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September 29, 2004

Japanese Ghosts

Lately, I've been delving into different cultures mythologies (see my earlier post on Icelandic elves) and have become fixated on Japanese ghost stories. Two things I have noticed about these stories is there is a large lower/upper class pathos expressed within them and, in comparison to western ghosts that are just "going through the motions of the life they do not know they have lost", Japanese ghosts are down-right malevolent (with a capital 'M').

These are more 'creatures' than 'apparitions' more like the vampires or werewolves of European mythology. Witness the 'girl with the long dark hair' mythology used in two modern movies; Ringu and The Grudge (warning, if you're not into scary stories do not go to the grudge site, it features a 'game' that is probably the scariest things I have ever seen) In these movies the subtle social commentary about upper/lower classes has been morphed into modern pathos' about; the modern vs. the traditional (ringu) and the parent vs. the child (The grudge)

UPDATE Thrasymachus

I'll recommend tales from Konjaku monogatarishu and Uji shui monogatari for some good Japanese mythology.

I highly recommend the works of Lafcadio Hearn, who collected numerous Japanese Ghost Stories and Fairly Tales around 1900. They are all out of copyright and available online. The Atlantic Monthly recently had a presentation of his old non-fiction articles online as well, though I'm not sure if there is still a link available.

Posted by scottm at 07:08 PM