Second to Last Day

This is our second to last blog post! This CentreTerm has seemed to fly by and there is one more day left!

For the Shudan Borei, we have been hard at work putting the final touches on our podcast, adding more questions and discussions to flesh out our ideas. We are deciding what is staying within our podcast and removing what we don’t think is necessary. There is also quite a bit of chaos in some of our discussions that we are cleaning up so that our podcast comes across more professional than our group work.

We are also creating and rehearsing our final presentation which is going to be fire and very humorous.

Yokai of the Week (part two)

So, I know we already did a “Yokai of the Week” post this week, but we miss Lauren and we thought we’d do a tribute post in her absence.

The Moore

The Moore has a love for wings and corn dogs in the context of podcast meetings, and is known for improving the overall morale with off-topic discussion. I’ve never personally seen Lauren sumo wrestle, but anything is possible. She’s more likely to challenge you to a game of basketball though, and you will lose. I know for a fact that she doesn’t have any water in a bowl on her head, so you can’t trick her into bowing as a weakness. However, if you bring an offering of a white chocolate mocha, she will give you her first born son(Featured below) and will probably be your friend.

Proof

All in all, the Moore is fantastic and we can’t wait to regroup Monday! Some of us will meet Sunday to discuss music, a little bit of discussion restructuring, and Monday we’ll finish up recording and creating our presentation.

Have a fantastic weekend, everyone!!

Victoria Cummings

Am I Pretty?

The kuchisake-onna is the product of a country trying to return to its roots during a period of rapid modernization. She is a bridge between the mystical yokai of the past and the horrors that fit a new age; a new type of yokai that fit themselves into the concrete and lights and traffic of a large city.

The kuchisake-onna’s tale spread throughout Japan in less than a year, and like any other story, it has many different versions. At its base level, the story is always about a woman with a surgical mask that hides horrible cuts on her face. She approaches her victim in the dark and asks, “Am I pretty?” If the victim says no, they are killed. If the victim says yes, she rips off her mask to reveal her disfigurement and asks again, “Am I pretty?” The victim can at this point choose to say no, leading to death, or yes, which prompts the kuchisake-onna to attack and cut her victim’s mouth like her own.

The different versions of the story add bits of pre-existing motifs from other yokai or insert other cultural anxieties into her tale. She can seem very real because of her appearance. She’s human, and the fact that she wears a surgical mask only allows her to camouflage herself easily. People in many parts of the world but in East Asia in particular often wear these masks to filter pollution or as a precautionary measure against illness. Her setting is a lonely street or subway, and her story is just familiar enough to be believable, though her origin story changes depending on who tells it and in which prefecture. This example from Nomura Jun’ichi shows a combination of the most common origins of the kuchisake-onna:
There are three sisters. The oldest had cosmetic surgery and, mistakenly, her mouth was slit open. The second sister was in a traffic accident and her mouth was slit open. Because of that, the youngest sister went insane, slit open her own mouth and was put into a mental hospital. She escaped and has appeared in town. Her hair is long; she always wears a mask and holds a scythe in one hand. If you give her candy [bekko-ame], she won’t chase after you. Or if you say “pomade,” you can run away. (qtd. in Foster 2009, 186)

In a society dominated by men, the kuchisake-onna was both a cautionary tale against cosmetic surgery and a commentary on the pressures women endure to change themselves and be beautiful per society’s standards. Michael Dylan Foster also suggested that the story of the kuchisake-onna served several purposes. She reflects some of the conflict with the shifting role of women in Japanese society and the changing gender norms that came with it. On one hand, his discussion touches on how the kuchisake-onna is a symbol of the pressure women face to be beautiful. On the other hand, he says the kuchisake-onna was seen as a symbol of beauty as a weapon. He mentions one of the 1970s Japanese women’s magazines that he researched, and how an article about kuchisake-onna was placed right next to an advertisement for plastic surgery. The dangers of these operations were made to seem as if they were much less compared to an over-exaggeration of a cosmetic surgery horror story. (Foster 2007, 712-713)

Though the story of this yokai was first documented in the Gifu prefecture in 1978, connections were drawn through tale to other women yokai that existed earlier (Foster 2009, 184). This happened to quickly validate her existence in the yokai pantheon. During the time her story first arose, Japan was going through an identity crisis. The rapid industrialization and urbanization of Japan led to programs being created that focused solely on the country’s past. Tours of the countryside were created in order to bring people back to the roots of their traditions, and the popularity of yokai soared. It wasn’t the popularity they had before the Meiji era, however. This was a popularity brought about by the commercialization of the myths many people had grown up with, so while the majority of citizens knew about yokai, these tales didn’t hold the same power over people that they once did. The nostalgia for the mysteries of the yokai did not have a place in an urban environment, and it makes sense that a new horror would be born in a turbulent and nostalgic time. As Foster aptly summarized it, “Just as migrants to urban centers had transformed their lifestyles to accommodate the spaces of city and suburb, so too the mysteries of the past could refashion themselves to be compatible with anonymous streets and concrete apartment buildings.” (Foster 2009, 187)

