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Category: Japanese History 

Supernatural Cats: Nekomata (Ep. 97)

Today I'm going to talk about supernatural cats, specifically, the nekomata. The nekomata is a mysterious feline with two tails and a penchant for dancing. 

The Killing Stone: Sessho Seki (Ep. 96)

It was all over the news: Japan's Infamous Killing Stone that was housing a chaotic, disaster inducing nine-tailed fox spirit, broke in half on March 5th. Is the fox spirit free? I'll tell you all about it on this episode.
Killing Stone Sessho Seki

Story Time: Tango no Hitobashira / The Human Pillar of Tango (Ep. 94)

Today I'm going to tell you a story called Tango no Hitobashira / The Human Pillar of Tango. It's an old folktale that I haven't found translated into English.
Hitobashira / Human Pillar

Hitobashira: The Tragic Stories of Human Pillars (Ep. 81)

How do you build a bridge that stands up to storms and floods? Well, you have to appease the nature gods, of course. But how do you do that? Human sacrifice seemed to have worked in the past. Today I'll talk about hitobashira or human pillars. An ancient tradition of insuring strong river banks, fireproof castles, and tunnels that won't collapse.
Hitobashira/Human Pillar

Jigoku Tayuu: The Mysterious Hell Courtesan (Ep. 74)

The Hell Courtesan (Jigoku Tayuu) is a mysterious figure that appears in art and story in Japan since the 1600s. But who is this beautiful high-ranked oiran who wears a kimono covered in images of hell? Today I'll talk about her legend and relationship with the eccentric monk Ikkyuu.
hell courtesan ikkyu

Sanzaru: Three Wise Monkeys and How They Can Help Extend Your Life (Ep. 70)

Everyone is familiar with the Three Wise Monkeys or as they're called in Japan Sanzaru (Three Monkeys). But did you know the See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Say No Evil creatures are actually a Japanese play on words? They're also an important part of an old folk belief that has to do with three worms escaping your body and a large deity with six arms and a blue face who vows to protect you.
Three Wise Monkeys: Sanzaru

Year of the Ox: Save Us All (Ep. 67)

The year 2021 is the Year of the Ox according to the animal zodiac. But what does that mean? In this episode I talk a little about the character of people born in this year, what to expect in 2021, and why the ox--who should have been the first animal in the zodiac lineup--got beaten by a rat.

Yuurei: Japanese Ghosts from Protective to Wrathful (Ep. 62)

Yuurei are Japanese ghosts and they come in quite a few varieties, from the protecting shugorei to the vengeful and very dangerous onryou.

Oiran: The Glamorous and Wretched Life of a High Courtesan (Ep. 61)

An oiran is not a geisha. Although at first glance they may look alike, one is a more reserved entertainer who is still in existence today. The other is a high courtesan, long disappeared, who wore flamboyant brightly-colored kimono and walked on 20 centimeter high geta.
oiran by Utagawa
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About The Uncanny Japan Podcast

Speculative fiction writer, long-term resident of Japan and Bram Stoker Award finalist Thersa Matsuura explores all that is weird from old Japan—strange superstitions, folktales, cultural oddities, and interesting language quirks. These are little treasures she digs up while doing research for her writing.

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