A-Yokai-A-Day: Hakoiri Musume (page 4)

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Pages 4 and 5 of Hakoiri musume are presented with a two-page spread illustration, so I am sharing both pages below. Note how once again the fish characters are portrayed as humans with fish sitting on top of their heads. This served multiple purposes—not only was it easier for an artist to portray posts, emotions, and movement by using familiar human forms; it also allowed artists to sneak in caricatures or cameos of famous people and celebrities into their work!

Thus, Nakazu once again became part of the world of the Dragon Palace. It prospered, and was full of beautiful teahouse girls¹, called shigoku², who were so popular that goldfish and silverfish³ flocked to the neighborhood.

This is where that famous playboy Urashima Tarō⁴ liked to visit–I’m sure you all know his story. He was the lover of the princess Otohime, daughter of Dragon King Shakatsura II, Bakatsura Ryūō⁵. Urashima Tarō had grown a bit bored of the beautiful Otohime, and he secretly began visiting brothels in Nakazu. He fell in love with a courtesan named Orino, who belonged to a brothel called Tonegawaya⁶, and was considered exceptionally beautiful even among the shigoku.

  1. There’s often confusion over the difference between hanamachi and yūkaku, or geisha and sex workers, or what is a legitimate tea house and what is a “tea house.” But banish that confusion, because in this story, teahouse girls definitely means prostitutes!
  2. The real Nakazu was full of inexpensive, unlicensed prostitutes. These women were called jigoku (“hell”) in the local slang. But in the undersea world where everything seems topsy-turvy, Nakazu is full of shigoku (“the best”), who are exceptionally beautiful fish prostitutes.
  3. In the neighborhood of Ryōgoku in Edo there were unlicensed, cheap prostitutes who were nicknamed gold cats and silver cats. Because this story takes place under water Kyōden changed cats to fish, and once again flipped what was unpopular on land into something very popular in the undersea world.
  4. Urashima Tarō is one of Japanese folklore’s most well-known figures. No reader would have been unfamiliar with his story. You can read about him in countless books and webpages. (One of my favorite jokes in this book is how Kyōden has turned Urashima Tarō from a beloved children’s hero into a gigolo and a bit of a jerk. He’s essentially a kept man, a lover of a princess who is too low of rank to marry her, but he mooches off of his royal connections and runs around like a playboy.)
  5. Shakatsura is one of the Dragon Kings in Buddhist scripture. Shakara, Sakara, and Bakara are some of the variations of his name in Japanese, but I just went with how it was written in this book. His Indian/Sanskrit name is Sāgara.
  6. Orino’s name means carp, written in the flowery and fashionable style that courtesans used for their business names. The Tone River was famous for its carp, and similarly the Tonegawaya brothel was famous for Orino. She was the most beautiful fish in all of Nakazu.

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