I mentioned previously that the kuchisake-onna was tied with other yokai that experienced a comeback in popularity. The yamanba and the ubume are two mountain crone yokai that have ties to children, and since the kuchisake-onna preyed exclusively on children in many versions of the story, she was seen as the same. The yamanba is either described as an elderly old woman, or as a young beautiful woman fitting the description of the kuchisake-onna. She was said to nurse children lost for three days, but she was also known for eating children. Because of her appearance and the fixation on children, the kuchisake-onna is suggested to be a yamanba displaced from her mountain (Foster 2009). The yamanba inspired a fashion trend in the 90s that was motivated, similar to the kuchisake-onna, by a desire to break free and protest against the pressure of beauty standards.

The kuchisake-onna is now in horror movies around the world, but it began as nostalgia for the mysticism of the yokai in pre-war Japan. The rapid growth of the country into the modern age brought about radical changes to many aspects of society, and since yokai grew and evolved with the culture up until this point, it only made sense that modern yokai would be radically different from how they were before. However, like Japanese culture today, the yokai still have their roots in the past. The kuchisake-onna may have been inspired by the turmoil of urbanization, but her stories are still reminiscent of the yokai before her.

Works Cited
Foster, Michael Dylan. Pandemonium and Parade: Japanese Monsters and the Culture of Yokai. Berkeley: U of California, 2009. Print.
Foster, Michael Dylan. “The Question of the Slit‐Mouthed Woman: Contemporary Legend, the Beauty Industry, and Women’s Weekly Magazines in Japan.” Signs, vol. 32, no. 3, 2007, pp. 699–726. www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/510542.
Foster, Michael Dylan, and Kijin Shinonome. The Book of Yokai: Mysterious Creatures of Japanese Folklore. Oakland, CA: U of California, 2015. Print.
Nomura, Jun’ichi. Nihon No Sekenbanashi. Tokyo: Tokyo Shoseki, 1995. Print.

First picture is from here: https://scarina.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/kids.jpg
Second is from here: https://scarina.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/chalkpicture.jpg
Third: http://www.strangerdimensions.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Kuchisake-onna.jpg

Shudan Borei

Good Evening Everyone,

After receiving some much needed critical feedback on our first audio draft, the Shudan Borei are back in the lab. Looking to make our podcast more organic, the picture you see is us trying out a discussion based recording format. This set-up has great potential for content, making it sound less robotic and more involving. This format also shows great potential in how we can write and perform the intro and conclusion to our podcast which will be key in creating a cohesive and strong theme that is the core of our podcast. The main negative about a discussion based setting like this is the quality of the recording. With people sitting in different areas, plus natural variation in the power and volume of each of our group mates voices makes balancing volume more difficult than in our single speaker set-up. We toyed with recording discussion and decided that the positive aspects of it are integral to our podcast and the negatives can be overcome with some audacity wizardry. Therefore, it will most likely be the format we use for the intro and outro of our podcast. Now I just have to get over this cough.

Evan Whitis, Shudan Borei

Don’t Go Into the Mountains Alone… Without Rice

http://www.terrancezdunich.com/control/campfire-stories/

It is a dark night. The moon is full, shining bright among the stars. A campfire is set in the middle of a dark wood with the History 435 class all huddled close together sharing spooky tales from Japan and China. Suddenly, a cloud covers the moon and a shadowy figure emerges from the woods and takes a seat among the students and begins to tell a tale from the mountains….

