5 Minute Listening: An anti-pandemic monster

  • Nick tells Sze-wing about a creature from Japanese folklore that has gone viral
  • Listen to this week's podcast and answer the questions
Doris Wai |

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Click here for the listening audio


Sze-wing: What’s the strange creature?
Nick: Oh, haven’t you heard about the Amabie? It’s a yokai.
Sze-wing: Huh? What’s a yokai?
Nick: They are Japanese monsters or spirits that sometimes have animal features, and the ability to shape-shift. The Amabie is a yokai that’s supposed to repel plagues.
Sze-wing: Erm, no. But I can see why with its bizarre beak, long hair and scale-like body. It looks like a mash-up of a fish, bird and mermaid that’s just emerged from the sea. I’d definitely not want to be anywhere near it.
Nick: Ha! You’d be surprised by how popular it is in Japan right now. It’s become a mascot of hopes for an end to the coronavirus pandemic and can be found everywhere, from cakes to even nail art.
Sze-wing: No way! That’s the last thing I would put on my nails, much less eat it. What’s with the obsession with the Amabie anyway?
Nick: Well … it seems that back in March, the Kyoto University Library tweeted an 1846 drawing of the Amabie floating above the sea and explained her apparent infection-fighting powers. She is said to have appeared to a samurai, warning of the spread of an infectious disease and instructing him to draw a picture of her and show it to people to protect them. And as you can guess, the Amabie went viral.

Sze-wing: That explains it! Is the Amabie the only yokai that warns others of an epidemic?
Nick: Probably not. There’s also others such as Jinja Hime, a serpent-like creature which has a woman’s face and a dragon’s body, that lives in the sea. According to popular folklore, she prophesised that the Japanese would experience seven years of good harvest, followed by a deadly disease. However, those who looked at a picture of the Jinja Hime would be spared from the pandemic.
Sze-wing: Right. I sure wish we have something similar in Hong Kong! By the way, look at what I found on Google. There’s an udon dish featuring Amabie in the form of a fish sausage emerging from a bowl, and they’ve used wheat noodles for her hair. That’s hilarious!

Nick: Totally. There’s also another bento version of her, with her body and beak carved from a piece of luncheon meat and her hair made from thin strips of Japanese rolled omelette.
Sze-wing: That’s ingenious. Check out this colourful Amabie doughnut. Now, that’s one Amabie snack I won’t mind eating.

The voices on the clip are Amalissa Hall and Jamie Lam.

1. D
2. C
3. C
4. A
5. B
6. D
7. C
8. A
9. A
10. B
11. D
12. C
13. B
14. D
15. B