Cristy Burne


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Make your own monster: in Japanese and English

Creating monsters with Japanese students at the Hyogo Centre

Me causing chaos at the Hyogo Centre…the students are inventing some awesome monsters!

I’m just back from a terrific conference with the Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators. It was great!!

I am all inspired and fired up to start work on ideas for a Takeshita Demons book 5 (and I think book 4 is nearly ready to start writing!)

Monster self-introductions

If you’re looking for inspiration for your own writing, or you want a fun activity for teaching Japanese language or creative writing, check out the new Monster Self Introductions activity on my website.

We gave it a try with some Year 9s at the Hyogo Prefectural Government Cultural Centre last week and they came up with some super scary (sometimes hilarious) monsters. Well done guys!!!


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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!


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8 signs that your snail is an ogre: Sazae-oni revealed

The humble sazae snail, before it turns 30

The humble sazae snail (or turban snail), before it morphs into a killer demon (thanks to &_yo)

Ever squashed a snail in the street?

Ever eaten a snail, albeit with French cheese?

Ever filled an icecream container with snails, painted their shells different colours using your new set of textas, then raced them all afternoon?
(OK, so maybe this last one is just me and my sisters, but still…)

Ever wondered what revenge a snail could take?

The awesome yokai researcher and artist, Toriyama Sekien did. This is what he discovered:

The Sazae-oni: it’s demon time!

Sekien's Sazae-oni or Sazae ogre demon

Sekien’s Sazae-oni

Our universe is a marvellous thing, where all kinds of creatures can evolve and prosper. The Sazae-oni (or Sazaeoni) is one of these miracles. Literally the Sazae Ogre, it’s a demon formed when the Sazae turban snail (very tasty when served with mushrooms or soy sauce) turns 30 (or some say 100) years old.

Of course, when 10,000 tonnes of your buddies are punctured with knifes and BBQed evey year, you’re liable to get mad.

Signs to watch for in your snail:

1) Sudden increase in size
If your snail is turning into a yokai, it will grow larger when you’re not looking. Much larger.

2) Unseasonal weather
A sazae-oni loves to fill its gills with water and then spray a fine mist into the air, creating the impression of a foggy day.

3) Amphibian lungs
Did I say gills? A sazae-oni is also equipped with amphibian gills, allowing it to thrive underwater or on land. There is nowhere you’ll be safe.

4) Human hands
Oh yeah. Human hands is probably going to be easier to spot than amphibian lungs. Especially since each palm is lined with giant suckers that allow the snail body to stick to any surface.

5) Constant licking
And not the snail demon licking itself. I mean the snail demon licking you. Its tongue is super-long and sticky and it finds entertainment in stroking passing humans on the face. Like it or not. (Probably not...Did I guess right?)

6) Death (yours)
And again, I don’t mean the snail. If you’re close enough for the snail to lick, chances are you have already been spat on. With giant, sticky globs of paralysing poison, designed to kill you quick. Sorry, but a snail this big has got to eat.

7) Python-like intestines
Now we’re into the ‘Death’ part, I can tell you that the Sazae-oni doesn’t really have teeth. But that doesn’t matter. You’ll most likely be crushed to pieces in coil after coil of its powerful gut. Sqiushed to bits by a boa-constricting bowel. Nice.

8 ) New friends
But it’s not all bad. Sazae-oni like to hang out in mermaid lairs, so when you (inevitably) are excreted, you’ll be floating around with some of the most beautiful babes in the ocean. Except, oh yeah, I forgot to mention…. Japanese mermaids (ningyo or 人魚) aren’t really all that good to look at. Sorry.

Don’t say I didn’t try to warn you!!!

If you want to know what to look out for, check out some awesome sazae-oni artwork.

And  a big THANK YOU to Shigeru Mizugi, master of yokai, for his expertise on and relentless study of sazae-oni. Our safety is in his hands.

takeshitademons_blog-cover 4


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Akaname, lick your heart out: The Filth Licker is here!

Takeshita Demons - The Filth LickerWoo hoo!

Sometimes in this book-making business, I forget that we’re actually making a book.

And then — and it always comes as a surprise, even when I am kind of expecting it —

— a package arrives. Sits at my front door, all cardboard and plastic and customs declarations. I still don’t believe it until I’ve ripped it open and the precious innards are flicking through my hands.

Voila! We actually made a book!

For me this is Book #2, so only the second time I’ve had this enormous pleasure. It’s a pretty serious buzz. And still surreal, even though all along, I’ve known we were aiming to make a book.

And so here it is: Yee ha! The Filth Licker, part two in the Takeshita Demons series…

These books are a sneak peak. For the real thing, you can pre-order online, but you’ll have to wait another couple of weeks for your package to arrive. 🙂 🙂

The akaname emerges - Takeshita Demons The Filth Licker

I keep stroking the Filth Licker...he seems to jump out of the page. (Three cheers for Siku, the awesome artist)

One of Siku's great illustrations - Takeshita Demons The Filth Licker

One of Siku's great illustrations - our heroes run into the tofu kozo demon.

The Filth Licker advance copies

The Filth Licker arrives! Buzz, buzz, buzz


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Japanese yokai memory game: test your memory, learn some Japanese and spook yourself out!

Want to hunt some yokai?

