Cristy Burne

Author, editor, science writer


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8 body parts you will want for your own: Super Cool Japanese demon anatomy

Want some super-human anatomy?

Super-strength and super-speed are so passé. What you need are some Super Cool bits of Japanese demon anatomy.

Check these out:

1)     SKIN: Ushi oni (Cow demon)
牛鬼 (
うしおに)

A nasty yokai who loves sinking ships and eating fishermen, the ushi-oni (also known as gyuuki) lives in the ocean.

He has many awesome body parts: claws like elephant tusks, muscles that never get tired, eyes that can see for miles…

But his Super Cool feature is his skin: when he’s swimming, his skin stretches out to form individual fins and flaps that help him to shoot through the water at top speed.

2)     STOMACH: Umi nyōbō (Wife of the sea)
海女房(うみにょうぼう)

A dedicated wife, the umi nyubou spends much of her time preparing pickled fish (for her children to eat) or gathering sea snake venom (to protect her family from attack by humans).

She has a Super Cool digestive system, with three stomachs: one for her, one for her husband, and one for her children.

She uses the stomachs like cupboards, storing different food for different people. How convenient!

3)     NOSE: Sagari (Hanging horse-head)
下がり (
さがり)

Horse heads that hang upside-down like bats, sagari are said to be the ghosts of horses that died near trees.

They eat human blood, and can sense human auras using their Super Cool nose hairs.

These moustache-like tentacles can move independently and have also been known to shoot electricity like lightning.

4)     TAIL: Nobusuma (Flying squirrel)
野衾
(
のぶすま)

A fire-breathing, clairvoyant squirrel, the nobusuma has sharp black teeth and spiky claws.

Able to fly, although it has no wings, the nobusuma can blow its body up like a helium balloon, but the power for lift-off comes from his Super Cool tail.

By slamming his tail onto the ground, the nobusuma can launch his body into the air. Newton’s Third Law of Motion in action!

5)     FINGERNAILS: Kokuri-babā (Hag of the Old Priest’s Quarters)
古庫裏婆
(こくりばばあ)

The kokuri-babā lives alone in an old temple and wears a white kimono made of hair.

She may look like a frail, old woman, but when she’s hungry, her Super Cool fingernails become as strong as pickaxes, allowing her to rip into old graves to find dead things to eat.

6)     TEETH: Gangi kozō (Zig-zag boy)
岸涯小僧 (
がんぎこぞう)

Zig-zag boy is an amphibian yokai who lives in rivers, surviving on raw fish. He has no friends and no family, but he does have one redeeming feature: his Super Cool teeth.

Incredibly pointy and stronger than steel, Zig-zag boy’s teeth allow him to rip into raw fish, tearing them apart. If he loses a tooth, another will grow back right where he needs it.

7)     LUNGS: Dorotabou (Rice paddy zombie)
泥田坊 (
どろたぼう)

The tortured ghost of a farmer who lost his land, the dorotabou rises from the mud to haunt his old fields.

Surviving on leaves, leeches and frogs, this mud-dwelling yokai has Super Cool lungs that allow him to breathe even when submerged in mud.

8)     EARS: Suiko (Water tiger)
水虎(すいこ)

A blood-sucking kappa with the fangs, claws and power of a tiger, the suiko lives in fast flowing rivers. He is an accomplished killer, but also has a softer side: the suiko likes to sunbathe, and he likes to chat.

His Super Cool ear is divided into three parts, allowing him to understand Bird Talk, Fish Talk and Human Talk as well as his native Yokai Talk.

Thanks to manga and yokai legend Shigeru Mizuki and his awesome reference Yōkai Daizukai for the inspiration.


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There’s a tanuki in the classroom! Japanese language learning and yokai demons

Shingo the tanuki and the money tree

The Hyogo Centre’s Melissa Luyke with professional actor Shingo Usami in disguise as a tanuki.

Creative language teaching ideas

Today I was at the Hyogo Prefectural Cultural Government Centre as part of a series of workshops organised by Ms Yuko Fujimitsu, Japanese Language Advisor for the Department of Education as part of the National Asian Languages and Studies in Schools Program (NALSSP).

We worked with Year 9 students from three schools (including my own school, Leeming Senior High School!) and spent the entire day in a Japanese environment…

…speaking Japanese, eating Japanese, thinking about Japanese geography and culture.

Yokai wall of fame

Yokai wall of fame

And that’s where I was lucky enough to come in, because a big part of Japan’s culture is its mythology, history and folklore, showcased very nicely in some of Japan’s ghost stories and yokai tales.

Language learning through art, literature and drama

There was a big emphasis on new or different teaching techniques and ideas for introducing ordinary grammar into the classroom.

The day’s activities included:

Tanuki Shingo Usami and presenter Cristy Burne compare bellies

Tanukis love to use their large bellies as drums. I’m using mine to grow a baby, but still, Tanuki Shingo’s belly is bigger!

– watching GeGeGe no Kitaro (perhaps the most famous yokai in the world) fight the awesome gyuuki (or ushi-oni).

– folding and pinning origami leaves onto a money tree (for donation to the Pray for Japan cause),

– language learning through drama (led by actor Shingo Usami), art (using the Art Speaks Japanese language resource kit put out by the Japan Foundation Sydney), and literature (me and some of the Takeshita Demons)

– Japanese story-telling and song-singing

– Lots of practise in listening and speaking Japanese, especially when it came to lunchtime (no polite request for a bento box lunch in Japanese = no bento box lunch!)

It was a great day and we have more schools coming tomorrow…

がんばりまーす!