Gyuki the Ox Monster

I’m in Japan, and it’s great. Obviously.

One of the many reasons why Japan is great is this happy character, known as a gyuki, or ushi-oni (“ox ogre”). (Sometimes people give “oni” as “demon,” but I don’t think that’s really accurate.) I photographed this guy at Negoroji, a temple in Kagawa Prefecture. The wiki article linked above summarizes his story.


Something something Tom Jones, something something what’s new, pussycat?

The Book of Yokai

This isn’t a review, as I haven’t yet read this work myself; rather I wanted to let all my folklore-minded readers know that my friend and colleague (and committee member) Michael Dylan Foster of Indiana University’s Folklore Institute has just released a new book. The Book of Yokai: Mysterious Creatures of Japanese Folklore is available now from University of California Press.

From the publisher’s description:

Monsters, ghosts, fantastic beings, and supernatural phenomena of all sorts haunt the folklore and popular culture of Japan. Broadly labeled yokai, these creatures come in infinite shapes and sizes, from tengu mountain goblins and kappa water spirits to shape-shifting foxes and long-tongued ceiling-lickers. Currently popular in anime, manga, film, and computer games, many yokai originated in local legends, folktales, and regional ghost stories.

Drawing on years of research in Japan, Michael Dylan Foster unpacks the history and cultural context of yokai, tracing their roots, interpreting their meanings, and introducing people who have hunted them through the ages. In this delightful and accessible narrative, readers will explore the roles played by these mysterious beings within Japanese culture and will also learn of their abundance and variety through detailed entries, some with original illustrations, on more than fifty individual creatures. The Book of Yokai provides a lively excursion into Japanese folklore and its ever-expanding influence on global popular culture. It also invites readers to examine how people create, transmit, and collect folklore, and how they make sense of the mysteries in the world around them. By exploring yokai as a concept, we can better understand broader processes of tradition, innovation, storytelling, and individual and communal creativity.

If you’re interested, you can order the book direct from University of California Press here.