The akaname (垢嘗) is a Japanese yōkai depicted in Toriyama Sekien's Gazu Hyakki Yagyō. Meaning filth (aka) licker (name), they are stated to lick the filth that collects in bathtubs and bathrooms.
In classical yōkai depictions, children with clawed feet and cropped heads are depicted by the bath place sticking out a long tongue. These depictions do not feature any kind of explanation, so anything related to them can only be inferred, but in the Edo period kaidan book Kokon Hyakumonogatari Hyōban, there are writings about a yōkai called "akaneburi" ("neburi" meaning "to lick") and it is inferred that the akaname is a depiction of this akaneburi.
According to the Kokon Hyakumonogatari Hyōban, the akaneburi is a monster that lives in old bathhouses and are said to lurk in dilapidated estates. In those times, it was believed that fish were born from water and lice were born from dirt, and seeing how fish intake water and lice eat dirt, all things were thus believed to eat the material that spawns them, the akaneburi being the ones that transform from the air of the places that gather dust and filth and therefore live by eating filth.
Showa, Heisei, and beyond
In literature about yōkai from the periods of Shōwa, Heisei, and beyond, akaname and akaneburi were interpreted the same way as above. These interpretations state that the akaname is a yōkai that lives in old bathhouses and dilapidated buildings that would sneak into places at night when people are asleep to lick using a long tongue at the filth and grime sticking to bath places and bathtubs. It doesn't do anything other than lick at the filth, but since yōkai were considered creepy to see in any case, it is said that people worked hard to ensure that the bath places and bathtubs are washed clean so that the akaname wouldn't come. There were none who saw what the akaname truly were, but since "aka" can remind people of the color red ("aka" in Japanese), they are said to have red faces or be entirely red. Also, "aka" (meaning filth) also has connotations to the idea of "impurities" such as "depravities," "sins," or "worldly desires" and other things that are not necessary, which leads to the theory that it wasn't simply a lesson to keep bath places clean, but also to keep such impurities from lurking in one's own self.
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- Akaname Bandcamp