Adventures with Yokai: The 100th Year – Song of the Tsukumogami

Karakasa Kozo and Bakezori with lolling tongues frolicking on the engawa.

Meet the Yokai


When an inanimate household object or tool becomes very old it can acquire a spirit. The object becomes self-aware and may also sprout arms and legs. This category of yokai is often referred to as tsukumogami.

Tsukumogami are usually harmless and sometimes even friendly.

However, if an object was thoughtlessly discarded or misused during its years of service, it can become a spiteful yokai.

Therefore, ceremonies are sometimes performed to console broken and unusable objects that are nearing their 100th year so that they will not feel any ill will towards humans.

While angry tsukumogami can band together and cause mischief, most are just playful. Some can be especially lively and will humor themselves playing pranks or frolicking about, so they can become playfully annoying at times. (^_^)


Zōri are Japanese sandals that are traditionally made out of braided rice straw. When a zōri becomes very old it can transform into a bakezōri.

Bakezōri have one eye and two little arms and legs.

Bakezori love to run about in the middle of the night. The pitter pat of their tiny little feet is usually accompanied by their favorite song, which they will chant late into the night.

“Kararin! Kororin! Kankororin! Managu mittsu ni ha ninmai!”

Although the beginning of the song is nonsensical, the second part “three eyes” and “two teeth” is a reference to geta.

Geta are wooden thonged Japanese sandals with elevated bases.

Geta have two wood blocks (“teeth”) on their base and three holes (“eyes”) where the straps of the thong are connected.

Did you know? Counting in Japanese is not quite as easy as 1-2-3. Japanese uses something called counters. Different counters are used for counting different things such as people, animals, long objects, thin objects, small objects, etc.

Karakasa Kozō

When an oil-paper umbrella becomes very old it can transform into a Karakasa Kozō. Its handle turns into a leg and it sprouts one big round eye and a long pointy oily tongue. Some have arms, but many do not. Although rare, Karakasa Kozō can have two legs. Some Karakasa Kozō like to wear a wooden geta on their foot.

Karakasa Kozō is a playful yokai who likes to hop around and play harmless pranks, such as licking unsuspecting people with its tongue.

July from Night Parade fusion playing cards depicting Karakasa Kozo and Bakezori with lolling tongues frolicking on the engawa.

Before we begin the story, here are some terms/info that may be helpful:

An engawa is similar to a veranda, it is the roofed outer corridor/hallway that wraps around a traditional Japanese-style house.

Some traditional Japanese homes have an alcove or a small shrine in the home where you can place objects or light incense to remember loved ones.

A biwa is a gracefully shaped short-necked fretted lute. A biwa is known for its distinctive buzz or sawari sound.

Shoji are sliding panels/screens made from wooden frames and covered with translucent paper.

Adventures with Yokai: The 100th Year - Song of the Tsukumogami

The box was filled with memories of her youth.

A simple wooden doll. She reached into the box to cradle the rounded head and cylindrical body one more time. The painted streaks of black hair now worn away to the naked wood.

An aged tokkuri with a bulbous bottom and narrow neck. She lifted the chipped flask to her cheek, cool against her faded skin, before carefully lowering it back inside.

A biwa. She caressed her wrinkled hands down the smooth pear-shaped body of the instrument, letting her trembling fingers brush against the four silk strings. She closed her eyes and imagined the enchanting vibrations it once played for her.

A disintegrating broomcorn broom. The thinning strands of fibers a testament to its years of labor.

A pair of rice straw sandals, well-worn and well past their years of service. They had been in this house for as long as she could remember, her husband’s ancient and favored pair.

A faded red oil-paper umbrella. She smiled warmly. Yes, she had lived a contented and complete life.

She lowered herself beside the box on the engawa to look out over the garden she had watched grow for countless seasons. Year after year she witnessed the grounds pink with fallen cherry blossoms, the lilac clusters of wisteria in full bloom, the rain sliding down the weeping willows, the snow clinging to the pines. And now, the cascades of bush clover would soon be in bloom again.

Her grandchildren would now be able to experience its cyclic life and beauty. She was looking forward to seeing them once more, to having them move into her home. And so, she awaited their arrival beside her box of memories on the sun-warmed engawa.

At night, she gently slid the shoji panel along its timeworn tracks, leaving them open just a bit, so that a light breeze could pass through, tempering the heat of summer. She settled down onto the yellowed tatami floor to the soft sounds of her grandchildren’s breaths.

She had just closed her eyes when she heard the scampering of little feet out on the engawa. She did not rise, lulled by the soft pattering and joyful hopping, pleased that the house was full of life once more.

She rose with the early morning sun. The shoji had been drawn open to let in the light and air. Her son was out on the engawa, righting the toppled box, and replacing the umbrella and sandals that were strewn beside it. She smiled at him as she settled onto the weathered wood beside the box to watch her grandchildren play in the garden.

That night, when her son slid the shoji panel closed, she settled onto the yellowed tatami floor to listen to the soft sounds of her grandchildren’s breaths.

She heard the sound of pattering feet and sing-song chanting.

“Kararin! Kororin! Kankororin! Managu mittsu ni ha ninmai!”

She slid the shoji panels open just a bit to peek outside.

The red umbrella was hopping around on the engawa. The sandals were prancing about, hand-in-hand, on their tiny little legs, making laps up and down the corridor as they sang.

“Kararin! Kororin! Kankororin! Managu mittsu ni ha ninmai!”

She watched a moment in wonder. Had time passed by so quickly? She returned to the tatami floor to listen to the soft sounds of her grandchildren’s breaths and the song of the tsukumogami.

She rose the next morning to the shoji drawn wide and the cheerful sounds of her grandchildren playing in the garden. Her son was out on the engawa again, righting the box and returning the umbrella and sandals. When he lifted the box, she bowed her head and thanked the items for the years of service and happiness they had provided her. Then, she smiled at him and settled onto the engawa to watch her grandchildren.

That night, she gently slid the shoji panel open just a bit to let the breeze pass through. She settled onto the yellowed tatami floor to the soft sounds of her grandchildren’s breaths.

She rose with the early morning sun, the shoji drawn wide open to let in the light and air. Her son paused to look over the panel, sliding it opened and closed, as if it were in need of repair. She followed him to the wooden alcove, watched him place the wooden doll beside a picture of her and her husband, light the incense, and bow his head. She smiled warmly at him.

She heard the laughter of the children playing in the garden. She drifted toward the engawa and faded away.

✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ La Fin ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿

Thanks for reading! (^_^)
Jason and Antonietta

Picture of Jason & Antonietta (IndianWolf Studios)

Jason & Antonietta (IndianWolf Studios)

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IndianWolf Studios is a husband and wife team with a passion for game design, art, and creativity!

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