Yokai Profile: Kamaitachi
Konnichiwa! Michael, here.
Next weekend, DC and I (a.k.a. The Monster Guys) will be returning one of our quickly-becoming-favorite places on earth, Wichita, Kansas, for the 9th year of Anime Festival of Wichita. We are super excited to be going this year, diving into one of our favorite topics that we haven’t previously presented on before in books or speaking events: Yōkai, or Japanese monsters.
Our panel devoted to this, “Yōkai: Classic, Creepy, and Outrageous Monsters from Japanese Culture,” will be full of some of the wackiest monsters that planet Earth has to offer. The number of yōkai are said to be exactly 11,520, according to ancient text.) This means, sadly, that we won’t be able to do every single yōkai, or even all of the most popular and well known.
So today, here’s a yōkai that was “cut” from the panel—ironically, since cutting is exactly its forte.
Meet the kamaitachi. This whirlwind of a monster could be encountered in the mountains by lonely travelers, although you most certainly wouldn’t want to. Getting caught by the kamaitachi means getting knocked all around the path, coming out with cuts, nicks and bruises galore.
“Okay, Michael,” you say. “So people in Japan tripped and got scraped up sometimes. Big deal.”
If only that were the half of it!
Kamaitachi can in fact be very dangerous, because it isn’t simply an angry gust of wind. The word “kama” literally is a type of blade farmers used as a sickle, and “itachi” is Japanese word for weasel. Like kitsune, neko-mata, tanuki, and a whole list of other animals (COME TO OUR PANEL TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ANIMAL YŌKAI!), itachi or weasels were thought to be magical animals capable of sorcery and other magic powers. They were typically regarded as omens of danger.
Which is certainly true of the kamaitachi. I mean, think about it. What do you get when you add together a gust of wind + kama (blades—we are talking mini-grim reaper blades, ladies and gents) + and flailing weasels? You get this guy:
Actually, there is one interesting variant of the kamaitachi tale that explains why people don’t just die right out from getting hit in the face with a flying sickle-wielding weasel. (I mean, those things aren’t pocket knives!)
Some people say that there are actually three kamaitachi that blow around in these heavy winds. These three brothers each take a part in the act: The first weasel flies into the traveler, knocking him down, the second slices and dices, and the third applies healing medicine that reduces the severe injuries into mere cuts and bruises. Gee, thanks, third weasel!
Moral of the story?
Wear thick protective gear when hiking in Japan. (Actually, given all of the other yōkai encountered on empty roads and paths, just don’t go hiking around Japan alone.)
Seriously, though, plan on attending AFW9 this year. The Monster Guys will be on their zaniest behavior, fitting right in with our subject material.
See ya at the con!!
D.C. McGannon will also present a special panel on the dangerous and pervasive issue of Bullying. As well, The Monster Guys will join forces with author and zombie expert Susanne Lambdin to host a hilarious panel on, well…zombies and monsters!