Hyaku Monogatari Kaidankai

Image via Wikipedia

It is late July, during the time of summer when the Bon Odori, the “Dance of the Dead” is taking place in the village square. After the festivities, you are invited to your neighbor’s home.

It is nightfall and you walk eagerly to the host house knowing that the game of Hyakumonogatari KaidankaiA Gathering of One Hundred Supernatural Tales will take place. (It was popular in the Edo Period of Japan, 1603 to 186).

As you enter the house, you find a room where one hundred candles flicker with yellow-white lights. You take your seat next to the boy who runs errands for the neighborhood grocer. Then you wait as one by one, each guest takes a turn telling stories about kaidan–strange, mysterious, rare or bewitching apparition of which you get you turn as well.

You finish your story, about an Obake shape-shifter that terrifies the maid of a wealthy samurai and then you walk nervously toward the candle closest to you. With a single puff of breath from you lips, the light goes out leaving a trail of smoke floating up toward your face. You turn and hurry back to your seat.

After each ghostly tale, sworn to be the solemn truth, the storyteller blows one more of the candles out. Little by little, the room grows darker and darker. That’s when you start to hear a strange tap, tap, tapping from outside the circle of friends and neighbors. You wonder if the others hear it as well. The grocer’s boy shakes his head when you ask him, but his eyes have grown wide with… fear?

Nervously, you look around the increasingly dark room. Maybe it was just a tree limb scratching the window. Or a rat gnawing at a baseboard of the wall behind you. And that cold breeze you feel blowing up the back of you neck, surely comes from a draft, an open window or door.

But as the last storytelling reaches the end of their grisly tale, you would swear you see a flicker of something pale and unearthly in a dark corner of the room. Then as the last story ends and the storyteller steps toward the last flickering candle, you will swear you see a ghostly visage hovering next to the woman’s face who sits directly across from you. It reminds you of the Obake you told about in your story. A second later the last candle is blown out…

Image found at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/all-the-fun-of-the-scare-2345815.html

Other Links:

Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyakumonogatari_Kaidankai

 Kaidan   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaidan

Hyakumonogatari Kaidankaai    http://hyakumonogatari.com/what-is-hyakumonogatari/ This site is especially exciting since it contains not only the history of the fame, but many of the ghostly tales themselves from Japan.

Katsushika Hokusai Part IV “Kachô-e”

Hokusai kacho-e

Katsushika Hokusai‘s studies of birds and flowers, an artistic genre called kachô-e, are the lesser known of all his works. Kachô-e were popular in the early eighteenth century (1720s-1750s) with the Torii school of print makers. Hokusai was the first to develop kachô-e as a truly independent theme for the single-sheet print format.

Hibiscus and Sparrow

Lilies - Katsushika Hokusai - www.katsushikahokusai.org


Bell-Flower and Dragonfly - Katsushika Hokusai - www.katsushikahokusai.orgBell Flower and Dragonfly

Orange Orchids - Katsushika Hokusai - www.katsushikahokusai.org

Orange Orchids

Mount Fuji with Cherry Trees in Bloom - Katsushika Hokusai - www.katsushikahokusai.org

Mount Fuji with Cherry Tree

Plum Blossom and the Moon - Katsushika Hokusai - www.katsushikahokusai.org

Plum Blossom and the Moon

Cranes on a Snowy Pine - Katsushika Hokusai - www.katsushikahokusai.org

Cranes on a Snowy Pine

Peonies and Butterfly - Katsushika Hokusai - www.katsushikahokusai.org

Peonies and Butterfly

Poppies - Katsushika Hokusai - www.katsushikahokusai.org


Branch of Plum - Katsushika Hokusai - www.katsushikahokusai.org

Branch of Plum


Attribution of Hokusai’s Kacho-e   http://www.viewingjapaneseprints.net/texts/topictexts/artist_varia_topics/hokusai3.html

Obon, the Dance of the Dead (Japanese Festival)

In the village square, Chinese lanterns and fireflies cast a ghostly glow over the tightly packed shops and houses along the narrow avenue. The sound of clapping hands and beating drums draw you toward a drum tower, situated just below the elevated train station. Atop it, men and boys, dressed in dragon coats, with matching scarves tied around their heads, slam mallets against the sides of drums both large and small.

Dressed in colorful yukata of cherry blossoms, soaring white cranes, and glittering fans with ribbons, women dance in a circle around the drum tower as they sway to the hypnotic “dance of the dead.” Their flowing hands and the drums’ beat call for the dead to arise and join in the celebration, as the spicy scent of cooked sausage floats on the jasmine breeze.

