Hello! It’s been a little while since I last wrote about toys based on Hyakki Yagyo, the Night Parade of a Hundred Demons, but I’ve got a treat for you this time! In the last posting, I mentioned how Kaiyoo released a set of “bottle cap” figures – small figures on a base meant to rest over the top of a soda bottle. Well, it has taken me years (11 by my count), but I’ve managed to cobble together almost a full set!
Bottle cap figures are a thing that exist – Final Fantasy has a ton, too. They’re kind of silly, and you shouldn’t really use them to open a bottle, but hey. There they are. Kaiyodo released these in 2002, based on a lot of the Night Parade artwork. The Yokai represented here are very unique – most of them are Tsukumogami, abandoned objects that gained a life of their own. A few are not, and there are even a couple of figures of human victims! Four of these toys came with associated artbooks Chirizu-Oni, the Onmyouji, Oboroguruma, and Enma. As for the others, I have only ever seen them secondhand, so I do not know. I currently own all except for two – one set of human victims (a mother running with her child), and a pair of Tengu who look gorgeous. If I ever snag those guys, you’ll hear about it here!
Again, I want to remind you of what Tsukumogami are – Japan’s Shinto tradition has its roots in animistic beliefs, and the concept that “everything has a soul” is not weird or strange. Look, you’ve seen Toy Story, right? I thought so. But seriously, that concept is integral to the Japanese mindset – that, and a form of syncretism that can combine things like Shinto, Buddhism, and even certain facets of Christianity. There is a phrase, “Birth ceremony, baptism, funeral” to describe the whole of life – Shinto birth ceremony, Christian Baptism, Buddhist funeral. You relaly have to look at it from an Eastern mindset, and then none of it will seem “weird.” Besides, objects taking on a life of their own isn’t restructed to Japan – just look at the Romanian legends of vampire tools, pumpkins, and watermelons!
The figures in this line aren’t just meant to represent the Night Parade – you’re supposed to display them as such! They are mostly based on a specific painting included with one of the artbooks, though a lot of the figures match the style of a different one. I encourage you to go and look up as many artistic representations of this gaggle of ghosts as you can, because it really is fascinating! And now, on with the toys!
Chirizuka Kaioh is an Oni. Not just any Oni, he’s a huge Oni! He’s a king! Chirizuka Kaioh is king over all the Tsukumogami, and he even leads them in the Night Parade – well, when Nurarihyon isn’t leading the big parade as a whole, that is. As far as what an Oni is, they are somewhere between demon and ogre, and will be more properly-covered in the next Night Parade posting.
Sugawara no Michizane
This figure looks extremely simialr to King Enma/Yama, so much so that I mistook him as such for years! But as it turns out, it is Michizane Sugawara, a real historical person. Sugawara (August 1, 845 – March 26, 903) was a great scholar from the Heian period, who founded schools, wrote some of Japan’s most revered poetry, and was also an excellent politician. Sadly, he ended up on the wrong side of a major power struggle, and was exiled. He died alone. Legend has it that his rage was so great he became a powerful and angry ghost, and a god of disaster, thunder… and learning. Lightning strikes devastated the capital upon his death, and there are shrines worshipping him to this day – the man turned Yokai turned god! This story is actually fairly similar to Raigo/Tesso.
But… there is a happy ending to this story…
Abe no Seimei
Riding on the head of a dragon and with an enchanted marten for a pet, this figure is often listed as a generic “Onmyouji,” but is actually a specific one from history! Onmyouji were the official licensed exorcists of the government, and used talismans, hand gestures, and other forms of magic to fight ghosts and demons and other spirits. Seimei himself was said to be not entirely human, with a Kitsune as a mother.
Seimei Abe was the Onmyodo who fought Michizane Sugawara and calmed his spirit. This is a famous story, and the two are often packaged together – as they were in this case!
