18.46, Tuesday 1 Feb 2011

Tsukumogami ('artifact spirit') are a type of Japanese spirit. ... tsukumogami originate from items or artifacts that have reached their 100th birthday and thus become alive and aware. Any object of this age, from swords to toys, can become a tsukumogami. Tsukumogami are considered spirits and supernatural beings, as opposed to enchanted items. (Thanks Tom!)

Also #1: Tsukumogami vary radically in appearance, depending on the type of item they originated from as well as the condition that item was in. Some, such as tsukumogami originating from paper lanterns or broken sandals, can have tears which become eyes and sharp teeth, thus giving a horrifying visage. Others, such as worn prayer beads or teacups, may merely manifest faces and appendages, giving a warm and friendly appearance. Related to this, see the dream parade from the movie Paprika (more). The mailbox and the refrigerator will lead the way! The happy and mundane world will vent their anger.

Also #2: Though by and large tsukumogami are harmless and at most tend to play occasional pranks on unsuspecting victims, as shown in the Otogizōshi they do have the capacity for anger and will band together to take revenge on those who are wasteful or throw them away thoughtlessly. Related to this, the Japanese water sprite Kappa is a humanoid turtle that lives in ponds and rivers, and leaps out to harass passers-by. If you are accosted by one, remember that kappas are extremely polite, and insist that you bow before you fight. On bowing, the kappa's brain (which is kept in an indentation on the top of the head, and is made of water) will slosh out, and they will be defeated.

I mention this because the kappa is also a prankster: Their pranks range from the relatively innocent, such as loudly passing gas or looking up women's kimonos, to the more troublesome, such as drowning people and animals, kidnapping children, and raping women. "Troublesome" is certainly the word for it.

(Why does the kappa abduct people? For this: the purpose of eating their livers or their shirikodama, a mythical ball inside the anus.

Remember that. Shirikodama. It will be useful one day.)

Also #3: It is said that modern items cannot become tsukumogami; the reason for this is that tsukumogami are said to be repelled by electricity. Additionally, few modern items are used for the 100-year-span that it takes for an artifact to gain a soul.

Related to this, see the New Delhi Monkey Man. In 2001, a monkey man terrorised India. It was stronger than a man; it had metal claws; it was covered in thick hair with buttons on its chest. But the monkey man was scared by water, light and electricity. Appearance of the monkey caused mob terror... but turned the (at the time, rationed) electricity back on would calm the neighbourhood. Monkey man was a modern, physical manifestation of the desires of the group mentality.

I wonder what the lack of souls for modern objects signifies, to the group mentality.

I finish on Sokushinbutsu, the rare Japanese practice of self-mummification by Buddhist monks: For 1,000 days (a little less than three years) the priests would eat a special diet consisting only of nuts and seeds, while taking part in a regimen of rigorous physical activity that stripped them of their body fat. They then ate only bark and roots for another thousand days and began drinking a poisonous tea made from the sap of the Urushi tree, normally used to lacquer bowls.

And then: This caused vomiting and a rapid loss of bodily fluids, and most importantly, it made the body too poisonous to be eaten by maggots. Finally, a self-mummifying monk would lock himself in a stone tomb barely larger than his body, where he would not move from the lotus position. His only connection to the outside world was an air tube and a bell. Each day he rang a bell to let those outside know that he was still alive. When the bell stopped ringing, the tube was removed and the tomb sealed. After the tomb was sealed, the other monks in the temple would wait another 1,000 days, and open the tomb to see if the mummification was successful.

Sometimes this would work. Usually, not.


Follow-up posts: