Halloween Finale: Vengeance in Japanese Waters

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Authors: Brandon Skanes and Cory Sellars

I've mentioned in previous blog posts about Halloween, this particular day was about honouring the dead- at least in the beginning. So, this story will fit the narrative for sure.

According to Japanese folklore, "Hitodama" (which very much translates to "human soul") are balls of fire that float around Japan, mostly in the middle of the night.

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In this context, the balls of fire are representative of the human soul as being separate from the body. That in mind, it's more likely the Hitodama will appear when no one is around, or when they believe no one is watching.

© Matthew Meyer

Speaking of the human soul, most modern civilizations have a profound sea-faring history. Of course, Japan is no different. With the idea of Japanese horror and ghost stories, there are legends surrounding the angry spirits of those who died at sea.

Not surprisingly, some of the most powerful spirits are of those who died an unnatural or violent death. In terms of what's going on here, we have the Funayūrei. This literally translates to "boat spirits".

© Matthew Meyer

When considering how these people died, it should come as no surprise these ghosts are pretty angry spirits, following death at sea. To be more specific, this legend is exclusively set in Japan. Therefore, these angry spirits would have once been people who died in Japan and its surrounding waters.

Stories which depict these "boat spirits" are mostly taken from the Edo period, which was from 1603 to about 1867 in Japanese history. According to legend, the Funayūrei are said to use ladles to fill boats with water so others can meet a similar fate- wishing for the living to join them in a watery grave.

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In other versions of the legend, the Funayūrei attack people from within the water, dragging them down into the depths of the ocean. Again, there's another version where the angry spirits are visible to those at sea, even appearing in the modern boat, or appear as the manifestation of ghost ships.

Thanks for stopping by, and joining us for "part two" of the Japanese Horror Showcase! Japan has been the home of a large amount of legends and creepy tales in its long history, and these stories often exist in several different versions. On behalf of our team, have a great Halloween and stay safe!

The Modernist Son, 2020-2021.

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