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Japanese Folklore Research Center

This page was established for sharing academic information on Japanese folklore and folklore history in English.
Post Total: 25 Latest posts

What is Soriko?


(Image source)

Those of you who watched “Spirited Away” may recognize this attire as one of the deity characters who visited the bath house. This is an ancient Japanese attire worn during a Gagaku [雅楽] performance at the beginning of Komaichikotsu [高麗壱越] scene titled Soriko [蘇利古]. ①

Performed by 4 dancers (5 dancers in Shitennō Temple [四天王寺] in Tennōji Ward [天王寺区], Ōsaka) while wearing the iconic mask called Zōmen [雑面] while wielding a short, thin staff called Zuwae [白楚], Soriko is believed to be from the Kofun Period during the reign of Emperor Ōjin [応神天皇] brought to Japan by a government personnel from the country of Kudara [百済] (Baekje/백제) in ancient Korea by the name of Susukori [須々許理]. ①

Based on how Soriko was referred to as Kamadomatsuri-no-mai [竈祭舞] ① and Susukori recorded being a liquor brewing specialist according to “Kojiki”, Soriko may have been performed as a purification ritual for ovens (Kamado [竈] in Japanese) used when concocting liquor.

Soriko performed in Itsukushima Shrine [嚴島神社] (Itsuku Island [宮島], Hiroshima Prefecture) during Tōka Festival [桃花祭]

Source: via Kotobanku (online dictionary)

I made a second blog for sharing news from Japan!

What are The Samuhara Letters?


In year 1950, a man named Tomisaburō Tanaka [田中 富三郎] (1868-1967) established the Samuhara Shrine [サムハラ神社] (above) in Itachibori [立売堀] (Nishi Ward [西区], Ōsaka City [大阪市], Ōsaka) and in Tsuyama City [津山市] (Tomata Dist. [苫田郡], Okayama Prefecture) enshrining Zōka-sanshin [造化三神] (Ameno-minakanushi-no-kami, [天之御中主神], Takamimusubi-no-kami [高御産巣日神], and Kamimusuhi-no-kami [神産巣日神]). Although the congregation was disbanded in 1967 when Tomisaburō was found guilty of selling talisman from an unregistered shrine without government permission, the same peculiar talisman (below) with 4 Kanji letters written over them can still be found. ①


The 4 characters Sa, Mu, Ha, and Ra (below) isn’t included in the Kanji Unicode nor in Japanese dictionaries and its true definition (though the congregation believe it to be a charm of world peace ①) and origin still remains a mystery. However, there are few legends from the past that may hint the alleged property of Samuhara Letters:


First, in year 1782, a government personnel by the name of Ainosuke Ni'imi [新見 愛之助] (n/a) fell from a cliff on his way to the castle. Ainosuke, however, came out unscathed. When people began to wonder how he had survived such a deadly fall, Ainosuke showed them a talisman with the letters in question. According to Ainosuke, this talisman was given to him by a commoner who tried to bow down a Pheasant that didn’t even nudge and when they captured the bird, they found the 4 letters (in Kanji) written in its feather. Alas, the people began to incorporate the Samuhara Letters as a protective talisman. ②

Second, a man in Fukuoka Prefecture captured a Crane and found the same letters (this time in Hiragana) written on its wing. Later, the rumor of these letters being a charm for longevity spread to Hyōgo Prefecture and Edo City [江戸]. ③

Thus far, it’s likely that Samuhara Letters began appearing around Late 16th century based on the dates and locations described in the 2 legends above. But it’s still too soon to draw a conclusion:

In a wooden bulletin board (below) within the Samuhara Shrine has combined the 4 Kanji letters with one of the Shintō “creator deity” Ameno-minakanushi for some reason. While Ameno-minakanushi is believed to mean “the one (deity) who’s at the center of Heavens ④” its a rather obscure character in the Shintō mythology who only appears once in “Kojiki” (and in an alternative version of “Nihon-shoki”) alone during the creation event and shrine dedicated to this deity are all fairly recent ⑤.


So, why did Tomisaburō chose this deity over the other Zōka-sanshin to incorporate the Samuhara Letters? In fact, Ameno-minakanushi became a rather prominent deity in the “Old Shintō Revivalism” (Fukkōshintō [復古神道] in Japanese) movements during Edo Period when scholar named Atsutane Hirata [平田 篤胤] (1776-1836) (below) who was a crucial character in this movement began putting emphasis on Ameno-minakanushi as a central Creator figure since Atsutane himself was heavily influenced by the Christian Holy Bible’s (although it was forbidden to read during that time period) God who created the Universe ⑥. Hence, in my theory, it was Atsutane’s ideology which later in turn influenced Tomisaburō in bestowing the Samuhara Letters to Ameno-minakanushi as a way to emphasize the supremacy of this deity.

