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Yokai

The Yokai Files – Kappa – Mummies and Movies

My original Kappa post is by far the most viewed post on this blog  – so I thought I’d do a follow up for all you Kappa fans and let you know more about everybody’s favorite Japanese water imp. So today I’m going to share a whole host of interesting Kappa images, links and suggested viewing with you all.

I promised a follow up a long time ago when I was about to depart on a quest to try and track down a mummified Kappa in Osaka. So that’s where we’ll pick up today.

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Yokai Report – Lafcadio Hearn/Koizumi Yakumo

Lafcadio Hearn

Today’s report isn’t about a specific yokai, but rather about one of the principle collectors of yokai folk law for western readers. Patrick Lafcadio Hearn (27 June 1850 – 26 September 1904) born on a Greek island to a Greek mother and an Irish father. Hearn moved to Japan in 1890 on a journalistic assignment and ended up adopting the country and staying on as a teacher and writer based in Matsue on the Western coast.

Although this position lasted only 15 months (to be followed by a succession of other teaching and journalistic jobs) it was maybe the most influential as it was here that he met and married, Koizumi Setsu, from a local samurai family. It was she who would act as an interpreter and guide as Hearn (known in Japan by his naturalised Japanese name, Koizumi Yakumo) began to collect and record traditional Japanese folk tales – many of which had never been written down before.

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The Yokai Files – Tengu

The mass of history and mythology surrounding the figure of the Tengu makes it almost impossible to give a brief review of them. Through the ages even the way these creatures are perceived has changed a lot, originally portrayed as bad omens and demonic war bringers they have now become revered as a kind of demigod of the mountains.

As such the modern Tengu blurs the line between folk legend and religion – yokai or deity? It isn’t always so clear-cut.

In both traditions the basic image of the Tengu is essentially the same. They are winged humanoids with bright red skin and long noses, which has earned them the name ‘Hanadaka Tengu’ (Long Nosed Tengu).

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The Yokai Files – Raigo/Tesso: The Iron Rat

Tesso (The iron rat) is truly a one of a kind yokai. A rat demon the size of a full-grown man, armed with metal teeth and claws, capable of shredding and tearing almost anything. Combine this with a pied-piper like ability to call a legion of real rats to do his destructive bidding, and Tesso becomes quite a formidable foe to be reckoned with

Today’s yokai shares something in common with Hashi Hime in that also Tesso began life as a human, a buddhist monk named Raigo, but was later transformed into a vengeful yokai. Again it was sheer force of will, and a driving anger, that provde the catalyst for the transformation.

I already knew the basic story of how Raigo came to turn into his rodent form, however as Raigo’s temple (Mii-Dera) is  not far from where I live, I decided to make the trip there and see if I could dig up anything connected with the myth.

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The Yokai Files – Kappa

Here’s another of the more famous members of the Japanese Yokai pantheon, and one that I seem to have been crossing paths with quite a bit recently, the Kappa.

That the Kappa, a water spirit whose behaviour can veer from troublesome to lethal, has become prominent in Japanese folk law isn’t surprising – Japan is a very watery place full of lakes, rivers, irrigation canals and drainage ditches.

Watery deaths must have claimed a lot of Japanese lives over the years, and the Kappa is the anthropomorphized embodiment of that danger.

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The Yokai Files – Oni and Setsubun

Today is the 1st of February which means in two days  it’ll be time for Setsubun. Setsubun is the day which marks the start of the new season, though the most significant of these is the spring setsubun (or Risshun).

The spring setsubun is a chance for a fresh start, much like New Year’s day it’s a chance to stop the bad and usher in the good. (more…)


The Yokai Files – Hashi Hime

This week I made a trip to Uji to try and find the shrine dedicated to this lovely lady – Hashi Hime (illustrated here by Demonicangel-Bayou from Deviant Art).

Hashi Hime, literally ”The Bridge Princess’, is somewhat a rarity in yokai circle as she started life as human who transformed herself into a vengeful yokai by sheer willpower. The name appears in many tales and she herself in many incarnations. Perhaps the most famous variation is that of the jealous wife who is driven to distraction by her husband’s infidelity and swears revenge.

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