Big Sale on Yurei: The Japanese Ghost !!!

Yurei_Japanese_Ghost_Cover

So, I promise not to turn this into a big advertisement for my works, but this current sale on Amazon is too amazing not to pass on to interested readers of Japanese folklore.

As I write this, Yurei: The Japanese Ghost is 52% off on Amazon.com. I can’t guarantee how long that discount will remain in place–this is all Amazon’s doing, not mine! But it’s a great chance for anyone interested in my book to get it at a super price!

Here’s the link:

Yurei: The Japanese Ghost

Zack Davisson Yurei Japanese Ghost Interior

The Secret Biwa Music That Caused the Yurei to Lament

And if you are interested in any stocking stuffers, my publisher Chin Music Press has my translation of the Miminashi Hoichi (Earless Hoichi) story for sale for $5.

Miminashi Hoichi Zack Davisson Tony Harris

The Secret Biwa Music That Caused the Yurei to Lament

Thanks! I do this site for free, and while I love it I really appreciate anyone supporting me and this site by buying some of my books and translations!!! Thanks for your support!!!

Shigeru Mizuki’s The Dunwich Horror

Shigeru_Mizuki_Chitei_no_Ashioto

Sourced from Japanese Wikipedia and this article

It should come as no surprise that Shigeru Mizuki is well versed in world horror and weird fiction. Beneath his beneficent smile and charming penchant for cheap hamburgers lies the brain of one of the world’s great expects on mythology, folklore, and the weird world of monsters. His love for Western horror comics has been demonstrated (See Mizuki Shigeru and American Horror Comics), and adaptations of classic horror tales pop up all over his work; either shoehorned into his famous comic Gegege no Kitaro or as straight adaptations in their own right.

Mizuki owned the book series Sekai Kyofu Shosetsu Zenshu (世界恐怖小説全集; The Complete Collected Short Fiction of World Horror Stories) which formed much of his education on world horror and weird fiction. The multi-volume series collected horror classics from all over the world, including French and Russian literature as well as American pulp fiction. Mizuki became acquainted with H.P. Lovecraft through this series. He first read the story Dunwich no Kai (ダンウィッチの怪; The Dunwich Mystery) in volume 5, which collected tales of kaiju (怪物; monsters).

Sekai_Kyofu_Shosetsu_Zenshu

The tale stuck with Mizuki, and in 1962, he adapted it for the rental manga market, in a 300+ page comic published by Bunhana Bookshop. Mizuki retitled the story Chitei no Ashioto (地底の足音; Footsteps from the Depths of the Earth). It is a more-or-less straight adaptation, although Mizuki made a few alterations, presumably to make it easier for a Japanese audience.

He reset the story in Japan, and made the characters Japanese. the rural town of Dunwich became the mountain village of Hatsume; Wilbur Whateley is Adachi Hibisuke, and runs around in a kimono to hide his misshapen body; Professor Henry Armitage of the famed Miskatonic University is instead Professor Aoyama from Toritaka University. The Necronomicon became “The cursed Shiro Kaiki (死霊回帰; Book for Calling Back the Dead), written 800 years ago by the mad Arab Galapagos!”

Shigeru_Mizuki_Dunwich_Horror_Wilbur

Perhaps the strangest change of all, however, is that Adachi Hibisuke’s otherworldly father is no longer the dread Yog-Sothoth, but is instead the monstrous—Yokai Yogurt!

Shigeru_Mizuki_Dunwich_Horror_Monster

Along with Lovecraft, Shigeru Mizuki adapted many other classics of world horror and weird fiction. His works include versions of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Narrative of the Ghost of a Hand, HG Wells’ The Crystal Egg, Richard Matheson’s Blood Son, F. Marion Crawford’s The Screaming Skull, and Arthur Machen’s The Novel of the White Powder. All these treasures lie hidden in musty old bookstores in Japan, just waiting for someone to discover them.

Translator’s Note:

My first post in a loooooong time! If you keep up with me on Facebook and Twitter, you know that I have been supremely busy lately and haven’t had time to make new posts for Hyakumonogatari. But I got talking to some people about Mizuki’s adaptation of The Dunwich Horror and figured I could squeeze in a post!

