Gero-Jii and the Umi-Bozu


Gero-Jii and the Umi-Bozu

⊛ cut paper / wood
⊛ private collection


Gero-Jii is a big, bumpy frog who lives on the tiny plot of land behind our apartment. He doesn't do much, rarely even moves, and I've never heard him make a sound. But he still makes my wife scream every once in awhile.

In Japan, an animal that comes with the season is often considered a visitor. Gero-Jii hops along, hauling the Tsu-yu (rainy season) along behind him. Sort of like the red-breasted robin in the eastern US, but with more warts and humidity.

Umi-Bozu are Japanese O-bake, ghosts or monsters that haunt the seas. They are the bane of finshermen - boat-sinkers and drowners of sailors. Bozu, incidentally, is the character for "monk"; and the creature is so-named for it's large, round head. Seeing as the Umibozu tower over ships and crew, Gero-Jii must be a particularly large specimen. It's no surprise that frogs pop up in fairy tales and ghost stories so often. There's something vaguely eerie about them, with their metamorphosis from tadpole and their living between two worlds. Or maybe it's their zen-like calm as they sit in the middle of a dark street, mulling over whether they should cross.

Illustration Friday