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Japanese Myths, Folktales, Folklore and Language


Baku: The Eater of Dreams (Ep. 65)

The baku is a Japanese mythical creature that, when invited, slips into your room at night to gobble up your nightmares.

Story Time: “The Dream of Akinosuke” by Lafcadio Hearn (Ep. 64)

"The Dream of Akinosuke" is Lafcadio Hearn's translation of a sweet Japanese (originally Chinese) folktale. In it you'll learn how insects can manipulate a person's soul.
The Dream of Akinosuke butterfly ukiyoe by Koson Ohara

Shinrei Supotto: Freaky Haunted Areas in Japan (Ep. 63)

On today’s show let’s visit a few ghostly places. They’re called shinrei supotto in Japanese. Areas that are believed to be haunted or cursed or have some other paranormal activity going on.

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

Kanreki: Your Auspicious Years, Yakudoushi: Your Calamitous Ones (Ep. 60)

Kanreki is the celebration of a 60th birthday. They’ll don a red vest, called a chanchanko, a red billowy hat, called an e-boshi and be given a white fan to hold. Yakudoshi are the ages you're believed to be more susceptible to sickness, misfortune or some other disaster.
kanreki chachanko

Koumare Ishi: Inexplicable Rocks That Predict the Deaths of Monks (Ep. 59)

Koumare Ishi is one of the nanafushigi or seven mysterious occurrences from my area. The belief is that a rock is born from the side of the mountain, and when it falls the head abbot of the nearby temple, Daitoku, dies.
Koumare Ishi Small Shrine

Bon Odori: Dancing with the Dead (Ep. 58)

Bon Odori or Bon Dancing is a summer tradition held all over Japan. It's a chance for families to get together and have an enjoyable time dancing to the rhythmical music. Seeing as how the Obon season is also when ancestors visit from beyond the grave, they, too, can take part in the festivities if they wish.
Bon Dancing
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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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