As for what’s been keeping me busy—well, hopefully you all know that my book Yurei: The Japanese Ghost is coming out in a couple of months. I have been working to make the final edits and get the book design perfect, as well as attending various conventions in support of the launch. If you haven’t already pre-ordered it, PLEASE do so! I need as many preorders as I can get to show booksellers that there is an audience for this kind of work.

I also have the next volume of Mizuki Shigeru’s “Showa” series coming out, Showa 1939-1944: A History of Japan (Showa: a History of Japan) (a book which you would also PLEASE preorder!). The first volume in the series was nominated for an Eisner Award for this year, which is a VERY BIG DEAL! If you aren’t familiar with them, the Eisner Awards are kind of like the Oscars for the comic book world. Even getting nominated is very exciting.

And finally, as was announced at Sakura Con this year, I am translating Satoshi Kon’s manga for Dark Horse Comics. This is very exciting, as I am a huge fan of Kon’s work! Look for announcements on those comics coming soon!

Oh! And if you are interested in reading Mizuki’s Chitei no Ashioto, it was recently re-released as part of the Mizuki Shigeru Complete Collection. You can buy it off Amazon.co.jp, but its in Japanese only; for the time being, at any rate! Fingers crossed!

Yūrei: The Japanese Ghost

yurei-amazon-cover

I am proud to announce that my book Yūrei: The Japanese Ghost is finally available for preorder! This book is the culmination of more than eight years of research, including work done for my MA thesis for the University of Sheffield. It is a deep dive into the history, folklore, religion, and culture behind Japanese ghosts—yūrei.

Windy_Japanese_Ghost

In other words, if you have ever wondered about the pale girl in the white kimono with the long black hair, dripping water—this will give you all the answers.

Click to preorder Yurei: The Japanese Ghost

What’s it about?

Unsurprisingly, Yūrei: The Japanese Ghost is about everything to do with yūrei. The book begins with Maruyama Ōkyo and his famous painting, The Ghost of Oyuki. Then we dive into the Edo period kaidan boom that set the stage for Ōkyo’s painting, and examine the influence of kabuki on yūrei and why they look the way they do. Next Lafcadio Hearn takes the stage with his Rule of the Dead, and we take a tour of the Japanese afterlife and the World Over There. We learn why Heian period Japanese aristocrats worried so much about their final thought, and hired zenchishiki to mid-wife them to death. Next we meet the San O-Yūrei—the Three Great Yūrei of Japan; Oiwa, Otsuyu, and Okiku. Then it is Obon, Japan’s festival of the dead, and finally we meet the warrior ghosts of Japan in noh theater and hear some Tales of Moonlight and Rain.

Yurei_Chapter_List

I modeled the book after Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, telling the stories of the people and history behind the various yūrei legends as well as the yūrei themselves. We will meet the painter Maruyama Ōkyo, the kabuki playwright Tsuruya Nanboku IV, the Confucian scholar Hayashi Razan who invented the word kaidan, and the Buddhist priest Asai Ryōi who wrote one of the most famous Japanese ghost stories of all time, Botan Dōrō, called The Tale of the Peony Lantern. The book intertwines these stories with the story of the yūrei, showing how the concepts developed over time and how Japan changed to encompass new beliefs in the supernatural.

Are there Japanese ghost stories in Yūrei: The Japanese Ghost?

Of course! Although that is not the main focus. I like to say it is a book about Japanese ghost stories not a book of Japanese ghost stories. So this is far more than just a collection of tales. But you will get lots of my translations in here.

Ghost_of_Oyuki_Closeup

Are there pictures in Yūrei: The Japanese Ghost?

Absolutely! We are still working on the details for this, but I plan to pack the book with as many yūrei-e as I can!

Japanese_Ghost_Closeup

Will the book look cool?

Oh yes! The book itself is going to be amazing. My publisher, Chin Music Press, specializes in making cool physical books. They believe the best way to compete in the modern digital market is the make the physical book stand on its own as a piece of book art. Clothbound with an embossed cover— Yūrei: The Japanese Ghost is going to look tremendous on your book shelf.

Yurei_Galley_Copies

 

Please Preorder!!!

Yurei Amazon Cover

And now my pitch! If you are planning to buy my book at all I encourage you to preorder it. You’ll never have a better price on the book than right now, and you will have time to save  before you actually have to pay! Plus you will be doing me a huge favor.

