Ghost Story: A Spooky New Book on Japanese Spirits

A Seattle author brings a Japanese spirit to life

During a stint living in Japan, writer and translator Zack Davisson rented an apartment that was haunted by a ghost. There were bumps in the night, a door the landlord said must never be opened and mysterious red handprints on the ceiling. (On the plus side, the rent was extremely cheap.) The experience inspired Davisson (now living in Seattle) to focus his scholarly attention on yūrei—a type of Japanese ghost whose trademark look includes long black hair, extremely pale skin and white clothing, similar to the spooky girl seen in the 1998 Japanese horror movie Ringu, and the 2002 American remake, The Ring. But yūrei go back much farther than that, as a staple of Japanese folklore that appears in literature as early as The Tale of Genji (around A.D. 1010) and regularly in noh and kabuki performance. Just in time for Halloween, Pike Place Market–based Chin Music Press releases Yūrei: The Japanese Ghost ($22.95), Davisson’s haunting historical analysis that includes images of yūrei as depicted by those who have observed them, explanations of where the spirits can be found, why the long hair is significant and the Rule of the Dead they must follow. Also packed with ghost stories in translation, the book describes the influence yūrei wield over everyday Japanese life (good fortune if properly respected, disaster if treated poorly). All the more reason to attend Davisson’s book reading (10/17; Elliott Bay Book Company;—he might give additional tips in person.

 Author Zack Davisson


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