Half-man monster

Our group still feel like it is not a time to address a final touch, since we still have a tomorrow. And we all agree to talk something interesting. I am interesting to find that in American pop culture, there are stories about half-human monsters, like the bigfoot and the mothman. There is also a very famous half-man monster, the cat-face old lady. The folk comes from the north-east China, but it is so sensational that even me as a southerner know. The cat-face lady was said to die around 1955. And at the instant she died, a cat happened to come across and jumped onto the death’s body. The dead corpse eeriely came back to “life”, but turned into a creepy monster with a cat-like face. The monster hanged around the north China in following years, and was reported by unofficial source that she ate small children and caused a few deaths. The following picture is said to be the old lady and there is even a film about it. The realness of the story is still under discussion, since so many people claim online they had experienced this incident and remembered that even the official newspaper talked about it, though it was later blocked by government. However, in Chinese folk culture, there are lots of stories about “jump-up corpse” (诈尸).  



King of Monsters

With the class coming to an end soon, I would like to take this time to write about something near and dear to my heart, the weird and sometimes city destroying monsters known as kaiju.

Kaiju is a term meaning “strange beast” and was popularized in America when the movie Pacific Rim was released, featuring many different monsters who were all designed to destroy the human race.  Although this film by Guillermo Del Toro is not Japanese, it is clear to see that it takes a lot of influence from Japan.  Kaiju fighting giant mecha screams anime origins, and in my opinion, it did a good job blending Japanese themes with Western cinema.

A much more famous kaiju though, the King of Monsters, is Godzilla.  When it comes to kaiju, Godzilla will always win in my heart, and it is the real reason I wanted to write about kaiju.

Known as Gojira, this poster comes from its movie debut in 1954


One of  the reasons I love Godzilla so much is because as a child I could use the films to bond with my older brother.  Being six years apart, movies like Godzilla were a perfect middle ground for things to watch that we could both appreciate.  So right of the bat, I’m definitely a little sentimental about the big monster.  The real reason I’m bringing Godzilla up today though, is the symbolism involved.

To put it simply, Godzilla was made as a commentary on nuclear weapons.  Being a city destroying monster with a signature power called “atomic breath” this allegory makes complete sense.  The attacks against japan in WWII with the use of atomic bombs was key inspiration, especially with scene destroying Tokyo.  Further and lesser known inspiration came from a much smaller incident though, that still caused immense fear and uncertainty.

The Daigo Fukuryu Maru fishing boat (Lucky Dragon 5) was getting further and further away from its point of origin, in desperate search for more fish.  in the process of doing this, the ship and her crew came close to the Bikini Atoll nuclear test site where a thermonuclear bomb was being detonated.  Due to the fishing boat’s accidental close proximity, the crew experienced a large dose of radiation, along with the fish they had caught.  After getting back to Japan they were rushed to local hospitals, showing heavy signs of radiation sickness.  At the same time, there fish had somehow been accidentally offloaded, and accidentally sold.  All but two tuna were found, likely having been consumed.  The sick fisherman and the chance of consuming irradiated fish caused a mass panic, and it was suggested not to consume from the ocean for a while due to these tests.  This confusion and terror from nuclear weapons fed the modern myth of Godzilla and helped create the most famous kaiju today.

This historical background makes Godzilla an important character in media, and shows how stories are adapted to show modern issues in the world.  With over 30 films based on Godzilla, and the resent reboots involving the 2014 American Godzilla film, and a 2016 Japanese Godzilla film (using the Fukushima meltdown as a major plot point), Godzilla shows no sign of going away.

-Will Sarros, Group Naga


Swenson, Tommy. “Lucky Dragon 5 And The Terrifying Truth That Inspired GODZILLA.” Birth.Movies.Death. N.p., 28 Aug. 2013. Web. 20 Jan. 2017.

Group Naga Update and Thoughts on Aokigahara Forest

Hello all!

CentreTerm is rapidly coming to an end! Our group has had a great time bringing our podcast together and we are excited to have a real final product soon. In Between our stretches of editing, re-recording, and little tweaks to our podcast, the group chats about interesting things we have found within East Asian lore. Something interesting and eerie that we mused about recently was the lore surrounding the Aokigahara forest in Japan. The Aokigahara forest, also known as, “the sea of trees” or “the suicide forest,” is a popular site for suicide in Japan and among the top sites for it in the world. Due to the many deaths within the forest it is often associated with Yūrei, or ghosts of people that are unable to find peace. Fear of encountering these spirits keeps many Japanese people from going anywhere near the forest.  Due to the high rates of suicide associated with the forest, the Japanese government enacted protocols such as, signs with positive messages in both English and Japanese. These signs are meant to discourage those who enter the forest for the purpose of taking their own life. Guard rotations on the outskirts and interior of the forest have also been readily increased over time, with the guards being prepared to speak with visitors and encourage them to leave unharmed.

