A-Yokai-A-Day: Bake-kujira

There’s been a lot of news this year about Japan and whaling. It’s a pretty controversial issue, of course, even over here. Even here in conservative Fukui prefecture, most of the people I’ve met are pretty strongly anti-whaling in their beliefs. However, Japanese people are willing to put up with a lot, and just like in any country, the right-wingers here are crazy and push really hard. However, I’d bet if there were more yokai around like today’s, whaling might be much less of an issue than it is.


The bake-kujira, or ghost-whale, is fairly self-explanatory: the skeletal spirit of a dead whale.

There aren’t too many stories about this whale, and so information on the internet about it is is pretty limited. However, it is said that the creature was from Shimane prefecture, in western Japan. It is supposedly humongous, and it is always accompanied by a host of strange birds and fish. In one story, a fisherman threw his harpoon at the bake-kujira to try to catch it, but the harpoon passed right through it, and the whale and its host just floated away into the night.

Other legends say that the ghost-whale brings a powerful curse with it. “The curse of the whale,” as it’s creatively called, is said to bring disease, fires, and general badness to an area where the whale is spotted. Take that, whalers!



Stay tuned for beautiful, matted prints of this year’s yokai to appear on my Etsy store!

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