⊛  Hitotsume-kozō  
⊛  cut paper + washi / wood  
⊛  4 x 6 in • 100 x 150 mm  

Hitotsume-kozō ( 一つ目小僧 ) literally translates as "One-Eyed Little Monk", and he is Obake, a Japanese Ghost. He is also an omen, a sign of bad luck to come. Even so, he is near the top of my list of youkai (also means ghosts) to meet, mostly because, unlike a lot of other ghosts, he will not bite, eat, pierce, shred, decapitate, freeze, burn, or drown me. Instead, he likes to tease. I can handle that.

I've been wanting to do some Obake art since I came to Japan, and hopefully this will be the first of many. A great source for Obake stories is the Obakemono Project. Special thanks go out to Shigeru Mizuki for keeping the world of the youkai alive... well, dead, but still fun.

UPDATE 2015:  The wonderful Obakemono Project website is no longer online, which is really sad.  On the plus side:

  • This Tumblr preserves much of the Obakemono Project
  • Yokai.com is an excellent repository of Japanese creeps and creepiness

Hindsight is a wonderful, terrible thing.  Looking back on Hitotsume-kozō, I can see that I was overly influenced by Shigeru Mizuki's interpretation of the character - not a huge surprise considering how defining his drawing is, combined with the fact that that this is one of the more human yōkai, really just a short cyclops in buddhist priest's gear.  Which just means that I should have taken a much crazier approach. -PG