A-Yokai-A-Day: Umibozu

Today’s yokai is a little bit late — but it’s still Monday in the Americas, so I’m not too late! Actually, Monday was very busy over here. I went to a hoji — a Japanese memorial service — for Hitomi’s 50-years-gone grandfather. It’s slightly different from a funeral, but it’s related. A monk came to her aunt’s house, did a service, we chanted for a very long time, everyone nodding off now and then, and then finished with a huge, expensive meal. Being the foreigner, I of course received tons of free love, which comes in the forms of compliments like, “Wow, you don’t turn red at all! You’re so strong! Have some more alcohol!” and “Do you like Japanese wine? Really??? You don’t look drunk, let me pour you some wine!” and so on. I digress.

Today’s yokai is a bit on that topic. This is Umibozu. Actually, this is another request, so it’s entirely coincidental to the fact that I met a monk at the hoji. But anyway, it’s name means “sea monk,” and it is named for it’s large, baldish head. It also has serpentine limbs, which makes it quite Cthulhu-esque and thus doubly appealing to me. This yokai is supposed to appear to shipwreck victims and fishermen and sink the ship of anyone who talks to it. It will demand a barrel or something similar, and then use the barrel to fill the ship with water and drown everyone aboard. (How badass is that!) It’s said the only way to escape it is by giving it a bottomless barrel… but I don’t see how that could stop it.

Umibozu are said to be the spirits of drowned priests, and perhaps they look after the spirits of those who have nobody to care for their graves (as these spirits are said to take refuge out at sea). Since Fukui has a famous legend of an evil priest named Tojimbo who was tossed out to sea by angry villagers, I decided to paint the cliffs of Tojimbo in the background.



8 thoughts on “A-Yokai-A-Day: Umibozu

  1. Thanks Adam! I got the info about the umibozu from Wikipedia, but looking at some other places, it seems you’re right. Thanks for pointing that out. πŸ™‚ In either case, I don’t think I’d want to meet either one of these guys at sea!

  2. Great posts so far, really enjoying reading them. Your artwork is very cool and has a great style to it. I just thought however that i would mention I think you have the stories mixed up with this yokai. The Funa Yurei are the ghosts of dead sailors that scuttle ships with ladels and the Umibozu simply crash into ships with their huge size. Even so great write-ups, I look forward to reading more!

  3. Thanks Matt, as a dear friend decided that when I get out dressed with military trousers I look as “Umibozo”…I decided to look on the Internet…mmmhhh: better than Wikipedia!

  4. Re: monks lost at sea, I recently read the short story “Passage to Fudaraku” by Inoue Yasushi (author of Tun-Huang and several other historical novels) in the Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories. It features abbots of a certain monastery who, at a certain point in their lives, have themselves essentially trapped in little windowless boats which are then released into the sea, the idea being that they will reach the island of Fudaraku (the abode of Kannon) where the corpses of the unfortunate monks (who have meanwhile understandably died of dehydration or drowning) will revive and bliss will follow. This appears (disturbingly) to be based on a real practice. (I personally find the detail of being trapped inside the boat particularly distressing: at least give them a chance to change their minds and relocate). Could sceptics have decided that the poor monks became Umi-Bozu instead?!

  5. That’s pretty cool! I haven’t heard that story. I wonder if it is true or just folklore… Either way, it definitely sounds like it might be connected in some way with the idea of Umi-bouzu. I’ll have to look more into this. πŸ™‚

  6. Pingback: A-Yokai-A-Day: Umi-zatō | MatthewMeyer.net

Leave a Reply