In the modern publishing world, preorders are king. The amount of preorders indicates interest to publishers and retailers. Retailers use preorder numbers to determine how much they will order and market the book. The publisher uses retailer orders to determine how large the print run will be.

This is especially true of a first-time author such as myself. I’ve been translating and writing for free here on hyakumonogatari.com for more than six years. If you have been enjoying reading the site I would appreciate your support for my book! And I know you will love it!

Click to preorder Yurei: The Japanese Ghost

 

Yurei FAQ – Five Facts About Japanese Ghosts

Hokushū Shunkōsai Ghost of Oiwa

To learn much more about Japanese Ghosts, check out my book Yurei: The Japanese Ghost

Yurei—Japanese Ghosts—follow certain rules; obey certain laws. They have a specific appearance and purpose. These rules supply authenticity, making them culturally relevant and recognizable. Also, these rules make them more horrifying than the constantly changing Western ghost, which can be played for laughs, romance, or fear at any given moment.

Each aspect of a yurei is bound by centuries of culture and tradition. There is a “why” behind everything, and the story of the individual aspects of the yurei can be as fascinating as the yurei stories themselves.

Click the title of each to be taken to the full story.

5. How Do You Say Ghost in Japanese?

yurei

A country as obsessed with ghosts as Japan is obviously going to have more than a single word. Just as in English, there are several words meaning “ghost,” but each with a different usage and feel.

4. What is the White Kimono Japanese Ghosts Wear?

dead body

Black hair. White face. White kimono. Whisper the word Japanese ghost to anyone, and that is the image that will appear in their head. For Americans, the image generally comes from Japanese horror films where white-kimonoed girls crawl from TV sets or rise from wells. But to Japanese people, the costume of a white kimono has a more somber feel. Most likely over their lives they will wrap more than one loved one in the traditional burial garment called a kyokatabira.

3. What is the Triangle Headband Japanese Ghosts Wear?

yureisankakuboshi

What are those odd, triangle-shaped hats or headbands worn by some Japanese ghosts? That is a difficult question to answer because, while there are several opinions, nobody really knows.

2. Why do Japanese Ghosts Not Have Feet?

Yurei_Japanese_Ghost

The gentle drops of falling rain. A lonely willow tree standing near a graveyard. And a Japanese ghost, called a yurei, waiting below. This is our image of a yurei, and when we imagine this picture of the yurei, it has no feet.

1. What’s the Difference Between Yurei and Yokai?

Yokai_or_Yurei

What is a yokai? What is a mononoke? What is a bakemono? Are yurei also yokai? These seemingly basic questions have no precise answers. Almost everyone has their own ideas, and they seldom agree with each other. Because folklore isn’t a science.

Mizuki Shigeru and American Horror Comics

Kitaro_and_Four_Color_Fear

When you think of influences on Japanese comic book legend Mizuki Shigeru, names like Basil Wolverton, Bob Powell, and Warren Kremmer don’t usually spring to mind. After all, those artists drew for 1950s American horror comics like Tomb of Terror and Crypt of Horror. They hardly seem like source material for a young man thousands of miles across the ocean. Where would he find them? And if he did find them, how could he read them?

But the influence is obvious. Mizuki Shigeru’s early work has the same shadowy gloom, the same lines and dramatic poses. This is especially true in Mizuki’s comic Hakuba Kitaro (Graveyard Kitaro), his darker, more horrific version of his famous character Kitaro before it was lightened and made more child-friendly at the publisher’s request. The opening story in Hakuba Kitaro—called Kitaro no Tanjobi or Kitaro’s Birthday—in particular looks and feels like a 1950s EC comic. If it weren’t for the Japanese lettering and some of the faces, Kitaro no Tanjobi could easily have risen from Tales from the Crypt or Vault of Horrors.

Mizuki has never been shy about these influences. He is widely read, and was fascinated with American and European authors and philosophers. He borrowed freely for his comics, adapting obscure horror authors like W. F. Harvey, whose 1928 story The Beast with Five Fingers was transformed into the Kitaro adventure The Hand. (See Kitaro and the Beast with Five Fingers.)

