People in Japan are turning to the mysterious Amabie to help us through the coronavirus pandemic. 

As countries around the world struggle to control rising cases of coronavirus, people are buying out masks, cancelling events, washing their hands to the tune of “Happy Birthday”, and praying to safeguard themselves and their loved ones.

Every little bit helps when you’re dealing with a pandemic that’s being described as “the worst public health crisis for a generation”, and here in Japan people are turning to a mysterious yokai from traditional folklore to help ease their worries.

Yokai are supernatural spirits, demons and monsters which have been mentioned in ancient texts for centuries and widely popularised during the Edo Period (1603-1868). Each is known to have a supernatural power, and one that people have found to be particularly appropriate for our times is a yokai called Amabie, who’s said to prevent the spread of epidemics. 

According to an Edo-period tile block print dated to 1846, Amabie first appeared in the sea by modern-day Kumamoto Prefecture on the southern island of Kyushu. The tile tells the story of how Amabie appeared, during April of that same year, when a government official went out to inspect something that was shining brightly in the sea. After venturing out to the spot, the apparition stood before the official, telling them that a bountiful harvest was predicted for the next six years.

Amabie then said: “If an epidemic spreads, draw a picture of me and show it to everyone.”

The image of Amabie that appears on the tile shows the apparition to have long hair flowing down to the ground, a body covered in scales like a mermaid, three legs, and a beak.

▼ The tile block print is now held by the Kyoto University Collection.

Now that the coronavirus epidemic has spread to become a pandemic, Amabie’s words are really striking a chord with people around Japan. Artists everywhere are picking up their art equipment and heeding the yokai’s advice to draw her and “show it to everyone” by sharing images of her widely on Twitter.

“Get out of here, epidemic!”

▼ Some of the images are cute…

▼ Some are stamped, to more closely resemble the original…

▼ Some are animated…

▼ And some are more traditionally eerie and yokai-esque than kawaii.

▼ This yokai has a magnetic allure.

▼ A lot of artists are using colour and humour to bring hope to a worrying situation.

▼ Amabie Avengers, Assemble!”

The person who sketched this one says it looks like Amabie is modelling for a hair commercial.

▼ There’s also the Armed Amabie…

▼ The shopping Amabie…

▼ And the Parrot Amabie.

People are even calling on Amabie to help protect them by combining her powers with a more conventional form of protection.

This image is a sign of the times, with references to the panic-buying of toilet paper and personal hygiene goods.

▼ Amabie fits in perfectly with some of our most current imagery.

The yokai is now showing up everywhere, including on pancakes…

▼ Cookies…

▼ Coffees…

▼ And sausages.

▼ Amabie is the covergirl yokai for our generation.

While the legend of Amabie comes from Japanese folklore, when you think about the fact that she appeared from the water to tell her tale, there are connections to be made between the yokai’s message and the importance of cleansing with water to stop the spread of an epidemic.

▼ These days, we have soap, sleep and masks to help protect us too.

So if you’re already taking all the precautions necessary to protect yourself against the coronavirus and would like to give your spirit a lift, why not draw on some power from a legendary Japanese yokai by drawing an image of her and showing her to everyone?

Don’t forget to share your images online with the hashtag #アマビエ (#Amabie) and take a look through all the many other images of her that are growing by the day.

And if you’ve got some extra time on your hands during this time of social distancing, you might want to try out this 1,000-year-old recipe for an ancient dish that’s suddenly become popular again during the pandemic, which would probably appeal to Amabie too.

Source: The Nishinippon Shimbun via Yahoo! Japan 
Featured image: Twitter/@flandore
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