Thursday, October 11, 2018

Supernatural Friday: Forget Godzilla, the Gashadokuro is Japan's Real Giant Monster!

The Japanese always had giant monsters attacking them. Although, one of the first terrors wasn't radioactive reptilian or a bug or a dragon, it was the gashadokuro. The tales of the gashadokuro goes back over 1000 years to a bloody rebellion against the central government by a samurai named Taira no Masakado. His daughter, Takiyasha-hime, was a famous sorceress. When Masako was eventually killed for his revolt, his daughter continued his cause. Using her black magic, she summoned a great skeleton to attack the city of Kyoto. 

The Japanese have many wild and wonderful legends of ghostly beings, known as Yokai.  One of the most malevolent of them all is the Gashadokuro.  The name literally translates to “starving skeleton”, but that doesn’t do this spirit justice.  Known also as Odokuro, which is apt, as it means “giant skeleton”.  The Gashadokuro is, in fact, a gigantic skeleton that roams the streets after midnight and bites off the heads of anyone unlucky enough to get in its way. It is usually found near mass-graves or battlegrounds and has no diet, but still enjoys feasting on human beings!

The name came from the fact that it’s created from the bones of people who have died of famine.  When a village, for example, dies of starvation, there is a good chance the rotting bones will knit together to form a Gashadokuro, which will then seek to fulfill its unending appetite.  The resulting skeletal ghost is said to be fifteen times the size of a man (or about 90 feet tall!).

if being a giant skeleton wasn’t bad enough, the Gashadokuro is completely invisible before it strikes.  The only way to know one is close is to hear the sound of bells ringing in one's ears just before it attacks.  Shinto charms may also make the monster visible.  There’s no real way to defeat these monsters; escape is the only way to survive an encounter with them.  Laying the bones to rest with offerings of food may work, but the giant ghosts are very difficult to defeat.  Otherwise, eventually, these creatures will burn themselves out, the spiritual energy necessary to hold together all of the bones finally giving way, and they collapse.

The origin of the Gashadokuro is shrouded in mystery, but one possible explanation comes from 10th century CE. During a very bloody conflict within Japan’s government (which are quite common in the island nation’s history), the daughter of a warlord sought to protect her father and castle from an invading army by summoning a giant skeleton.  She used a spell inscribed on a scroll and the skeleton appeared from a dark void to attack the soldiers.  There is the famous woodblock painting by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, titled Takiyasha the Witch and the Skeleton Spectre that depict this event.  It is said that after this mythical battle, Gashadokuro were unleashed upon the world.

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