July 23, 2015
by Kanako Murakami and Ayane Yoshikura
Kyoto and Ghosts
The old capital, Kyoto has been connecting with a lot of ghosts since ancient days. On Ichijyo-street at Jyokyo-ku in the north part of Heian-kyo and it is said there is a border line between the daily life and not so. Ichijyo-street is the place where people meet ghosts. Now, this street is famous as Yōkai Street.
Yōkai Street is located in Jyokyo-ku, Kyoto and its official name is “Taishōgun shopping street”. These are many ways to set here. The nearest stations are Kitanohakubai-cho on the Keihuku Electric Railway and Kitanotenmangu by Kyoto city bus. You can go by the easily walk from either station. It is easy to find this street because there are some flags at the beginning. This project started in 2005 by Mr. Jyunichi Kono, a ghost’s culture researcher. The first function was a costume parade of ghosts in 15 October 2005. They reenacted HyakkiYagyō by marching down the Ichijyo-street dresse as ghosts. HyakkiYagyō is a parade with lots ghosts in midnight. It is said these are found mainly age of Heian in Kyoto. Ghost events are not only at Yōkai Street. Randen- Yōkai Train held at Arashiyama Electric Railway is another event. Usually the rate for adults is 200 yen and child is 100yen but if you dress as a ghosts, your rate will only be 50yen. Anyone adults and children participate in this event. There is also a costume contest.
Ghosts in Yōkai Street
Ghosts in Yōkai Street have great originality and they are very mysterious. There are some ghosts who are designed in the motif of goods are sold at stores in Taishōgun shopping street and some ghosts who are famous in Japan. For example, a ghost which is designed like a loaf of bread in a bakery, at a fish shop, it is designed like a fish, in a drugstore, it is designed like a bandage. There are also Nurarihyon (the ghost who looks like an old man with big head and he is sometimes said to be leader of ghosts), Rokuro-kubi (the ghost who wears a kimono and most people think that this ghost has the ability to stretch its neck to great length) and neko-mata (a monster cat) which is famous in Japan. The most popular ghost is white bread-ojisan who lives in a bakery.
Taishōgun shopping street has a mascot character, Yagyōdōji. It is not designed like a product though. Yagyōdōji is a child who has three eyes. He is considered to be a messenger of the god, Henge Daimyojin. This god can change old tool to ghosts. Yagyōdōji is active in some events, not only in Yōkai Street, but also in Kyoto. For example, in Yōkai Street, Yōkai art flea market, an event where the general public sells their original goods of the ghosts and Ichijo Street HyakkiYagyō, an event where the people disguised as a ghost parades around the Ichijo street take place several times a year. The ghost of old tools is called Tsukumogami. It’s said that the idea appeared from the ancient people’s mind to save old tools. In Taishōgun shopping street, they hand down the importance of recycling through Tsukumogami.
Revitalization of a town by ghosts
In 2005, Ichijo Street was renamed Yōkai Street. The street started revitalization of a town by ghosts. Some goods of ghosts are sold in the shopping street. For example, Yōkai korokke which is a green croquette, Yōkai ramen which is a black ramen and so on. These entertained the people who visit the street. And Yōkai camera which is application for smart phone has been provided. You can take a picture which includes a ghost when people take a picture in Yōkai Street with this application. Things like these have been an opportunity to visit increase to Yōkai Street.
A big influence of Yōkai Street
Yōkai Street is a landmark event that connected old tradition and shopping street having necessaries of life. But now many shopping streets are out of vogue in Japan. The biggest reason is the appearance of large commercial complexes. Many shopping streets are decreasingly. But if you come here, you may feel something warm all its own. There are many not chain stores, only family run shops. The shop assistants and customer are very close. Yōkai Street is a big chance to take back former Taishōgun shopping street. I hope that everyone will visit here not only on event days but every day to buy something and enjoy talking to the local people.