You’ve come to the right place! I’ve posted a new game:

It’s a ‘match-the-pairs’ challenge that uses the artwork of Toriyama Sekien.

Sekien is famous for his early depictions of Japanese monsters, better known as yokai.

HOW TO PLAY

It’s simple!

Use your mouse to click on any of the closed books: when you click, the book will open to reveal one of the yokai Sekien drew.

– If you find a pair, the books will stay open.

– If you don’t find a pair, the books will close and you must guess again.

Yokai-memory-game-Sekien-kyoukotsu

AND THE BEST BIT?

Not only do you get to exercise your brain and have some fun, you also get to learn some more about Japanese demons, practise your hiragana and kanji, and SPOOK YOURSELF OUT!

Enjoy!

(And huge thanks to my lovely and clever husband for making the game: what a champ!! xxx)


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Hiragana word search: Find the yokai demons and practise your Japanese

Want a fun way to practise your hiragana? Try this spooky hiragana wordsearch!

If you’re studying Japanese, then you alredy know that the Japanese language is written using three different alphabets: hiragana, katakana and kanji. Words can also be written in romaji, using the English alphabet.

This word search uses hiragana and features demons from spooky adventure story Takeshita Demons.

Can you find the yokai demons before they find Miku?

Head to the resources section of my website and you can download a PDF of the activity and its answer sheet.


Takeshita Demons hiragana word search: Find the yokai demons

HIRAGANA      KANJI          ENGLISH (ROMAJI)

ようかい                    溶解                Yōkai (demon)

ゆうれい                    幽霊                Yuurei (ghost)

みく                            未来                Miku (our hero!)

かず                           和                    Kazu (Miku’s brother)

たけした                    竹下                Takeshita (Miku’s family name)

かわにし                   川西                Kawanishi (where Miku lived in Japan)

ぬけくび                  抜け首            Nukekubi (cut-throat demon)

ぬれおんな              濡女                Nure-onna (woman of the wet)

さかばしら                逆柱                 Sakabashira (inverted pillar)

ざしきわらし             座敷童             Zashiki-warashi (house ghost)

ゆきおんな               雪女                Yuki-onna (snow woman)

おに                           鬼                    Oni (ogre)


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Selective genetics or ghosts reborn? Legend of the Samurai crabs

Defeated Heike warriors are turned into crabs as they are tossed from their ships. (Paintings by Kuniyoshi)

I’m doing some research for book 4 of the Takeshita Demons series (which I think will be set on the ocean) and I came across this awesome story:

Legend of the Samurai crabs

On April 24, back in 1185, two powerful Samurai clans fought to the death on the Dan no Ura bay of Japan’s Inland Sea.

The ruling clan, the Heike (house of Taira), was led by their child-Emperor, Antoku, and his grandmother.

The Heike had ruled for many decades, but now, massively outnumbered, they faced defeat at the hands of the Genji clan (house of Miyamoto).

This crucial battle was a turning point for Japanese history: the Genji clan’s victory at Dan no Ura marked the beginning of seven centuries in which Japan was ruled by warriors and Shoguns instead of Emperors and aristocrats.

But back to the battle…

For the Heike, surrender wasn’t an option. But when 3000 enemy ships attacked under cover of a storm, they were vastly outnumbered and underprepared.

Knowing a bad deal when she saw one, the Emperor’s guardian and gran took the child’s hand and together they jumped into the ocean, opting for death on their own terms rather whatever gruesome end would be on offer from the enemy.

The remaining Heike warriors, about 1000 ships-worth in all, followed their leader into the ocean or were thrown there by the enemy and left to drown.

Remembering bravery and loss

Now, every April, there is a festival to remember the Heike.

But the festival isn’t the only way these warriors are remembered:

Legend has it that the warriors still walk the ocean floor, albeit sideways.

The story is that when the Emperor jumped, he and his warriors were transformed into crabs, called heikegani, or Heike crabs (Heikea japonica in Latin; 平家蟹 in Kanji). But the transformation was not complete: the shells of these crabs are still marked with grooves and ridges that form the faces of the Samurai warriors.

Samurai crab

Genetics or ghosts?

There are three schools of thought on the Heikegani crab:

1) Artificial selection:
Theory 1 has it that local fishermen weren’t keen on eating the spirit of a brave samurai, so any crab with a shell that looked even vaguely like a samurai’s face was thrown back.

The result? Ordinary crabs were removed from the sea in favour of samurai crabs, and these samurai crabs went on to breed and produce more samurai crabs. Crabs that most resembled a samurai were most likely to live. Check out this explanation by popular scientist Carl Sagan.

2) Muscles and guts
This is the most boring of the arguments. Apparently there are at least a dozen other species of crab around the world that also have human faces on their shells. The theory here is that although the ridges and lines on the crab’s shell might seem to form faces, they are actually positioned to protect muscles and organs underneath the shell, and have nothing to do with samurai warriors.

3) Ghosts!
The crabs are indeed reincarnations of the drowned warriors, and these warriors live, even today, on the sea floor, ruling the depths of the ocean…


Which theory do you think is true?

Other posts you might enjoy:

Could Harry Potter’s Invisibility Cloak really make someone invisible?

How to write a synopsis: four big secrets and an example

8 cool myths about dogs, and why the inugami dog-god didn’t make it

How to keep your New Year Resolution: Papier mache daruma dolls