The Portland Office for Imaginary History re-opens for b-side Festival 2018, and I'm allowing myself an exclamation mark for it! Walking tours on the 8th, 9th, 15th and 16th September, bus tour 14th September, mobility scooter and wheelchair tour on the 16th. Top quality lies, direct to the public. Plan your festival visit here, there's … Continue reading The Portland Office for Imaginary History
This way to the Tourist Misinformation Office.
See the first post about Japanese kamishibai (paper theatre) for more information and commentary about the origins and context of these images.
Here we move into the 1940s, WWII and the dodgy, overly-positive world of propaganda. Propaganda is almost by definition absurd and deceptive; if it wasn’t so cognitively dissonant and detached from observed reality then we’d just call it informative or documentarian. But there’s still something particularly disturbing about the hijacking of a medium intended mainly for children. The slides shown here are from How to Build a Home Air Raid Shelter and from Kintaro the Paratrooper. The latter is a militaristic rewrite of the traditional story about Momotoro the Peach Boy, who joined up with animal friends to defend Japan from invading demons. You can see what they did there, obviously.
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This is the first of several posts about Japanese kamishibai (paper theatre), a popular form of storytelling that began in the 1930s, peaked in the post-war/American occupation period, and more or less died out with the rise of Japan as a modern, technologically developed country. The material is all from Eric P. Nash’s great book Manga Kamishibai. As usual, out of respect for the author and the publisher (and also to piss off the imbeciles who are always going on about printed books being dead trees and obsolete, everything’s online now, blah blah blah) I’ll hopefully be posting just enough to arouse your interest without coming anywhere close to making it pointless to buy or borrow the book.
Kamishibaiya (paper theatre storytellers) would roll up to a street corner on their bicycles, which also supported a butai– a miniature wooden theatre into which the illustrated boards for the…
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Japan panic: the slit-mouthed woman
Stories of 口裂け女, the slit-mouthed woman, emerged from urban Japan in the late 1970s. At first they were particularly passed around between school children, then in the mass media. By the first half of 1979 Asahi Shinbun was highlighting kuchisake onna as a buzzword (hayari kotoba) of the year. In true, random Japanese style one of the others was “rabbit hutches”.
Occasionally Kuchisake onna was reported as a genuine physical threat, a criminal would-be kidnapper or murderer rather than a supernatural being. At times she was somehow both a real world abductor and a folkloric monster simultaneously. (See Hyaku-monogatari for the Edo origins of modern yōkai storytelling) Satoshi Kon’s extremely uneven but in places brilliant series 妄想代理人Mōsō Dairinin [Paranoia Agent] is obviously heavily inspired by the mass hysteria over Kuchisake onna. A woman with long hair and a white…
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Edo horror stories
The hyaku-monogatari (“one hundred stories”) were told in Edo-era Japan when people came together to exchange kaidan, stories of ghosts, monsters, mysterious (fushigi) happenings, and frightening (osoroshiki) characters. This gatherings, hyaku-monogatari kaidan kai, can be conceived of as a kind of market for exchanging stories. These might be real (or claimed) personal experiences, stories people knew from elsewhere, or a story of their own devising. There may not always have been exactly one hundred stories; as in English, saying there are “a hundred” or “hundreds” of something can be deliberate hyperbole, just a way of saying there are more than you can easily count. Stories of mysterious and frightening things (mononoke) were and are indeed endless in number.
Wakan kaidan hyōrin, 1718:
“First light one hundred wicks with blue paper around them, and hide all weapons. Now, for…
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