Cristy Burne


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Fight demons, learn about luck and choose a charm: Japanese demons webquest

Japan’s demons or yōkai are different from any you’ve known. Some yōkai like to shake beans. Others drink oil, or eat cucumbers, or ride your nightmares into the night..

Most of them would like to eat you.

If you want to stay safe, you’ll need to know more about how to attract good luck in Japan.

Step 1:  Choose your lucky symbol.
Are you a…

– Cat lover?
– Dog fanatic?
– Doll collector?
– Bird watcher?
– Lion tamer?
– Ghost buster?

Your mission:
1) Research one of Japan’s lucky charms and report your findings to
the class.
2) Decide which lucky charm your class will adopt. And remember, the
wrong decision could be fatal…

Download the Takeshita Demons webquest here.


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Before Ben 10, there was 弁天, and she’s actually a woman

Some of you might think Benten is a ten-year-old boy with an awesome watch and a habit of turning into alien creatures. Well, you’re half correct.

Why only half?

Because you’re missing out on the original Benten (弁天):

For a start, Benten isn’t a boy, she’s a woman. And she’s around 1500 years old, not 10. And she doesn’t turn into aliens because she’s already a god and often has eight arms, plus she’s good friends with dragons and enormous snakes.

So Ben 10, eat your heart out. Benten is awesome!

Seven Lucky Gods

The fabulous Matthew Meyer portrays the seven lucky gods (see Benten in the middle)

Before Ben 10, there was 弁天

Benten is one of the seven Japanese gods of good luck, and she’s the only female representative on the team.

She’s hugely popular in Japan: she’s the goddess of water and oceans, she protects against disaster, and she’s associated with artistic learning and wisdom and general prosperity. So she’s quite the god to have on your side.

Especially when you consider the dragons.

Benten is also called Benzaiten, though when she first came to Japan from India, she was called Sarasvatī.

She likes to play the biwa (Japanese mandolin), so she’s easy to spot in paintings and sculptures, although when she appears with eight arms, she ditches the biwa and instead carries a bow, arrow, sword, ax, spear, long pestle, iron wheel, and silk rope.

So again: don’t mess with this lady! She’s absolutely my kind of goddess.


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The meaning (and luck) of Miku Takeshita’s name

I’m neck-deep in Monster Matsuri after a FABULOUS Children’s Book Week (hello to everyone I met: thanks for being such great audiences!).

So…a short but sweet post on the meaning of Miku’s name (which, incidentally, was originally Aiko, or “love child”…)

Miku can be written using several different kanji:

美空 – Beautiful sky

美久 – Beautiful long-time

未来 – Future

美紅 – Beautiful bright-red

But which did I choose?
Well, the kanji you choose when naming a child can be used to direct the fortunes of that child, so it’s good to choose names that can be written using a lucky number of strokes. For example, the number 4 in Japanese can be pronounced ‘shi’, which also means ‘death’, so 4 is an unlucky number in Japanese (like 13 in Western cultures).

Luckily, none of the kanji combinations for Miku require 4 strokes.

However, it’s not as simple as that. There are all sorts of ways the different strokes can be combined. I’m no expert, but I wanted to do my best to give Miku a lucky name. This was my process:

– Count the sum of the kanji strokes in her last name only
For Miku, this is Takeshita (竹下), which requires 9 strokes to write. This is not a particularly auspicious number, but life-long luck is not determined by this number alone. Your total fortune can be influenced by the strokes in the rest of your name.

– Count the sum of the kanji strokes in her first name only
This could be 12 (美久 or 未来), 17 (美空) or 18 (美紅). Fortunately for Miku, 17 and 18 are relatively lucky. Since this value influences Miku’s fortune in early life, I guess she doesn’t really need to have a lucky number here. Let’s face it, if your teacher is a nukekubi demon and your brother has been kidnapped, you’re not really off to an auspicious start.

– Count the sum of the kanji strokes in her first name and last name
This could be 21(竹下美久 or 竹下未来), 26(竹下美空) or 27(竹下美紅). Here 21 is a lucky number, which bodes well for Miku’s personal relationships.

– Count the sum of the kanji strokes in the last character of her family name and the first character of her first name
This is probably the most important number, and for Miku could be 12 (下美) or  8 (下未). Since 8 is a lucky number, and since the core of Miku’s fortune comes from this combination of characters, that left me with just one option:

竹下未来

However, even then there are some things to double check:

1) Are all the stroke counts for 竹下未来 either odd or even (= bad luck)
No! YAY!

2) Is the stroke count for her first name (未来) the same as for her last name (竹下) (= bad luck)
No! YAY!

3) Is the stroke count of any of her individual kanjis the same? (= bad luck)
No! YAY!

4) Is there some way Miku could write her name to give it her own special zing?
Yes! YAY!

And so that was it: Takeshita Miku is written 竹下未来 and means “Under-the-bamboo Future”. Which is a perfect name for Miku, since she carries so much hope for her family, and since her future is intertwined with the future of the world as we know it.

Good luck Miku!