The COVID-19 pandemic has been affecting the entire world – even the world of yokai. We interviewed ten yokai to see how their lives had changed because of the coronavirus outbreak. Some have seen their fortunes decline sharply since ancient times, while others have received a boost in popularity never before dreamed of. Here are the biggest winners and losers:
10. TATARIGAMI ↓
Centuries ago, whenever a plague ravaged Japan, I was the one they would try to placate, by building shrines and holding grand festivals in my honor. The Gion Festival, first held as a way to ward off plague, has been an annual tradition in Kyoto for over 500 years! But those days are gone. Nowadays, everyone turns to science for answers, and no one has a thought to spare for me!
9. HAIMUSHI ↓
I miss the old days too. In ancient times, whenever people came down with lung diseases, they gave the credit where it was due – to me! But nowadays, the only name on people’s lips seems to be Corona. Who is that, anyway? Some new kind of yokai?
8. YAKUBYO-GAMI ↓
Same here. In the good old days, whenever a plague struck, people naturally assumed we were the ones behind it, and thought they could protect themselves by signing a contract with us. But it’s been over a century since we last got a contract. Prime Minister Abe hasn’t returned any of our messages.
7. NOPPERABO ↔
It hasn’t affected me at all. Everyone’s been going on and on about not touching your face, but there’s nothing easier if you don’t have one. Social distancing hasn’t been a problem, either. Whenever people see me, they tend to distance themselves, very fast!
6. NUPPEPPO ↔
Social distancing hasn’t been a problem for me, either. No one ever seems to want to come within six feet of me. I’m not sure why, but maybe it has something to do with the way they hold their noses when I pass by.
5. ROKUROKUBI ↔
Staying six feet away from people in a crowded Japanese city isn’t easy…but if you can keep your head six feet ABOVE them, no problem! Yes, I get some stares, but I still walk with my head held high. It hasn’t been easy, of course, and there’s no telling when all this will end…but I’m keeping my chin up!
4. AKAMANTO ↑
It’s been great for me. Rumors of me have gotten around in recent years, and more and more, whenever I tried my usual ploy of “Do you need toilet paper? Red or blue?” I found that people were ready for me and just said, “No thanks, brought my own!” But now, when I offer them toilet paper, they thank me as if I were giving them some kind of priceless treasure! It’s such a refreshing change that I almost don’t have the heart to kill them.
3. KUCHISAKE-ONNA ↑
The urban legends have been spreading about me, too. It used to be, whenever people saw a young woman wearing a mask, they would back away before I could even ask, “Do you think I’m beautiful?” But now, there are so many lovely young ladies running around with masks that no one suspects there’s anything unusual about me…until I take it off and show them my real reason for wearing one!
2. TEARAI-ONI ↑
I feel more accepted than ever before. Until now, for some reason, whenever I went outside, people would scream and run away. But now, they just point to me and say to their children, “See that big guy over there? He’s using a whole ocean’s worth of water to wash his hands! He’s smart. Be like him.”
1. AMABIE ↑
I’ve never been so popular! In 1846, I first became famous, when someone saw a vision of me and took my advice to heart that an image of me would protect people from a coming plague. My picture was in every newspaper in Japan for a while, but after that, I faded into obscurity…until now. Artists have been re-envisioning me (how do you like the sexy makeover that illustrator Keiichiro Ito gave me?) and people have been putting up my picture, not just in Japan but all over the world! Why don’t you try it, too? I can’t guarantee immunity from coronavirus, but it certainly can’t hurt – and in any case, you’ll have something cute to look at while you’re stuck at home!
Thanks to Matthew Meyer and Keiichiro Ito for kind permission to reproduce their artwork.