An insightful piece from a fellow blogger. I just adore Japanese culture.
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百物語怪談会 Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai

Translated from Mizuki Shigeru’s Mujara

In Tsushima in Nagasaki prefecture, when the rain falls at night, the bakemono known as the Nure Onago appears. The Nure Onago can appear near any body of water, from a small pond to the ocean. Her entire body is drenched, and she is soaked from the top of her head to the tips of her toes.

The Nure Onago can be found in several parts of Japan. In Nuwa in Ehime prefecture, it is said that you can see her hair stretched out and floating on the surface of the ocean, and it is from there that she appears. In the Uwa district, the Nure Onago doesn’t come from the ocean, but it is said that she appears from a soaking wet mop of hair.

The Nure Onago always has a wicked smile, and laughs hideously. If by chance you hear her and, thinking…

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Tea ceremony before Kamogawa Odori.
Kanzashi worn during Tea Ceremony

Kanzashi, hair ornaments, long hair pins are used in traditional Japanese hairstyles while wearing a kimono and as weapons in feudal times. Women of Samurai families used the 6 inch pins, easily concealed in their long hair that not only keep their long hair up, but also as a means of protection from assaults in times of war or from street thugs. The women were trained to use the long, sharp pins as a weapon. They could easily and swiftly remove them from their bundled hair, useful as an element of surprise to pierce an enemy’s throat or other vital organ. Typically used by women, a male samurai with long hair might also use the kansashi to hold his hair in place.

They first appeared during the Jomon Period as a single thin rod or stick. Kanzashi were considered to have mystical powers which could ward off evil spirits. During the Edo period, artisans began to produce more finely crafted products, including some hair ornaments which could also be used as defensive weapons. The craftsmanship reached a high point, with many different styles and designs being created. The most common uses of kanzashi in modern times are in Shinto weddings and use by geisha and maiko, apprentice geisha, and masters in the Japanese tea ceremony. They can also be found in ornmanta flower arrangement such as ikebana or used as an elegant touch to a business suit.

A geisha wears her kanzashi in different ways to indicate her status. Maiko usually wear more numerous and elaborate kanzashi than full-fledged geisha and progress through several hairstyles where the kanzashi must be worn in a fixed pattern.

Typical materials used to make kanzashi are lacquered wood, gold and silver-plated metal,  tortoiseshell, silk, and recently plastic. Early bakelite kanzashi are extremely collectible. Basic styles are complex hana (flower) and seasonal arrangements.

kanzashi 225x300 Kanzashi (Hair Ornaments)

File:Geisha-kyoto-2004-11-21.jpgFile:Maiko serving tea at Kitano Tenmangū 2011-02-25.jpg

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Yūrei, “Faint Spirit” (Japanese Ghost)

English: Maruyama Ôkyo (1733-1795): The Ghost ...
Image via Wikipedia

It is night. In the upper bedroom of the rented farmhouse, you lie awake against the futon pillow. You gaze up at the ceiling. For some reason, you cannot fall asleep. It’s as if your mind will not shut off. The events of the day keep playing, like a broken record, across your mind.

From the corner of your eye, you detect flickers of blue, green and purple flames just outside the sliding glass door. Your heart skips a beat when you glance in the direction of the colored flames. Standing on the narrow balcony, that rests against the side of the house, is a young man dressed in a white kimono that covers his feet. Long, black hair trails in a disheveled mass around his shoulders and down his back. On his forehead rests a white triangle of cloth. His hands dangle limply from his wrists on outstretched arms that point directly toward you. His dark eyes gaze beseeching into yours.

You grab the edge of your quilt and yank it up around your chin. Your mind cannot conceive of what your eyes see.

After the first initial shock, you wonder what has happened to trap the spirit between this world and the next and who were his relatives, that must have once lived here? He seems to have come back for their help in releasing him from his torment.

Against your better judgement, you rise and walk toward the closed, glass door. Before you can release it, the latch clicks and the door slides open, as if by magic. You find yourself standing only a few feet from the ghostly young man.

You now see a haki maki is tied around his forehead, beneath the white triangle. He whispers the word, “Kamikaze,” and you realize, he must be one of the very young who died as a “suicide boomer” in the second world war. You want to help him, but are not sure how. Nonetheless, you reach your hand toward his and smile.

More Information:

Yūrei幽霊? meaning “faint spirit” or Bōrei 亡霊, “ruined or departed spirit” is also called Yōkai 妖怪 or Obake お化け. In Japanese culture, humans have a spirit called a reikon 霊 that returns to their living family during the summer Obon Festival. If a person is murdered or commits suicide or if proper funeral rites are not preformed, they become stuck in the physical world, unable to travel to spirit world. The restless yūrei must first resolve the emotional conflict that holds it trapped between the two worlds.

The famous Ukiyo-e artist, Maruyama Ōkyo crafted “The Ghost of Oyuki”, seen in the upper right corner of this page.


Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia: Yūre

Mangajin #40: Japanese Ghosts