Many moons ago, long before your time, there were tales of people who used to die in the woods. They would go out and explore the trails of the mountains, hiking up, far away from civilization or just passing through a pass to get to a village on the other side. Some were smart and brought enough food, but others didn’t plan properly. These foolish people would soon run out of food and begin to starve. Those unlucky enough to not make it down the mountain would die and their bodies were never recovered even though their families searched for them. Unmarked and unmourned, these souls rose up and began finding each other. Soon, in their hunger, they travelled around the woods and trails of the mountains, finding any traveller in their path and making them feel the pain of starvation. Many a traveller were unlucky and died during this encounter, joining the ranks of the Hidarugami, hunting to spread their hunger. And it could be anytime before they come across a small campfire, in the middle of the woods… (que the clouds to cover the moon completely, the shadowy figure fades away, screams can be heard in the distance, frightened students running everywhere, dropping their s’mores)

While this isn’t necessarily a super scary story, you probably didn’t drop your s’mores, and there would be no way for me to post this blog from the woods 😉 I will just have to tell you of this interesting tale/creature that brings up both the topics of ghosts, which we have been going over in class, as well as yokai, which is what Group 6 is heavily focusing on.

https://hyakumonogatari.com

The hidarugami are a type of ghost that can be found in the mountains of Japan. They are the souls of those, like my super scary story said, who died from starvation while being up in the mountains. They are not properly buried and so this can cause unrest among the spirits, allowing them to leave their bodies and haunt the mountains on which they died. Hidarugami will be near trails and mountain passes, making hikers suffer the same hunger pains that they suffered before death. If a hiker dies during this encounter, they join the ranks of the hidarugami, haunting the mountains forever.

https://melonberryricecake.wordpress

So how does one defend themselves while traveling alone in the mountains?? Well first off, try not to travel alone, but lets not state the obvious. There is a simple way for preventing and/or surviving an attack from the hidarugami. All one must do is carry around a staple crop, a mouthful of rice or other grain. (They can also carry a bento or a couple of rice balls). When the hunger strikes, the prepared traveller will eat a bit of rice or part of their bento and the hunger will fade. However, exercise control and don’t eat all of the rice in one sitting. You never know when you might need more (que the ominous music).

The hidarugami occupies a special place in Japanese horror/warning tales because of the debate on what type of creature the hidarugami actually is. The way hidarugami is written uses both the katakana ヒダル (hidaru; most likely tied to the word 饑い hidarui which means hunger) and the kanji 神 (kami; god). This makes the word “hunger-god.” It is also fascinating to note that other “evil” gods are referred to in a similar way, namely the Binbogami (貧乏神; God of Poverty) and Shinigami (死神; God of Death). But is the hidarugami a god or a vengeful spirit? Is it a yokai or a yurei (ghost)??

Careful not to think too hard, your head might explode… It’s a trick question!! The answer, in this case, is always yes!

Gaki

As a yokai, it is a type of Tsukimono, or a yokai that possesses the ability to possess people (pun intended). As a yurei, the hidarugami can be called either an evil spirit (akuryo 悪霊) or a vengeful spirit (onryo 怨霊). But they aren’t typical yurei since they actively pursue and create new members and are bound to a single location, the mountains in which they died. They can also be considered as muenbotoke (無縁仏). These are the unworshiped dead and there are special feasts held in order to let the spirits pass on and the hidarugami can usually be taken care of with one ceremony since it is not vey strong. And finally, they can be tied to Buddhism and the Gaki ( 餓鬼), the ghost of hunger from Chinese and Tibetan mythology. These spirits are created from gluttons who are forced to come back as fowl starving creatures that feed on gross things like dead bodies and poop.

Another cool fact is that the Japanese have a different yokai for those who die abandoned on a mountain and others who die in a battle or from a famine and remain unburied. The gashadokuro is a giant skeleton yokai that is born from the fallen soldiers of a battle who are buried in mass graves and/or the victims of famine who also receive poor, if any, funeral rites. They too are born as hungry spirits, driven by pain and hate, turning into a grudge against the living and manifesting in the giant skeleton which is powerful and impossible to kill!

So the moral of these stories are:

  1. Never hike alone
  2. Always carry rice balls/bentos with you
  3. Please remember to properly bury your dead

Heed all of these things and you just might make it out of the woods and home in time for dinner.

Thank you for reading!!

Sources:

Pictures- Google images

Gashadokuro

Hidarugami – The Hunger Gods

 

Yokai of the Week: Tengu

Otherwise know as “Mountain Goblin” the Tengu is one of the most famous yokai in Japan. Throughout history, the Tengu’s behavior has been consistent. In The Book of Yokai, Michael Dylan Foster explains that the Tengu has a very simple objective, “Considered after-death incarnations of emperors or dead warriors, they would appear as malevolent birdlike creatures, monks, or yamabushi (mountain ascetics), descending from the mountains to torment the powers that be.” (Foster 132). Other than the brief description above, Foster also claims that the Tengu can take the form of a creature that has qualities that of a bird, a creature that has monk like qualities, several variations of the two, and later descriptions depict the Tengu with a long nose. However, unlike it’s behavior, the Tengu has an inconsistent appearance profile. The inconsistent appearance could be the cause of regional differences, or the discrepancies of details passed down through oral storytelling. Tengu usually live on mountains, hence the name Mountain Goblin. These yokai are almost always acting in evil ways leading people on their path to enlightenment astray.

