Bookiyo-e: The Sailor Tokuso and the Sea Monster

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Utagawa Kuniyoshi, The Sailor Tokuso and the Sea Monster, 1830


The Japanese name for this sea monster is Umibōzu, or "sea monk," hence the bald head. Umibōzu are said to sink the ships of anyone who dares talk to it. They appear out of nowhere, usually approaching in calm waters, but when they surface, raging waves and storms instantly accumulate. Umibōzu typically try to smash the hulls of the ships with its long arms, but depending on the size, it may use other methods. These monsters ared categorize as demonic ghosts, because it is an accumulation of many different souls. They are thought to be made of drowned priests, due to the shaven head, and usually appear to be praying. These priests were usually thrown into the sea by angry villagers. 

Because of their terrible deaths, the priest's souls seek vengeance by drowning people. Others belive that Umibōzu are made up of souls who have no one to maintain their graves, as they take refuge at sea. Their bodies are described as cloud-like, and often have serpentine limbs or tentacles. If the Umibōzu is angered, it will ask for a ladle or a barrel. which it will then continue to fill up with water to drown the boat. In order to survive the Umibōzu, one must provide a bottomless ladle or barrel, so the water will pour out before it sinks the boat.

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