In the willow trees that grow along the street cicadas creep from their brittle shells. The lure of their castanet song adds to the intoxicating beat. The dancers, the drum tower and the crowds of people seem to swirl and bob around you, like a magical dream.

To your surprise, someone whispers in your ear, words from Matsu Basho, master haiku poet.

“Temple bells die out.

The fragrant blossoms remain.

A perfect evening!”

You turn to find a pair of smoldering eyes, like polished jade, gazing into your own. A white prayer scarf, painted with red kanji calligraphy, wraps the apparition’s ashen forehead, pulling long black hair away from its ghostly face and neck.

You stare, dumbfounded as people stroll by, unaware that “something” not of this world, stands in front of you. A small boy, twirling a plastic pin wheel, walks straight through the apparition’s chest. The image flickers as if it might go out like a candle flame as the ghostly image bows respectfully toward you.

“Moonlight and magic,” you whisper. Your thoughts swarm like bees in the summer heat, so fast you can hardly grasp their meaning.

The sharp pounding of the barrel taiko yanks your attention back toward the drum tower. Everything around you seems to spin in slow motion and then tilt-a-whirl fast making you so dizzy you almost lose your balance.

When the spinning stops, you find the apparition has disappeared. You shake your head and walk away, whispering beneath your breath, “It was only a dream.”

Further reading:

Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia: Bon Festival http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bon_Festival

You Tube: Traditional Japanese Obon dance http://is.gd/aSQUEy

You Tube: KODO – Heartbeat Video 2007 http://is.gd/0ktCPX

Sample chapters from LEGEND OF THE CHERRY JEWEL, a romantic, fantasy, action-adventure set in feudal and modern-day Japan http://lediarunnels27221912.wordpress.com/

Tengu: Mountain Goblin (Japanese Mythology)

Tengu statue near a Hansobo shinto shrine on t...
Image via Wikipedia

You find yourself beneath the grandfather Cryptomeria, the giant evergreens that cover the sloping sides of Mount Kurama. It is spring, when the dawn goddess’ dance lures Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun, back from winter exile. You have chosen this time to make a pilgrimage to the mountain of the tengu king.

Through the dense overgrowth, shifting light stirs the morning mist. You close your eyes to better hear the voice of the forest sharp and crisp. Pop! Snap! The crack of high branches echoes against the whirring wing-beats of a crane in flight.

You open your eyes to see its elegant neck extended as the magnificent white bird rises above the canopy into a graceful glide. Its quavering voice is a haunting trumpet.

Near the lower branch, from where the sleek bird took flight, a raven perches. Its ebony feathers glisten like emeralds, as if jewels shine beneath the dark pinions.

“Did you frighten the crane?” You smile, pretending the sassy bird can understand your words.

Head cocked to one side, the bird waits, as one shrewd eye seems to watch your every move. The next instant, the brute flies at you face.

The tip end of one black wing flicks your nose sending a shock wave of surprise roiling down your spine to quake in the pit of your stomach, while the raven’s sharp beak snaps close to your ear. Then in a swooping motion, it flies away only to double back, diving, and then grabbing onto the slope of your shoulder. The unruly fowl digs its claws into you for an unsteady perch.

The peppery scent of pine needles fills the air as you wait with expectation, for the sharp talons to pierce your flesh. They never do. Still, you stare in wonder because the almond eyes of the raven, too close for comfort beside your own, are not what you would expect. They are human-like.

The pungent scent grows in intensity making your nose itch. The next instant, the fiend lifts off into the air and settles on the ground a short distance from your feet.

A gathering mist shifts around the bird, settling like smoke from an incense bowl the priests use to call out their incantations. It reminds you of dregs left from a magician’s spell cast in the purple dawn.

In the raven’s place, there stands a man, or at first glance what seems to be a human man. A circlet of gold lies atop his black hair flecked with glistening emerald lights feathered across elfish-point ears.

His jeweled eyes sparkle with mischief as they watch you from above a beak-shaped nose that juts from the center of a scarlet-blush face and a smirk that pulls haughtily at the creature’s lips. Blue-black wings, crimson tipped, fold against his broad shoulders, where muscled arms hang crisscrossed against his chest. Powerful legs stretch from a human torso ending in bare feet where the nails of the creature’s toes curl under, more like claws than fingernails.

You gape in wordless wonder, for you stand in the presence of a tengu mountain goblin. Choose your next words and actions very carefully. Although the tengu like to make mischief rarely do they enjoy turn about as fair play…

Other interesting sites:

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: “Tengu


A to Z Photo Dictionary, Japanese Buddhist Statuary, Gods, Goddesses, Shinto Kami, Creatures and Demons: ‘Tengu, the Slayer of Vanity”