Japanese artists summon anti-plague demon to battle coronavirus

The ghosts, demons, and spirits of Japanese folklore are known as yokai. Yokai can be friendly, neutral, and even malevolent (the famous “Momo” sculpture and resulting hoax was based on a particularly frightening one), but most possess a specific individual power.

Thanks to a timely reminder from a tile block print from the Edo period, artists in Japan are rallying around Amabie, a yokai believed to have the power to combat the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The Tweet below shows the print (from theKyoto University Digital Archives) and explains the legend, which says that Amabie first appeared in the water off the coast of Kumamoto. The scaly and long-haired yokai made predictions of a bountiful harvest, and before departing said “If an epidemic ever spreads, draw a picture of me and show it to everyone.”

Illustrators around Japan are now listening to the yokai’s words, hoping to combat the coronavirus with fan art. Amabie is being recreated in a number of different and distinct artistic styles.

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