To go along with the Japanese Ghost theme I started I had to post a picture of my new favorite Netsuke. It depicts a Ghost in a lantern, and it has a Waka poem inscribed on the side. I couldn't find out what it says which is sad, but I just love this little guy trapped in the lantern. He looks peaceful, and resigned to his duty to live out his afterlife in a lantern. I hope one day he finds peace, and can leave.
I have completely fallen in love with this image! First of all it's gorgeous, but second of all it reminds me of everything thing that is amazing about Japanese Ghost stories. They are the only type of stories that really stick with me over time. A few of them still to this day spook me out, and I heard them YEARS ago. I have to admit when I walk to my car alone at night the horrible thought of "She Bear" creeps in, and I quicken my pace.
Kitsune is the Japanese word for fox. Foxes are a common subject of Japanese folklore; in English, kitsune refers to them in this context. Stories depict them as intelligent beings and as possessing magical abilities that increase with their age and wisdom. Foremost among these is the ability to assume human form. While some folktales speak of kitsune employing this ability to trick others—as foxes in folklore often do—other stories portray them as faithful guardians, friends, lovers, and wives.
Foxes and human beings lived close together in ancient Japan; this companionship gave rise to legends about the creatures. Kitsune have become closely associated with Inari, a Shinto kami or spirit, and serve as its messengers. This role has reinforced the fox's supernatural significance. The more tails a kitsune has—they may have as many as nine—the older, wiser, and more powerful it is. Because of their potential power and influence, some people make offerings to them as to a deity.
It is widely agreed that many fox myths in Japan can be traced to China, Korea, or India. Chinese folk tales tell of fox spirits (called Huli-jing) that may have up to nine tails, or kumiho as they are known in Korea. Many of the earliest surviving stories are recorded in the Konjaku Monogatari, an 11th-century collection of Chinese, Indian, and Japanese narratives.
There is debate whether the kitsune myths originated entirely from foreign sources or are in part an indigenous Japanese concept dating as far back as the fifth century BC. Japanese folklorist Kiyoshi Nozaki argues that the Japanese regarded kitsune positively as early as the 4th century A.D.; the only things imported from China or Korea were the kitsune's negative attributes. He states that, according to a 16th-century book of records called theNihon Ryakki, foxes and human beings lived close together in ancient Japan, and he contends that indigenous legends about the creatures arose as a result. Inari scholar Karen Smyers notes that the idea of the fox as seductress and the connection of the fox myths to Buddhism were introduced into Japanese folklore through similar Chinese stories, but she maintains that some fox stories contain elements unique to Japan.
Kitsune are believed to possess superior intelligence, long life, and magical powers. They are a type of yōkai, or spiritual entity,and the word kitsune is often translated as fox spirit. However, this does not mean that kitsune are ghosts, nor that theyare fundamentally different from regular foxes. Because the word spirit is used to reflect a state of knowledge or enlightenment, all long-lived foxes gain supernatural abilities
There are two common classifications of kitsune. The zenko (善狐?, literally good foxes) are benevolent, celestial foxes associated with the god Inari; they are sometimes simply called Inari foxes. On the other hand, the yako (野狐?, literally field foxes, also called nogitsune) tend to be mischievous or even malicious. Local traditions add further types. For example, a ninko is an invisible fox spirit that human beings can only perceive when it possesses them. Another tradition classifies kitsune into one of thirteen types defined by which supernatural abilities the kitsune possesses.
Physically, kitsune are noted for having as many as nine tails. Generally, a greater number of tails indicates an older and more powerful fox; in fact, some folktales say that a fox will only grow additional tails after it has lived 100 years. One, five, seven, and nine tails are the most common numbers in folk stories. When a kitsune gains its ninth tail, its fur becomes white or gold. These kyūbi no kitsune (九尾の狐?, nine-tailed foxes) gain the abilities to see and hear anything happening anywhere in the world. Other tales attribute them infinite wisdom (omniscience). ( From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitsune )
Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai (百物語怪談会?, lit., A Gathering of One Hundred Supernatural Tales) was a popular parlour game during the Edo period in Japan.
