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Hello, and welcome once again to The Obscuritan. We continue our tour of supernatural Japan with a look at the Henge, or monstrous animals. Many of these creatures have whole volumes worth of stories associated with them, and would require entire articles each to do them justice, but for now a summary will have to suffice.

Often classed as either forms of Yokai or Bakemono, the HENGE are different enough so as to deserve their own category. Much like the Bakemono, the Henge are initially ordinary creatures of their own type. However, it is not extreme emotion that usually leads to their transformation but extreme age – usually reaching the age of 100 is seen as bestowing supernatural powers and a malevolent consciousness upon an animal. These powers are apt to vary from creature to creature, and in different regions such individual creatures may be venerated in dedicated shrines much like minor Kami spirits, for fear that they should be angered into a destructive rampage.  Read more... )

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Hello and welcome to The Obscuritan. This week we continue our tour of the critters of supernatural Japan with the Bakemono and, because we're so nice, the Tsukumogami as well.

What distinguishes the Bakemono from creatures such as the Yokai is that, rather than born-and-bred creatures of a certain species which in some cases happen to appear human (mostly in order to prey upon or mock them), the Bakemono are initially ordinary humans or objects. However, the residue of strong emotions, particularly violent ones such as hatred, causes these creatures to develop in strange ways. In the case of humans this emotion is one that drove it in life or tainted its death. While objects can’t feel these emotions, they can, in certain circumstances, absorb them.


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Hello folks, and welcome to The Obscuritan. Our port of call this month is Japan, where we’ll be taking a look at some of the Ghouls and Ghosts of Feudal Japan – the Yokai (Goblins), Bakemono and Henge (Shapeshifters and monstrous animals) and Yurei (Ghosts) and Tsukumogami (Living Objects). The terms Yokai and Bakemono (“thing that changes”) are often used interchangeably. For the time being, we’ll be using the name Yokai to talk about the “species” of creatures – namely, those that are born as monsters – and Bakemono for creatures or objects which have become monsters. Expect more on these in the next 2 weeks.


Simply put, the name Yokai (Yōkai, Youkai) is equivalent to Goblin or Monster, but just like the English words, this label encompasses thousands of different creatures. And, just like the Goblins and Monsters in the popular consciousness, stories of the Yokai include many thousands of miscellaneous “Goblins” for which there are no name, and indeed many entirely invented by the many artists such as Toriyama Sekien who popularized them (of which I have included a few). Nevertheless, there are many that have become popular characters, and we’ll explore some of them here. Some appear to be explanations for various phenomena, others are merely creatures who enjoy doing (or are forced to do) such things. Some are mischievous, some are dangerous, and most are utterly bizarre.


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April 2013

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