Asian Monsters : Yukimi Ogawa

Our folklore monsters, yokai, are the way through which our ancestors tried to explain the aspects of the universe, otherwise unexplained at the time: mostly fear for the unknown. It’s dark, you want to reach the comfort of your home as soon as you can, but you find yourself unable to keep walking–if you feel something is trying to trip you, it might be a monster called sunekosuri, calf-rubber; if you feel as though something large is blocking your path, it might be nurikabe, the wall monster. 

sekienkokuri-baba

Image from _Konjaku Hyakki Shuui_. by Kokuri Babaa

Ghosts are categorized as yokai, too. People probably tried to explain *what happens* once you’re dead, by creating ghosts. Or perhaps tried to reconcile themselves with the fear for death, by imagining that something goes on after death of their body, even as monster.

Now, the main character of my story “Kokuri’s Palace,” Crone Kokuri (kuri means the temple’s kitchen, ko- is a prefix meaning old), I think, falls in this “explaining the unexplained” category, too. In our folklore she is an old woman living in an old temple. She strips corpses of their skins, eats the flesh, weaves stuff with the corpses’ hair. This is, I think, how people tried to see where corpses go after they are buried. By making her find the use for hair, they even explained how the hair lasted longer than the flesh, and what became of it.

The part about Kokuri wearing the corpses’ skin is entirely my creation. She is always depicted as a horrifying, grotesque kind of a monster, and I wanted to imagine her finding entertainment, even in her solitude. And I hope she wouldn’t mind my tampering with her nature–after I die, I’ll be burned down to bones, and will have nothing I can offer her.

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