Friday, October 10, 2014

Japanese Ghost: Funa Yurei

The ghosts that have appeared in Japanese folklore since the Edo Period are much scarier entities than the ghosts portrayed in the western world. The main reason for this is Japanese ghosts often return to exact revenge or even kill the living.

One such ghost in Japan known as Funa Yurei often appears in Japanese ghost stories. This ghost is a water spirit, which is not surprising since Japan is an island nation.

Funa Yurei is said to be the souls of people shipwrecked and lost at sea in the past. They like most ghosts in Japan are depicted as female as opposed to male.

They are believed to be very bitter and wrathful toward the living--they rise up from the bottom of the sea to attack boats and ships.

Their goal is to take the souls of the unsuspecting sailors to increase their own numbers--for it is said once killed by this female ghost a man’s soul then becomes a Funa Yurei.

Japanese sailors are extra cautious during stormy weather, foggy nights and rainy days or during a new or full moon for it during these times that the Funa Yurei appears.

Their powers allow them to transform and appear as another ship--the name Funa Yurei translated means Ghost Ship.

This ghost ship overcomes other ships or boats by heading straight for them. When the panicked crew turns their vessel to avoid this collision, their boats run aground or capsize. Then all onboard are lost.

Sailors can see this ghost ship even at night for it glows.

Funa Yurei often would lure their victims further out to sea. In olden days the Japanese would set bonfires along the shore to help seaman find their way home, but it is said the Funa Yurei would trick these sailors.

They too would light a fire, but on the open sea which would mislead the sailors to where they would wreck and drown.

Another way the Funa Yurei would trick sailors is by appearing as one of them and requesting a container of water. They would board the unsuspecting ship or boat and request a container that holds water--such as a barrel or ladle known as a hisyaka.

Whatever they did they must not give this container to the spirit for the Funa Yurei would then flip it over and water would magically begin to spill out and wouldn’t stop until it sank the vessel.

Sailors were also cautioned that these spirits could prey upon their emotions.

Stories about the Funa Yurei were told in each Kuni or province of Japan. So there are many legends connected to how to drive the Funa Yurei away--or fool them.

One way to mislead these spirits was to have at least one container on board ship that had a hole in the bottom so it would not hold water. This belief was so strong that even today vendors in Japan carry ladles with holes drilled in them to trick the Funa Yurei.

A general belief was if a ship should see a Funa Yurei ship approach they should stand their ground--not swerve away. For if they did this, the ghost ship would just pass right through them.

Another belief was that they should just stop and stare at the ghost vessel for a while.

Yet another way to outmaneuver these water spirits was to stir the sea with a stick.

Offerings especially food was considered a significant deterrent--for it was said the Funa Yurei like most ghosts are hungry, so they would accept food as opposed to the men’s souls.

It was also believed that things could be thrown into the sea to stop the Funa Yurei. Depending upon the Japanese province, these items included: flowers, washed rice, incense, burnt wood, ashes, water, summer beans, and woven mats.

Here is a link to an excellent site Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai, which has translated Japanese ghost stories. This is just one of many stories told about the Funa Yurei.

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