Tag Archives: yokai

#atozchallenge: N is for Netsuke


by Lillian Csernica on April 16, 2018

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In the Tokugawa period, yokai became very popular in ink paintings, woodblock prints, and carvings, especially the small and useful carvings known as netsuke. They were the must-have fashion accessory, so to speak.

A netsuke will play an important role in one of Dr. Harrington’s upcoming adventures. Given that he keeps attracting the attention of the gods and monsters of Japan, it seems reasonable to expect the netsuke to be carved in the shape of something supernatural.

From the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

From the seventeenth through mid-nineteenth centuries, Japanese citizens of all classes wore the kimono—a simple T-shaped robe constructed with minimal cutting and tailoring—wrapped around the body and held in place with an obi sash. In order to carry small items such as tobacco, medicine, and seals, ingeniously constructed sagemono (a collective term for “hanging things”) were suspended on cords that hung from the obi sash (29.100.841). Stacked, nested containers, known as inrô, were specifically designed to hold medicine or seals (10.211.2081). Netsuke served as anchors or counterweights for inrô and sagemono (14.40.843a,b). A single cord was threaded through a cord channel on one side of the suspended container, through two holes (himotoshi) in the netsuke, then through the other side of the container, and knotted on the underside of the container (JP1954). A decorative bead, or ojime, slid along the cord between the netsuke and sagemono, allowing the user to open and close the container (14.40.878a,b).

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Drawing of a man wearing an inro suspended with the help of a netsuke and held together with an ojime. (Wikipedia.com)

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Netsuke are made from a dazzling variety of materials.

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A skeleton beating on a fish drum. Made from narwhal tusk. (pinterest.com)

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Two of the most commonly used materials for netsuke were ivory and wood, with boxwood favored for its fine grain and durability. About 80 percent of surviving antique netsuke were carved in various types of native Japanese wood—cypress, cherry, black persimmon, yew, camphor, zelkova, and camellia. Elephant tusk ivory was one of the most popular materials for netsuke carvers for centuries (10.211.1444). With the enactment of international trade restrictions on elephant ivory in 1989, however, netsuke carvers turned to other sources, including fossilized mammoth and walrus tusks. Extant eighteenth- and nineteenth-century netsuke made of or inlaid with coral, shells, metals, ebony, porcelain (91.1.213), cloisonné,mother-of-pearl, and various nuts attest to the skilled carvers’ ingenuity in conveying the plasticity of these materials, despite their hardness and resistance to wear (10.211.780).

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A fox spirit pretending to be a priest. Made of wood. (pinterest.com)

 

The nure-onna, a monster with the head of a woman and the body of a snake. This one has a monkey on her back.

35mm original

Pumpkin, 19th Century, Hirado ware. Porcelain with blue glaze.

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#atozchallenge: I is for Ink


by Lillian Csernica on April 10, 2018

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Ink, like tea and rice, is an essential part of Japanese culture.

In Pictures from the Water Trade, John David Morely writes a chapter devoted to shodo, or the art of calligraphy. The passion and the poetry of his writing make his account of his lessons in calligraphy a rare adventure. Of all the books I’ve read on a foreigner’s experiences in Japan, and I’m well into double digits, this book remains a favorite.

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The Abbot of Kiyomizudera creates ofuda to protect Dr. Harrington from the dangers he faces. Ofuda are Sanskrit sutras written on parchment using a calligraphy brush and traditional ink. The preparation of the ink alone is fascinating.

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From Wikipedia:

In ink wash paintings, as in calligraphy, artists usually grind inkstick over an inkstone to obtain black ink, but prepared liquid inks (墨汁 in Japanese, bokuju) are also available. Most inksticks are made of soot from pine or oil combined with animal glue. An artist puts a few drops of water on an inkstone and grinds the inkstick in a circular motion until a smooth, black ink of the desired concentration is made. Prepared liquid inks vary in viscosity, solubility, concentration, etc., but are in general more suitable for practicing Chinese calligraphy than executing paintings.[4] Inksticks themselves are sometimes ornately decorated with landscapes or flowers in bas-relief and some are highlighted with gold.

On Putting on Airs (Thirty Days Later), the Abbot provides Dr. Harrington with an ofuda to put on his front gate. Nothing supernatural with malignant intent can enter through that gateway. In The Wheel of Misfortune (Some Time Later), a yokai of considerably greater power and menace is hunting Dr. Harrington through Kyoto’s nighttime streets. This requires an ofuda to be carried by Dr. Harrington at all times!

