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Japanese folklore: Weird, funny & horrifying

Happy Halloween, everyone!

I know, I know. It's November 1st but this post was meant to be written yesterday. However, I couldn't because I was working till midnight. There was no way in hell I was going to stay up and write a blog post.

Nope, sorry guys, but I value sleep a lot more!

Anyways, I'm here to talk about Japanese folklore & urban legends.

I love any kind of folklore & urban legends, but the Japanese ones are on my top five. As the title suggests, they're both weird, funny and downright horrifying.

Most of them involve ghosts and boy, do they have some scary ghosts!

Due to their religion, Shinto & Buddhism, the Japanese believe that humans have a soul (reikon 霊魂 in Japanese). Once a human passes away, the soul remains in purgatory until the mourners have given it proper funeral rites. When everything is said and done, the soul travels to the afterlife and joins with its ancestors and protects the living relatives. The soul returns to the living world once every year in August during the Obon festival, which is similar to the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico.

HOWEVER, if the mourners fail to perform the funeral rites correctly, the human was killed, committed suicide or harbored strong emotions before death, it is believed that the soul will turn into a ghost or a Yūrei.

Yurei typically look like this.

Yurei will remain in the living world until the forgotten funeral rites have been done or the emotional conflict have been resolved.

Yurei can also become an onryō, a vengeful spirit that can cause physical harm to people in the living world. You know those ghosts in the Grudge films? Sadako from the Ring series? Yup, onryō . Even though it's said they can bring forth physical harm, the psychological torment they cause to people is said to be even way worse. The most famous onryō is Oiwa from Yotsuya Kaidan where she torments her husband in revenge.

This is how famous painter Utogawa Kuniyoshi pictured Oiwa

I honestly wouldn't want to be psychologically tortured by those creatures.

Another type of onryō is the Slit-mouthed woman or Kuchisake-onna. It's a malevolent spirit of a woman with her mouth slit that she hides behind a white mask. It's believed if you meet that spirit, it'll ask you if you think it's pretty. If you say no, it'll kill with a pair of scissors or a sharp knife. If you say yes, it'll take off the mask, reveal the slits and ask again if you think it's pretty. If you say no at that time, it'll cut you in half and if you say yes again, it'll use the pair of scissors or knife to make slits on your mouth as well.

The only way to get away from that spirit, is to either distract it with a question, give it money or hard candy or just say that it looks average.

Then there are the slightly weird Japanese spirits and monsters like the Kasa-Obake, which is literally an umbrella that has gained sentience and preys upon unsuspecting people during Feudal Japan.

Or (and this is one of my favorites) the Shirime, which literally means Butthole-Eye. Which perfectly describes this little monster.

The story goes that a samurai stumbled upon this creature while walking down a dark path. It looked like a human and dressed like a human as well. Imagine the samurai's surprise when the supposed human takes off all his clothes, crouches down and moons him. And within his butthole rests a gigantic eye!

It's hilarious! I don't know what I would do I saw a Shirime. Probably laugh myself to death. Which is the best way to go. At least better that than to die of fright.

Since I love Japanese folklore, I'll definitely be posting more of these soon.

But now, I need sleep.


Question of the day: Do you know of any Japanese folklore or urban legends? If so, which are your favorites?

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