• Mother of Mugwort

Folklore Friday: Yōkai I


Takiyasha the Witch and the Skeleton Spectre by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

So I've spent three weeks talking about Scottish faeries and honestly, if I don't stop now, I never will. But staying in the same vein of supernatural creatures, I've decided to switch my focus to the Japanese Yōkai (妖怪).

The word Yōkai is a combination of the kanji characters for "bewitching; attractive; calamity" and "apparition; mystery; suspicious." And nothing would suit it better, as the word is used to cover all manner of monsters.

Yōkai are fascinating because the word encompasses so many things. In Japanese folklore, Yōkai is a word that ranges from describing mischievous faerie-like creatures to ghosts to malicious demons. The one common thread between them being their supernatural powers.

Now, because of this, there are hundreds of creatures considered to be Yōkai. And if I were to introduce you to all of them, it would take months--even years maybe. So instead, over the next few weeks, I'm just going to pull out some of my favorites and tell you all about them.

And the first Yōkai I'm going to teach you about are Tsukumogami. These Yōkai are not only my favorite, but also the ones I find the creepiest.

Art by Matthew Meyer

Tsukumogami are objects that come to life on their one-hundredth birthday. I know.

So just imagine walking into an antique store, and the objects are all alive. And more than likely, they are not friendly. You see, Tsukumogami are often described as malevolent Yōkai. They're angry to have out-lived their masters and feel abandoned. And they want to take out that anger and pain on other humans.

For whatever reason, the Tsukumogami that most often haunts my nightmares is the Karakasa or Kasa Obake (second from the right in the picture above)--the haunted umbrella.

I know what you're thinking, "How can a simple, haunted umbrella be scary?" Well imagine it with this long slimy tongue!

Picture this thing hopping into your bedroom late one night:

Karakasa are depicted as having one leg, one eye, and a long, pointed tongue. So imagine an umbrella hopping about on its one leg to get around. And that might seem comical or charming until its tongue darts out and start getting a taste of its next meal. No thanks.

But then how can we stop Tsukumogami? They're surprisingly afraid of electricity. Or maybe it's not so surprising when you consider that they are out-dated objects and appliances, unfamiliar with modern technology.

I suppose we'll have to wait and see what they do 100 years from now when all of them are electrical appliances in the first place...


© 2018 by Indigo Baloch. 

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