Chochin Obake (Lantern ghost) (提灯お化け)

Chochin obake is a lantern ghost, a kind of a Japanese ghost. Besides being illustrated on the game cards produced during the Edo period and Taisho period, they appear in stories in children's books of ghosts.


It is most commonly drawn as a lantern split hosizontally in half with the opening as the mouth from which a long tongue is sticking out with either one or two eyes in the top part of the lantern. Sometimes, hands stick out of the lantern.

While it is a very well-known ghost, there are hardly any concrete legends associated with this ghost, and Kenji MURAKAMI, a specialist on ghosts, describes it as a ghost that only exists in drawings. Some say that this is a ghost created for children and does not exist in popular legends.

There is also a view that this is an artifact spirit (a very old vessel turned into a ghost). In a book by Shigeru MIZUKI, a ghost cartoonist, it is described as having the powers to suck out a soul and that it sometimes frightens a person and sucks away the soul of the person, but there is no mention of primary references. In folklores, a lantern ghost is more often described as a strange flame of okurichochin (flame of lantern that leads people to strange places) and of other lanterns rather than a vessel.

Among classical ghost illustrations, "Oiwa san" in "Hyaku Monogatari (A Hundred Ghost Stories)" by Hokusai KATSUSHIKA and "Kamiya Iemon Oiwa no Baukon" by Kuniyoshi UTAGAWA are the known prints of lantern ghosts. These illustrate "Lantern Oiwa"in the Kabuki production of "Yotsuya Kaidan Ghost Story"in which a woman named Oiwa from Yotsuya is killed by Iemon, and her spirit attaches itself to a lantern and causes mysterious phenomena. "Burabura" in "Hyakki Tsurezure Bukuro", a collection of ghost prints by Sekien TORIYAMA, is described as the ghost of a fire fox by the author, but it is drawn as a lantern, and so there is a view that it is a kind of a lantern ghost.

[Original Japanese]