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Japanese Myths, Folktales, Folklore and Language


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

Story Time – The Jellyfish Takes a Journey (plus eel and seppuku!) (Ep. 57)

Ever wonder why a jellyfish looks the way they do? Well, the Japanese folktale "The Jellyfish Takes a Journey" (Kurage no Honenashi) tells you how that came about. Then after that folktale, I'll give you a little trivia about the connection between eel and seppuku.
jellyfish drawing

Food Superstitions and Sayings (Ep. 56)

Why shouldn't you eat crab and watermelon together? What will happen if you don't eat all the rice in your bowl? Today I'll answer these and a whole lot more. Japanese food superstitions and sayings are quite interesting and sometimes funny.
A crab and persimmon image

Star-Crossed Lovers (Tanabata) (Ep. 55)

Tanabata is a Japanese festival based on the bizarre tale of two star-crossed lovers, Orihime and Hikoboshi. I'll tell you their story and explain a little about the origins and how it's celebrated today.
Tanabata ukiyoe with woman and baby
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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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