Sunday, October 30, 2011

Banchō Sarayashiki, "The Dish Estate of Banchō", A Famous Japanese Ghost Story


So, we've arrived on the final day of Japanese Ghost Story Week.  Thank you so much for reading!  I hope you've been enjoying them.  I've had a ton of fun writing this week.  As always, if you want to read the rest of the stories, please find them here.

Tomorrow is Halloween, and all of the spirits and nefarious creatures will roam the world.  There won't be any Trick-or-Treating in Japan; Halloween isn't really a well-known American holiday there like Christmas and Thanksgiving, though it is celebrated with relish by lovers of horror nationwide.  There even used to be a monthly horror manga magazine called Halloween.  But whether people know it or not, it's Halloween in Japan now.  All these things I've been talking about still come out... there are just so many yōkai and yūrei in Japan, they'll come out whether it's a holiday or not.  And if you like, some of them are so well-known and prevalent that, if you know where to look, you can go and see them.

Which brings us to today's story.

As you learned in the very first folktale I shared, 日 means, not only day, but Sun.  However, there aren't very many scary or evil things associated with the Sun.  Japan is the Land of the Rising Sun, and the kanji for the country itself means Sun's-Origin, and the Sun Goddess Amaterasu is one of the most revered gods in Shinto, the indigenous religion of Japan.  I could tell the story of the Sun, but that simply wouldn't seem right to be associated with the motley crew of ghosts I've paraded out all this week.

So instead, I think I'll tell a story that comes from the Land of the Rising Sun.  It is not the most famous ghost story in Japan; that one would require a long-winded dissertation from me, and I've been trying to keep these entries on the shorter side.  So I'll tell... the second most famous ghost story in Japan.  And let's see if my free-association doesn't bring us back around to the sun and tie this week up quite neatly in time for Halloween.

Shall we begin?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dorotabō, "The Rice-Paddy Man", A Dirty Yōkai

We're getting closer and closer to the end of Japanese Ghost Story Week.  I hope you've been enjoying it!


土 means earth.  Not the planet Earth, but physical earth, like soil, mud, and dirt.

So what is today's creature?  Is it a yōkai?  A ghost?  Or perhaps... a ZOMBIE?!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dodomeki, "The Demon With 100 Eyes", An Urban Legend Yōkai From the Edo Period


金 means "gold".

Today's focus is very different from the other stories I've told so far, in that it is neither really a ghost nor a yōkai (unless you count the opinion of Mizuki Shigeru, which really, you should...).  This story doesn't really adhere to the usual Japanese ghost story, yōkai story, or folktale.  Instead, it follows the newer method of folk telling, much like the recent and popular mass hysteria surrounding this new "Urban Legend Yōkai", Kuchisake Onna.

While today's creature has had their legend told since long before, it wasn't until the Edo period that the story really worked itself into a frenzy.  As I've mentioned before, the court nobles and fine people of the old capital of Kyoto, suddenly forced to live in this new, unfamiliar, countrified place, were filled with fear about the strange things lurking in the city, and that's originally why they got together to have 100 Ghost Story Night.  However, this story was not the type shared at Ghost Story Night.  Like Kuchisake Onna, people wanted to share the supposedly true story of this monster, and how they know for a fact that it really happened to their friend's wife's brother's cousin's nephew.  They wanted to warn their friends of the mysterious and dangerous forces of this city that they lived in.

So let's get into this new breed of Urban Legend Yōkai, based on the number one thing everybody could agree was unavoidable in their city:  gold.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Jinmenju, "The Human-Faced Tree", A Yōkai with Strange Roots


木 means "tree".  So I'll tell you about one of the (many) tree yōkai.  And while it is a yōkai, it is a very odd one, even by yōkai standards, as its story makes no sense.  Also, it has to do with humans in its appearance, as well as the history of it.  This thing's history deals with a great many humans, and also gives some interesting insight into Japanese folktales, so that's why I've chosen it for today.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Funa-Yūrei, "Marine Spirits", Japanese Ghosts of the Sea


Today's story is about 水, water.  It's a ghost story, but since the ghosts are popularly known, it sort of identifies itself as a yōkai, with distinctive appearance and patterns.

It even has its own card in the Obake Karuta deck.

However, it has to do with humans, and it is a ghost story, after all, so I'll tell you the story, then tell you about some of its habits afterward.  By the way, the stories will be getting scarier and scarier from this entry.  (Though, I've always had an irrational fear of today's ghosts in particular...)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Yaoya Oshichi, "Greengrocer Oshichi", A Japanese Folktale

Back for Day Two of Japanese Ghost Story Week.  If you missed Monday's installment and want to know what this is all about, please click here.


Today's tale has to do with 火, fire.

I've actually told a bit of this tale before, here in the Kagrra, and Yoshitoshi entry.  However, I mainly told the kabuki version, dealing with the theme, and there are a few variants and a great many different images of this story I'd like to share.  So it shouldn't be too bad.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Taketori Monogatari, "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter", A Japanese Folktale

As it's Halloween, and mainly because I was ever-so-politely requested to do this instead (I really do get around to fulfilling requests... eventually), I'm going to ramp it up by doing a week of

! Japanese Ghost Stories !

I will post a different story every day this week, leading up to Halloween.  Yes, every day!  And I will try to keep each one relatively, or at least comparatively, short.  Each tale has been selected to pertain to each day of the week.  So when I'm done, you'll also know all of the days of the week in Japanese.  And I won't even dwell on it!

So what's today?