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Prophesizing Yōkai

I 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 that I accepted their invitation to talk about another kind of yōkai. Here is the transcript.

Hi everyone! In our first episode, we talked about kasabake, the umbrella yōkai. Andi, which yōkai are you going to tell us about today?

Today, I want to talk about not one, but three yōkai!

Three yōkai?

That’s right, three yōkai

What kind of yōkai are they?

They are prophesizing yōkai.

Prophesizing? What does that mean?

It means that they can see into the future. They warn people of dangers such as diseases, like coronavirus, and famine.

What does “famine” mean?

Famine is a time when there is no food because the crops have failed due to bad weather, such as no rain or too much rain.

Are any of these yōkai famous?

Yes, one of them is the most famous yōkai in the world at the moment.

Really? Which yōkai is that?


Oh, yes, everyone knows Amabie. Do you know the story of Amabie?

Yes, I do. Amabie was first seen in present-day Kumamoto Prefecture in 1846. A local official went to investigate a mysterious green light in the sea and met a strange creature. This is a drawing he made of it. It had long hair, a beak, like a bird, a scaly body, like a fish, and three legs.

What happened?

The creature told the man that its name was Amabie, and it made two predictions!

What did it predict?

First, it predicted that Japan would have a good harvest for six years.

That’s good.

Yes, but it also predicted that there would be disease throughout Japan.

Oh, that’s bad!

But it said that people would be safe if they drew pictures of Amabie and displayed them at the entrance to their homes. Now, over 170 years later, people all around the world are drawing pictures of Amabie to protect themselves from coronavirus!

Wow! That’s amazing! You said that there were two other similar yōkai.

That’s right. There is also Kamikehime, which appeared in present-day Nagasaki Prefecture, and Kutabe, which appeared on Mount Tateyama in Toyama Prefecture. Like Amabie, these two yōkai both appeared at the end of the Edo period and predicted death and disease. But, like Amabie, they also said that people could protect themselves by displaying their images.

Do you have a drawing of any of these yōkai to protect yourself?

Well, as we live in the electronic age, I always have a drawing of Amabie on my smartphone!

Wow! That’s a great idea. I think I will get one too.

I think you should.

Thank you, Andi, for telling us all about Amabie and the other prophesizing yōkai. That was really interesting.

My pleasure!

I hope you all enjoyed that too. Why don’t you protect yourself from coronavirus with a picture of one of these yōkai.

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


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