Imagine this, if you will… Michizane has died. A great scholar and poet, disgraced and abandoned. From the moment of his death, plagues wracked Kyoto. Floods and storms ravaged the countryside. Lightning will not stop striking the palace. The Imperial court has done everything they could, even up to restoring Michizane’s titles to history. But alas, the demon that has arisen is too powerful, and his hatred too great. And then one lone exorcist stands up to the challenge – Abe no Seimei. The old man faces a demon more powerful than any of his magic – one who has arisen from Oni to Kami, in fact. But he has one weapon he can use:
Abe no Seimei recognizes Sugaware no Michizane’s power and fury, and rather than fighting him as an enemy, he instead offers peace. He builds shrines, he has the people revere this spirit as they ought… and so, Michizane’s fury is calmed, and he can now take his true place among the gods, not the demons.
A truly terrifying spirit, and the largest of the bottle cap figures, Oboroguruma is the ghost of someone who died in a traffic accident. It manifests itself as a haunted cart (carts. Not cars. This thing is pre-automobile) with a massive grinning face, and drives recklessly over secluded country roads. It can also carry other Yokai from place to place.
Hikigaeru and Inugami
These two guys are completely unrelated! Inugami is a dog spirit, and far more dangerous than most other Yokai. They are extremely vicious and dangerous, often murdering or convincing others to commit suicide. This is only fitting, as they come from the brutal sacrifice of an innocent canine.
Hikigaeru is a toad. As a Yokai, it is actually a shapeshifting toad woman who lives in a palace beneath the lake, and seduces men to drink her blood. There is a western horror movie/part of an anthology very similar to this.
Fun factoid: Hikigaeru was sculpted specifically to fit in with Oboroguruma by drawing the cart. See how awesomely they line up? I was able to temporarily pop Inugami off, though it does work with him on, as well.
I have talked about him before. I have brought up the two other Yokai who are almost identical. So I will simply say this: “The Pot-Head Monk” does not mean what you think it means.
A tsunodarai is a shallow lacquer bowl for hand and face-washing. So, what happens if you don’t use yours enough? If you neglect to wash your hands, the bowl will turn into a woman and leave you.
Although the figure is listed as “Youkyou,” it is very clearly Ungaikyo… or maybe they are just names for the same thing. Ungaikyo is a mirror youkai, which has the power to reflect many things – visions of the future, evil lies about the past, or even just a goofy face! That last one startles people.
Doesn’t Mehitotsu-Bozu look like AoBozu? That’s because he is Aobozu! Or maybe he isn’t. It depends on where you look, really. Sometimes he is, sometimes he isn’t. This is what happens with oral traditions.
I am about 99% certain that Mehitotsu-Bozu (“The one-eyed monk”) is the same as Aobozu (“the blue/green monk”), although there are a lot of one-eyed Yokai, including more than a few in clerical garb. Stories about this fellow seem to line up well with Aobozu, and actually include a few more – along with potentially stealing children, he is also likely to challenge travelers to a sumo match, and prove far stronger than his size would suggest.
Meet the Gotokuneko! Some call it the Cat of Five Virtues, but that’s a mistranslation – it is the Trivet Cat. Gotokuneko is very similar to Gotokuyashi, in that both are three-eyed furry creatures with a trivet on their head. And now I must explain this to people who don’t know their way around a kitchen – a trivet is a piece of metal framework used to suspend a heated pot or pan or plate. This figure is wearing one like a circlet.
Gotokuneko is a type of Nekomata – cat-demon. Note how it even has twin tails like most Nekomata. But whereas most Nekomata eat people, steal souls, or raise zombies, Gotokuneko is content to blow fire through his bamboo pipe to lightly stoke fireplace flames that have gone out. He likes the fire, but he is peaceful about it and pretty helpful when he sees a dead fire and a cold home. Cat of Five Virtues or not, Gotokuneko is really nice to have around!
Sho-Oni is a Tsukumogami who is technically an Oni who looks like a Tengu who kind of resembles a flying monkey. He has a Tengu’s long-nosed face, an obvious winged monkey body, and is considered an Oni. But what object is he?
What do you think? Is he a living shakujo staff? Or a special tengu? Or an Oni with wings?
ANSWER: He is a whistle.
