#33 Kaidan 怪談

Twice a month, my friend and I organize the event, “Let’s talk about Kyoto in English and Japanese”. Today’s theme was Kaidan.
I took memo of useful expression 🙂

(All from “Trad Japan” NHK publisher has copy right.)
A creature with eyes not on its face but on the plans of its hands… A long-necked monster with a tongue that moves like a snake… Known as yokai, these characters have been part of Japanese folklore for centuries.

One of the best-known types of yokai is the kappa- a water sprite with a  saucer-like depression on the top of its head. Kappa are believed to live in marshes and rivers, and they love to wrestle with children.

But kappa have a violent side, too. It’s said that they sometimes drag children into the water.

The Japanese used to blame water-related accidents and other natural calamities on yokai.

folklore 民間伝承
sprite 妖精
marsh 沼地
calamity 大災害

There are also yokai based on household items. These picture scrolls from the 16th century tell the story of how these yokai came into existence.

It goes like this: A major cleaning session is held at a big mansion, and many old household items are thrown out. The discarded items get together and discuss how they turn into yokai and start attacking them.

At that time, the Japanese believed that every inanimate object had its own spirit and would cause bad thing to happen to anyone who didn’t take good care of it. Stories about yokai sometimes served as a warning to people to be more respectful to the things they use.

Around 200 years ago, during the late Edo period, the role of yokai changed and they became a source of amusement.

Here’s a pack of cards used for children’s game. Each card features some kind of funny-looking yokai.

And the theme of this traditional board game is also yokai. People began to see yokai as amusing characters, and many famous ukiyo-e artists started depicting them.

The Japanese have always had a certain fear of nature, but they have also felt an affinity with it. Scary but at the same time oddly likable, yokai perhaps embody the Japanese way of seeing the world.

affinity 親近感
embody ___を体現する
(All from “Trad Japan” NHK publisher has copy right.)

People in the old days blamed evil spirits for infectious diseases.

inanimate 無生物の
animate 生命のある

The arrival of the US Black Ships in 1853 caused the Tokugawa shogunate to abandon its isolation policy.

Japanese honorifics include respectful expressions used for others and humble expressions used for oneself.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi reunited the whole country in the late 16th century.

The Japanese see the cherry blossom as a national symbol.

In the old days, Buddhism and Shinto were seen as one religion.

(All from “Trad Japan” NHK publisher has copy right.)

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