The game was a simple one. In a room, as night fell, one hundred candles were lit. Guests and players gathered around the candles, taking turns telling kaidan. kaidan refers to any ghost or horror story, but it has an old-fashioned ring to it that carries the connotation of Edo period Japanese folktales (a person only usues that term if they want to give and old fashioned slant to what they are describing). After each kaidan, a single candle was extinguished, and the room slowly grew darker and darker. The process was an evocation, with the final candle believed to summon a supernatural entity.
The origin of the game is unknown. It is thought that it was first played amongst the samurai class as a test of courage, and later became fashionable amongst the townsmen.
A true popular phenomenon, the popularity of Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai combined with new printing technology created aboom in the publication of kaidan-themed books collecting appropriate tales from every corner of Japan and China. Books in this genre often used the term Hyakumonogatari in the title, and in fact the published tale’s popularity continued long after the fad for the game had faded. (From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyakumonogatari_Kaidankai )
I just caught Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan on TCM tonight. I WAS going to go to bed early, but noooooo TCM has to lure me in and hold my attention till 3 am with an ancient Japanese ghost story yet again. Thanks TCM! Thanks sooooo much! I liked it so much that I tried to find the movie on line to buy it. Of course it is unavailable, but in snooping around the net I found that this movie is based on a much older Kabuki story. This history of this play is really quite interesting. Below is some of what I learned.
"Yotsuya Kaidan, the story of Oiwa and Tamiya Iemon, is a tale of betrayal, murder and ghostly revenge. Arguably the most famous Japanese ghost story of all time, it has been adapted for film over 30 times, and continues to be an influence on Japanese horror today. Written in 1825 by Tsuruya Nanboku IV as a kabuki play, the original title was Tōkaidō Yotsuya Kaidan. It is now generally shortened, and loosely translates as Ghost Story of Yotsuya. First staged in July 1825, Yotsuya Kaidan appeared at the Nakamuraza theater as a double-feature with the immensely popular Kanadehon Chushingura. Normally, with a Kabuki double-feature, the first play is staged in its entirety, followed by the second play. However, in the case of Yotsuya Kaidan it was decided to interweave the two dramas, with a full staging on two days. The play was incredibly successful, and forced the producers to schedule extra out-of-season performances to meet demand. The story tapped into people’s fears by bringing the ghosts of Japan out of the temples and aristocrats' mansions and into the home of common people, the exact type of people who were the audience of his theater.
Oiwa is an onryō, a ghost who seeks vengeance. Her strong passion for revenge allows her to bridge the gap back to Earth. She shares most of the common traits of this style of Japanese ghost, including the white dress representing the burial kimono she would have worn, the long, ragged hair and white/indigo face that marks a ghost in kabuki theater. There are specific traits to Oiwa that set her apart physically from other onryo. Most famous is her left eye, which droops down her face due to poison given her by Iemon. This feature is exaggerated in kabuki performances to give Oiwa a distinct appearance. She is often shown as partially bald, another effect of the poison. In a spectacular scene in the kabuki play, the living Oiwa sits before a mirror and combs her hair, which comes falling out due to the poison. This scene is a subversion of erotically-charged hair combing scenes in kabuki love plays. The hair piles up to tremendous heights, achieved by a stage hand who sits under the stage and pushes more and more hair
up through the floor while Oiwa is combing. Oiwa is supposedly buried at a temple, Myogyo-ji, in Sugamo, a neighborhood of Tokyo. The date of her death is listed as February 22, 1636. Several productions of Yotsuya Kaidan, including television and movie adaptations, have reported mysterious accidents, injuries and even deaths. Prior to staging an adaptation of Yotsuya Kaidan it is now a tradition for the principal actors and the director to make a pilgrimage to Oiwa's grave and ask her permission and blessing for their production. This is considered especially important of the actor assuming the role of Oiwa.
