Saturday, February 05, 2005

Profile: Shigeru Mizuki

The Japan Times profiles 82-year-old Shigeru Mizuki, legendary creator of Ge-ge-ge no Kitaro, who talks about World War II, the keys to a long life, and yokai (goblins):
They say yokai disappeared as electric lights came in. Monsters prospered in the pre-electricity days, when people used andon (a standing lantern with a wooden frame and paper shade) and oil lamps. Electricity was too bright for yokai to survive. The darkness, with a touch of light like that of paper lanterns and oil lamps, was great for yokai, and it inspired people to imagine yokai.

In New Guinea, old people believed yokai were really alive because there was no electricity. In fact, when I was there I asked the people to let me see "the head yokai," who supposedly lived in the river. They were dead serious as they woke me up in the middle of the night and took me there, pointing to a certain location, shouting "there it is!" I couldn't see anything. Electricity is dangerous. Not many people say this, but it's absolutely the electricity that made yokai vanish.