Furthermore, Samuhara Letters can be found in other objects outside of Samuhara Shrine. Such as the talisman issued by Tōdai Temple [東大寺] in Inzai City [印西市] (Chiba Prefecture) (below) which may indicate that Samuhara Letters were subtly used in Japanese history before Tomisaburō’s Samuhara Shrine came to existence.


Sources:

1. “Shinshūkyō Kyōdan Jinbutsu-jiten” [新宗教 教団・人物事典] (1996) by KOUBUNDOU Publishers Inc. [弘文堂] (publisher)

2. “Mimibukuro Chapter 2” [耳嚢 二巻本] (1784~1787) by multiple authors (n/a)

3. “Nihon-zuihitsu-daisei-dai'ikki: Heisuiroku” [日本随筆大成第一期: 秉穂録] (1976) by Shinsei Okada [岡田 挺之] (?-1799)

4. “Kojiki-chūshaku (Chapter 1.)” [古事記注釈] (1975) by Nobutsuna Saigō [西郷 信綱] (1916-2008)

5.Via Kotobanku (online dictionary)

6. “Hirata-atsutane-no-shingaku-ni-okeru-yasokyō-no-eikyō” [平田篤胤の神学に於ける耶蘇教の影響] (1920) by Tsunetsugu Muraoka [村岡 典嗣] (1884-1946)

The Archetype of Amabie?

This illustration below is a red ink drawing or Akae [赤絵] of an eared horned owl from Edo Period by Kuniyoshi Utagawa [歌川 国芳] (1798-1861) posted as a talisman against Smallpox for children.

I was wondering why this particular owl was used for this illustration and I came across a record ① from Toyosaka City [豊栄市] (Niigata Prefecture) where once an eared horned owl transformed itself into a red ball. So, hypothetically speaking, could this legend inspired Utagawa to incorporate this specie of owl? Furthermore, did the description of a horned owl turning into a red ball reminded him of an another popular good luck charm Daruma [達磨] hence, became an icon of repelling Smallpox?

Finally, is this what influenced the appearance of Amabie [アマビエ] later on?

Hmmm


Source:

1. “Jōmin: Niigata-ken-toyosaka-shi…chōsa-hōkokusho” [常民: 新潟県豊栄市(内沼・新鼻・新鼻甲地区)調査報告書] (1983) by Chūō University’s Society of Folkloristics [中央大学民俗研究会]

yokaifanatic:

image

Few have seen this Yokai but it is said to be short and squat with three fingers on large hands and resembles a Buddhist priest. They sit on the river side to wash azuki beans and sing strange little songs along with the sound of the beans they are cleaning. They are elusive Yokai. When someone tries gets near them they will undoubtedly fall into the river and get swept away. Resulting in scaring the Yokai away due to the splash that is made when falling into the river. Few have seen this Yokai, however, those who do spot them are gifted with good luck.

Art from: Ehon Hyaku Monogatari by Takehara Shunsen

Azuki-arai is a pretty popular yōkai amongst Japanese yōkai enthusiasts and rightfully so, because its stories are diverse like any other yōkai!

Azuki-arai’s appearance which is illustrated in “Ehon-hyaku-monogatari” and told by Tōsanjin [桃山人] (n/a) above is modelled after a monk from modern day Jōetsu City [上越市] (Niigata Prefecture). The full story of its legend is, once upon a time there was a monk named Nichigen [日顕] who had physical deformities, but was very good at counting to the point where he didn’t miss a single azuki bean no matter how much he was counting. Although the temple’s Abbott wanted him to delegate his position to Nichigen in the future, a malevolent monk named Enkai [円海] grew envious towards him and one day, he tossed Nichigen into a well and killed him. Since that day onwards, the ghost of Nichigen threw azuki beans at the paper door every night and one could also hear him counting azuki beans while washing them at the nearby river every sunset. Later Enkai was apprehended for killing Nichigen and promptly executed. Even then, one could hear Nichigen and Enkai arguing near the same well.

