Uncanny Japan - Folklore and Culture show

Uncanny Japan - Folklore and Culture

Summary: Uncanny Japan explores all that is weird from old Japan. Strange superstitions, old wives tales, cultural oddities, and interesting language quirks. These are little treasures dug up while doing research for my writing, and I want to share them with you here.


 Episode 22: Great Screaming and Uninterrupted Pain More Buddhist Hells | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

Here are the last four Buddhist Hot Hells for your enjoyment. There is extreme heat, much screaming, and a flaming rooster. Also, I was able to catch a local summer festival on the binaural mics. That is very cool.

 Episode 21: Screaming and Crushing in Four Buddhist Hells | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 11:49

The first of two podcasts this month, Episode 21: Screaming and Crushing in Four Buddhist Hells, is just about that, four of the eight Buddhist Hot Hells. Come listen to what happens when you kill a mosquito, commit mutiny, or convince your drunken friend to do your evil bidding. Also, you don’t want to lie, lest an oni pull your tongue out with red hot pliers. Look. That’s what it says right up there.

 Episode 20: Ship Goddesses, Boat Ghosts, and Sea Monks (Funadama, Funa Yurei, Umi Bozu) | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 9:56

The third Monday of July is Umi no Hi (海の日), Marine Day, so this month on Uncanny Japan I decided to talk about three otherworldly ocean creatures: Ship Goddesses, Boat Ghosts, and Sea Monks. Funa dama (船霊), funa yurei (船幽霊), and umi bozu (海坊主). This month’s Bedtime Story (over on Patreon) is a folktale I translated called: The Umbrella Sea Monster. Umi Bozu Notes: The intro/outro music of Uncanny Japan is a song by Christiaan Virant (from the album Ting Shuo).

 Episode 19: The Heavenly Demon (Amanojaku) + Bedtime Story! | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 29:02

This month’s podcast is a special one. Not only did I do a podcast about a strange little creature called the amanojaku (天邪鬼), but at the end I attached one of my Bedtime Stories that I record monthly for my Patrons. So if you stay tuned after the podcast (a whopping 10 minutes), you’ll be treated to my interpretation (the happy-ending version) of Urikohime (瓜子姫), The Melon Princess and the Amanojaku. The podcast: The amanojaku is a nasty Japanese beastie that predates... Read More Read More

 Episode 18: The God of Smallpox (Housougami) | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 10:10

Welcome to May’s Uncanny Japan. In this episode I talk about the God of Smallpox (housougami/疱瘡神). Come listen to the beliefs in this fearsome god and how dogs and the color red kept him at bay.                                                                                        ... Read More Read More

 Episode 17: Granny Dumping Mountain (Ubasute Yama) | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 8:57

This month on Uncanny Japan I talk about Ubasuta Yama (姥捨山) or Granny Dumping Mountain. Back in old Japan when times were tough and there were too many mouths for one family to feed, they might do something called kuchi herashi (口減らし) or getting rid of mouths. One way to do this was to send one (or more) of your children to live with a wealthier family. Another way to cut down on the number of mouths that needed to be... Read More Read More

 Episode 16: Playing Hide and Seek by Yourself (Hitori Kakurenbo) | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 10:53

(Transcript available) 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. Come listen to this month’s Uncanny Japan where I talk about how to play hitori kakurenbo while my binaural mics pick up all the sounds of sitting beside a river at dusk. This month is the... Read More Read More

 Episode 15: Inviting a Friend to Die (Rokuyo) | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 12:58

The rokuyo (六曜) or six days is the Japanese calendar that you consult when preparing to engage in various affairs: wedding, 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. If you take a good look at a lot of Japanese calendars and daily planners, they have two small kanji written in the corner of every day. These signify which of... Read More Read More

 Episode 14: Living Buddhas-kinda… (Sokushinbutsu) | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 11:21

Listen to me talk about this wonderfully surreal thing I found: Living Buddhas (ikibotoke, 生き仏 or sokushinbutsu, 即身仏). The thing is, they’re not really alive, at least not anymore. *cue scary music*… no, seriously, cue the scary music, things are going to get weird. Also, because I didn’t mention it in the podcast the background of this month’s Uncanny Japan was recorded at a local temple on New Year’s Eve at midnight. The sounds you hear are the people milling... Read More Read More

 Episode 13: Teachers Running (Shiwasu) | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 17:19

Everyone’s busy. It’s the end of the year. Come listen to me talk about how we spend December in Japan while you listen to a mochi-pounding event in the background on binaural mics. There is cleaning, haircuts, paying debts and staying up all night to avoid gray hair.     Notes: The intro/outro music of Uncanny Japan is a song by Christiaan Virant (“Yi Gui” from Ting Shuo).  The whole album is just gorgeous as it everything else by FM3.

 Episode 12: Tricky Numbers (Goro Awase) | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 15:36

In Japan numbers can be tricky. Four is thought to invite death. Nine brings suffering and agony. But, hey! Eight is good! Notes: The intro/outro music of Uncanny Japan is a song by Christiaan Virant (“Yi Gui” from Ting Shuo).  The whole album is just gorgeous as it everything else by FM3. Audio Player    

 Episode 11: The Devil’s Gate (Kimon) | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 19:51

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. It’s the place you have to be very careful about and treat with respect. The problem is, most of us have no idea where our Devil’s Gate (kimon) is, much less what to do to appease and/or keep out those pesky devils. Walk with me in... Read More Read More

 Episode 10: Hungry Ghosts (Gaki) | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 15:50

Careful. 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. This month’s podcast is about Japanese hungry ghosts or gaki in Japanese.... Read More Read More

 Episode 9: Obon Part Two-Sending Away Fires (Okuribi) | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 16:48

This month’s podcast is Obon Part Two, 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. Above and below are photos of my local okuribi – sending away fires.   Notes: The intro/outro music of Uncanny Japan is a piece by Christiaan Virant (“Yi Gui” from Ting Shuo).  The whole album is just gorgeous as it... Read More Read More

 Episode 8: Obon Part One-On Cucumber Horses They Ride | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 11:19

In Japan, Obon is the time of year when all the ancestors’ spirits make the long haul back to the world of the living to pay a visit. It’s kind of a big deal. Butsudan-altars are decorated to the hilt and families wait expectantly for grandma and grandpa, great grandma and great grandpa (not to mention great, great, great grandma and grandpa) to arrive and hang out.   This month’s podcast is part one of Obon, welcoming fires and vegetable... Read More Read More


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