In his historical/auto-biographical comic Showa: A History of Japan Mizuki describes how American comics came into his hands. In the post-war period, Mizuki’s father had a position working with the occupation government. Mizuki’s father spoke English and even worked as an English teacher, which made him a valuable bridge between the occupiers and the native Japanese. Mizuki’s father knew his son was struggling, trying to break into the fledgling kashihon rental-comic market after his former kamishibai (paper theater) business had vanished. He brought home the various comic books left behind by American GIs and civilians working in the occupational government, and gave them to his son to use as reference material and inspiration for his own comics.

It is pretty obvious which American comic inspired Mizuki’s first hit with the kashihon rental-comic market. Although he called his version Rocketman, Mizuki made no attempt to disguise the character’s origin, and didn’t even bother to alter the famous “S”-shield on the chest into an “R”—which would have been more appropriate for “Rocketman.” Mizuki may have taken the look of Superman directly from the comic, but he told it with his own sense of whimsy and style. It almost looks like he is imitating the Fleisher Brothers’ Popeye cartoons instead of Superman, as Rocketman flexes a muscle in the shape of an atomic bomb’s mushroom cloud to show off just how mighty he is.

Shigeru Mizuki RocketmanSo the influence was always there. But it wasn’t until the publication of Fantagraphics’ Four Color Fear: Forgotten Horror Comics of the 1950s that it became clear just how much of an influence there was. (Or at least until a copy of that book found its way into the hands of Natsume Fusanosuke who wrote the initial blog that inspired this post.

In the time-honored tradition of comic artists, it looks like Mizuki Shigeru may have had his own “swipe file” of poses and characters that came straight from American comic book artists.

Shigeru_Mizuki_EC_Comics_1

These first images come from the 1959 kashihon comic Yokaiden by Mizuki Shigeru. There can be no mistake that Mizuki took several of the poses and faces directly from Warren Kremmer’s 1953 comic Amnesia. The poses are identical, even though they are being used for different story elements.

Shigeru_Mizuki_EC_Comics_2

The biggest surprise—and “Ah ha!” moment—comes when looking at Kitaro’s father. The mummy in these pictures is Kitaro’s father, before he liquefies and renders into the famous version of Medama Oyaji that we all know and love. I always thought this was a weird design for Mizuki. Mummies aren’t exactly prominent in Japanese folklore and horror, and it never really made sense that Mizuki would chose a shambling mummy to represent the last of the Yurei Zoku, the Ghost Tribe, that once ruled over the earth.

Shigeru_Mizuki_EC_Comics_Kitaros_FatherBut here, in Bob Powell’s 1951 comic Servants of the Tomb we see the origin and inspiration of Kitaro’s father. This one isn’t a direct swipe like the others, but it is obvious that Mizuki Shigeru saw this comic and thought enough of the monster to use it for the brief appearance of Kitaro’s father as a whole creature. Finally, the design makes sense.

Bob Powell and Warren Kremmer are in good company. Mizuki Shigeru also collects early European prints by artists like Albrecht Dürer, and uses them for inspiration. I have seen several posts by Mizuki where he shows the original, and his version next to it. He also copies the work of Japanese masters like Toriyama Sekein and Katsushika Hokusai for his Yokai Encyclopedias and print series, and uses famous photographs and historical works of art to ground his series like Showa: A History of Japan.

As Natsume mentions in his article, there are probably more of these swipes from early comics to be discovered by someone with the patience and means to find them. Natsume further speculates that, if American GIs carried American comics with them to Japan and inspired a young Mizuki Shigeru, perhaps they brought them to Europe and influenced a certain young man who would come to be known as the artist Moebius.

Who knows? But American comic art traveled far, and the American GIs served as unknowing Johnny Appleseeds, leaving behind their discarded bits of Americana and pop culture that got absorbed and assimilated into something else, something that has become a foundational element of Japanese culture.

Further Reading:

For more about Mizuki Shigeru, check out:

Mizuki Shigeru in Rabaul

6 Types of Japanese Yokai From Showa

Countdown to Mizuki Shigeru’s Showa 1926-1939: A History of Japan

Mizuki Shigeru’s French Fry Heaven

Happy 91st Birthday Mizuki Shigeru!

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All translations and other writing on this website were created by Zack Davisson and are copyright to him.

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