Bakekujira and Japan’s Whale Cults

百物語怪談会 Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai

Mizuki_Shigeru_Bakekujira

Translated and Sourced from Mizuki Shigeru’s Mujyara, Kaii Yokai Densho Database, Japanese Wikipedia, and Other Sources

Legends of a Great White Whale usually bring to mind Moby Dick, but the white of this whale is the color of its bones. For bones are all you can see of the Bakekujira—a massive, skeletal baleen whale that appeared and disappeared under mysterious circumstances once of the coast of Japan. Is it a monster? Is it a ghost? Is it a god? No one really knows for sure.

What Does Bakekujira (化鯨) Mean?

Bakekujira’s name is the same as many magical animals in Japanese folklore, with a difference of nuance. For most bake- creatures (bakeneko, bakenezumi, etc … ) the kanji 化 (bake; change) refers to a transformation, the ability to shift from one form to another. In Bakekujira—化 (bake; change) +鯨 (kujira; whale)—bake does not refer to a transformation. It just sounds…

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