Monsters in our Midst

Yokai are Japanese folkloric figures, not quite ghosts, not quite divine and 100% completely fucking with us. Yokai Attack!: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide, an ingenious introduction to the yokai cast of characters written by our friend Matt Alt and his wife Hiroko Yoda, describes them as

“…the things that go bump in the Japan’s night, the faces behind inexplicable phenomena, the personalities behind the strange hands that fate often deals us. They represent the attempts of the fertile human imagination to impose meaning and rationality on a chaotic , unpreditcable, often difficult-to-explain world. This is essentially what yokai are: superstitions with personalities”

We sort of have a yokai ‘thing’.We have collected yokai toys, yokai books, yokai movies, one unfortunate handmade yokai decorative figurine which was so horrible I wouldn’t allow it in the house and these ridiculously awesome occupation-era mini Yokai plates.

LOVE. We bought them on YahooJapan a few years ago from a seller who had a full set. Regrettably we only grabbed 10 and now I can’t find the rest anywhere. To be honest, I’m not sure what they were actually used for. I can’t imagine they were decorative with no real function. That would be, well, not very Japanese.

I used Matt’s book as well as The Obakemono Project Spook Index to ID most of these guys to the best of my ability.

Horizontally from the top we have

  1. Back of the plate
  2. Tenjoname – the ceiling licker. Why doesn’t the lamplight reach the dark ceiling in your house? Oh, ’cause the Ceiling Licker. Obvi.
  3. Kara-kasa – the haunted umbrella. Kara-kasa is the spirit of your broken and abandoned umbrella. He always looks so cheerful.
  4. ?? – No idea! Anyone?
  5. Itsumaden – the ghost bird. Giant, terrifying bird crying in vengeance for the dead.
  6. Rokuro Kubi – the long-necked woman. A beautiful woman until nighttime, when her neck grows like a giant snake, feeding on centipedes and your qi.
  7. Ao-andon – blue lamp ghost. The appearance of the Ao-andon was the grand finale to a ghost story game called hyaku monogatari, or “a hundred stories”
  8. Akaname – the filth licker. Pretty much what it sounds like. He hides in your bathroom and licks your mildew and scum, because the Japanese would prefer that their children never use the bathroom at night on their own.
  9. Umi-bozu – the sea creature. Like most good mythical sea monsters, he wrecks ships and drowns sailors with abandon. I’m not 100% sure about my ID here as he’s usually portrayed as a featureless bump.
  10. Nurarihyon – the man with the large cranium. So, he has a large cranium and he sneaks into your house and presumptuously makes himself some tea. DOOM.
  11. Seto Taisho – Teapot Samurai. Your crappy dishware has assembled itself into a tiny samurai and it hates you. It’s tiny and pretty breakable though so you’re probably fine

I love that people have created these characters and myths from the mundane aspects and artifacts of their lives. It’s a wonderful reminder that everything around you has a little mystery in it.

If anyone has any idea what these plates actually are or where I can find others, please let me know!