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Japanese Myths, Folktales, Folklore and Language


Enjoying the Luck of the Seven Lucky Gods (Shichifukujin) (Ep. 68)

In Japan the Shichifukujin or Seven Lucky Gods appear in a boat on the first day of the year to impart various kinds of luck on those they deem worthy.
Shichi Fukujin (Seven Lucky Gods)

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.

Toshikoshi Soba: Breaking Off the Pain of 2020 with Noodles (Ep. 66)

Toshikoshi soba is the Japanese tradition of eating soba noodles on New Year's Eve. It's a custom that has continued since the 1700s. There are quite a few reasons why, some have to do with long life, wealth, and breaking off all the hardships from the previous year.
Show Daruma Eating Soba

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

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
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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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