Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Yokai of the Week Special Edition – Yokai Book of the Week

Something quite remarkable happened this morning: I actually finished a book—not a serious book, like Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind or Leo Tolsoy’s War and Peace, as that would be some sort of miracle—but a book nonetheless.
Yokai Attack!
Sister C recently went up to San Francisco to visit brother G, and she bought me this wonderful book about yokai titled Yokai Attack! The Japanese Monster Survival Guide. It is written by a husband and wife duo by the names of Matt Alt and Hiroko Yoda, and published by Kodansha International. The book contains illustrations by manga artist Tatsuya Morino accompanied by detailed descriptions of more than 40 different yokai, including a few of my favorites.

The book isn’t a definitive resource for yokai information, nor does it purport itself to be. What it is, though, is a well researched overview of some of the most popular yokai in Japan today. The authors draw from a number of famous yokai resources, including several of 18th century artist/satirist Sekien Toriyama’s researched works, the writings of Lafcadio Hearn, and other centuries-old firsthand accounts. The book offers physical descriptions of each yokai in addition to their powers (if they have any), habitats, weaknesses, and history.

Aside from being informative, Yokai Attack! is meant to be practical as well, offering various ways to survive encounters with each of the yokai listed in the book. For instance, should you run into a kappa, you can bow deeply forcing the kappa to return the favor thereby draining the water, and strength, from its head-dish. Or you can toss it a cucumber, granted you have one, as they love cucumbers. This information alone makes the book invaluable, should you ever take a trip to Japan.

I highly recommend Yokai Attack! to yokai fans new and old. It is rare enough to find books on yokai in English, and Yokai Attack! offers a very solid overview of yokai and makes a great introduction to yokai and Japanese culture.

Yokai Attack! The Japanese Monster Survival Guide
Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt
Illustrations by Tatsuya Morino
Kodansha International: 192pp., $15

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