A-Yokai-A-Day: Bakan nyudo

Today we’re moving on from the Matsui Bunko Hyakki yagyo emaki to start looking at the Bakemono tsukushi emaki, a very interesting yokai scroll painted in 1820. It contains 12 different yokai, 11 of which are unique to this scroll. It is 3 meters long, 30 cm high, painted by an anonymous artist. It doesn’t include a preface so for the most part the yokai are just as mysterious as the ones in the previous scroll we looked at. However, just like that scroll, we can guess a lot about their characteristics from their poses and the wordplay associated with their names.

Let’s take a look!

Bakan nyudo

Bakan nyudo
“horse liver monk”

Bakan nyudo is a humanoid yokai which looks roughly like a Buddhist monk or priest. Its skin in tinged with blue. It has big floppy elephantine ears and a wonky honky nose like a tengu’s. Its eyes are red and a bit bloodshot. It has a long white beard, mustache, and overhanging eyebrows. If he looks a little familiar to the shiofuki, which we’ve seen before on this blog and yokai.com, it’s because it’s by the same artist. It seems to be the way this artist painted his ears. On the other hand, it may be a clue that this yokai is as large as an elephant!

During the Edo Period, the liver of a horse was thought to contain a toxin so powerful that it could kill a man. As such, this yokai is sometimes thought to be a spirit of food poisoning, or even poisonous itself. Perhaps the bakan nyudo is a poisonous as a horse’s liver, and so running into one results in a painful death for the unlucky victim!

Conversely, there is a plant used in traditional Chinese remedies called bakkan ishi (“horse liver stone”). It’s made from the tuber fleeceflower (Fallopia multiflora). This remedy was said to completely  cure any sickness in an instantly. Could this yokai possibly be related to that?

It seems more likely that a yokai would be dangerous than related to medicine, so my money’s on the first theory. In any case, I would recommend that if an elephant-sized blue priest emerges from the woods, you run away, and don’t hang around to see if he’ll cure your acne!

Want more yokai? Visit yokai.com and check out my yokai encyclopedias on amazon.com! Still want more? You can sign up for my Patreon project to support my yokai work, get original yokai postcards and prints, and even make requests for which yokai I paint next!

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