Meet the Japanese Yokai That Will Save us From the Coronavirus

Source: Gaijin Pot

One Japanese yokai (goblin) character has a long history of helping the nation deal with plagues, and the outbreak of COVID-19 has made it into something of a social media star.

Amabie (アマビエ), a half-human, half-fish yokai from the late Edo period, has become a hit on Twitter because it not only predicts plagues but says it will save people from illness if they share a drawing of it.

Twitter (and Instagram) users have been posting not just drawings of the beaked, three-legged mermaid creature, but pictures of keyrings, origami, bread, Japanese sweets, and a whole other slew of objects featuring its likeness. Below, you’ll see a depiction of Amabie as the Mona Lisa.


— 長谷川維雄 (@hasegawa_fusao) April 19, 2020

Where did Amabie’s legend originate?

Amabie first dates back to 1846, when a government official went to Kumamoto Prefecture to investigate rumors of a glowing shape that was appearing in the ocean each night. The creature emerged from the water and introduced itself as Amabie before prophesizing six years of abundant harvest following an epidemic. It advised the official to draw a picture of it and show it to other people. A woodblock print drawn by the official carried the story all the way to the capital.

Photo: Wiki Commons
Meet your savior.

The illustration depicted Amabie as having long hair, a beak, fins instead of ears, scales on the upper body, three legs, and diamond-shaped eyes.

Taking the Amabie challenge

Twitter users are using the #アマビエチャレンジ (#amabiechallenge) and #Amabie tags to share a variety of drawing styles depicting the strange sea creature. Some show a scary monster with claws while others depict a beautiful, young, manga-style woman. Most are cute, though, with simple and bright colors.

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