Signs established around the forest to discourage suicide.

There are also annual sweeps by officials and volunteers inside the forest to collect bodies to provide proper burials and closure to family members. The forest itself is perilous, being at the foot of Mt. Fuji, its terrain is very rocky and littered with caves, with tree roots spread out and twisted along the forest floor. It is also incredibly dense, so much so, that people that go in often get lost and some bodies are never found. Hikers and volunteers often use tape to trail behind them in order to find their way back out.

The sheer denseness of the forest.

Those who have gone into the forest remark on the eerie quiet that results from the denseness and lack of wildlife, causing even more discomfort for those traveling within the forest. Even more disconcerting, the large presence of magnetic iron within the soil of the forest messes with cell phone signals, GPS, and compasses, making it difficult to call for help or find your way out when lost. The macabre history of the forest dates back around the 19th century, when in times of famine, families would carry their elderly there and leave them to die (known as Ubasute). Overall, this forest would not be our first choice for a camping trip, that’s for sure.






Group Naga: Stories behind the Ringu

Between our working on the podcast, group Naga often share ghost stories as a little refreshment. Once we brought up the Ringu, the film we supposed to watch and were glad that we finally didn’t since it is too horrible. Today I want to talk about some stories behind the movie.


To be honest, I have not watched it since I could imagine how unbearable I would bury myself in the terrifying scenes is. I heard a lot of comments on how successful the film scares people, and also some stories about the prototypes of Sadako(贞子), who is the ghost throughout the film. The first story says that the one scene where the movie was filmed was the place that prototype of Sadako died. This woman lived in WW2 period. After WW2, her samurai husband committed disembowelment, a ritual suicidal, and left no money to his family, which included his wife, his son and a daughter. Not long after, the little son died, left only the wife and the daughter, with the former picking rubbish every day as a living. The neighbors knew the broken family was in a miserable life, but as themselves were also living within the after-war ashes, no body could offer material help to the poor mother and daughter. One day, a neighbor happened to see the woman crying before a well in the woman’s yard, and he walked toward her and saw blood on her hand and a dead body in the well. He knew she killed her daughter and ran away in horrid. After a few days without the woman’s appearance in rubbish yard, some neighbors walk in to her house and found she committed suicide beside the well. But strangely and eerily, the well was covered by someone else. From then on, there were ghost said to hanging over in the house, and some unexplainable things happened. Everyone says it is caused by the resentment of the unfortunate family. The second story is not that horrible. It describes two women possessed similar power as the ghost in Ringu, one was a blind but could see through things behind a wall or even a steel ship. The other had Telekinesis and could use only her mind to influence the behavior of people. The following are talked to be their pictures.


My interest is on the first story. I think the story reflect Japanese miserable life and their resentments and grudges to society after WW2. And the woman, who said to be prototype of Sadako, happened to suffer more and turn into a Yurei and continued to bother the society which has mistreated her. This seems to also fit in to the theme of the movie Ringu, in which Sadako was mistreated before death and revenged on everyone in Japan in a form of terrifying ghost afterlife. Maybe the Japanese created this movie as a warning to the living people that everyone should treat others well, but I think the movie is served to warn the ghosts instead, which tells those resentful spirits that people know their existence and their evil and un-rightful plans, but they will fight against them however.


Group Naga Updates + Studio Ghibli Movies

Happy Tuesday!

First, I wanted to give a quick update on Group Naga and our podcasting endeavors. This past weekend plus the beginning of this week has been rather successful for us as we really began organizing, recording, and editing. Last week we had originally toyed with the idea of Will as our host while Sili, Christina, and I each had our own sections. But, Christina came up with the great idea of Sili interacting within the sections of Christina and myself instead of having her own section since she was able to bring in Chinese context to our Japanese-focused sections. After recording and editing, we found this to be a really successful and organic approach. Although our newly edited draft is still rough and far from the finished product, we are happy with the organization and the amount of material we have within our podcast.

Besides recording and editing, my weekend was also spent watching two Studio Ghibli movies with one of the members of Group Death, Peyton. Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki have constantly been referenced to throughout our class and the class blog, most notably with Group Mononoke and their focus on this particular film. So naturally, one of the movies we watched this weekend was Princess Mononoke. The next night, we watched Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Although Peyton had seen these movies before, these were my first viewings and what really stood out to me were how closely they seemed to be linked.

