Author Archives: Vivian Gray

Blue Ghosts in Okinawa, Japan

AM: So, it was- like the first month or two when i moved to Japan and I was hanging outside at like…2am like at night in a park. Um, the military base we was staying on was built like near like Japanese Shrines and whatnot and they said that you know the shrines are haunted and there’s a lotta “superstitions” with those. So while we’re out hanging, there was like oh look- you can see a bluf- blue figure on a hill like on top of the shrine and when I looked over you- I saw like a bluish like glow from the hills where the shrine was and they said that this island is one of the most haunted places and that there’s a lot of spirits around.

VG: Woah. What island was it?

AM: Okinawa.

VG: Woah-

AM: And that is- it is very common to see those there… so we was like “yeah, let’s get the hell out of here.”

 

Background:

Location of Story – Okinawa, Japan

Location of Performance – Dormitory room, Los Angeles, CA, night

 

Context: This performance took place in a group setting – about 2-3 people – in a college dormitory room. This performance was prompted by the call for stories about beliefs, ghosts, or superstitions as examples of folklore. This story came after a few others. The one prior was specifically about a high school grade being cursed.

 

Analysis: One point of interest in this performance is the effectiveness of the subtlety of the description of the “spirits.” The only physical description the audience receives about these supernatural beings is that they humanoid in figure and blue. The color is particularly notable because, at least in my experience, I have always viewed the ghosts in ghost stories as being neutral toned or white. Therefore, this description was able to create a whole new image for me and draw me deeper into this performance. It also reinforces the foreignness AM might feel since he had just moved to Japan: not only is the location different but also all of the local lore. One might even go so far as to say that this story was presented with a negative conation despite having no description of graphic hauntings or threats. 

Newton’s Law “Dad” Joke

KO: Ok uh, do you know what Newton’s Law is?

VG: Yes.

KO: Do you know what cole’s law is?

VG: No.

KO: You don’t know what thinly sliced cabbage is?

 

Background:

Location of riddle: N/A

Location of Performance – Classroom, Los Angeles, CA, late morning

 

Context: This performance was done in a group of 3-4 people after a class in response to a question about potential high school traditions, festivals, jokes, or riddles. KO was the first among the students to offer this joke as performance. KO and I are classmates.

 

Analysis: After my initial recording, KO classified the joke as a “dad joke,” which prompted many others. Therefore, it is apparent that this is a popular genre because everyone was commenting on the tradition of dad jokes and even had a collection of these themselves. I wish I would have questioned KO about how she discovered this joke and the genre of dad jokes as a whole because I am curious to see if these are actually jokes that are sourced from fathers or father figures. My assumption is that this genre rose out of children utilizing these jokes to critique their parental figures and practice rebellion in a relatively harmless way. 

 

Krasue in South Asian Folklore

NC: So there’s this story about crossaway or crosu (Krasue) I don’t know exactly how to pronounce the name but in southeast asian folklore she is supposed to be a very beautiful woman and she’s only a head, so she’s a decapitated head and her entails are hanging out and she’s supposed to float around uh a building- a haunted building or something um she’s- I think she’s searching for something and she might also kill anyone who comes into the building. That’s all I’ve heard about it.

 

Background:

Location of Story – Southeast Asia

Location of Performance – Dormitory room, Los Angeles, CA, night

 

Context: This performance took place in a group setting – about 2-3 people – in a college dormitory room. This performance was prompted by the call for stories about beliefs, ghosts, or superstitions as examples of folklore via a group message. NC approached me in person in response to the text and had just discovered this creature herself. 

 

Analysis: Krasue is physically unlike any other “monster” or creature I have heard of before. I was particularly interested in the dichotomy between the woman’s beauty and the grotesqueness of her lower half. For me, this hints at a commentary about how women are viewed around the world globally: her head is attached but her body has been ripped apart by what exactly? If women often fall victim to objectification, then it makes sense that this lore would depict her “body” has being completely consumed by something else or at least lost to something or someone besides herself. Additionally, the fact that she is bound by a building, confirms the archetypical “domestic” woman, but the threat she poses to anyone else trying to reside in her household disrupts this stereotype and protects the space as her own.

