Written By: Ken Hulsey
Source: Pink Tentacle
The Japanese have always loved monsters, and why not, their pop culture has been littered with them for decades and their mythology for centuries.
Today Japanese comic books, television series and movies are filled with all sorts of mysterious spectres and creatures.
It is easy to see where this fascination with strange and mysterious beasts comes from, once you dig deep into Japan's rich folklore. It too is filled with tales of demons, monsters and even visitors from other worlds.
These tales that have been passed down from generation to generation have had a profound effect on the Japanese, which today manifests itself in modern media and fuels the countries fascination with the strange and macabre.
Japanese art also reflects this fascination as well, ancient clay statues called, "Dogu" (Dogoo) are said to represent alien visitors to the island nation (see photo above) around 14,000 BC. Likewise, ancient drawings and paintings depict such unearthly visitors along with dragons, demons, and strange beasts of every size and shape imaginable.
In the early 1970s, Japanese illustrator Gojin Ishihara did some wonderful artwork for series of children's books entitled, “Illustrated Book of Japanese Monsters” (1972), "Illustrated Book of Hell" (1975), "The Complete Book of Demons" (1974), "Illustrated Book of World Monsters" (1973), and "Mysteries of the World" (1970). These images, which range from the macabre to disturbingly graphic, would have never been deemed suitable for children in the western world.
Ishihara also did work on other various sci fi and fantasy books aimed at young audiences before he made a name for himself in the field of Bara, which is a slang term for homosexual comics and art books made for men.
Here are few examples of Ishihara's eerily beautiful monster and sci fi artwork, along with some background info on the creatures from Wikipedia:
Kappa - Most depictions show kappa as child-sized humanoids, though their bodies are often more like those of monkeys or frogs than human beings. Some descriptions say their faces are apelike, while others show them with beaked visages more like those of tortoises or with duck beaks. Pictures usually show kappa with thick shells and scaly skin that ranges in color from green to yellow or blue
Kappa supposedly inhabit the ponds and rivers of Japan and have various features to aid them in this environment, such as webbed hands and feet. They are sometimes even said to smell like fish, and they can certainly swim like them. The expression kappa-no-kawa-nagare ("a kappa drowning in a river") conveys the idea that even experts make mistakes.
Kappa are usually seen as mischievous troublemakers. Their pranks range from the relatively innocent, such as loudly passing gas or looking up women's kimonos, to the more troublesome, such as stealing crops or kidnapping children. In fact, small children are one of the gluttonous kappa's favorite meals, though they will eat adults as well. They feed on these victims by sucking out their shirikodama (尻子玉?), a mythical ball inside the anus. Even today, signs warning about kappa appear by bodies of water in some Japanese towns and villages. Kappa are also said to be afraid of fire, and some villages hold fireworks festivals each year to scare the spirits away
Jorōgumo (Japanese Kanji: 絡新婦, Hiragana: じょろうぐも) is a type of Yōkai, a creature of Japanese folklore. According to stories, a Jorōgumo is a spider that can change its appearance into that of a seductive woman.
In Japanese Kanji, Jorōgumo is written as "絡新婦" (literally meaning: binding lady) or "女郎蜘蛛" (literally meaning: whore spider). Jorōgumo can also refer to some species of spiders. In casual use, it can refer to spiders of the genera Nephila and Argiope, while among Japanese-speaking entomologists, Jorōgumo is always written in katakana (as ジョロウグモ) and specifically refers to the species, Nephila clavata.
In the Edo period, a beautiful woman enticed a man into a quiet shack and began to play a Biwa. While the man was distracted by the sound of the instrument, she bound him in silk spider threads and ate him.
Tenjō-sagari (ceiling dweller) - The traditional Japanese spirit world is layered, with Yomi on one extreme, and the physical world on the other. In-between is a sort of purgatory, an uncertain and ambiguous waiting area where spirits languish before moving on. Ghosts in this in-between state who are very powerful from love, jealousy, hatred or sorrow can bridge the gap back to the physical plane where they can haunt and wreak havoc on their earthly tormentors
The Ogre of Rashomon - Long, long ago in Kyoto, the people of the city were terrified by accounts of a dreadful ogre, who, it was said, haunted the Gate of Rashomon at twilight and seized whoever passed by. The missing victims were never seen again, so it was whispered that the ogre was a horrible cannibal, who not only killed the unhappy victims but ate them also. Now everybody in the town and neighborhood was in great fear, and no one durst venture out after sunset near the Gate of Rashomon.
A nure-onna (濡女?, lit. "wet woman") is an amphibious creature with the head of a woman and the body of a snake. While the description of her appearance varies slightly from story to story, she has been described as being 300 m in length and has snake-like eyes, long claws, fangs and long, beautiful hair. She is typically spotted on a shore, washing her hair.
A nure-onna's intention are unknown. In some stories, she is a monstrous being who is powerful enough to crush trees with her tail and feeds on humans. She carries with her a small, child-like bundle, which she uses to attract potential victims. If a well-intentioned person offers to hold the baby for her, the nure-onna will let them. If they attempt to discard the bundle, however, it is revealed that it is not a child at all. Instead, the bundle becomes incredibly heavy and prevents the victim from fleeing. She then uses her long, snake-like tongue to suck all the blood from her victim’s body. In other stories, a nure-onna is simply seeking solitude as she washes her hair and reacts violently to those who bother her.
In Japanese mythology, Amatsu-Mikaboshi (ja:天津甕星, "August Star of Heaven"), also called Ame-no-kagaseo(ja:天香香背男, "Brilliant Male"), is the god of evil and of the stars, specifically the pole star.
A monster, that looks kinda like Yog, and the living fungus from "Green Slime", attacks a helpless victem in "Emergency Command" (1972)
The prophecies of Nostradamus come to life in this illustration from "Psychics of the World" 1974)
For more of these great works of art, go to Pink Tenticle.
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