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Japanese Myths, Folktales, Folklore and Language


Playing Hide and Seek by Yourself (hitori kakurenbo) (Ep. 16)

Hitori kakurenbo (一人隠れん坊) means playing hide and seek by yourself. It sounds silly, but it's actually a super creepy, Japanese urban myth that involves you all alone at night with nothing but a stuffed animal, some red thread, and a knife.
hitori kakurenbo

Inviting a Friend to Die (Rokuyo) (Ep. 15)

The rokuyo or six days is the Japanese calendar that you consult when preparing to engage in various affairs: weddings, funerals, trips, and business dealings to name a few. Some days are good for some things, other days are good for others. Some days are just bad, bad, bad.

Sokushinbutsu: The Corpses of “Living” Buddhas (Ep. 14)

Listen to me talk about this wonderfully surreal thing I found: Living Buddhas (ikibotoke or orsokushinbutsu). The thing is, they're not really alive, at least not anymore. *cue scary music*

Teachers Running (Shiwasu) (Ep. 13)

Come listen to me talk about how we spend December in Japan. There is cleaning, haircuts, paying debts and staying up all night to avoid gray hair.

Goroawase: Tricky Japanese Numbers (Ep. 12)

Japanese numbers can be tricky. Four is thought to invite death. Nine brings suffering and agony. But hey, Eight is good! Learn about goroawase.

The Devil’s Gate (Kimon) (Ep. 11)

You have one. I have one. We all have one: a Devil's Gate. It's the place where oni (Japanese devils) sneak into your home, steal all your good luck and fine health, and scuttle away.

Gaki: Hungry Ghosts (Ep. 10)

Living a life of luxury while being selfish and coveting your neighbors goodies just might lead you to another spin on this Wheel of Life. This means after you die you'll be reborn not as a human again, not even as a squirrel in someone's backyard. You might just come back as a hungry ghost, and let me tell you why that's not a very good thing.

Okuribi: Sending Away Fires (Obon Part Two) (Ep. 9)

Obon: the time when you have to send ol' grandma and grandpa back to the World of the Dead. There are various ways of doing this. I talk about two, the chill, mellow way and the flinging-balls-of-fire-into-the-air way.
Yaizu okuribi
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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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