WEREWOLF RADAR: Yōkai Watch
By Jordan Doll
Published Issue 077, February 2020
Ahoy, topsiders! Salutations from Apocalypse Bunker 38! That’s right, we had to move again. The primitive government we were building for the new world broke down almost immediately and we were overthrown by interns. Regardless, the Werewolf Radar offices are back up and running with a skeleton crew (YIKES! Haha, just kidding. Technically these guys are ghouls) and forging ahead with our preplanned, quarterly Paranormal Preparedness Revue: The Werewolf Radar Pocket Guide to Yōkai. And no, we don’t care that we are, in all likeliness, infringing upon the adventure anime/manga/video game series of the same name, this is more important. This is the life-or-death paranormal minefield through which many residents of Japan (and beyond) tiptoe every day. And the best part? Yōkai can basically look like anything. Look to your left. Now look to your right. Both of the things you just looked at might be yōkai.
See, “yōkai” is something of a catchall word in Japanese that translates to ghost, phantom or bizarre apparition; a bit like “cucuy” in Mexico, or “Pauly Shore” in America. More colloquially, the word yōkai is used to refer to the pantheon of social spirits (some terrifying, some benevolent) who haunt the homes and hearts of Japan. They fall somewhere between poltergeists and full-on goblins, and they are, as a rule, weird as hell. One is a man who shouts about beans. One is just an old cat. One is a neglected umbrella! Why, this Pocket Guide to Yōkai could actually be a yōkai itself! … It isn’t though, it’s the WEREWOLF RADAR POCKET GUIDE TO YŌKAI.
This is that umbrella I was talking about. It’s what happens when you leave an umbrella unused for so long that a ghost (kami) becomes attached to it and is a prime example of the class of yōkai known as Tsukumogami, or furniture ghosts. Basically, any object can become a Tsukumogami if it is left unused for too long (or if it exists for 100 years, whichever comes first), but when it happens to an umbrella, you get a Kasa-Obake. The umbrella grows a foot and an angry eyeball then gets to bedevilin’! Biting people’s hands, bothern’ with their hair, fighting with the other umbrellas and whatnot. As you might imagine, the Kasa-Obake is pretty popular in manga and anime so you shouldn’t have to go too far to see one in action, but it’s so popular that it sometimes shows up in compromising art that … umm … just be careful with that Google search.
The Shirime is a guy with an eyeball where his butthole should be. It’s okay, it’s okay. It’s better to just tell you upfront so you can picture it and we can move on. Are you picturing it? Is it blinking? Okay, now imagine that butt belonging to what, at a distance, appears to be a normal human being, perhaps even a friend or acquaintance. But then, when they get closer, you realize that this isn’t friendly old Mr. Kurogawa, that isn’t his face and that definitely isn’t his butt. The Shirime has no face in fact, and, after grabbing your attention, will whirl around and moon you. That’s right, the Shirime drops trou and shows you the whole holiday ham. The ol’ captain’s breakfast … scattered n’ smothered. Sorry … the important part is that nestled in between those downy cheeks is no polite evacuating orifice, but rather a glaring eyeball shining back at you like lightning! Staring menacingly into your soul! Judging you for every post Cinco de Mayo hangover you’ve ever subjected your body to. The Shirime usually does nothing more than giggle o into the night after this, but you? You’ll never be the same.
Translation: sickle weasel. That’s right, the Kama Itachi is the ancient wind spirit that feels like it was ripped straight from the margins of your 14-year-old nephew’s social studies homework. Friggin Kyle, he always does such sick stuff. Kid’s gonna be an artist. Anyhow, the Kama Itachi is exactly what it sounds like: an advanced race of hyper-weasels with claws so long and sharp they behave like scythes at the end of the creature’s nimble limbs! They have coats of sharp quills and are capable of moving faster than the human eye! Coming from the mountainous Yamanashi region of Japan, the spirits are known to travel inside city whirlwinds, preying on lost travelers who let their guard down while walking through teleporting razor-weasel territory (like, come on … ).
They attack in groups of three, with the first weasel cutting the victim’s legs, knocking them down, and the second covering them with thousands of deep cuts. Finally, the third weasel dashes in and … spreads a salve on all the wounds healing them almost instantly. Bit a of a left turn at the end there but that’s what yōkai are all about! This all happens so fast the wounds barely even draw blood, and the victim will normally recover after suffering what only appears to be a quick stumble and a few scratches caused by a bitter wind. But, like it can’t be good for you. You probably only get two or three Kama Itachi attacks before your head falls o in the shower. Embarrassing! So bundle up out there, Pingos! Suit of Kevlar oughta do it.
That’s it for this edition of the Werewolf Radar Pocket Guide to Yōkai! We hope this helps shed some light on these mysterious, yet increasingly popular Japanese spirits. There are many more yōkai that we simply don’t have the space to cover so, until next time, just keep assuming that everything you come into contact with every day is an avenging spirit that moves every time you blink. Weasels, the wind, this mug. Everything … Yeesh. Prolly gonna have to move bunkers again.
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It’s a big, weird world. Don’t be scared. Be Prepared.