Azuki-arai being a site of good luck is believed specifically in Sado Island [佐渡島] and some parts of Ibaraki Prefecture where Azuki-arai is described as a smiley, gentle monk and if a daughter spots the yōkai on her way to the river to wash a basket of azuki beans is said to soon marry ②.

Like many other yōkai, Azuki-arai’s character depends where its legend originate from in Japan. Like in modern day Okayama City [岡山市] (Okayama Prefecture) ③, for example, Azuki-arai is commonly referred to as Azuki-arai-gitsune [小豆洗い狐] because it’s actually a fox washing azuki beans at the river. While in some parts of Fukushima Prefecture, toads are believed to be azuki-arai for they are believed to rub their lumps on their back which makes the identical sounds as washing azuki beans (lol!) ④.

Sources:

1. “Takehara-shunsensan-ehon-hyaku-monogarari-tōsanjin-yawa” [竹原春泉 絵本百物語 桃山人夜話] (1997) retrieved by Katsumi Tada [多田 克己] (1962-present)

2. “Yōkai-no-jiten” [妖怪の事典] (1979) edited by Shinhyōron Publishing Inc. [新評社]

3. “Yōkai-jiten” [妖怪事典] (2000) by Kenji Murakami [村上 健司] (1968-present)

4. “Minkan-denshō: Yōkai-meibō (Ch. 4)” [民間伝承: 妖怪名彙 (4巻)“ (1938) by Akira Gamō [蒲 生明] (1896-1970)

The Tragedy of Mama-no-Tekona


Mama-no-Tekona [真間 手児奈] is a character from Pre-Nara Period Japan who was featured in “Man'yōshū” [万葉集] in a lore composed by poets Yamabe-noAkahito [山部 赤人] and Takahashi-no-Mushimaro [高橋 虫麻呂]. According to the her lore, born in a land called Mama [真間] (which is in Ichikawa City [市川市], Chiba Prefecture even to this day), Tekona was described to be a breathtakingly beautiful daughter of Katsushika’s (modern day Higashi-katsushika Dist. [東葛飾郡], Chiba Prefecture) provincial officer who relocated to Mama with her son after the diplomatic relation with the country she married into turned sour.

The view over Mama via “Mama-no-kōyō-tekona-no-yashiro-tsugibashi” [真間の紅葉手古那の社つぎ橋] by Hiroshige Utagawa [歌川 広重]

Though “Man'yōshū” didn’t go into to deeper detail, folktale from Mama ① tells a more descriptive tale about her life in Mama. Once upon a time, there was the Well of Mama [真間の井戸] where freshwater was abundant despite of being near the channel which led to the Tōkyō Bay [東京湾]. One of the many inhabitants that came to collect the water from the well was Tekona; a woman wearing the finest blue collared dress who’s face was as fair as the Full Moon which surpassed any princesses in other countries.

Even whenever she went to the pond Kagamiga-ike [鏡が池], the other local women looked at the reflection of Tekona’s face on the water surface and praised her beauty rumoring: “Even the Plantain leafs avoid touching her skin in fear of damaging her gorgeous demeanor.”

This rumor of Tekona’s beauty quickly spread throughout Japan as outsider youths, travellers, and even government officials came to Mama to beg Tekona to take them as her husband while bestowing luxurious offerings. However she promptly declined them fearing that if she marries to one of them, she’d make others upset and heartbroken. But the man never gave up as many more poured into Mama to the point where the harbor bay became crowded with traffic and it didn’t stop there. Many fell ill from love sickness as well as siblings began fighting each other to claim Tekona as their wife.

Seeing this, Tekona wept and made the ultimate decision in attempt to end this chaos going: “All these fight shall cease if only I disappear. So, I shall sink down the ocean like that sunset.” Although the locals begged her to stop, Tekona nonetheless threw herself into the channel and drawn. The next day, the locals retrieved her corpse from the bay where she got washed up and lamented together with rest of the man who tried to marry her: “What have we done! If only we thought about her feelings she wouldn’t have ended up like this!”


After the mourning, the people buried her near the Well of Mama (top image below) where a mausoleum was erected called Tekona-reijin-dō [手児奈霊堂] (left “) in her memory while the well is now within the garden of Kame-i'in [亀井院] (Temple) close to the mausoleum (right ”).



Source: “Ichikawa-no-mukashi-banashi” [市川のむかし話] by Ichikawa City’s Society of Folktale [市川民話の会]

researcherposts:

What is Tenkan?


