Nighttime chills a cool experience for children
08/14/2007Wikipedia article "Kaidan".
Yūrei (幽霊, Yūrei) are Japanese ghosts. The name consists of two kanji, 幽 (yuu) meaning faint or dim and 霊 (rei) meaning soul or spirit. Alternative names include 亡霊 (Borei) meaning ruined or departed spirit, 死霊 (Shiryo) meaning dead spirit, or the more encompassing 妖怪 (Yokai) or お化け (Obake).
The telling of spine-chilling kaidan ghost stories is a traditional Japanese summer pastime to beat the heat. The Japanese words yurei and obake both translate as "ghost," but they are not the same, according to a book overseen by Hinako Sugiura (1958-2005), an expert on popular culture in the Edo Period (1603-1867).
Yurei, says this book, is a spirit that holds a grudge against someone and haunts only that person. A typical example is Oiwa, the heroine of "Yotsuya Kaidan," a well-known classic Japanese ghost story. Poisoned by her husband Iemon, Oiwa terrorizes only Iemon in her ghostly revenge.
Obake, on the other hand, is said to be fixated on a particular site or object, and indiscriminately haunts anyone who comes near it. Okiku, the maid servant in another classic ghost story falls into this category. Okiku was killed and dumped into a well by a vicious samurai.
Insubstantial as these ghostly heroines are, I guess I can see how they differ.
Also in the realm of the supernatural is Nurikabe (plastered wall), a folkloric specter in "Gegege no Kitaro," a popular comic series created by Shigeru Mizuki. An image of Nurikabe was recently found on a picture scroll dating to the Edo Period. According to legend, Nurikabe played tricks on people walking at night, making them believe there was an invisible wall blocking their way.
Mizuki has given Nurikabe a somewhat humorous appearance--a huge wall with little eyes and legs.
On the Edo picture scroll, however, it has the body of a lion, and its head has three eyes and sharp fangs. This grotesquely fearsome image probably mirrored people's fear of the eerie and paranormal.
It's creepy to walk down a deserted street at night. The destination seems too far. Nurikabe is probably a projection of this unsettling feeling. This leads me to presume that every folkloric monster was closely connected with how people lived and perceived nature in the olden days.
Mizuki contends that people are most likely to encounter such beings in their childhood, when their minds and senses are still receptive to many things. If one wants such an encounter, says Mizuki, the trick is to do nothing in particular and just drift aimlessly.