Just look at his hat – that is a Sho, a bamboo whistle. And now you know!
Bakezori and Umatokage
Meet Straw and Stick! It’s the nickname for these two guys.
Straw is a Bakezori, but not usual for one of those. Bakezori is actually a really famous Tsukumogami, a straw sandal that has come to life. Most bakezori look just like a sandal that has sprouted tiny limbs, an eye, and a mouth. This guy clearly has his whole body. But he needs it, since he’s riding Umatokage!
As for Stick, Umatokage literally means “Lizard Horse,” but this ain’t no lizard. See how it’s only half a horse, though? That’s because it is a stick horse! You know what I mean – a stick with a stuffed horsey head. Sure, Umatokage has more to his body than most stick horses, but what’s wrong with him having more of a body? And yes, he does have that stick. This whole thing is a living sandal riding a stick horse.
Ooari and Taika
I love these guys. Nobody knows what they are. Really. But they show up all over Yokai artwork – in just about every single painting or mural or scroll out there, you can find the black ant monster swinging his hammer at blobby. Or a bird. Ant or bird. Something. Hammer guy’s most common name is Ooari, but I have also seen him called Daichi-Da and Dairi. Blobby is often labeled as Taika. Except for the times when it is called Gozan. One theory is that they are black and red ants. Another is that they appear when a grave site is desecrated. Another is that they just run around bullying each other and there is no rhyme or reason. That last one is the most common theory – that they are essentially a running gag or meme. Centuries before Lolcats, we had… Ooari.
Asagutsu and Kutsusura
This is why you lose your shoes. One becomes a porcupine – Asagutsu – and the other becomes a little man who rides it – Kutsusura. Some sources list Kutsusura as a hat rather than a shoe, and this figure certainly looks like it… but there is just something totally appropriate with letting them both be shoes. In Japan, you lost your shoes because they turned into a porcupine.
More shoes! Seriously. This is another shoe spirit, specifically of kutsu – fancy-schmancy rich person shoes. Those little green things tied to his head are kutsu, which means that this entire ghost, banner included, is about a tiny piece of footwear. That banner looks awesome, though. In Japan, you lost your shoes because they turned into a flag-waving demon.
Alas, he is broken. That isn’t a stick – it SHOULD be a big spear. A pike, in fact. Hoko Kotsugi means, “The Pikemen.” He is a pikeman. A pike-wielding spirit. The spirit of a pike. And sadly, his blade on a stick is broken. Well, at least he looks like a cool Oni anyway. Alas!
Gekima’s name – Geki Ma – is two pretty simple words in Japanese: Spear Demon. The fact that he is a googly-eyed fuzzmuppet has little bearing against the fact that he is a spear. Actually, the fuzz makes sense – Gekima is the red tassle on the end of a Chinese spear, so he matches the theme. But because that spear has gone unused, Gekima comes to life and runs off with it.
The humble rake should never be underestimated. As a tool of agriculture, it is unparalleled. A a weapon, it is also pretty useful – just look at that pig from Journey to the West as an example. Kumade is a living rake – yeah, just like Gekima or Hoko Kotsugi, this mig demon monster is really the tool he holds. His rake happens to have three prongs, so it’s more clearly a weapon, but it is what he is – and this horselike demon has shown up in more than one painting, too, so it is established that a rake spirit has this kind of body. A tiger horse with horns.
Hossu and Chestburster
A hossu is a type of fly swatter, owned and wielded by Buddhist priests – it is a small rod tipped with a bundle of horse hair, which can non-lethally shoo off flies. As you can see, this dancing guy’s head is a hossu. He looks lively, doesn’t he?
Now, that little wormy thing below him? It’s a chestburster. From Alien. Sort of. See, there’s this really famous epic horror novel, Teito Monogatari – you may be familar with an anime adaptation titled Doomed Megalopolis. One of the demons wielded by the main villain is a hideous worm that can possess its host. But… BUT… that worm is a chestburster, and patterned a lot after the monster in Alien. And it is thus an official Yokai. Try to take a Japanese mindset again. Why should there be a statute of limitations on ghosts? Why couldn’t a spirit take the form of something modern? What’s so crazy about that? And now it makes sense.