Kagome – Japanese Children’s Game

NC: There’s a Japanese game that children play called kagome, um…so it’s-it’s really similar to ring around a rosey in that…um…it was based on…experiments that people were doing, so Ring around the rosie is about um the disease the bubonic plague but um uh kagome is about experiments that people were doing um on the Japanese and they- they basically took children and they mutilated them I think that’s what it is. And um they would haunt people in the building like they would haunt the doctors and they would say um “kagome, kagome” and some other uh words and they would basically play that game in a circle and um that’s just like the ghost story behind that game.

 

Background:

Location of Story – Japan

Location of Performance – Dormitory room, Los Angeles, CA, night

 

Context: This performance took place in a group setting – about 2-3 people – in a college dormitory room. This performance was prompted by the call for stories about beliefs, ghosts, or superstitions as examples of folklore via a group message. NC approached me in person in response to the text and this is the second of two stories she presented. The first was about a monster who took the form of a beautiful, floating female head that had been decapitated and haunts a building. It was apparent that NC had just recently discovered this game because she was looking at her computer the whole time. 

 

Analysis: I think the comparison to “Ring Around the Rosey” is really effective here because it reinforces the idea that games or rhythm games are often counter-hegemonic and can critique a system under the guise of play. It is an indirect form of protest and also a way to be able to process the trauma of an experience such as this with humor and distance from the actual reality. On a different note, I really wished I would have NC where she discovered this game because I can understand stumbling upon a ghost story but not a traditional Japanese child’s game; I want to know where these are being documented online since she had her computer. 

 

Annotation: Upon further research, I discovered that the folk song element to this performance is actually much more essential to the folk game in other collected versions. For example, there is a documentation of this game in Highlights magazine for kids will additional information about how to perform the song. This version documents the chant as, “Can you guess? Can you guess? Who is right behind you? Could it be, possibly…” and then the participants would recite their names until “it says stop.” I could not identify what the “it” of this game is, but what is interesting to note here is that the word kogome is missing from this particular chant. This may very well because it is a translation, but for me, it demonstrates a lack of that historical context. The meaning is even more deeply hidden in the practice of the game. Additionally, Highlights includes the physical rules of the game, which involve being in a circle and blindfolded. See citation below for a PDF of the Highlights article.

 

Citation: Yasuda, Anita. “Kagome Kagome.” Highlights for Children, vol. 65, no. 10, 10, 2010, pp. 12. ProQuest, http://libproxy.usc.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.libproxy1.usc.edu/docview/756206958?accountid=14749.

Going Through Doors Riddle

JK: Ok, so, it’s a blackout and you’re walking along uh street uh a dark neighborhood street and you see one little cottage that is lit up by candlelight so you go inside and there’s a red door and a purple door. Which one do you go through?

VG: The red.

JK: K, so you go through the red door and you are presented with two more doors. There’s a brown regular looking door and there’s uh- polka dot door. Which door do you go through?

VG: The brown.

JK: You go through the brown door and you are presented with two more doors…it’s a black door and a white door. Which door do you go through?

VG: The white door.

JK: Ok, so you go through the white door and you come out of…the s- into uh- a space brightly lit by candles and there’s a couple there and they’re very angry that you broke into their home and you can either choose death by uh their dogs who will tear you apart or you can choose death by electric chair. Which one do you choose and why?

VG: I choose electric chair-

JK: Why?

VG: Because it’s faster.

JK: Nah-

EM: I know what this is- can I answer it?

JK: Yeah.

EM: Cause- wait there’s no electricity right?

JK: Yeah, you choose the electric chair because the power is out.

(Everyone laughs)

VG: Dammit.

 

Background:

Location of story – N/A

Location of Performance – Different student’s dormitory room, Los Angeles, CA, afternoon

 

Context: This performance took place between 2-3 people who were working on a film project together for class. This story came in response to my question if anyone had time to talk before the film shoot to talk about traditions specific to school, festivals, holidays, and riddles. JK and I had just met recently on this project. His story had just followed two about high school traditions.

 

Analysis: My favorite part about this performance is that the other person in the room, EK, had heard of this riddle before. Moreover, EK’s question about whether she can spoil the end demonstrates the universally understood pressure to let the one being challenged demonstrate their wit. I was actually nervous participating in this performance because historically, I am not very good at riddles and whenever I “fail” I always feel socially inferior. It may seem silly, but my anxiety only confirms the social implications of these riddles.