Woman putting tanzoku decorations on a bamboo sasa tree
Japanese Holidays

Star-Crossed Lovers (Tanabata) (Ep.55)

Tanabata is a Japanese festival based on the bizarre tale of two star-crossed lovers, Orihime and Hikoboshi. I’ll tell you their story and explain a little about the origins and how it’s celebrated today.

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Fuda (lucky charm) of Iriya no Kishimoujin
Japanese Language

Yokai-Related Sayings (Becoming a Tengu) (Ep. 54)

What if someone told you that you were turning into a tengu, one of those red-faced, long-nosed goblins? What would they mean? In this episode of Uncanny Japan, I talk about a handful of Japanese sayings that are based on youkai.

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Sekien's depiction of Ushi no Koku Mairi
Japanese Superstitions

Putting a Curse on Your Enemies (Ushi no Koku Mairi) (Ep. 52)

Ushi no Koku Mairi means visiting a shrine at the hour of the ox (between 1:00 and 3:00 am). It also means going there so you can put a curse on your enemy. Deriving from the legend of Hashi Hime (The Bridge Princess) and the Noh play Kanawa (The Iron Crown), this peculiar and frightening way of cursing those who have wronged you is definitely next level.

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Kintaro drinking soup with mother
Japanese Holidays

Children’s Day Iris Baths and Golden Boys (Shobuyu and Kintaro) (Ep. 51)

On May 5th people all across Japan celebrate Children’s Day or Kodomo no Hi. It might not be a normal year, but if you look out your veranda you can possibly see some carp streamer (koi nobori). One of the ways to celebrate is with an iris bath or shoubu-yu. It’s purported to make you strong like a samurai. Another way to celebrate is for boys to set out a fancy doll. Kintaro is often found in houses all over Japan. He’s also big and strong like a samurai.

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Yokai

Close Encounter with an Amabie (Ep. 49)

An amabie is a Japanese yokai that is said to have predicted a plague and then encouraged people to share its image to protect them from that previously predicted plague. Or something like that.

The amabie has recently been re-remembered all over Japanese social media with people posting their own adorable depictions of that long-haired, beak-faced, three-footed creature and wishing the current plague (Covid-19) to go away.

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Yokai

The Kappa’s Fart (Ep. 48)

A kappa is a  small, scrawny, aquatic yokai with a parrot-like beak, a tortoise-style shell on its back, and an indentation on the top of its head full of water. They’re found in rivers, lakes, ponds, and even coastal areas. But what do they do? 

While recently kappa have been rebranded to be very kawaii, that hasn’t always been the case. Listen to the newest episode of Uncanny Japan to find out how heinous these slimy critters can be. 

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Yokai

The Guest Room Child (Zashiki Warashi) (Ep. 47)

During sleep paralysis have you ever the feeling of a ghost child crawling on top of you? If so, you’ve probably experienced a zashiki warashi (Guest Room Child). But don’t worry, they’re not bad. In fact, they’re the bringer of good luck and fortune.

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Yokai

Kanashibari and the Pillow Flipper (Makura Gaeshi) (Ep. 46)

The makura gaeshi or pillow flipper, was thought to cause kanashibari–sleep paralysis. It happens when you believe you’ve woken up in bed, but you’re actually somewhere between wakefulness and sleep. You’re aware of the room around you, but there’s a subtle change in the air. You try to move, but you’re frozen. You try to call out, but you can’t make a sound. It’s a terrifying experience.

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Japanese Holidays

Auspicious Cuisine (Osechi Ryori) (Ep. 45)

Osechi is Japan’s New Year’s cuisine that includes such delicacies as herring wrapped in kelp and tied with gourd strings (nori maki), dried and candied anchovies (tazukuri), and golden sweet potato and chestnut mash (kurikinton).

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Yokai

Haunted Artifacts (Tsukumogami) (Ep. 44)

In Japan when an inanimate object reaches its 100th birthday and perhaps it was mistreated, or lost, or thrown away, it gains a soul and might possibly start playing tricks on people. This is called tsukumogami, or haunted artifacts. In this episode of Uncanny Japan, I talk about the tsukumogami and some traditional ones you could run across on a dark spooky night.

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