That’s right. He is a spoon. That weird thing sprouting from his neck is actually a spoon that his head rests on – and this Oni’s body apparently grew around it. Peraps this is what was meant when the dish ran away with the spoon…
Nuribotoke and Torikabuto
These next two? Two different Yokai – two unrelated Yokai! And one of them is quite horrifying.
Nuribotoke is essentially a zombie. It looks like a Buddha, only either pale or blackened, swollen and distended, with eyes that dangle loosely from their sockets! It tends to appear around desecrated holy sites, and will mislead the faithful.
Torikabuto, on the other hand, is a hat. Tori – bird. Kabuto – hat. This specific hat resembles the Aconite flower, and is used in festivals and other ceremonies. So of course, it turns into a bird. A bird!
Waniguchi and Mokugyo
These two might seem unrelated, but they do follow a theme! Crazy, huh? Waniguchi is the main one – the scaly alligator with a gong for a head. Of course it’s a pun – everything is a pun. A Waniguchi is a specific kind of gong or hanging bell found in Buddhist temples, but “Wani” also means alligator. Raar, it’s gonna eat you!
That little red guy is a Mokugyo, also known as a Wooden Fish. I know, I know, it looks nothing like a fish – but all wooden fish are like that. A Wooden Fish is a type of drum…bell…bell-drum made of wood that an be found in Japanese Buddhist temples. originally they were shaped like fish, and you can often find one of those adorning a temple’s door, but the modern round design evolved thanks to the distinct sound it makes when struck.
Biwa-BokuBoku and Kotofurunishi
The biwa and the koto are two of Japan’s most famous musical instruments, with the biwa being a lute and th koto being a floor harp. When a family owns one of these but never plays it, the instrument just might come to life and wander, forever playing the tunes it most loves. As you can see, the Biwa has gained his own body as Biwa-BokuBou, altough Koto-Furunishi looks more like a doggy.
My grandmother owned a piano that nobody had played in about thirty or forty years, had not been tuned in at least that amount of time, and had survived a fire. Some keys did not play, others played the wrong note (or two notes), and it sounded less like a piano and more like something John Cage would have loved. Based on Japan’s rules, that piano should have left.
Japan has a few ideas for what happens when a pair of cymbals come to life. One ghost levitates them and has them fly through the sky, fooling people into thinking that they are UFOs. Dobyoushi is a different matter. He’s a gremlin who wears his cymbals, and… I have no idea what is written on that scroll. I hate to say it, but it probably isn’t important – although I suspect he is stealing sacred writings from a temple and fleeing with them! Dobyoushi can be a jerk sometimes.
The fact that Yaotome is a crane really doesn’t matter. Actually, she’s a temple maiden! Yaotome will come out and dance during festivals and processions, ringing her bell and waving her staff. Do you want to be the one to tell her she doesn’t belong?
It’s my biggest fan! Actually, no, he’s pretty standard-size for a fan. Furuogi is the kind of piggish creature that forms when a fan comes to life. Yes, your fan will turn into a boar if you let it sit unused. Well, it’s better than your handwashing bowl becoming a woman, I guess. This way it just rampages instead of leaving you forever.
Mostly famous for its appearance in YuGiOh, Hinotama is a type of Yurei – spirit ghost – that resembles a ghostly fireball or a falling star. This one is pretty cyclopean, and seems to have taken down a soldier.
Yes, really. This is just a dude who is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Run, dude, run! I like the detail, especially the food he’s dropping.
Interestingly, there is one other human victim in this set – a mother carrying her child as she runs – which I do not own.
And that’s it! Aside from the two I am missing, this is the whole set! I am not done with Yokai yet, not by a long shot – there is at least one more gigantic post left to do – so keep your eyes out, and wait for the next installment of The Night Parade of a Hundred Demons!
I want to thank the multitude of people who have helped with translation and research (read: folks who know Japanese and dug up the names), because this couldn’t happen without them.