If you’re familiar with anime/manga then you’ve probably seen characters wearing this. Tenkan [天冠] (or Sankaku-zukin [三角頭巾] and other regional variations) (below) is a white, bandana like head dress made of white cloth worn by dead people during their funeral and even by funeral participants in some cases.

The origin behind the practice of attaching Tenkan on to a dead person’s head as a funeral rite is unclear, but there are 3 major theories:


First, like the kanji “Kanmuri” [冠] in its name imply, Tenkan may resemble a crown for the dead to wear while the color white may symbolize the spiritual purity of the deceased. The reason why the dead is expected to wear a crown is argued to be based on ancient Chinese dress code to make them look virtuous and respectful in the eyes of Enma-daiō [閻魔大王] (a “judge of hell” in Japanese Buddhism deriving from Chinese mythology) by covering their head when they descend to hell in order to receive their judgment.

Second, Tenkan is argued to function like a hat instead of a crown. In one of Japanese folk beliefs, the spirit of the dead is thought to travel through the Underworld hence, Tenkan may have been given to them as a substitute for straw-hats or hoods.

Third, Japanese funeral belief dictates that a corpse ought to be left untouched for a period of time before conducting a funeral in order to confirm that the person is officially dead. And once the people are convinced that the corpse is completely dead, it would then labeled so by attaching Tenkan on their head.

Finally, it’s also important to remember that Tenkan is also a head gear incorporated in many traditional Japanese choreographies such as in Nōgaku [能楽] like the one below.

Sources:

1. “Zusetsu-sōgi” [図説葬儀] (2001) by Jikei Matsumoto [松本 慈恵] (n/a)

2. “Gendainihon-no-shi-to-sōgi” [現代日本の死と葬儀] (2007) by Shin'ya Yamada [山田 慎也] (1968-present)

3. “Osōshiki” [お葬式] (2009) by Takanori Shintani [新谷 尚紀] (1948-present)

4. “Harai-no-kōzō” [祓いの構造] (1982) by Naoya Kondō [近藤 直也] (n/a)

Well now that I think about it, the first theory doesn’t make any sense:

Because before going to hell to see Enma-daiō, you have to cross the River Sanzu [三途の川] and there, you’ll encounter Datsueba [奪衣婆] who will rip you clothes off.

This could either mean:

A. Datsueba removes the Tenkan from your head together with the rest of your dress, so you no longer appear with the head dress in front of Enma-daiō.

B. You’ll keep your Tenkan, but you’ll nonetheless meet Enma-daiō butt naked which isn’t very virtuous nor respectful to say the least.

Either way, Tenkan is rendered pointlessly. So why bother putting them on it the first place?

What is Tenkan?


If you’re familiar with anime/manga then you’ve probably seen characters wearing this. Tenkan [天冠] (or Sankaku-zukin [三角頭巾] and other regional variations) (below) is a white, bandana like head dress made of white cloth worn by dead people during their funeral and even by funeral participants in some cases.

The origin behind the practice of attaching Tenkan on to a dead person’s head as a funeral rite is unclear, but there are 3 major theories:


First, like the kanji “Kanmuri” [冠] in its name imply, Tenkan may resemble a crown for the dead to wear while the color white may symbolize the spiritual purity of the deceased. The reason why the dead is expected to wear a crown is argued to be based on ancient Chinese dress code to make them look virtuous and respectful in the eyes of Enma-daiō [閻魔大王] (a “judge of hell” in Japanese Buddhism deriving from Chinese mythology) by covering their head when they descend to hell in order to receive their judgment.

Second, Tenkan is argued to function like a hat instead of a crown. In one of Japanese folk beliefs, the spirit of the dead is thought to travel through the Underworld hence, Tenkan may have been given to them as a substitute for straw-hats or hoods.

Third, Japanese funeral belief dictates that a corpse ought to be left untouched for a period of time before conducting a funeral in order to confirm that the person is officially dead. And once the people are convinced that the corpse is completely dead, it would then labeled so by attaching Tenkan on their head.

Finally, it’s also important to remember that Tenkan is also a head gear incorporated in many traditional Japanese choreographies such as in Nōgaku [能楽] like the one below.

Sources:

1. “Zusetsu-sōgi” [図説葬儀] (2001) by Jikei Matsumoto [松本 慈恵] (n/a)

2. “Gendainihon-no-shi-to-sōgi” [現代日本の死と葬儀] (2007) by Shin'ya Yamada [山田 慎也] (1968-present)

3. “Osōshiki” [お葬式] (2009) by Takanori Shintani [新谷 尚紀] (1948-present)

4. “Harai-no-kōzō” [祓いの構造] (1982) by Naoya Kondō [近藤 直也] (n/a)

What Are Hayarigami?