Sadako Yamamura from the film Ring is a clear homage to Oiwa. Her final appearance is a direct adaptation of Oiwa, including the cascading hair and drooping, malformed eye. Also in Ju-on when Hitomi is watching the television, the television presenter is morphed into a woman with one small eye and one large eye- possibly a reference to Oiwa. (From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yotsuya_Kaidan)
Yūrei are figures in Japanese folklore, analogous to Western legends of ghosts. The name consists of two kanji, 幽 (yū), meaning "faint" or "dim" and 霊 (rei), meaning "soul" or "spirit." Alternative names include 亡霊 (Bōrei) meaning ruined or departed spirit, 死霊 (Shiryō) meaning dead spirit, or the more encompassing 妖怪 (Yōkai) or お化け (Obake).
According to traditional Japanese beliefs, all humans have a spirit or soul called a (reikon). When a person dies, the reikon leaves the body and enters a form of purgatory, where it waits for the proper funeral and post-funeral rites to be performed, so that it may join its ancestors. If this is done correctly, the reikon is believed to be a protector of the living family and to return yearly in August during the Obon Festival to receive thanks. However, if the person dies in a sudden or violent manner such as murder or suicide, if the proper rites have not been performed, or if they are influenced by powerful emotions such as a desire for revenge, love, jealousy, hatred or sorrow, the reikon is thought to transform into a yūrei, which can then bridge the gap back to the physical world.
The yūrei then exists on Earth until it can be laid to rest, either by performing the missing rituals, or resolving the emotional conflict that still ties it to the physical plane. If the rituals are not completed or the conflict left unresolved, the yūrei will persist in its haunting.
Today, the appearance of yūrei in film and stage is somewhat uniform, instantly signalling the ghostly nature of the figure, and assuring that it is culturally authentic.
White clothing - Yūrei are usually dressed in white, signifying the white burial kimono used in Edo period funeral rituals. In Shinto, white is a color of ritual purity, traditionally reserved for priests and the dead. This kimono can either be a katabira (a plain, white, unlined kimono) or a kyokatabira (a white katabira inscribed with Buddhist sutras). They sometimes have a hitaikakushi (lit., "forehead cover"), which is a small white triangular piece of cloth tied around the head.
Black hair - Hair of a yūrei is often long, black and disheveled, which some believe to be a trademark carried over from Kabuki Theater, where wigs are used for all actors. However, this is a misconception. Japanese women traditionally grew their hair long and wore it pinned up, and it was let down for the funeral and burial.
Hands and feet - A yūrei's hands dangle lifelessly from the wrists, which are held outstretched with the elbows near the body. They typically lack legs and feet, floating in the air. These features originated in Edo period ukiyo-e prints, but were quickly copied over to kabuki. In kabuki, this lack of legs and feet is often represented by the use of a very long kimono, or even hoisting the actor into the air by a series of ropes and pulleys.
Hitodama - Yūrei are frequently depicted as being accompanied by a pair of floating flames or will o' the wisps (Hitodama in Japanese) in eerie colors such as blue, green, or purple. These ghostly flames are separate parts of the ghost rather than independent spirits. (From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yūrei )
With Halloween just around the corner it is only fitting that I have ghosts on the brain. So while watching a particularly scary Japanese horror film the other day, J-Horror Anthology: Legends (2005), I got to thinking about all the different types of Ghost the Japanese have. Here are a few of them...
While all Japanese ghosts are called yūrei, within that category there are several specific types of phantom, classified mainly by the manner they died or their reason for returning to Earth.
Onryō - Vengeful ghosts who come back from purgatory for a wrong done to them during their lifetime.
Ubume - A mother ghost who died in childbirth, or died leaving young children behind. This yūrei returns to care for her children, often bringing them sweets.
