Yōkai; Rokurokubi

轆轤首 – Rokurokubi (potter wheel neck)

Rokurokubi are normal women by day, but at night they gain the ability to stretch their necks to ridiculous proportions.

It is said that rokurokubi live undetected during daylight and may even take mortal husbands trying to keep their demonic forms secret. They are tricksters by nature, however, and their compulsion to frighten and spy on human beings is hard to resist. Some rokurokubi thus resort to revealing themselves only to drunks, the sleeping, or the blind in order to satisfy these urges.

Other stories say that the rokurokubis were humans who had broken Buddhist law. They feast on the blood, favoring that of those who had also broken religious doctrine.

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Tanabata

七夕 Tanabata, the evening of the seventh.

Throughout July and August, the separated lovers Orihime and Hikoboshi can reunite.

Orihime, the daughter of Emperor Tentei, was a skilled weaver and made lovely clothes for her father. On day as she sat alongside the the river of heaven (he milky way), sadness hadn’t had time to fall in love. Tentei, believed to be the ruler of the heavens arranged a marriage for her with Hikoboshi who lived across the river. The couple were happy but, Orihime was neglected her weaving (sixth century mythical princesses couldn’t have it all), angering Tentei so much that he decided to separate the couple putting them back on opposite sides of the river (he really loved clothes).

Tentei decreed that the couple would only be allowed to see each other on one night each year – on the seventh day of the seventh month. On that evening a boatman (the moon) comes to ferry Orihime over the river to her beloved Hikoboshi. But if Orihime has not given her best to her weaving Tentei may make it rain causing the river to flood so the boatman cannot make the trip (seriously Tentei was like obsessed with his wardrobe). In this case the kasasagi (a group of magpies) may still fly to the milky way to make a bridge for Orihime to cross (cuz fuck patriarchy).

Street festivals with food stalls and traditional games are held all over Japan, the biggest being in Sendai (of earthquake fame). Streets and schools everywhere hang huge bamboo branches on which are hung wishes called, tanzaku. At midnight or the next day they are burnt or set off down a river. Every area has its own Tanabata customs.20120706-190046.jpg20120706-190156.jpg

Japanese creation myths

Japan’s creation myth is just as insane as any other. As the traditional religion of Japan is Shintoism there are thousands of gods and deities.

When the world was formless and all was chaos, there was nothing except a single germ. This germ mixed the mass until the heaviest part sank and the lighter part rose. The lighter part became heaven and the heavier, earth.
When the heaven (高天原 takamagahara, High Plain of Heaven) was formed 5 gods appeared. Instead of producing life or reproducing they went into hiding and were never heard of again. Some time later 2 more gods wondrously appeared only to go into hiding. After all that, 5 pairs of deities arrived, each consisting of a male and female deity. The last were the “most remarkable” Izanagi and Izanami.

 

This heavenly brother and sister are the main characters in our story.One day as Izanagi was walking along they looked down on the ocean and wondered what was beneath it. Izanagi thrust his staff into the waters and as he pulled it back up a “salty mass” (CREATION MYTHS! filthy) fell back into the sea. They began to harden and grow until they became the islands of Japan.

Izanagi THRUSTING his spear into the writhing sea…………

Izanagi built a palace which in the middle stood the Heavenly August Pillar. Each going in different directions creating plants and animals, Izanagi and Izanami circled the Pillar and When they met again they decided to marry and have children to inhabit the land. The first child Izanami bore was cast out in a reed boat to be the god of the fishermen.

Izanami gave birth to the God of the Land, God of Wind and Rain. While she was giving birth to the God of Fire, she was burnt to death. Izanagi killed the God of Fire and went searching for his beloved sister/wife. He found her in the Land of the Gloom, but as she had already eaten the fruit of the underworld the spirits would not allow her to return. Izanagi returned a second time to find his wife a mass of maggots, disgusted by her he ran. Enraged Izanami chased him wanting to kill him but, the faster Izanagi pushed a huge boulder over the mouth of the Land of dead, this created the permanent demarcation between life and death.

In the cleansing ritual Izanagi cleaned the Sun God, Amaterasu from his left eye, the Moon God, Tsukuyomi from his right eye and the God of Storms, Susanoo from his nose.

Amaterasu

The Japanese believe that Izanami rules the Land of Gloom and Death, while the Land of Living is ruled by Izanagi.

Later, Amaterasu, bore a Ninigi, sent to bring peace and rice to the islands. He was the grandfather of Jimmu, who became the first emperor of Japan and from who all the emperors claim descent from. Ninigi brought 3 heavenly artifacts; a mirror, a sword and a jewel. These are (secretly) housed around Japan. The sword is thought to be in Nagoya, the jewel at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo and the mirror at the Grand Shrine in Ise.
The Grand Shrine is off-limits to everyday folk. The thatched roofs are all that are visible.

Every 20 years a ceremony is held in which these buildings are torn down and rebuilt leaving new clothes for Amaterasu

the word emperor 天皇 tenno means Heavenly sovereign and an alternative (now obsolete) word is 帝/御門 mikado “Honourable Gate”. The origins of the imperial house are cloaked in mystery and it is said that no emperor has reigned that wasn’t a descendent of the last.

Japan sits on a catfish

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A new sign near my house that announces the closure of the road in the event of a major earthquake.

The character underneath is Namazu.

In the silty murky depths under the islands of Japan resides Namazu, the giant catfish.
The god, Kashima is tasked with guarding Nazamu with a giant stone, but, should he fall asleep at the switch (I wasn’t asleep, I was drunk!) then Nazamu thrashes around and causes violent earthquakes.

After a huge earthquake in 1855 that left Edo (old name for Tokyo) in ruins Nazamu started to be worshiped as the god of rectification.

The origins of the myth is thought to come from the idea that catfish can sense oncoming earthquakes and jump out the water. These were (and sometimes are still) used as early warning signs.

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