百物語怪談会 / Hyakumonogatari Kaidan-Kai: Will you be afraid?

Spirituality is…

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Lên đồng – a Vietnamese ritual that channels the spirit of the death.

Growing up in a Buddhist oriented family, I’ve gotten used to the idea of spirits and karma since a very young age, it was so long ago that I’ve forgotten when or why I was afraid of these beings. In Asian culture, it is not uncommon for parents to discipline their kids with scary tales of demons and ghosts. Similar to that of ‘Krampus’ in the Western world, we have ‘ông Ba Bị’ or ‘ông kẹ’ in Vietnam. I could say that those images of skeletons, hazy shadows and distorted faces had played an important part in me not being able to sleep alone until I was 15.

The dancing skeleton – the first form of horror movie that Asian Kids consume.

However, spirituality isn’t just for scaring children alone, it wovens into the life fiber of every single Vietnamese people, creating a society that worships the sacred. There are unspoken rules to abide by in order to stay away from misfortune. I (un)fortunately have a very eccentric uncle who specialised in excorcism and every single year I am assigned to go to his house and participate in rituals. There are procedures to send off misfortune to the underworld by channeling bad lucks in the paper dolls, burning them afterwards as well as curing diseases, balancing inner energy, etc.,

My uncle’s excorcism site.

Praying to the local gods on Lunar New Year.

In conclusion, we don’t talk about spirituality lightly or else there will be consequences.

However, despite growing up in an Asian spiritual environment, a lot of the images that I’ve come to know and…afraid of were mainly borrowed from Western media. Things like ‘Bloody Mary’, ‘Baby Blue’ or the ‘Ouija Board’ are products of Western horror movies that I consume as a child. Not only that, the Internet has brought over many more iconic horror figures like ‘Slender Man’, ‘Jack The Ripper’ and ‘Chucky’. Though the Internet is large and vast, there’s hardly any ‘Asian ghosts’ that are globally known. And it’s not like there aren’t any horror stories in Asian culture, it’s just I’ve never really heard of it.


百物語怪談会/Hyakumonogatari Kaidan-Kai: The gathering of 100 stories.

As anime becomes a larger part of my past time, I came to know and love Japanese culture. Just like other Asian countries, Japan is just as, if not more spiritual than its Asian neighbors. The country has its own spiritual system and rules that distinguish itself from the rest of the Asian nations and it can clearly be seen in Japanese media.

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Yami Shibai: Japanese ghost stories  – a Japanese anime that compiles and retells horror stories.

I first came to know about ‘Hyakumonogatari Kaidan-kai’ or ‘The gathering of 100 stories’ through an anime show called ‘xxxHolic’ by ‘Clamp’. In episode 10, the character participate in a ghost summonng ritual that involving each of them telling a ghost story as each candle was gradually blown out after they finish one, slowly plunging the room into darkness.

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The ghosts appear behind Watanuki as the last candle was blown out.
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Hozuki no Reitetsu – an anime talks about hell and how it works.
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Youkai Watch – an anime about Japanese demons for kids.

I was so invested in the ritual that I did a lot of researches on Japanese ghosts and learn about many different types of demons that are believed to still be lurking in the shadow of bright metropolitan lights. What is particularly interesting is that, even in the modern digital age, people still believe in these tales of demons and ghosts. There are even sites that are constantly updating stories about the paranormal occurences all over the country. This is the first time that I learn about ‘Asian ghosts’ and apparently, just like the nature of a quiet Asian person, these stories become unspoken tales that remain popular under people’s breath

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An ancient illustration of Gashadokuro- a type of Youkai/Japanese demon.

The Project:

Since both me and @alexp997 are equally interested in the darker Japanese culture, we have decided to look further into the Asian/Japanese creepypastas/urban legends eco-system, particularly the ‘Hyakumonogatari Kaidan-kai’ ritual, its history and its running popularity, particularly in the modern digital era. We will conduct our research through online resources like videos, websites as well as public forums, blogs that documented the experiences of the people who have experienced the paranormal.

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A scence from  the anime ‘Nurarihyon no Mago’

We will also try to reconstruct the 100 stories ritual to document our own experience, mainly focusing on the mentality of participants when participating in spiritual activities. I hope that, through this project, I could learn more about what makes the ‘Asian ghosts’ so famous even though they are not well-known throughout the globe as well as how Japan, one of the most developed nations in the world still manages to keep their spiritality alive in the 21st century.

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