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#AtoZChallenge: D is for Danger


by Lillian Csernica on April 4, 2018

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Many dangers lie in wait for Dr. Harrington, his wife Constance, and their daughter Madelaine when they move their entire household to Kyoto, Japan. While it is a great honor for Dr. Harrington to be chosen by Queen Victoria and the Emperor Meiji, it is a challenge that will demand all the strength, skills and social graces possessed by each family member.

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Nurse Danforth rises to the challenge of saving Madelaine’s life by confronting Amatsu Mikaboshi, the Japanese god of chaos.

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Madelaine, just nine years old and already a mechanical genius, must survive a life-threatening fever. Then comes the challenge of convincing Dr. Harrington the gods and monsters of Japanese mythology and folklore are real and must be taken seriously. When Madelaine is targeted by one especially clever monster, she must draw on her skills both mechanical and folkloric to protect her family.

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Constance exists in a state of endless bewilderment as she fights a daily battle to bring all the graces of Victorian England to the strange and incomprehensible world of Japan during the Meiji Restoration. This might not sound as dangerous as the threats faced by Dr. Harrington and Madelaine, but success as a hostess in support of her husband’s social position was a Victorian woman’s reason for living.

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Dr. Harrington takes on the lion’s share of danger. Amatsu Mikaboshi‘s determination to restore the balance of honor lost in his confrontation with Nurse Danforth puts Dr. Harrington in the perilous position of protecting the Abbot. Dr. Harrington also faces political and ethical pressures when he follows the Abbot of Kiyomizudera’s advice and does what must be done to escape the wrath of the wanyudo.

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#AtoZBlogChallenge B is for Bakemono


by Lillian Csernica on April 2, 2018

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Bakemono are the group of yokai (monsters) in Japanese mythology who are shapeshifters and tricksters. Foremost among them are the mujina (badger), the tanuki (raccoon-dog), and the kitsune (fox spirit). Also holding noteworthy rank among the bakemono is the nekomata, the split-tailed cat who can assume the form of a beautiful woman.

In Putting On Airs (Thirty Days Later), there’s a surprisingly large cat terrorizing the dogs in Dr. Harrington’s neighborhood. With the help of the monks of Kiyomizudera, Madelaine builds a trap meant to catch what she suspects is the real cause of all the trouble.

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In the second story of this pair, Blown Sky High, Constance is in charge of a garden party held in conjunction with the Blue Dragon Festival at Kiyomizudera. The party celebrates the Blue Dragon, an avatar of Kannon, Goddess of Mercy.  The party features Madelaine’s origami paper dragons and a wondrous clockwork dragon that adds just the right touch to the party’s symbolic rejoicing.

 

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A to Z 2018: Kyoto Steampunk!


by Lillian Csernica on March 19, 2018

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Welcome to my fourth adventure as a participant in the A to Z Blog Challenge!

This year I will be taking you into the depths of my fiction. Thanks to the wonderful folks behind Clockwork Alchemy, I have two short stories in each of the three convention anthologies published so far. You can see all three covers in the sidebar. History is my passion and historical fiction my favorite reading and writing pleasure. With that in mind, my A to Z Challenge Theme is

KYOTO STEAMPUNK!

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Come and meet the main characters such as Dr. William Harrington, eminent British physician, his wife Constance and their daughter Madelaine, a genius at creating clockwork automata and a keen student of Japanese language and culture.

Meet his adversaries who hail from various corners of Japanese mythology!

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Meet the people of Japan who bring their strengths and weaknesses to the battles Dr. Harrington must face as he struggles to carry out the mission entrusted to him by Queen Victoria herself.

Join me for each of the 26 letters of the alphabet.  I will take you behind the scenes into the creative process and amazing historical details that shape Dr. Harrington’s adventures!

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Yet More Good News!


by Lillian Csernica on February 28, 2016

 

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A brand new release from Thinking Ink Press!  Included are my stories “Putting on Airs” and “Blown Sky High.”  I am proud and honored to share the Table of Contents with such masters of fiction as Harry Turtledove, David L. Drake, and Katherine L. Morse.

If you enjoyed my stories “In the Midnight Hour” and “A Demon in the Noonday Sun” which appeared in Twelve Hours Later, then you’re sure to have a good time reading the further adventures of Dr. William Harrington and his mechanical genius daughter, Madelaine.  The creatures of Japanese myth and folklore have more dangerous business with the Harrington family!

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