Gotokuneko (五徳猫)

Gotoku-neko (literally, tripod cat) is one of Japanese yokai (ghosts, spirits and monsters) that was portrayed in Sekien TORIYAMA's yokai art collection book: "Gazu Hyakki Tsurezure Bukuro" (The Illustrated Bag of One Hundred Random Demons; the term 'hyakki' in its title is a pun on the usual hyakki, replacing the character for demon which is written as "鬼" in Japanese with a character for vessel written as "器," and sure enough, most of the yokais shown in this book are tsukumogami [a type of Japanese spirits that originate in items or artifacts that have reached their 100th birthday and become alive]). It is viewed as a kind of the tsukumogami.


According to the picture, a Nekomata (a mythical two-tailed monster cat) placed a gotoku (a tripod, and more particularly, a three or four-legged kettle stand used at a sunken hearth) on the head like a crown and is making fire with a hifuki-dake (bamboo blowpipe used to stimulate a fire) in the sunken hearth. A similar cat with the gotoku placed on the head is depicted in "Hyakki Yagyo Emaki" (The 'Night Parade of One Hundred Demons' Picture Scroll), a collection of yokai illustrations drawn by Mitsunobu TOSA in the Muromachi period. It is thought that the Gotokuneko was modeled on this cat.

Meanwhile, Sekien, in his comment on the Gotokuneko in the "Gazu Hyakki Tsurezure Bukuro," refers to Shinano no Zenji Yukinaga who is considered to be the author of the "Tale of the Heike." One theory has it that although Yukinaga was basically an educated person, he failed to recall two of the seven virtues described in the dance music named 'Dance of the Seven Virtues' which had followed the seven virtues of the military arts of Emperor Taiso of Tang (Tang Taizong,) thereby being scornfully nicknamed the 'Young man of the Five Virtues,' and therefore he became thoroughly tired of this world and retired to live in seclusion. The term Gotokuneko was supposedly created to be a pun on the word gotoku: the Five Virtues (called gotoku in Japanese) and the gotoku as an object.

Some believe that the Gotokuneko is a yokai which makes a fire itself by the sunken hearth. Others, however, doubt the believability of it, insisting that the Gotokuneko making a fire itself was no more than the product of the imagination of those who had viewed the illustration.

[Original Japanese]