::Love, Thieves and Fear make Ghosts::


This is the first installment of what will be eight (8) Japanese ghost stories. They have been re-interpreted and recreated in the form of limited edition prints on Kozo paper from the Awagami Factory in Japan and are now showing at the Japan Foundation Gallery in Sydney until July 3rd.

The reason I share them here with you now is I would also like to hear some of your stories. When researching for this exhibition I was astounded at the variety and huge number of ghost stories and folktales in Japanese culture and these were just from those that were popular enough to become common folklore and to eventually be published in English. Apart from ‘Bunyip’s‘ and ‘Dropbears‘ there were few stories that could raise the hairs on the back of my neck when I was growing up here in Australia and I imagine if I had grown up in Japan I could have been influenced to do anything, eat green vegies, take a bath, etc,  should I be told a certain spook be coming to get me if I didn’t.

So please share your stories here… in the comments pages….why? Well, because indeed ‘sharing is caring’, however more importantly it is also how culture and folklore grows.

Without further ado here is the first ghosty…. the Rokurokubi!

Rokurokubi (ろくろ首)

A female obake with an extremely flexible neck. By day they are indistinguishable from normal women, but after nightfall Rokurokubi stretch their necks out to any length in search of prey. According to one theory, they are seeking out men in order to suck the life energy out of them.

Rokuro-kubi are yokai that used to be ordinary human beings, but somehow they have come to suffer from a ghostly affliction that allows their heads to float away from their bodies, their necks stretching in between like a fleshy garden hose, sometimes indefinitely. According to some tales, rokurokubi were once normal human beings but were transformed by karma for breaking various precepts of Buddhism. Usually they are women. The rokuro-kubi’s condition is sometimes brought about by a curse, and sometimes as a supernatural manifestation of the person’s desires. The neck-stretching almost always happens at night, often while the rokuro-kubi sleeps, and the freed head may wander through the house perpetrating such obake-esque mischief as sucking the life energy out of people and animals, and licking up the oil of andon lamps. Often they will prowl the forest for grubs, centipedes and worms.

Some of them simply wind up using lintels high above doors and windows as their pillows, and scaring the living daylights out of anyone who happens to peek in on them.

Rokuro-kubi women are often unlucky in love, frightening their new husbands away when the men discover their wives’ unnerving nocturnal abilities.


One Comment Add yours

  1. naichan says:

    How about this one? Sorry it turned out longer than expected! Make a picture of it if you like …

    The Sparrows’ Gift

    A boy throws a stone and injured a sparrow. Seeing this, an old woman took the sparrow home. The old woman’s children and grandchildren laughed at her. But she continued to nurse the bird until a couple of months later it was ready to fly. She released it and it flew away. She was sad and didn’t expect to see the bird again. However, a few weeks later she noticed a sparrow land in her garden and was certain it was the same one. The little bird approached her and placed a seed at her feet, then flew off. The old woman, thinking this was a gift, was delighted, and goes off to plant the seed. Again her family made fun of her. The seed grew rapidly, and soon a huge plant dominated the garden. The old woman’s family were apprehensive. The plant sprouted huge pods, which one day the family decided to open. Everyone was astonished to see that the pods were full of rice, and not just any rice, for when they cooked it the rice was the most tasty they had ever had. The old woman was so pleased that she gave a bucket of the delicious rice to all her neighbours, and still there was so much left..

    The family next door were jealous. They urged their old woman do something similar. They had heard the old woman’s story about the sparrow, so this old woman next door decided to emulate her. She looked high and low for injured sparrows but found none. So she threw stones at them and finally hit one. Being greedy she decided to injure more sparrows, in the hope of earning even more delicious rice. Her family congratulated her. So she nursed three sparrows back to health and in due time released them. Weeks passed. Then one day the old woman noticed three sparrows land in her garden. Each one was carrying a seed in its beak and they put the three seeds at her feet. The old hag laughed in excitement and at once planted the seeds, thinking of how much rice their family would have and how she didn’t intend to share a single grain of it!

    Weeks passed. The plants grew at astonishing speed. You could almost see them growing! The plants were also rather strange looking, not at all like her neighbour’s plant. Soon the massive pods grew and one day the whole family gathered round to try their long awaited rice. The old woman’s son cut open the biggest pod, and suddenly out shot a whole company of snakes, flies, mosquitoes, scorpions and just about every creepy-crawly you could imagine! The family fled in terror and the old woman cursed the day she had dealings with sparrows.


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