Akurojin-no-Hi: Construction of an Urban Legend

John Livingston

Authors:  John Livingston

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Ann Wehmeyer

College:  College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Akurojin-no-hi is a flame-like ghost that was thought to appear in Mie Prefecture, Japan. Little information is known about this creature other than its basic physical characteristics and that it appears on rainy nights. Through utilization of translated primary and secondary sources from Japan as well as analysis of older documents, this paper aims to draw connections between natural disasters, and economic factors that occurred during the Edo Period of Japan. I consider all these elements and describe how they influenced the conceptualization of Akurojin-no-hi. I begin by observing the economic developments of the period and then connect these new developments to other events also occurring in Japan at the time, such as the long journeys of the Shikoku Pilgrims who traveled along wide, expansive roads like the Tokaido. I then discuss some of the natural disasters which occurred during the Edo Period, mainly the large, widespread fires which affected cities both big and small, and then explain how these fires influenced the conceptualization of the Akurojin-no-hi. Finally, I compare the characteristics of the Akurojin-no-hi to the characteristics of other fire yokai and analyze their differences and similarities.

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15 Responses
  1. Catherine Martinez

    Very interesting research!

    How did you translate the primary and secondary sources? Did you do it yourself, or did you use a program such as Google Translate?


    1. John Livingston

      Hello, Catherine!

      Thank you for your question.

      I’m actually pretty proficient in Japanese, so I translated them myself. A lot of my sources were from books I bought while I was studying abroad last semester in Japan. For non-digital sources I would transcribe parts I planned on translating and then translate, and double check for accuracy. I also did use an electronic dictionary for more obscure terms, or any words I didn’t know/wasn’t sure how to translate properly. Google translate unfortunately isn’t usually too helpful for things like that, especially with a context heavy language like Japanese. A lot of the meaning is lost.

  2. Youssef Haddad

    Very interesting work, John. Do you know if Akurojin-no-hi features in anime? If yes, does it take different names? My elder daughter is fascinated with anime and she draws anime. I plan to tell her about your project.

    1. John Livingston

      Thank you, Youssef!

      I surprisingly did not come across any anime adaptions of Akurojin-no-hi. There are a a lot of famous anime which depict different kinds of yokai, such as ‘gegege no kitaro’, but among the one’s I’ve found I’ve never seen a depiction of Akurojin-no-hi, at least not an obvious one. Gegege no kitaro is a classic though if you’re daughter has never watched it.

    2. John Livingston

      Hello, Youssef

      Thank you! There are a lot of anime which depict different kinds of yokai, such as gegege no kitaro. Surprisingly, I’ve never found a depiction of Akurojin-no-hi in anime, at least not an obvious one. Gegege no kitaro is a classic though if your daughter has never watched it.

  3. Ann Wehmeyer

    Nice presentation! I think you should have briefly explained the concept of yokai, though.

    1. John Livingston

      Thank you, Dr. Wehmeyer!

      I think you’re right. That would have led to a clearer understanding. Definitely something to keep in mind for any writing or presenting I do in the future.

  4. Dani Hayes

    hi John,
    I really enjoyed the way you explained your research process. I’m interested in you continuing your research and seeing the role of religion in yokai.

    1. John Livingston

      Thank you, Dani!

      I hope I am able to continue! I think there is a a lot to learn in this area.

  5. Madeline Bickerstaff

    Nice presentation and very interesting research! I’ve never heard of the this urban legend and actually don’t know even what a yokai is, so that probably would have helped me understand it more but I still found it really interesting (I ended up just googling to learn more about yokai)! Great work.

    1. John Livingston

      Thank you so much, Madeline!

      I apologize for any confusion. I definitely should have explained more/better what a yokai is. I’m really happy you found it interesting, though!

  6. Hannah Gracy

    Hi John! Thanks for telling us about your research, your project is one of the most interesting that I’ve seen today. I’m curious, how did you get involved in this field? Thanks!

    1. John Livingston

      Hi, Hannah!

      To be honest I haven’t been involved in this field for that long. I added the Japanese major about halfway through my time in undergrad (that was about 2 years ago and i graduate this semester), and took a strong interest in the Japanese language. That interest in the language expanded into other avenues such as other parts of Japanese culture and then the topic you saw today. I was always interested in yokai, but then I came across Akurojin-no-hi, which had very little available information (especially in English). That led into me researching other yokai and drawing connections, and now I guess you could say I’m a little hooked on it. My desire to learn more about this creature and develop my language skills pushed me to do more research and then developed into an even greater interest in yokai. I hope that I have the opportunity to continue to study this topic.

      Thank you for your question!