Although we did not choose to watch these movies together specifically, they both seemed to have common themes, most notably their concern with nature and its coexistence (or lack thereof) with humanity as well as the morality of the main characters. In Princess Mononoke, as Group Mononoke has expressed, there is much commentary on nature and the negative effects of human development on it. Many of the animals/spirits/youkai, especially the boars and wolves, express their disgust and mistrust of the humans because they are destroying their home, which is the forest. Similarly, in Nausicaa, there is the issue of nature suffering from poison, forcing the humans to wear masks when they ventured out into land that was affected by spores.

Another commonality that stood out to me was the “goodness” that was evident within the main characters of each film, Ashitaka and Nausicaa. Both characters did not seem to see the “antagonist” as a villain. Instead, they both seemed to see the good in everyone and everything. In Princess Mononoke, when Moro’s head bites off Eboshi’s arm, Ashitaka goes to help and prevents San from killing her. In Nausicaa, when the plane she is riding in with (essentially) her people’s conquerors is shot down, she helps Princess Kushana escape the burning plane even though she may be seen as an antagonist.

Both of these movies were very insightful into the themes and youkai used within modern-day Japanese tales and I am happy especially that I have now seen Princess Mononoke since one of the group podcasts focuses on this work.

-Thanks for reading!

Group Naga-Pop Culture

We got a lot of great recording done today and are getting ready to finish up our early draft of the podcast.  Although we are still getting used to recording ourselves and how this project differs from a standard presentation, we are starting to gain some momentum and cover all of the material we wanted to look at, I’m looking forward to tomorrow and having an equally productive day!

In this post I’m going to bring up two pop culture pertinent to our podcast, as a way to see the modern opinion and social importance of snakes and dragons.  To do this, I am looking at the Dragon Shen-long from Dragon Ball Z (a childhood favorite of mine), and Nagini from Harry Potter (a general favorite for many).

Shen-long appears in the Manga for Dragon Ball Z, and is significant in my mind for two reasons.  The first is because he is an impossibly powerful being in that he can grant wishes, and is the purpose for the whole general plot.  The second is because he is actually a Chinese dragon that appears in Japanese media.  This idea isn’t too far fetched as cultural exchange between the two countries often occurs (especially when dragons are involved) and is almost reminiscent of times when dragon lore was being brought in from china hundreds of years ago.  Moving to the TV show, the dragons name was changed to Shenron, and although the original Chinese Shen-long was an immensely powerful water god, common theme for dragons, the Shen long/Shenron in pop culture is seen more on the side of just being immensely powerful.  This fits with the more ancient narrative of powerful dragon gods.

Nagini is a particularly special use of a snake in pop culture, and is perfect for this discussion.  This is because of her name.  If you refer back to an older post that I’ve made, I discuss the Indian dragon kings which are known as Naga.  Heavily resembling cobras, the Naga are then co-opted into Chinese and Japanese lore.  As you may have been able to guess, Nagini is not only based on the term Naga, it is the feminine form of the word.  This is important because of the east Asian association between snakes and women, and often times have a malevolent intent.  In this way Nagini is a perfect representation of east Asian lore in Modern pop culture.

These are just two examples, however their are many more, particularly in Anime.  Modern pop culture has seen a rise in old myths, and has shown that the respectful and inventive use of old mythology can be executed quite well.

-Will Sarros, group Naga


Elgood, Heather (2000). Hinduism and the Religious Arts. London: Cassell. p. 234

Shuker, Karl. (1995). Dragons. A Natural History. Simon & Schuster, New York 1995

Group Naga-Let’s Talk Food

Group Naga is doing wonderful on this Friday afternoon, and we are in a great position to begin recording our podcast this Sunday.  With the script coming together and research going great, we are having a blast delving into our topic of dragons and snakes.  For this post though, I wanted to take a short break from studying the history and myth of these dragons and snakes, and look into something a little more topical-food.

This is actually about food and drink to be more exact, and just a couple ways out of many that snakes are incorporated into them in modern east Asia.  Although some of these practices can be quite old, they are still in use and some are even gaining popularity.  To begin, I’d like to mention soup.  A traditional soup called Irabu-jiru (sea-snake soup) is made in Okinawa and was a royal court food of the Ryukyu kingdom (15th-19th century).  It is known to have medicinal properties such as functioning as an analeptic, something which affects the nervous system and can cause states of heightened awareness.  The purpose of mentioning this dish is the snakes association with the water (as they often are in myth), and its ability to imbue some kind of power when consumed.

Sea snake soup (Irabu-jiru)

A lovely bowl of Irabu-jiru  http://en.okinawa2go.jp/u/gourmet/1g8p1vfsa9mvik

Gaining strength from snakes is not out of the ordinary though, and is certainly not restricted to sea snakes.