Usually, Hayarigami [流行神] are deities that spontaneously appear in a society, rapidly gain popularity, but are then largely abandoned or dissolve into obscurity after their short lifespan (amongst other similar definitions) ① due to various factors such as what happened to Tokoyo-no-kami [常世神].


According to Literature studies Prof. Huang Lvping [黄 緑萍] (n/a) ②, there are 3 essential elements involved for Hayarigami’s emergence in modern Japanese society: mass media, tourism, and preexisting religious/spiritual practice(s). One such Hayarigami from modern era Japan that is well documented is Yokohi-kannon [横樋観音] from the Coast of Yokohi [横樋海岸] (below) (Higashi Ward [東区], Okayama City [岡山市], Okayama Prefecture).


The worship of Yokohi-kannon (a 28cmx17cm bronze statue of Avalokiteśvara weighing 2.6kg) began in 1985 while the idol itself was discovered a year before. In the record, on Sept. 5th (1984), 2 local elementary school students found a Buddhist idol with its upper body immerging from the sand at the coast. The 2 children then dug up the idol and washed it with sea water, but were reluctant on bringing it back home and never bothered to report to anyone. After half a month later, the same idol was rediscovered by a member of Masuda area’s Fishing Association during their occasional coastal cleaning routine who took the idol and headed to a nearby garbage truck in order to dispose the idol. However, the truck driver refused to remove the idol based on ethical reason and instead took it back to his house. There, he placed the idol next to an idol of Konpira-san [金比羅さん] (i.e.: a Japanese Buddhist deity deriving from a Hindu-Buddhist deity Kumbhīra ③) and Ringon-san [リンゴンさん] (i.e.: presumably a local sea deity deriving from Ryūgū-sama [龍宮さま] present in Kesennuma City [気仙沼市], Miyagi Prefecture ④ as (source ⑤) refers) who were already present under the same altar in his neighborhood. Hearing about this new Buddhist idol, many neighbors came to pay their respect. ⑤

Then during December, the word of this noble idol also reached an elder of Masuda area and on Jan. 8th (1985), he persuaded the locals to formally worship the idol. As the locals approved his proclamation, he immediately contacted a women who was considered by many to be deeply religious. Upon hearing the elderly’s question regarding the proper methods of formally worshipping an idol, she then contacted a priest from outside of Masuda who she was familiar. The priest then told the women that the idol longed for the smell of incents alas, the elderly and the women’s husband brought the idol directly to the priest for a 10 days long veneration ritual. ⑤

At last, the priest received a sudden, divine message from the idol who now referred to itself as Yokohi-kannon and told him that it will manifest itself in various avatars to help the people of Masuda starting from the 18th of that month. Thus, the locals began preparing the altar (below), ritualistic ornaments and votive objects for Yokohi-kannon. On the 19th after the whole ordeals were over to accommodate Yokohi-kannon, the elderly claimed to have his back pain cured while other began experiencing similar healing phenomenon which they believed to be the doings of Yokohi-kannon. These reports of spiritual healing by Yokohi-kannon began attracting multiple media attentions as the rumors spread outside of Okayama Prefecture where during March (same year), major news publication such as Sanyō-shinbun [山陽新聞] and even NHK tv station from Tōkyō conducted exclusive interview/reports on Yokohi-kannon as the deity was dubbed to not only heal, but bring prosperity and luck to the people. ⑤


Subsequently, curious tourists from all over Japan flocked to Masuda in order to visit Yokohi-kannon as well as participating in seasonal festivities dedicated to the deity; turning the area into a rather massive tourism site leaving a maximum total of 309 visitors in the records ⑤. However, Yokohi-kannon fell out of fashion as the numbers of visitors mostly diminished. Although the precise mechanism behind why such “hype” over a certain Hayarigami abruptly vanish, Prof. Huang argues that one contributing cause is that when a individual is convinced that their wish towards a Hayarigami who excel at a particular divine power (such as healing for Yokohi-kannon’s instance) is fulfilled, the deity automatically becomes irrelevant thus, reaching a point where the same Hayarigami may no longer attract new individuals ⑥; similar to Amabie’s [アマビエ] case who was largely forgotten by the general public since it’s initial popularity only to reemerge more than a century later due to COVID-19 outbreak.


