Shigeru Mizuki [水木しげる ] (1922 – 2015)
Shigeru Mizuki [水木しげる ] (1922 – 2015), the creator of the Gegege Kitaro
manga series, was a lifelong student of the otherworld.
Although he is best known for his fictional works inspired by Japan’s lores of supernatural beings (called youkai), I have always thought that his magnum opus were his autobiographical accounts in manga format, namely:
- Nononba [のんのんばあとオレ] (1977)
- Showa: A History of Japan [コミック昭和史] (1998-1989)
- Boku no Isshou wa Gegege no Rakuen da [ボクの一生はゲゲゲの楽園だ] (2001)
These are memoirs of his life – drawn from memories happy and tragic from a childhood during the Great Depression surrounded by the mysteries of the Tottori countryside, early adulthood as a lowly foot soldier in a brutal war which left him with several near-death experiences and an amputated arm, his subsequent years as a struggling manga artist, and finally his prosperous and mature years in which he was free to explore the supernatural side of the world which had always fascinated him. With nostalgia and poignancy, he depicted his lively, lovable and oddball family and friends. Without illusions, he also painted the terrible events in history that claimed the best of his youthful years. Interestingly, he also spoke with frankness about his encounters with inexplicable mysteries.
This post assumes prior knowledge of the anime series. Discussions with spoilers after the jump.
Kyousougiga [京騒戯画] (2013) – TV anime produced by Toei Animation
There is an occult meaning to the word mushi [虫 / 蟲] in Japanese, the nuances of which are lost in its English translation as ‘insect’ or ‘bug’. Here is a translated excerpt* from an article called Mushi ga ii [虫がいい] in a collection of essays Nihongo Omote to Ura [日本語 表と裏] written by the cultural critic Morimoto Tetsurou [森本哲郎] (1925 – 2014) –
The Japanese characterize such mysteries of the heart as mushi. The heart is what one desires, what one thinks and what one feels. Nevertheless, there are times when the heart does not work the way one would like it to. In other words, there is another heart within one’s heart. The Japanese call that ‘second soul’ mushi. It is believed that, of the two, mushi is by far closer to the depth of one’s being. The reason for it is that when one loses consciousness and when one’s breathing weakens, the Japanese call that condition ‘the breath of mushi‘. ‘The breath of mushi‘ means that only the mushi within one’s body is left to do the breathing. In other words, mushi is the last thing that supports one’s life. In that sense, the Japanese concept of mushi is close to Freud’s libido.
‘Nippon Ryouri no Shinzui’ by Abe Kouryuu, published by Kodansha in 2006
I was reading Nippon Ryouri no Shinzui [日本料理の真髄] by the Japanese gourmet Abe Kouryuu [阿部孤柳], and learned that occult concepts lie at the heart of Japanese cuisine. Below are some interesting facts I picked up:
- When you hold a kitchen knife in your hand, the right side of the knife is considered yang while the left side of the knife is considered yin.
- Likewise, tableware can also be categorized as either yin or yang. A round dish is considered yang, whereas a square dish is considered yin; a shallow container is considered yang, whereas a deep container is considered yin.
After I watched the anime Shin Sekai Yori (From the New World) [新世界より] and also read its original novel by the always insightful Yusuke Kishi [貴志祐介], I cannot help but think of the Japanese educator and mystic Makoto Shichida [七田真] (1929 – 2009).
Shin Sekai Yori [新世界より], the anime series of 25 episodes released in 2012
First, a quick summary of the story of Shin Sekai Yori
. Human societies as we know in the present day collapsed after 0.3% of people discovered that they had psychic powers, and after prolonged struggles in which the psychics and non-psychics fought each other to establish a new world order, the earth became depopulated (down to 2% of its height) and a new society in which everyone is psychic finally emerged. The protagonists of the story – a group of five friends – live in that new society 1,000 years from now. As we follow these five friends from childhood to adulthood, we discover the true history of what happened to the human race in the intervening 1,000 years through their interactions with an inferior race of bakenezumi
– mouse-like mammals who are intelligent, speak human language and supposedly worship humans as deities. The story culminates with the rebellion of bakenezumi
against the human race.