100 Days of Halloween: Pestering Yōkai: Japan’s Psychological Horror Roots
In horror culture, Japan is known for its special brand of psychological horror. Don’t get us wrong, it often has just as much shock value and gore as our Western slashers, but films like The Grudge lean more toward the weird: getting under your skin and taking over, refusing to pay rent or clean its own dishes.
And this is nothing new.
Japanese monsters (obake, yurei, and more specifically yōkai) have been doing this for centuries. There are quite a few who are killers and destructive forces of nature. Today, though, we focus on those yōkai who exist to terrify and pester.
Why? Because their freaky, weird, and hilarious. And we like freaky, weird, and hilarious!
1. to trouble or annoy (someone) with frequent or persistent requests or interruptions.
Take uwan for example. Uwan is like the “cry wolf” of monsters, only after the third time it’s still frightening. Screaming out UWAN at the top of its lungs, the uwan will then…
Well, that’s it, really. Just scream uwan, again.
Known and named for the distinctive shout it makes, this yōkai will scare priests by screaming, and when the priests calm down and go back to sleep, the uwan will do it again. And again.
That’s it? you ask. That seems kinda pointless.
Not pointless. Scaring the priests is the point.
Just an annoying, pestering, little monster.
Betobeto-san is another one we find to be creepy, simply because of the implications.
This invisible spirit will walk behind you at night, making rhythmic footsteps that set your hairs on end. When you turn to find out who is following you—no one is there. Thing is, when you start walking again, betobeto-san does too, sending those shivers right back up your spine.
Many of these “pestering” yōkai were invisible until Edo-period artists began describing them.
Another monster that had no visible form was the nurikabe. If you’re walking alone in Japan (and anyone who has visited our “Monster Guys” panels in person, knows this is a bad idea to begin with) you might run into the nurikabe.
Literally…run into…the nurikabe.
The nurikabe is an invisible wall whose purpose is simply to impede your evening walk. If you attempt to walk around or even climb over it, it will grow so that you can’t get around it.
Near the beginning of our #100DaysofHalloween, we shared with you the tsukumogami, most of which fit into this category of “weird and annoying.” Many of these bizarre creatures simply scream at the top of their lungs and run around, irritating people day and night.
The shiro-uneri , however, one-ups them. This dirty dishrag has had enough and takes the form of a tiny, towel-sized dragon, flying around in the air and slapping people with its musty cloth. Haha!
There are legions of these creatures in stories, legends, and mythology.
We’ve saved the best for the end of today’s post. The rear-end.
Warning. This one is reeaaallly weird, and possibly offensive to some. If you are easily offended, read no further, and what are you doing on this site anyway!?
Shirime literally means, butt eye. Uh-huh.
A lone samurai is walking along the beach one night, when he sees a person in the distance. He greets them amiably, nice samurai that he is. In response, the person comes closer, strips naked, and moons him. The strangest, most bizarre part is that in the middle of those white cheeks is a giant eyeball, staring at the samurai. The end.
We don’t really have anything witty to add here. Really…what can you say?
Happy Halloween 2014!