Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Something About Yōkai (妖怪)

Ghost of a chance.

A bit more of my brief dive into Japanese culture, thanks to Lafcadio Hearn.

Yōkai (妖怪, "ghost", "phantom", "strange apparition") are a class of supernatural monsters and spirits in Japanese folklore. Matthew Meyer (Yokai.com) explains the word:
Over the years, many different English words have been used as translations. Yōkai can be translated as monster, demon, spirit, or goblin, but it encompasses all of that and more. The world of yōkai also includes ghosts, gods, transformed humans and animals, spirit possession, urban legends, and other strange phenomena. It is a broad and vague term, and nothing exists in the English language that quite describes it. Yōkai is one of those words–like samurai, geisha, ninja, and sushi–that is best left in its native tongue.
Yōkai existed in Japanese folklore for centuries, but Teni Wada and Ahmed Juhany at JapanObjects.com write how it was during the Edo period (17th-19th centuries) the Yokai began to be widely seen in art:
One of the oldest examples of yōkai art was the Hyakki Yagyo Zu, a 16th century scroll that portrayed a pandemonium of Japanese monsters. This formed the basis for Japan’s first definitive encyclopedia of yōkai characters through the work of 18th century printmaker Toriyama Sekien. Using the newly developed technologies of woodblock printing, Sekien was able to mass-produce yōkai illustrations in his own catalogs of the monster parade. How many yokai are there? The series was known as Gazu Hyakki Yagyo series, meaning Illustrated Night Parade of a Hundred Spirits, although in this context, one hundred just means many! These three texts illustrate more than two hundred of these Japanese demons, each with its own brief description and commentary.
All said, does anyone remember which Yōkai appears in the Bellairs Corpus?

1 comment:

Russ said...

I have been going over titles for some time now trying to think of a Yokai that shows up in a Bellairs book. I guess some titles I have only read once, maybe it could be in one of those titles. I assume that you mean the term literally, a Japanese ghost or spirit of some type? I would say that quite a few Yokai like characters have appeared in John's books. I don't know why, but I am going to guess the "Ghost" in "The House Where Nobody Lived", but I thought that was more of a Hawaiian Spirit than an Asian one. That is as close as I can get to a Japanese Spirit in a Bellairs book.