Baku (spirit)

Baku (spirit)

:"A baku by Katsushika Hokusai. For other uses, see Baku (disambiguation)."

nihongo|Baku|獏 or 貘 are Japanese supernatural beings that devour dreams and nightmares. They have a long history in Japanese folklore and art, and more recently have appeared in Japanese anime and manga (see examples cited below).

The Japanese term "baku" has two current meanings, referring to both the traditional dream-devouring creature and to the zoological tapir (e.g., the Malaysian tapir). [Nakagawa, 1999, pp. 33-34. ] In recent years, there have been changes in how the baku is depicted.

History and Description

The traditional Japanese nightmare-devouring baku originates in Chinese folklore and was familiar in Japan as early as the Muromachi period (14th-15th century). [ Hori Tadao 2005 ] Hori Tadao (2005) has described the dream-eating abilities attributed to the traditional baku and relates them to other preventatives against nightmare like the use of amulets. Kaii-Yōkai Denshō Database, citing a 1957 paper, and Mizuki (2004) also describe the dream-devouring capacities of the traditional baku.

An early 17th century Japanese manuscript, the "Sankai Ibutsu" (山海異物), describes the baku as a Chinese mythical chimera with an elephant’s trunk, rhinoceros eyes, an ox tail, and tiger paws, which in belief protected against pestilence and evil, although eating nightmares was not included among its abilities. [ Nakagawa, 1999 ] However, in a 1791 Japanese wood-block illustration, a specifically dream-destroying baku is depicted with an elephant’s head, tusks, and trunk, with horns and tiger’s claws. [ Kern, 2007 ] The elephant’s head, trunk, and tusks are characteristic of baku portrayed in classical era (pre-Meiji) Japanese wood-block prints (see illustration) and in shrine, temple, and netsuke carvings. [ (Accessed September 5, 2007.)] [ (Accessed September 8, 2007.) ] [ (Accessed September 8, 2007.) ] [ (Accessed September 8, 2007.) ] [ (Accessed September 8, 2007.)] Writing in the Meiji era, Lafcadio Hearn (1902) described a baku with very similar attributes that was also able to devour nightmares. [Hearn 1902.]

Since the 1980s in manga, anime, and other forms of popular culture, the baku appears not as a chimera of an elephant and tiger but as a zoologically recognizable tapir. Examples include Takahashi Rumiko's manga "Urusei Yatsura" (1995) [Takahashi Rumiko 1995] and Mikimoto Haruhiko's manga "Marionatte Generation" (2001, original 1990), [Mikimoto Haruhiko, 2001] and in anime, Oshii Mamoru’s 1984 film about Lum, "Beautiful Dreamer". [Oshii Mamoru, 1984] Such baku also appear in Pokémon and Digimon (the Drowzee is a baku-like Pokémon, and Digimon features a character called Bakumon) Fact|date=September 2007. "Baku" is a main character in the Playstation 2 game Dual Hearts, characterized as a "pig" that eats dreams.Fact|date=October 2007 However, not all modern baku/yumekui are tapirs ("yumekui" means "dreamcatcher"). In Satoshi Kon’s 2007 animated film “Paprika,” Paprika, a young woman who is kami of the Dreamtime, is a baku/yumekui who devours a dream-villain at the film’s climax. [Kon Satoshi, 2007] Hakase Mizuki's 2007 manga "Ba_ku" ("sic") and Shin Mashiba's 2008 manga "Nightmare Inspector: Yumekui Kenbun" are also about baku/yumekui who are not tapirs. [Hakase Mizuki 2007] [Shin Mashiba 2008] The Playstation game FFIX features a character named Baku who resembles a pig.Fact|date=April 2008

Dream-eating, tapir-shaped baku have also entered non-Japanese popular culture. The picture book "The Dream Eater" by Christian Garrison tells the story of a young boy, Yukio, who meets a baku and brings it to his village Fact|date=September 2007. Neil Gaiman’s "The Dream Hunters,” which is based on Japanese mythology, features baku. A video game featuring a dream-eating tapir also exists (see external link).



* Hakase Mizuki 2007 "Ba_ku." Los Angeles, CA: TokyoPop. (The underscore is correct; it's in the original title.)

* Hearn, Lafcadio 1902 Kottō: "Being Japanese Curios, with Sundry Cobwebs". Macmillan & Co., Ltd. pages 245-248. ISBN 4-8613-3027-0.

* Hori Tadao 2005 "Cultural note on dreaming and dream study in the future: Release from nightmare and development of dream control technique," "Sleep and Biological Rhythms" 3 (2), 49–55.

* Kaii-Yōkai Denshō Database. International Research Center for Japanese Studies. Retrieved on 2007-05-12. (summary of excerpt from "Warui Yume o Mita Toki" ( 悪い夢をみたとき, When You've Had a Bad Dream?) by Keidō Matsushita, published in volume 5 of the journal "Shōnai Minzoku" (庄内民俗, Shōnai Folk Customs) on June 15, 1957).

* Kern, Adam L. 2007 "Manga from the Floating World: Comicbook culture and the kibyoshi of Edo Japan". Cambridge: Harvard University Asian Center. page 236, figure 4.26.

* Kon Satoshi 2007 "Paprika". Tokyo: Sony Pictures. ASIN B000O58V8O.

* Mashiba, Shin 2008 "Nightmare Inspector: Yumekui Kenbun." San Francisco: Viz Media. ISBN 978-1-4215-1758-2.

* Mikimoto Haruhiko 2001 (original 1990) "A Profile of the Heart". In: "Marionette Generation, Volume 1", San Francisco: Viz Communications. pages 159-178.

* Mizuki, Shigeru 2004 "Mujara 5: Tōhoku, Kyūshū-hen" (in Japanese). Japan: Soft Garage. page 137. ISBN 4-8613-3027-0.

* Nakagawa Masako 1999 "Sankai ibutsu: An early seventeenth-century Japanese illustrated manuscript". Sino-Japanese Studies, 11:24-38. pages 33-34.

* Oshii Mamoru 1984 "Beautiful Dreamer." New York:US Manga Corp. ASIN: B0001Y4MRW.

* Takahashi Rumiko 1995 "Waking to a nightmare." In: "The Return of Lum: Urusei Yatsura". San Francisco: Viz. Pp. 141-156.

External links

* (Accessed August 5, 2007.)

ee also

* Dreamcatcher

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