supernatural stories


     

       Well, I would like to wish a happy Tanabata day to all  the people of Japanese and Chinese descent, and lovers of Asian  culture. The Tanabata festival is also know as the Star Lovers festival, the Star Weaver festival, or the Star festival. This Japanese festival owes it’s roots to the Chinese legend of the meeting of the stars Vega and Altair, and this festival is celebrated on the 7th day of the 7th month, this day can vary according to which calendar (lunar or Gregorian) the city, town or village follows.

       The Tanabata festival has always been one of my favorite Asian festivals, I once had the pleasure of actually being in Japan for the Tanabata festival in 1987, and what an enjoyable sight it was, I only wished that at the time I was more interested in taking some pictures rather than chasing some tail, oh well, to be young again.

      There are many versions of the Tanabata legend and below I will write a small summary of my favorite version of the story.

    

      The god of Firmament who lived in the High Plain of Heaven had a very beautiful daughter named Tanabata, and it was her duty to spend her time weaving garments for her father. One day while at her loom she spied a handsome lad named Hikoboshi leading an ox, and she at once fell in love with the lad. Her father knowing his daughter’s thoughts immediately consented to her marriage.

      But, they loved well but not wisely, Tanabata neglected her weaving duties to her father, and Hikoboshi let is oxen wander unattended across the High Plain of Heaven, greatly angering the God of Firmament. He commanded that the lover be separated from one another by the Celestial River.

      The separated lovers’ grief was so great that soon the God of Firmament consented to allow the lovers to meet one night a year to sooth their loneliness. So on the seventh night of the seventh month the lovers come to the banks of the Celestial River and wait for a company of Magpies to form a bridge so the lover can finally be together. It is said that if the weather is good and the Star Lovers meet that one can look up into the night sky and see the stars Vega (Tanabata) and Altair (Hikoboshi) shine with the colors blue, green, red, yellow, and white.

      Now this only happens if the weather is good, if there is rain then the Celestial River might become too wide for even the Magpies to span, and then the weary lovers will have to wait another year to meet. In times past, young children would sing “oh, weather, be clear” before the Weaving festival.

      Now, Tanabata is celebrated by people placing fresh cut bamboos on the roofs of their houses or placing them in the ground next to their houses. They attach strips of colored paper containing poems or praises to the lovers to the bamboos, these strips of paper also contain wishes for good crop harvests, good grades, good health, good wealth, and even romance.

      On the night of Tanabata, Japanese people can go out in casual clothing or in more traditional clothing such as Yukatas. While each town celebrates the festival differently, the most common events are goldfish scooping, karaoke singing, sumo contests, food booths, fireworks, and boat rides if near water.

Below are some anime related pictures.

Several years ago a friend of mine wanted me to give a little presentation on Japanese ghosts stories on so forth, right before Halloween, at our local anime club. So I delivered a thirty minute presentation featuring supernatural stories and picture slides showing how a lot of anime feature ghosts, demons, and the supernatural that originate from real Japanese folklore, and mythology. So in the coming months I’ll feature and review several books covering Japanese folklore, mythology, and other historic topics that anime fans might find interesting.. The first book I’ll review is Japanese Ghosts & Demons, Edited by Stephen  Addiss,  (c) 1985, ISBN 8-80761126-3 Price $29.95.

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This book is 192 pages long, and contains around 100 pictures and illustrations of Japanese ghosts, demons, and other supernatural things. The book has a great introduction by Akira Yamamoto about the history of supernatural Japanese myths and legends and how these beliefs show up in artwork and stories.

Chapter one covers the Hyakki yako (night parade of one hundred demons) very popular during the Heian period, and how various versions still live on to this very day.

Chapter two is about Yurei (female ghost stories), this chapter cover several famous female ghost stories, most of these tales are about wronged females returning from the grave to take revenge on those whom wronged them.

Chapter three is about the portrayal of the male ghost on the kabuki stage, and in the Ukiyo-e art-form (woodblock prints, called pictures of the floating world). This chapter coves how the supernatural was portrayed on the kabuki stage and how these portrayals influenced the Ukiyo-e art-form.

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Chapter four is about the Sennin, the immortals of Taoism. Belief in the Sennin started in China between 480-221 B.C. These Taoist ideas then mixed with Confucianism and Buddhist beliefs and were then brought to Japan as Buddhism came over from China. One anime featuring several Sennin characters in it’s story is the Twelve Kingdoms.

Chapter five is about Shoki the demon hunter. Shoki was legendary Chinese demon queller who aided the Emperor Kao-tsu by saving him from a demon, and he then told the Emperor it was his mission to rid the world of demons. This idea spread from China to Japan to become the basis for many demon hunter story lines.

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Chapter six covers the Oni (the Japanese demon), every anime fan has seen numerous anime featuring the Oni. The Oni can be good but are most often portrayed as evil, they can travel easily between the human world and land of the dead, and unlucky people attract them more often than lucky people.

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Chapter 7-9 covers Japanese Tengu (mountain goblins), Tanuki (raccoon-like dog), Kitsune (fox), snakes, serpents, and how these creatures fill Japanese folk tales and scary stories. We’ve all seen many anime featuring these supernatural creatures, and in these anime the creatures show many of the powers they had  in the old folk tales. In the anime Inu Yasha Shippo often transforms into a female when he needs to trick someone or play a joke on someone, well Japanese folk tales have many stories of the Kitsune transforming into females to trick, seduce, or even reward human males.

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The last chapter is about the merging of the human and animal world where it is shown that in many cases humans describe their behavior to animals, drawing them or portraying them as having human gestures or behaviors, and vice versa. In conclusion this book can be a great help to any fan of Japanese culture, or any anime fan who would like to have a better understanding of the supernatural.