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Kasabake and Tsukumogami

I was recently did a short interview as part of a program for Japanese English learners at the Ashfort English School in Omori, Tokyo ( The focus was on a type of yōkai called tukumogami. It was an enjoyable experience. Here is the transcript.

Today we are going to talk about Japanese yōkai. Andi, you are an expert on yokai, aren’t you?

Well, I wouldn’t say I’m an expert, but I am really interested in yōkai.

How do you say yōkai in English?

Actually, we say yōkai in English too! But if you want to explain what yōkai are, you could say that they are supernatural creatures from Japanese folklore.

I’m Japanese, but I don’t really know anything about yōkai. Are yōkai ghosts?

AB: No, they aren’t. Ghosts, or yūrei in Japanese, are the spirits of people who have died. Yōkai aren’t dead. They are alive and they live in our world.

I see. That’s interesting. You have written a book about Japanese ghosts, haven’t you?

That’s right. My book is a collection of original Japanese ghost stories called Ghostly Tales of Japan.

What does “tales” mean?

A tale is a kind of story. It is usually a fictional story, which means it isn’t a true story. Tales often feature magic, heroes, monsters and ghosts. They often have a moral, which means they teach us something important about life.

Are there any tales about yōkai in your book?

Yes, there are several tales in my book which feature yōkai. My favourite one is about kasabake.

Kasabake? What’s that?

Kasabake is an umbrella yōkai. It’s a tsukumogami.

A tsukumogami? What’s that?

A tsukumogami is a daily object, such as an umbrella, a musical instrument or even a futon, which turns into a yōkai when it becomes one hundred years old.

Really? So, could a TV or a PlayStation become a tsukumogami?

Yes, if they become one hundred years old, but maybe electronic goods won’t last for one hundred years!

That’s true. So, please tell me about the umbrella yōkai.

Kasabake is a funny yōkai. It looks like a traditional Japanese umbrella, but it with one human leg instead of a handle. It also has one eye and a long slimy tongue.

Is it dangerous?

No, it isn’t dangerous. It likes to scare people by jumping out at them and flapping around them. Sometimes it sneaks up on someone and licks their face with its long tongue. It’s disgusting, but it won’t hurt you.

Have you ever seen a kasabake?

No, I haven’t, but I do have an old traditional Japanese umbrella in my house. I don’t know how old it is, but each time I open the door of the cupboard that I store it in, I wonder if it will suddenly jump out at me?

Wow! Be careful!

Thank you, I’ll try my best!

Thank you, Andi, for telling us all about kasabake and tsukumogami. That was really interesting.

My pleasure!

Paperback and kindle copies of Andi’s book, Ghostly Tales of Japan, are available from all Amazon marketplaces.


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