Group 6: Shudan Borei is very excited about our first audio rough draft, we all got a kick out of recording over the weekend and like the other groups we think that the editing process is harder/more demanding than we anticipated. Fortunately, we have an audacity veteran in our group that is really picking up the slack for the rest of us (thanks Evan). Other than recording and editing, our group has been fairly preoccupied with our long essays due this week. Until next time!

Works Cited:

Photograph posted by Bernhard Hamaker at https://www.japanesethegame.com/get-involved-in-our-new-kickstarter-project/

Foster, Michael Dylan, and Kijin Shinonome. The Book of Yokai: Mysterious Creatures of Japanese Folklore. Oakland, CA, University of California Press, 2015.

Brief update from Group 6

Salutations from group 6! Big things are happening within our group. Over the past week we have been making significant process with our podcast. So far we have the skeleton, so to speak, of our podcast. As of now we have decided to do a panel type of discussion with an interviewer/mediator and four self-proclaimed yokai experts. The interviewer/mediator will play the role of asking specific questions to get a stimulating conversation going about four different yokai and their cultural significance throughout different ages in Japan. The interviewer/mediator will also be burdened with the task of rallying the self-proclaimed experts back to a productive conversation, if they so happen to get off topic. All five members are working diligently to insure that our podcast is enjoyable and informative. We had a really productive group meeting yesterday outside of class, and decided that today we would all do individual research on our respective yokai. We decided this would be thoroughly productive because we need to be as familiar with our chosen yokai as possible. Along with individual research we plan on meeting tomorrow in order to begin recording our podcast! We are all extremely excited to begin the recording stage, and we can’t wait get further along in the process! Until next time!!

Yokai of the Week

Yokai of the Week

https://www.artstation.com/artwork/bake-kujira-1

Here we have the next installation of Group Shudan Borei’s “Yokai of the Week”: bake kujiraBake kujira translates literally to “ghost-whale”, this ghostly skeletal whale haunts fishing villages in the waters of Japan’s bays. Following is a story describing a village’s encounter with the bake kujira:

One rainy night long ago, some fishers living on the Shimane peninsula witnessed an enormous white shape off the coast in the Sea of Japan. Squinting their eyes, it appeared to them to be a whale swimming offshore. Excited for the catch, they rallied the townspeople, who grabbed their spears and harpoons and took to their boats to hunt down and catch their quarry.

They soon reached the whale, but no matter how many times they hurled their weapons, not one of them struck true. When they looked closer, through the dark, rain-spattered water’s surface, they realized why: what they thought was a white whale was actually a humongous skeleton swimming in the sea, not a single bit of flesh on its entire body.

At that very moment, the sea became alive with a host strange fish that nobody had ever seen before, and the sky swarmed full of eerie birds which nobody could recognize and the likes of which had never been seen before. The ghost whale then turned sharply out to sea, and swiftly vanished into the current, taking all the strange fish and birds with it, never to be seen again.

The terrified villagers returned home, realizing that the skeletal whale must have been a bakekujira – the ghost of a whale turned into a vengeful ghost. While the ghost whale was never seen again, other villages in Shimane felt the whale’s curse, being consumed by conflagrations and plagued by infectious diseases following whale beachings.” (http://yokai.com/bakekujira/)

Whaling has been a significant feature of Japan’s culture for centuries. Despite regulations and protecting whales from commercial fishing, and promises to cut down on whale quotas, Japan went on to hunt and kill 333 of a single species of whale (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/03/160325-Japan-whaling-minke-whales-Antarctica/). The story of the bake kujira may give us insight into why the whaling industry has continued to grow, it is an important aspect of the inhabitants of whaling village’s heritage and culture. Yes, they hunt and kill numerous whales, but in this story is a sense of reverence. The spirits of whales are part of the religious/spiritual cosmos, and in that acknowledgement I see respect. The curse of the ghost whale may be the result of a subconscious guilt or regret for the exploitation of noble creatures, but of course the need for the resources a whale could provide outweighs this.

Update:

Group Shudan Borei has completed our podcast outline, which means we have finalized our topic and the direction we are going to take! We will introduce four Yokai, the onikappa, nurarihyon, and kuchisake-onna. We will tell a relevant tale for each Yokai, and in turn discuss the origins, cultural significance, evolution of, practical uses, etc. We have decided to employ a host in a round table discussion format. We have also completed our proof of concept recording and it is ready to be sent in.

Eli Rue