with a circular pattern on the top of it. Its head has a blue umbrella-like growth on its head which protects it against any medicines that its host might ingest. (We’ve seen these kind of umbrella hats on other infectious yokai, such as the hizo no kasamushi.)

Yō no kameshaku feeds upon cooked rice that its host eats. Its victim stays thin no matter how much they eat. (I wonder how many mukbang YouTubers have yo no kameshaku in their stomachs…)

To extermine yō no kameshaku, Harikigaki recommends eating the peas of the pongam oiltree (Millettia pinnata). These are praised as being effective like nothing else against this shaku.

The reason for the pongam tree’s effectiveness is fascinating. To be eaten, the peas of the pongam tree must be removed from their shells. Once removed, the pea itself carries a residual memory of being removed. The kameshaku, upon eating the pea, also receives that residual memory. Because the blueish umbrella-like headpiece somewhat resembles the shell of the pongam tree’s pea, the kameshaku becomes overcome with the desire to remove his umbrella–just as the shell of the pea was removed. Once this happens, he loses his resistance to medicine, and the infected host can then take medicine and be cured!

This critter is a good example of a popular theory of magical and pseudoscientific treatment in which like cures like. It’s an interesting branch of magical thinking found all over the world, from Chinese elemental theory, to European quackery such as as homeopathy, and in New Age mumbo jumbo as well.


If you enjoyed today’s A-Yokai-A-Day entry, please consider becoming a patron and supporting my work by visiting patreon.com/osarusan.

A-Yokai-A-Day: Inki

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.


Inki
陰気

Translation: yin spirit

Inki is a mushi that lives inside of the heart. They look like a small animal, with a blue, furry back and a reddish belly. They are extremely fast, like a rabbit, and they like to dart out of and then back into the bodies they infect.

The word “inki” also means gloom or melancholy. Yin is the energy of darkness and shadow, as opposed to yang, the energy of light and merriment. So by being a “yin spirit,” you can probably guess that the inki is a spirit of gloom. For that reason, it seems to more easily infect people who are naturally jovial or energetic, i.e. full of yang.

There are a few symptoms of an inki infection. When an inki re-enters its hosts body after a period outside, the patient becomes very foggy. They aren’t able to process anything people say to them, as if they were only half-conscious. They can still hear, they just can’t process what is said. The infected also tend to favor dark and gloomy places. Within a couple of hours, the patient’s heart and body will have become taken over by the inki, and it will be as if they are a completely different person.

In modern terms, we might say that a person infected with inki would suffer from something akin to manic depression or bipolar disorder.

Tragically, at some point, the page in Harikikigaki (the book containing all of these infectious yokai) containing inki’s description was damaged, and his face was torn off. The page now looks like this:

The very unfortunate result being that nobody knows what inki’s face or the front of its body looked like. I considered inventing a face for it, but in the end, for this project anyway, I decided to leave it up to the reader to imagine the look. In my own mind’s eye I prefer to imagine inki looking like a sad blue llama.


If you enjoyed today’s A-Yokai-A-Day entry, please consider becoming a patron and supporting my work by visiting patreon.com/osarusan.

A-Yokai-A-Day, Pandemic Edition: Jinshaku

Greetings yokai lovers!

It’s October, and you know what that means: it’s time for A-Yokai-A-Day!

This year, like every year since 2009, I will be painting a yokai every single day of the month and posting it to my blog. Click here for my A-Yokai-A-Day archives to see yokai posts from the past decade.

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.


For me, 2020’s theme is pretty much dictated by the events of the year. The pandemic has allowed me to turn some attention to disease-and-cure-themed yokai, like all of the amabie types that I’ve posted on my Patreon this year. But there’s so much more than I’ve been able to cover so far, so it makes sense to dig a little deeper into it during a marathon-like project such as A-Yokai-A-Day.

When I was writing The Hour of Meeting Evil Spirits, I included a bunch of disease-causing yokai from an old Edo Period medicine book called Harikikigaki. You can see them here. These mushi, or “bugs,” are what Japan imagined the causes of sickness were, well before the germ theory of medicine was available.

To give you an idea of what the original work looked like, here are a few scanned pages from Harikikigaki:

Each entry describes a particular mushi that causes the sickness, the disease symptoms it imparts, and how to treat it using acupuncture, Taoist magic, and herbal remedies. The philosophy in this book is pretty fascinating, and quite complicated. It’s based on traditional Chinese folk magic , so in the descriptions of these mushi you’ll see the names of a lot of herbs, as well as Chinese elements. If you’d like to know more about those, Wikipedia does a good job of running it down.

There are so many of them (over 60 in the Harikikigaki, and hundreds of others scattered throughout the whole of folklore), and showcasing more of them has been a long time goal of mine. So you won’t see any repeats from my books or yokai.com during this year’s A-Yokai-A-Day.


So, with introductions out of the way, on to today’s A-Yokai-A-Day entry.

Jinshaku
腎積

Translation: kidney shaku*
Alternate names: honton (“running pig”)

Jinshaku is a bug that affects, as the name suggests, in the kidneys. It resides beneath the belly button, but it incessantly moves up and down inside the body, causing pain.

Overall, it resembles a tiny boar. It’s back is whitish while its belly is red. It has two long, red protrusions on its face that look like a mustache. Its tongue is very long, and its tail and legs are short. It is usually accompanied by a number of small, white worms, together with which it rampages around throughout the body.

In Chinese Elemental Theory, the area a jinshaku lives in (below the belly) is related to the north direction. However, elementally it is categorized as a water spirit, so it endlessly wanders about inside the body like a flowing liquid.

Symptoms of a jinshaku infection include a difficulty in detecting the pulse in the wrists. The face and body turn dark, and the patient develops a taste for salty foods. A severe, putrid smell emanates from the breath.

It can be treated by numerous acupuncture methods. (These closely guarded secrets were always transferred by oral tradition, and so the book only ever mentions if there are treatments or not, but never what they are!)

*Shaku is a word we’ll see quite a few times this month. It’s not easily definable or translatable. It’s essentially one of a few categories of sickness that the creatures we’ll be looking at fall into. The basic theory behind them was that various types of energies would accumulate as shaku in the organs until they become a large mass, which would then cause various symptoms to occur.


If you enjoyed today’s A-Yokai-A-Day entry, please consider becoming a patron and supporting my work by visiting patreon.com/osarusan.