Sources:

1.Via Kotobanku

2. “Shūkyo-kenkyū: Hayarigami-no-tanjō-to-tenkai” [宗教研究: 流行神の誕生と展開] (2015) by Huang Lvping (n/a)

3.Via Kotobanku

4. “Tōhoku-gaku (Vol. 10): Sōtokushū Yama-no-kami-towa-dareka” [東北学〈Vol.10〉総特集 山の神とはだれか] (2004) by Norio Akasaka [赤坂 憲雄] (1953-present)

5. “Birth of Fashionable Gods and Miraculous Experiences: On the Case of Yokohi-Kannon” [「流行神」の誕生と霊験標: 横樋観音の場合] (1992) by Iwayumi Suzuki [鈴木 岩弓] (1951-present)

6. “Shūkyō-ga-dō-umarerunoka: Gendai-no-hayarigami-eno-kokoromi” [宗教がどう生まれるのか: 現代の「流行神」への試み] (2014) by Huang Lvping (n/a)

Dialectic Kanji Letters

Japanese dialects doesn’t stop at linguistics, and they extend into Kanji writings called Hōgen-kanji [方言漢字]. According to Japanese studies major Doc. Hiroyuki Sasahara [笹原 宏之] (1965-present), some areas within Japan use a particular kind of Kanji characters that aren’t present in official Japanese writing or even absent in dictionaries which refers to an object, location, or person’s name. So, unfortunately for the readers out there, you must witness my abominable hand writing since one of the characters that I’ll be presenting can’t be typed:


1. Akutsu [圷]

Used predominantly in Ibaraki Prefecture and sporadically throughout East Japan, this kanji is a word referring to a slough along the river.

2. Tao [嵶]/Tō [乢]/Tawa [垰]

An alternative kanji for the word/writing of Tōge [峠] meaning crisis/pass/ridge in English used throughout Chūgoku Region [中国地方].

3. Yureru/Yuru/Yuri [閖]

A kanji incorporated in the name Yuriage [閖上] (below); an area located in the eastern part of Natori City [名取市] (Miyagi Prefecture).


4. Boku [濹]

A kanji specifically referring to the Sumida River [隅田川] (below) in Kita Ward [北区] (Tōkyō) usually written as Bokusui [濹水].


5. Techi (below)

A kanji comprised of 4 “Ryū” [龍] (dragon) characters solely used in Ryūjin Village [龍神村], Tanabe City [田辺市] (Wakayama Prefecture) for the word “techi” which could mean “awe stricking” or “powerful” in their local dialect.


While on the other hand, there are also local interpretations of kanji characters that are present in both official Japanese writings and dictionaries:


1. (Kun-yomi) Kutsu [クツ]/Kochi [コチ]/Sei [セイ]/Kotsu [コツ] | (On-yomi) Tagayasu [たがやす] [圣]

In official Japanese this kanji means “scared” or “holy” in English. But in Kumamoto Prefecture, however, this kanji is used as an abbreviation for the kanji 軽 (Kun-yomi: Kei [ケイ]\Kin [キン] | (On-yomi): Karu-i [かるぃ]\Karo-yaka [かろゃカ]) which typically means “light (weight)”.


2. Kikagaku [畿何学]

While the official writing for this characters meaning “geometry” is 幾何学 (same pronunciation), some people from Nara Prefecture write it as 畿何学 for the character [幾] and [畿] are both pronounced as “Ki” in Kun-yomi.


Furthermore, while the famous Japanese cuisine Sushi is written as 鮨 in Tokyō, the kanji for Sushi in Kinki Region [近畿地方] is commonly written as 鮓 instead.


(Source)

So… Let’s free the skeleton from the closet.

This is how I look like AKA Face reveal!


Yes, like how I said before, I’m only half Japanese because my mother’s Italian and this is the produce.

Sorry for the sudden post, but I’ve been asked a lot about my ethnicity so hopefully, this photo of me might bring some of y'all comfort or even disappointment.

Thank you for all your feedbacks in the previous post on helping me to choose a good cover design!

Though I’m a bit conflicted to whether publish a short anthology of mountain deities from Japanese folklore first or the initial collection of Japanese folk medicines because the latter may take a bit longer to publish (which may even take a whole year!) due to the amount of sources I need to gather from various history department in different municipal halls all over Northeastern Japan.

