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!
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.