Archive for the "Art History" Category

Legendary creatures of Japan; Kintaro

Sakata Kaidomaru struggling with a huge carp under a waterfall by Kuniyoshi (via)

Kintarō (金太郎?, often translated as “Golden Boy”) is a folk hero from Japanese folklore. A child of superhuman strength, he was raised by a mountain hag on Mount Ashigara. He became friendly with the animals of the mountain, and later, after catching Shutendouji, the terror of the region around Mount Ooe, he became a loyal follower of Minamoto no Yorimitsu under the new name Sakata Kintoki (坂田公時?). He is a popular figure in noh and kabuki drama, and it is a custom to put up a Kintarō doll on Boy’s Day in the hope that boys will become equally brave and strong.

Kintarō is supposedly based on a real man, named Sakata Kintoki, who lived during the Heian period and probably came from what is now the city of Minami-ashigara. He served as a retainer for the samurai Minamoto no Yorimitsu and became well known for his abilities as a warrior. As with many larger-than-life individuals, his legend has grown with time. (more)

Legendary creatures of Japan; Baku

Baku by Hokusai (via)

Originally from China, this fantastic beast is said to be composed from the parts of many different
animals, the most common description giving it the body of a bear, a trunk like an elephant, the eyes
of a rhinoceros, the tail of a cow, strong legs like a tiger’s, and a spotted coat.

The baku is most famous for its ability to devour dreams, and can be called upon by people
in the midst of ominous nightmares, whereupon the creature will consume both the vision and the bad
fortune it contains. But in addition to that it is also said to prey on the spirits of disease and
plagues. The image of the baku is often kept by the bedside as a talisman against bad dreams
and evil spirits, and supposedly if you make your bed from the skin of a baku (if you can
find such a thing) it will keep illness at bay. (via)

Legendary creatures of Japan; Odoro-odoro


Odoro-odoro. A monster appearing in the Gazu Hyakki Yakō and various Edo Period yōkai picture scrolls. No description of it is known, but its name seems to be related to terms like odoro-odoroshii, an adjective describing something terrifying or eerie, as well as words like odoro-gami, a term denoting disheveled, bramble-like hair like that which covers the creature’s body. Otoroshii is also a Kansai dialect corruption of the common adjective osoroshii, or “frightening”.

Today, children’s yōkai books often describe the otoroshi as dwelling on top of the gates to temples and shrines, waiting for impious and evil-intentioned people to pass below so that it may pounce upon them. This behavior seems to stem from a fictional account in Yamada Norio’s 1974 book Tōhoku Kaidan no Tabi, and was likely inspired by Toriyama Sekien’s depiction of the beast perched atop a torii gate with a bird in its claw. (via)