I think I’ll work on the short anthology first while I’ll collect the sources necessary.

I might ask for some help again to choose a good cover design! Thank you for your cooperations!

researcherposts:

researcherposts:

Please help me pick a cover design for my ebook!

Kind of going back and forth with this, but I’m back on trying to write ebooks on a topic regarding Japanese folklore and it’s going to be about folk medicines! But due to my shitty art sense I can’t come up with a suitable cover art that I somewhat made using free templates (and minimal efforts from my end).

Nonetheless, which one of these 3 appears more attractive for you? Let me know in the comments!


Thank you to all the people who shared their preferences in the comments!

It’s actually hilarious because even I had no idea that the background photo on the 2nd design was of a swimmer under water and for the longest time, I also thought it was a photo of a snowy mountain during a starly night!

Yes, it’s rather confusing, so I’ll look for a better alternative.

Thanks again!

Based on everyone’s feedbacks (again, thank you so much!), it seems that the 2nd design has proven to be much more attractive and appreciated in comparison to the 1st and the 3rd one. Though, since the background photo was a bit confusing, I’ve added my own photos I took for the background and made 2 more based on the initial 2nd image.

I personally like the 2nd one with the snowy mountains of Minami Alpes from Yamanashi Prefecture side, but what do y'all think?

researcherposts:

Please help me pick a cover design for my ebook!

Kind of going back and forth with this, but I’m back on trying to write ebooks on a topic regarding Japanese folklore and it’s going to be about folk medicines! But due to my shitty art sense I can’t come up with a suitable cover art that I somewhat made using free templates (and minimal efforts from my end).

Nonetheless, which one of these 3 appears more attractive for you? Let me know in the comments!


Thank you to all the people who shared their preferences in the comments!

It’s actually hilarious because even I had no idea that the background photo on the 2nd design was of a swimmer under water and for the longest time, I also thought it was a photo of a snowy mountain during a starly night!

Yes, it’s rather confusing, so I’ll look for a better alternative.

Thanks again!

Please help me pick a cover design for my ebook!

Kind of going back and forth with this, but I’m back on trying to write ebooks on a topic regarding Japanese folklore and it’s going to be about folk medicines! But due to my shitty art sense I can’t come up with a suitable cover art that I somewhat made using free templates (and minimal efforts from my end).

Nonetheless, which one of these 3 appears more attractive for you? Let me know in the comments!


Happy New Years

Thanks to all your supports, JFRC reached 6,641 followers this year! An achievement only made possible by platform users who visit, like, follow, and reblog contents from this blog and I can’t thank you all enough!

I understand this year wasn’t the best for many of you due to the epidemic, but we all can work and hope for a better 2021! While I’ll do my best to make JFRC a fun and informative place to share Japanese folklore to the curious audiences!

Special announcement: the first ever JFRC’s “headquarter” is planned to open somewhere next week in Kameyama City [亀山市], Mie Prefecture!

I hope you all a great New Year!

The Mystery Of Nemuri-gami

It’s almost New Years and something curious popped up on my Twitter feed about a New Years festivity practiced in Tanbasasayama City [丹波篠山市] (Hyōgo Prefecture) which was only recently reported via a news outlet (Tanba Publication [丹波新聞]) that even the locals doesn’t know about the history behind it.

This festivity is practiced within the local Tenman Shrine [天満神社] (above) and here, votive objects called Nemuri-gami [ネムリ神] are presented at the shrine depicting a male/female pairs on a wooden plaque (below).

Speculations have been made whether Nemuri-gami could symbolize a family’s prosperity of descendants, but nothing concrete are known regarding it’s origins and etymology.

One Twitter user theorized that the word “Nemu” [ネム] in the name Nemuri-gami derives from an archaic Japanese term which can also be read as “gōkan” [合歓] used since Nara Period (or “Nemuri-gi” [眠り木] in regional Tanba [丹波] and Tango [丹後] including Hyōgo Prefecture) meaning sexual courtships between male and female, thus resulting to the symbolism for descendant prosperity.

