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A Japanese Bloodsucker

Watanabe_TsunaHow does some Japanese vampire lore sound? Good? Good. Today’s blood drinker of choice is one of the most feared demons in the very large Japanese pantheon, the Hannya.

The hannya’s most common form was that of a woman, although there are a few male hannya out there. It is said in old tales that the hannya was once an absolutely beautiful and stunning woman who, for some reason first became insane and then was possessed by a demon. Once possessed she was the transformed into a disgusting and horrifying monster, often associated with a ghoul. Once a hannya she would then drain the blood of her victims, and like many vampires from ancient lore her victim of choice was children, infants were her special treat though. In some Japanese stories though, the hannya’s favorite meal was young men.

There is one legend about this creature in which the hannya persecuted all who attempted to pass through the Rashomon gate of Kyoto. Then one day a samurai named Watanabe no Tsuna decided to hide and wait for the demon in order to kill it. But he was then distracted by a beautiful young woman who persuaded him to escort her into town. As they traveled, Watanabe glanced over his shoulder and saw the young woman transform into a terrifying demon. The hannya then grabbed Watanabe but he quickly wielded his sword and cut off the monster’s arm. As the hannya ran away screaming, Watanabe carefully wrapped the severed arm and later hid it in a secured chest.

After much time had passed and the event had faded into memory, the hannya disguised herself as Watanabe’s aunt and then convinced him to display his trophy of the old severed arm. Upon seeing her arm, the demon immediately reverted into her unsightly appearance and, grabbing the arm, fled from the house of Watanabe. And that was the end of the famous tale of Watanabe no Tsuna and the Hannya.

Now, if the word hannya sounds familiar to you, you may be thinking of hannya masks. This hannya is often depicted in traditional Noh and Bunraku plays using a wooden mask of a ferocious and grimacing horned demon.

– Moonlight

Moonlight (aka Amanda) loves to write about, read about and learn about everything pertaining to vampires. You will most likely find her huddled over a book of vampire folklore with coffee in hand. Touch her coffee and she may bite you (and not in the fun way).

Asian VampireBunrakudemonHannyaJapanJapanesejapanese vampiresNohvampire lorevampire mythWatanabe no Tsuna

Moonlight • December 8, 2009

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