Amabie - A Light of Hope in the pandemic era
The bizarre creatures of Japanese folklore, widely known as yokai, may be dangerous and malicious. However, some of them are willing to help the humankind
The year 2020 has indeed become rough for the whole world. Wearing masks, a regular body temperature measurement, and constant use of hand sanitizers are an essential part of our everyday routine now.
Many organizations and corporations have faced severe financial difficulties. People have lost their jobs or had to limit their regular communication with each other. All of us experienced the detrimental consequences of the global pandemic. In these harsh obstacles, it is easy to feel stressed and insecure.
For me, this year was especially important because I was preparing for my Ph.D. dissertation submission while working at the university office. My husband and I (at that time he was my boyfriend) canceled all our plans and didn't see each other for almost two months. Many of my close family members and friends back in Kazakhstan got infected with the virus. A stressful time, to say the least.
Amabie - A light of hope
Suddenly a shining beacon of hope and positivity appears on the horizon of Japanese media. It's only a symbol, a cute image, but - oh, how supportive and inspiring this little fellow is! Its name is Amabie, a mysterious mermaid-like creature of the Japanese bestiary.
According to Nagano (2005), the yokai's story appeared in the Edo period woodblock print, where it has long hair and a bird-like beak. Let me tell you this story.
One day, a government official of the Kumamoto prefecture (former Higonokuni) was reported of a strange shining coming straight out of the sea. When he decided to go there and find the source, a weird creature called Amabie appeared.
It said that in 6 months, there would be a plentiful harvest; however, it also warned of severe illness to hit the people.
In case of this illness, just show others my picture - Amabie said and swiftly disappeared in the sea.
The man followed Amabie's instructions and depicted the yokai as he remembered it.
That is how a yokai helped people to foresee the future and be prepared for possible upcoming troubles.
Interestingly, not only Amabie but some other yokai are similarly skillful healers.
There are numerous folk tales about the kappa (a green water-dwelling yokai with a carapace on its back) being caught or saved by a Japanese hero. A kappa then confesses its wrongdoing and reveals a recipe of a magic ointment to the protagonist.
Thus, the picture of Amabie became a kind of omamori, or an amulet to ward off illness and protect health.
Currently, the trend of depicting Amabie is a national sensation utilized by companies and services all over Japan.
I always notice these cute drawings of Amabie on the signboards and banners of shops. In one of the restaurants, each waiter had a small Amabie image pinned to their clothes. Whenever I ask the staff of their little helper Amabie, they always smile, which warms my heart.
It makes me believe that no matter how hard life can be, there is still passion and hard work of good people that allows living through anything.
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