While in my theory, Nemuri-gami may have some connections with yet another Nemuri-gami (instead written as [眠り神]) of Mt. Nangū [南宮山] (Gifu Prefecture). According to multiple tracking records (like this blog here), there’s a stone steele representing Nemuri-gami near Grand Nangū Shrine [南宮大社] (Tarui Town [垂井町], Fuwa Dist. [不破郡], Gifu Prefecture) (below) close to Mt. Nangū. In the reports via a bulletin board within the shrine, this Nemuri-gami is a guardian deity of infants based on a Japanese saying: “Neru-ko-wa-sodatsu” [ねる子は育つ] which could be translated to: “A child who sleeps a lot will grow-up healthier.” Hence Nemuri-gami. Could this deity have something to do with Nemuri-gami of Tanbasasayama City?

researcherposts:

It’s almost New Years so let’s change some stuffs a bit. What do you think of Kon-chan [コンちゃん] near Anamori-inari Station [穴守稲荷駅] (Tokyō) here for my new pfp?

Not to forget this photo of an old fruit shop in Okutama Town [奥多摩町] (Tokyō) for background.


It’s almost New Years so let’s change some stuffs a bit. What do you think of Kon-chan [コンちゃん] near Anamori-inari Station [穴守稲荷駅] (Tokyō) here for my new pfp?

Dietary Restrictions In Japanese Folk Religion


Although Japan doesn’t have any strict rules regarding what and not to eat unlike in other religious societies, there are few rare instances (though most are presumably from the past).


In Asao Ward [麻生区] (Kawasaki City [川崎市], Kanagawa Prefecture) for example, when a plague broke out in the past, the local prayed to Tennō-sama [天王様] to rid the illness in exchange to not cultivate cucumbers ever again. Since that day onwards, the locals of Asao never planted nor ate cucumbers (up until now). No one’s really sure to why cucumbers of all vegetables became to be restricted, but it could be assumed that it derived from an old, local superstition dictating that eating cucumbers causes dysentery.

Secondly, some families related to Yodohime Shrine [與止日女神社] (above) (Taiwa Town [大和町], Saga City, [佐賀市], Saga Prefecture) are prohibited from eating cat fish. This is because, in many locations within Kyūshū Region, cat fish (white ones in particular) are considered as a sacred animal of an indigenous female deity named Yodo-hime [與止日女/淀姫] who’s featured in “Hizen-no-kunifudoki” [肥前風土記] (Early Nara Period) (i.e.: historic text of modern day Saga and Nagasaki Prefecture). Henceforth, shrines in Kyūshū Region enshrining Yodo-hime often incorporate Ema [絵馬] (votive objects) of white cat fish such as the one (below) in Fushimi Shrine [伏見神社] of Nakagawa Town [那珂川市] (Fukuoka Prefecture).

Thirdly, shrine members of Hayasuhime Shrine [早吸日女神社] (Ōita City [大分市], Ōita Prefecture) (below) do not eat octopus. According to the shrine’s legend, Emperor Jinmu prayed for a safe sail through Bungo Channel [豊後水道] to conquer East Japan in 667 AC, two female deities appeared from the water and gifted a divine sword to the emperor which was initially kept safe by an octopus below. Since that day onwards, octopus became a sacred creature of Hayasuhime Shrine.

For the last one, locals of Kosuge Village [小菅村] (Yamanashi Prefecture) never eat pheasants. This is because when Princess Oshihime [押媛] (wife of Emperor Kōan [孝安天皇]) travelled through the village to reach the Country of Musashi [武蔵国] (modern day Tokyō, and fractions of Saitama and Kanagawa Prefecture) via the mountain path with a baby in her womb. But suddenly, a pheasant sprang out from the bush which terrified the princess while she was resting near a bunch of tall reeds. Weeping in terror, the princess told the local guide and the nearby villagers: “I hate pheasants. Everyone, please do not eat pheasant meat nor its eggs. If you shall keep this promise, then I shall be a guardian of child delivery and share the pain of labor with you in return.” Shortly after the princess died, but after a year, bunch of reeds with partial leafs began sprouting up from her tomb. Seeing that this was the blessing of Princess Oshihime, the locals of Kosuge Village kept the vow to not eat the meat and eggs of pheasants even to this day.


Sources:

1. “Kakio-bunka: Kakio-ni-nokoru-kyūri-no-densetsu” [柿生文化: 柿生に残る胡瓜の伝説] (2010) by Archive of Kakio’s Local History [柿生郷土史料館]

2. “2 Shintō Saga-shi” [ニ 神道 佐賀市] (n/a) by Saga City Hall [佐賀市役所] (pdf)

3.Via Ōita Prefecture Tourist Information (official website)

4. “Gunnai-no-minwa” [郡内の民話] (1991) by Kyōgi Naitō [内藤 恭義] (n/a)

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