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Chōchin-obake (提灯お化け, "paper lantern ghost") is a Japanese yōkai of chōchin (a type of lantern),[1] "[the] lantern-spook (chochinobake) ... a stock character in the pantheon of ghouls and earned mention in the definitive demonology of 1784."[2] They can also be called simply chōchin, bake-chōchin, obake-chōchin, and chōchin-kozō.

They appear in the kusazōshi, omocha-e, and karuta card games like obake karuta starting from the Edo period to the early 20th century (and still in use today),[3] as well as in Meiji and Taishō toys, children's books, and haunted house attractions.


"Oiwa-san" from the "Hyakumonogatari" by Katsushika Hokusai

An old chōchin would split upwards and downwards, and the part that got split would become a mouth and stick out a long tongue, and the chōchin obake is commonly considered not to have one eye in its upper half, but two. Sometimes, the chōchin would also grow a face, hands, a torso, and wings.

In pictures from the Edo Period, both bucket-shaped and cylindrical chōchin[4][5] were depicted. In the Gazu Hyakki Tsurezure Bukuro by Sekien Toriyama, a lantern-shaped yōkai under the name of "bura-bura" was depicted.[6]

They are also known from ukiyo-e such as Katsushika Hokusai's "Oiwa-san" from the "Hyakumonogatari", and Utagawa Kuniyoshi's "Kamiya Iemon Oiwa no Bōkon" from the Edo Period and beyond. These were inspired by the kabuki, the Tōkaidō Yotsuya Kaidan (1825), in which the spirit of Oiwa, who was killed by Kamiya Iemon, was performed displaying itself from a chōchin (which was called chōchin-nuke),[7] and as well as another performance in which a chōchin had a human face, the Kasane ga Fuchi Satemo Sono Nochi (累渕扨其後) (in 1825, at the Nakamura-za among other places[8]), so these were called chōchin-oiwa.[9]

Among emakimono that depict many yōkai of tools, there is the Hyakki Yagyō Emaki, but there have been no chōchin found in older works before the Edo Period. Examples of works after the Edo Period include the Hyakki Yagyō no Zu (百鬼夜行之図) by Kanō Jōshin.[5]

The Chōchin-obake in particular was created from a chōchin lantern[citation needed] composed of "bamboo and paper or silk".[10] They are portrayed with "one eye, and a long tongue protruding from an open mouth".[10]

Oral legends[edit]

Although they are a famous yōkai, it is said that there are pretty much no legends in any area that are about this, so in yōkai-related literature, they are classified as a "yōkai that exist only in pictures."[11] There is also a theory that they were created as a kind of fiction for entertaining children.[12] The yōkai comic artist Mizuki Shigeru published a story about how a chōchin-obake would surprise people and suck out their souls, but it did not cite any primary sources.[13]

There is the following legend that has been confirmed. Yōkai considered to be chōchin in the legends are often told to be atmospheric ghost lights like chōchinbi rather than as the tool itself.[13]

In an old story from the Yamagata Prefecture, at a shrine with an aged chōchin, a chōchin-obake would appear and frighten humans, and the obake would no longer appear after the chōchin was put away.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bush, 109.
  2. ^ Screech, 109
  3. ^ Kenji Murakami, Yōkai Jiten
  4. ^ 湯本豪一 (2002). 妖怪あつめ. 角川書店. p. 口絵3 『百物語ばけもの双六』. ISBN 978-4-048-83753-8.
  5. ^ a b 湯本豪一『百鬼夜行絵巻―妖怪たちが騒ぎだす』小学館 2005年
  6. ^ 高田衛監修 稲田篤信・田中直日編 (1992). 鳥山石燕 画図百鬼夜行. 国書刊行会. pp. 289頁. ISBN 978-4-336-03386-4.
  7. ^ 服部幸雄『さかさまの幽霊 <視>の江戸文化論』平凡社 1989年 70頁 ISBN 4-582-28464-7
  8. ^ 『江戸妖怪大図鑑』太田記念美術館 2014年 79、222頁
  9. ^ 京極夏彦多田克己・久保田一洋編著 (2004). 北斎妖怪百景. 国書刊行会. pp. 57頁. ISBN 978-4-336-04636-9.
  10. ^ a b Bakechochin, 57.
  11. ^ 村上健司編著 (2000). 妖怪事典. 毎日新聞社. pp. 220頁. ISBN 978-4-620-31428-0.
  12. ^ 田神健一・奥津圭介・中村亜津沙編 (2006). アニメ版 ゲゲゲの鬼太郎 完全読本. 講談社. pp. 117頁. ISBN 978-4-06-213742-3.
  13. ^ a b 水木しげる (2014). 決定版 日本妖怪大全 妖怪・あの世・神様. 講談社講談社文庫). p. 450. ISBN 978-4-062-77602-8.
  14. ^ "提灯お化け". 山形弁の昔話と山形情報 - やまがた Retrieved 2010-01-04. External link in |publisher= (help)

Further reading[edit]

  • "Bakechochin." The Element Encyclopedia of the Psychic World. Harper Element. (2006)
  • Bush, Lawrence. Asian horror encyclopedia: Asian horror culture in literature, manga and folklore. Writers Club Press. (2001)
  • Kenkyūsho, Nihon Shakai Shisō. Japan interpreter: Volumes 8-9. (Tokyo, Japan), Nihon Shakai Shisō Kenkyūsho, Tokyo. (1974)
  • Murakami, Kenji (ed.). Yōkai Jiten (妖怪事典). Mainichi Shimbun (2000).
  • The Element Encyclopedia of the Psychic World. Harper Element. (2006)
  • Screech, Timon. The lens within the heart: the Western scientific gaze and popular imagery in later Edo Japan. University of Hawaii Press (2002)