Goryō - Vengeful ghosts of the aristocratic class, especially those who were martyred.
Funayūrei - The ghosts of those who died at sea. These ghosts are sometimes depicted as scaly fish-like humanoids and some may even have a form similar to that of a mermaid or merman.
Zashiki-warashi - The ghosts of children, often mischievous rather than dangerous.
Samurai Ghosts - Veterans of the Genpei War who fell in battle. Warrior Ghosts almost exclusively appear in Noh Theater. Unlike most other yūrei, these ghosts are usually shown with legs.
Seductress Ghosts - The ghost of a woman or man who initiates a post-death love affair with a living human.
There are two types of ghosts specific to Buddhism, both being examples of unfullfilled earthly hungers being carried on after death. They are different from other classifications of yūrei due to their wholly religious nature.
Gaki- "Hungery Ghost"
Jikininki- "human-eating ghosts"
(pronounced shokujinki in modern Japanese) are the spirits of greedy, selfish or impious individuals who are cursed after death to seek out and eat human corpses.
Ikiryō- "a manifestation of the soul of a living person separately from their body"
In Japanese folklore, not only the dead are able to manifest their reikon for a haunting. Living creatures possessed by extraordinary jealousy or rage can release their spirit as an ikiryō, a living ghost that can enact its will while still alive. The most famous example of an ikiryo is Rokujo no Miyasundokoro, from the novel The Tale of Genji.
Obake Yūrei often fall under the general umbrella term of obake, derived from the verb bakeru, meaning "to change"; thus obake arepreternatural beings who have undergone some sort of change, from the natural realm to the supernatural.
However, Kunio Yanagita, one of Japan's earliest and foremost folklorists, made a clear distinction between yūrei and obake in his seminal "Yokaidangi (Lectures on Monsters)." He claimed that yūrei haunt a particular person, while obake haunt a particular place.
When looking at typical kaidan (roughly translated as old fashioned ghost story), this does not appear to be true. Yūrei such as Okiku haunt a particular place -in Okiku's case, the well where she died-, and continue to do so long after the person who killed them has died.
Yūrei do not wander at random, but generally stay near a specific location, such as where they were killed or where their body lies, or follow a specific person, such as their murderer, or a beloved. They usually appear between 2 and 3 a.m, the witching hour for Japan, when the veils between the world of the dead and the world of the living are at their thinnest.
Yūrei will continue to haunt that particular person or place until their purpose is fulfilled, and they can move on to the afterlife. However, some particularly strong yūrei, specifically onryō who are consumed by vengeance, continue to haunt long after their killers have been brought to justice.
Some famous locations that are said to be haunted by yūrei are the well of Himeji Castle, haunted by the ghost of Okiku, and Aokigahara, the forest at the bottom of Mt. Fuji, which is a popular location for suicide. A particularly powerful onryō, Oiwa, is said to be able to bring vengeance on any actress portraying her part in a theater or film adaptation.
Yūrei-ga gallery at Zenshoan Temple
Zenshoan(全生庵) Temple in Tokyo, Japan is known for its collection of yūrei paintings, known as the Yūrei-ga gallery. The 50 silk paintings, most of which date back 150 to 200 years, depict a variety of apparitions from the forlorn to the ghastly.
The scrolls were collected by Sanyu-tei Encho(三遊亭円朝), a famous storyteller (rakugo artist) during the Edo era who studied at Zenshoan. Encho is said to have collected the scrolls as a source of inspiration for the ghostly tales he loved to tell in summer.
They are open for viewing only in August, the traditional time in Japan for ghost stories. (From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yūrei )
EJPcreations is a mad scientist of a woman specializing in creating tiaras, necklaces, and fascinators, with a noir, and gothic flair. All adornments have a hint of vampire elegance, a dash of Steampunk bravado, and plenty of Neo-Victorian sensibilities.
Here are some of the Pretties I make... Web Store