Posted by: bluemoa | August 7, 2007

Nurikabe – A Japanese spirit


Nurikabe – a Japanese Spirit (my version)

A large Japanese spirit that takes the shape of a wall that blocks your path at night; it has arms and legs, and eyes but no mouth. It protects Kitaro from harm. Gegege no Kitaro of the manga that Shigeru Mizuki created we are talking here, a story of Kitaro and the spirit world, with amusing side kicks like Nezumi Otoko/Rat Boy and Neko Musume/Cat Girl. It was made into an anime series for television. It is beloved by both Japanese children and adults. Shigeru Mizuki lets us peak into the world of Japanese spirits; he breathes life into their characters with no only their physical descriptions but by their habits and scales of scare-ability.


But recently a “new” form of nurikabe has come to light and it is in sharp contrast to what we have imagined up to now. According to Dr. Lawrence Marceau, a senior lecturer from Auckland University, New Zealand, has re-discovered another visual image of nurikabe. It looks like an enormous flabby white dog with large ears, a third eye and two large fangs.

The painting was found in the Private Collections of L. Tom Perry at Brigham Young University in Utah, US. This painting has the word nurikabe written in the top left hand corner. Dr. Marceau conferred with Mr. Yuimoto of the Kawasaki City Museum as they also have the same painting but the Kawasaki one does not have a description. On comparing these two paintings the alternative description of nurikabe was confirmed.

Unfortunately there are no news releases in English of this finding. If you read Japanese then you will get more information. If you find out more news let me know! The only link to nurikabe in English that I can find is to a puzzle game of the same name.

Personally I like Shigeru Mizuki’s style of interpretation of the Japanese spirit world. But I find this rediscovery fascinating.

Obon, Festival of the Dead, or the time when ancestors return to the family shrine is just around the corner, mid August in Japan. I wonder if this has sparked an interest in spirits. Summer time is when Japanese traditionally tell ghost stories, so this may explain the timing of the news.

The link below is in Japanese but you can view the two versions of nurikabe:


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