Sooo many mispronunciations this week. Jacob apologizes in advance. Victoria mentions the very pretty Four Fox Sake line, which has just amazing design. Website is very pretty!
We are very, very interested in Joseph Laycock’s demonology course at Texas State University. And he’s got so much work out there that was on our reading list! Road trip to San Marcos in the near future.
This week’s episode mostly revolves around yokai, a catch-all category of Japanese mythological creatures that are mysterious, maybe a little threatening…the word has elements of “attractive,” “calamity,” “mystery,” “apparition…” and these spirits are a mix of god-type spirits, tricky shapechangers, urban legends, hauntings, demons, and more. Supernatural and strange phenomena given form…or just playful and punnish interpretations of feelings and ideas. Kitsune and Tanuki fall into that basket, as do the tsukumogami, a broad category of tools and objects that have acquired a spirit after a hundred years. Many were created wholecloth by artists like Toriyama Sekien. If he were alive, he’d be the guest of honor at every yokai convention. For a deep dive, do check out the amazing and encyclopedic yokai.com. In fact, start with their article on Karakasa Kozo, the hopping umbrella priest.
Yurei are a little more like typical western ghosts, spirits that need to be laid to rest. We don’t talk about them but there’s a lot of overlap.
Jigoku vs Yomi
I feel like we’ve already had a conversation about Jigoku? But that was probably Naraka. They have a similar ancestry. For a more in-depth (but fun) article on the various Japanese hells, check out Tofugu. There are two major Japanese underworld ideas: Yomi, or Yomi-no-Kuni, is a very dull land of the dead, in the “gray wasteland” style of underworlds. It’s where the dead are.. Not a lot of information about it, it’s just sort of there. Buddhism isn’t a fan of the land of the dead generally, things tied to death are unclean. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t have a lot of press.
Jigoku is much more colorful, a land of appropriate and somewhat amusing torments, illustrated in “hell scrolls” that are pretty much their own subgenre. The tortures are colorful and the list of hells is extensive (64,000 maybe, though there are eight main ones.) However, it’s not eternal. You may stay in Jigoku for what feels like a time longer than the current age of the universe, but you can come out again. Time is funny.
Recommended: Hell in Japanese Art, a very weighty book on traditional and modern hell imagery from Japan. Very good read, and a great coffee table book, in that it is about the size of a coffee table.
Pretty sure we’ve talked about “The old woman who strips clothes” at the edge of the Sanzu, a river much like the Styx.
Datsue-ba, and her partner (possibly husband) Keneo, force the recently dead to strip off their clothes, and hang them from the trees on the banks of the river Sanzo, in a “weight of the aspirant’s sins” judgment thing. And if you don’t have clothes, she can just take your skin instead. Not content to simply judge the dead, she has a nice little range of torments she performs, like breaking fingers, tying sinners heads to their feet, and tormenting children with the impossible task of building a rock pile to get them to heaven.
She’s nice people.
From Lovecraft country, the kumiho takes a victim’s life. Warning: gore, tentacles, more gore, something resembling sex but with tentacles, gore.
From Love, Sex, and Robots, two lady-to-fox transformations. Some nudity, FYI.
Perhaps a bit off topic, but Victoria mentions Lafcadio Hearn, an Irish writer who had written extensively on Japanese culture and mythology. His book, “Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things” was at least partially adapted into an anthology film, which has recently been remastered and released on bluray.
From Akira Kurosawa’s “Dreams,” the Kitsune Wedding
Well, that’s interesting. Koro, or genital retraction syndrome, turns up in a great many cultures, with a female variant (fear that one’s nipples are retracting.) And it tends to occur in waves. There’s usually panic, anxiety, and even an imminent fear of death. Being psychological, exorcism or potions work as well as anything else for treatment. It has slightly different styles in different locations, such as genitalls being stolen by witches in West AFrica and medieval Europe.
Wiki notes that treatment is more successful for people with a “relatively uncomplicated sexual life.” So there’s that.