TIL about hyaku-monogatari ("one hundred stories"), gatherings where participants would take turns telling kaidan (spooky stories) in a closed room by candlelight. After each story, a candle would be extinguished, the last story plunging the room into darkness. Popular during the early Edo period, the goal was to induce a supernatural experience — or, at least, to test the nerve of participants. From Michael Dylan Foster's The Book of Yokai.

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Ah! Here's a cultural connection I wasn't expected to see made in a book about yōkai. At the end of the entry on yamamba (roughly, "mountain ogress"), Foster writes: "As a woman in particular, she comes to represent resistance to patriarchy and hegemonic gender relations. It is no coincidence that at the turn of the current century, yamamba became the name of a Japanese fashion-related subculture featuring young women who bleach their hair white and artificially darken the color of their skin."👺

Some nifty cultural transmission: Foster traces an 18th c. illustration of a ninmenju ("human-faced tree") to an earlier model in the Wakan-sansaizue, a Japanese-Chinese compilation, adapted from the Sancaituhui, a Chinese text that places the tree in Da-shi, possibly a transliteration of tazi, Persian for "Arab." And in some copies of the 10th c. Persian epic Shahnama, there are compositionally similar illustrations of Alexander the Great conversing with the tree that prophesied his death.

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Merveilles

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