This brings us to the other half of any good meal, drinks.  A custom that may date back quite a while, but has gained immense popularity since the rise of tourism to east Asia, is snake wine.  Snake wine, if you are not familiar with it, is essentially what it sounds like, take some wine, then add some snake.  This can be prepared in a few different ways, none of which actually contain true wine, opting instead for a strong rice liquor.  The preparation for this drink is very important, and can mean the difference between having a mildly noxious drink to invigorate the soul, and a foul smelling bottle which may contain dissolving snake guts.  Or, if you are truly unlucky, a still alive and incredibly angry poisonous snake upon uncorking it (sorta like a jack in the box, but the extreme edition), this phenomenon potentially being due to a snakes ability to hibernate.  No matter how you craft it though, you can bet it has medicinal properties.  This ranges from a stimulant affect similar to the snake soup, all the way to being especially good for men, if you catch my drift.  It is also used to help ailments such as arthritis and other daily aches and pains.

By Scott R – originally posted to Flickr as DSC03889, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4639733

I found the use of these often poisonous snakes in cuisine to be quite interesting, and a good reminder that analyzing a subject may require you to look at it in ways outside of more traditional research such as finding secondary sources.  Although I may never drink snake wine, I must say, the soup doesn’t sound half bad. If I ever find myself in Okinawa I’ll have to hunt down a bowl.

-Will Sarros, group Naga




Group 5/Naga-Chinese Cinema

Inspired by the screening of Stephen Chow’s Journey to the West today, Group Naga would like to take a little detour from our usual posts on dragons, snakes, and group updates and instead post on Stephen Chow’s work.

Chow’s other cinematic work, Kung Fu Hustle, had been mentioned a couple times and, because the name sounded somewhat familiar, I decided to google it. When clicking on the images tab, one of the first images is of the landlady character below:


I quickly recognized this character and realized that I had, in fact, seen at least one of Stephen Chow’s other films before today. Kung Fu Hustle follows the story of Sing and Bone as they try to gain membership into a very dangerous group in China, the Deadly Axe Gang. Besides the fact that it shares a director, this movie has many other similarities to Chow’s later work. I found both films to be entertaining partly because, as was noted in class with Journey to the West, it is actively making fun of itself and enlisting humor throughout. (Check out this clip for a humorous scene: https://youtu.be/xssCyfRu3iM) Besides the fact that the Landlady character looks amusing, walking around in a nightgown and hair rollers with a cigarette at all times, she also acts amusingly, and I think that’s part of what makes her so memorable. If readers manage to make it to the end of the previous clip, you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Besides the humor, Kung Fu Hustle also features action and martial arts intertwined with the magical as well as references to Buddhism. If you all enjoyed Journey to the West today, I highly recommend watching this other film.

-Thanks for reading!

Group 5: some real progress


Greeting from group 5! Today we get some real progress on the podcast. We completed our first 1 minute 46 seconds podcast of a brief introduction! And especially to my surprise, we successfully made it in just one time! I am so happy that I, as the only non-native English speaker, did not stagger, as I always do, to pull off the time. (Though it is my fault to not remembering checking out the snowball yesterday, and also, use some un-academic expression in the audio, on which my group mates promised me to help me correct it in our final draft.)


A lot of thanks to Will, who plays the role of the host and glue in our podcast. Thanks for his perfect and professional voice devote in our first clip of audio. Thanks for his helping in picking up the background music, and his fluid communication with all of us. A lot of thanks to Christine, who shoulders the responsibility to explain the power, gender and sexuality symbol in snakes and dragon in Japanese tales. Also thanks to her great effort in looking for and deciding the background music, who among over 10 clips, finally found the best one for our introduction. A lot of thanks to Caitlin, who together with Christine shoulders the responsibility to interpret Japanese dragon and snake but focus on another aspect of water. Most importantly, she devoted her computer to be the main manipulate one. She took the main part to record voice and glue the chosen BGM into our introduction.


As I am almost an idiom in computer, I could not be helpful in fixing some technical problems on auditing and making the final recording like Christ and Will did. I mainly focus on writing my part of full script today since I have no confidence in inadvertently talking academically on ying-yang and Chinese symbolization on dragons and snakes. But I had a great discussion with my group mates. I think the idea of ying-yang is too complex to discuss it in just a few minutes. As shown in my recent presentation, we agree that dragon and snake can be correspond to yang and ying. But in my further study, I find the concept of ying-yang is so inclusive and covers ranges of fields. Therefore, both snakes and dragons have traits of ying and yang, though there are tons of evidence showing that snake has property of yin and dragons as yang. For example, a female ancestral god is in the form of snakes and the male one is in the form of dragon. Will talked to me that I can certainly mention the complexity in ying-yang, but not necessary to talk of it for all the time since we are not focusing on ying-yang but the meaning behinds snakes and dragons. Christine and Caitlin both agree to adjust some of their arguments to my new finding. What are they? We will talk about it in our script.