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The Ghostly Sakai-minato

Updated: May 21, 2023

(EyeBall Papa spinning at the Monster Shrine)

Eye balls are floating everywhere. The sound of walking wooden clogs can be heard along the main street. This is how the town of Sakaiminato pays tribute to their local hero. This small fishing town is where manga artist Shigeru Mizuki was raised. The "GE-GE-GE NO KITARO" series from the 1960s (both in manga and animation) was his legendary work on ghost and monsters.

Watch the 1st episode of GeGeGe, see the birth of Kitaro and eyeball Papa (Japanese only):

Full episode on youtube:

Before Mizuki became the Master of Youkai Monster manga genre, his life was actually as action-packed as his manga. Accordingly, his attraction to ghosts and monsters began at young age when he often listened to horror stories told by a granny housekeeper. It was said that at age 5, he even tried to drown his younger brother of age 3 just to see what "death" looks like. However, instead of being a gloomy geeky kid, he was actually very cheerful and optimistic.

Mizuki's passion remained in art but he wasn't academically sound enough to gain acceptance to art schools. He worked a range of odd jobs from paper delivery to working at lithographic print shop as a young adult. He may have flung many school applications and jobs, but he never failed to keep trying. His life-changing experience came when he was drafted to war at the age of 20. He failed to become the bugler because he had a hard time playing proper bugle (trumpet) calls.

Eventually, he chose to stationed in the "south", thinking the north (Hokkaido) might be too cold and the south (Kyushu island) would be warmer. The "south" turned out to be New Guinea, which was in the heat of war. He barely escaped a guerrilla attack and was the sole survivor of his troop. But instead of celebrated by others, he was shamed by his superior for not being courageous enough to sacrifice himself for his country. Later, he was caught in an air raid while being hospitalized for malaria. His left arm was badly wounded, but he forgot his own blood type so an operation was not possible, which led to complication and the amputation of his arm without anesthesia. His shocking and depressing experience from war: watching people suffered and died, suicidal acts, unending injury and pain, glorified death and shaming... All have impacted him to become a pacifist.

After the war, Mizuki went through over a decade of financial hardship to finally made his debut. He was almost 40 years old when he debuted GeGeGe no Kitaro. The story reflected battles between the good and the evil, journeying between the living and the dead, and learning about realities in life: greed, desire, poverty... etc. Mizuki once said, his characters all have different powers and personalities, and there is no differentiation in ethnicity in the world of monsters. They are playful and can exist only in time of peace.

Mizuki passed away in 2015 at the age of 93 years old. Without knowing the life of Mizuki, the quiet little town of Sakaiminato may seem like a theme-park of his commercialized manga. I could not help but wonder how he created lively characters and stories in such grotesque context. Go deeper to understand Mizuki's journey: From a young man in search for his passion and path , to his fear and suffering in war time, to building a voice through his artwork to express what he believes in. The Master of Monsters and Ghosts never failed to maintain optimism and faith in humanity.



There are hundreds of ghosts and monsters in Mizuki's world and it's impossible to write about all of them. Eyeball Papa is probably the most famous and beloved. He is the partner of Kitaro in his adventures and he always stands by him to give him wise and disciplinary advices. Accordingly to the monster encyclopedia, EyeBall Papa's favorite activity is soaking in hot bath (which is actually a teabowl!). He weighs 33g and is 9cm9mm in height. :-)

(See manga strip) Kitaro's father was a mummy that passed away. (Can a mummy pass away??) Kitaro was born from the body of his buried mother. Baby Kitaro crawled out from his mother's grave and found himself abadoned. His cry woke the mummy up. The left eyeball of the mummy drew all the energy he could to become a new monster "Eyeball Papa". Following the cry of his son Kitaro, he went outside to bring him to safety and keep him company. (See anime video of Eyeball Papa from above link).

Sakaiminato in Tottori Prefecture is great for a day-trip, it is also a great place for a quiet stay-over as traffic dies down after 5pm. There is one hotel in town with amazing hotspring with waterfront and city view, Sakaiminato is also famous for seafood rice bowls (crab, squid, salmon roe). The Street of Shigeru Mizuki is lined with shops for all your monster shopping needs, and there is a small museum dedicated to the beloved Master Mizuki. It is also a good place to get his older collection of comic books.

The main Street of Shigeru Mizuki are dotted with hundreds of bronze statues of Mizuki's monsters and ghosts. Go in Spring time for the cherry blossom!

More Monsters:

My favorite monster is the 一反木綿(いったんもめん)"the White Cotton Cloth". He flies around with Kitaro, but he is afraid of fire and scissors. He is also known as a sweet-talker to women. My other fave is 塗り壁 "the Clay Wall". He is "a man of few words" because his mouth is very tiny (I wonder if Hello Kitty is also very quiet according to this logic). He is big and strong (weights 1 ton), can stretch and grow in height and width. So he always stands in the front to protect Kitaro when in need. He is a good friend, the gentle giant with the personality of a wall. Hahahahah. I read that he also has a wife somewhere!

For those interested to read Mizuki's renowned manga series "GeGeGe no Kitaro", it is now available in Spanish, English, Chinese. (try Amazon)



We have 4 monster postcards from Sakaiminato to giveaway to 4 selected readers who subscribe to Taketombo's newsletter (free). These are clever spins of famous woodblock prints by Hiroshige. Imagine the infamous Tokaido 東海道 being populated by youkai monsters.

Postcard size: 15cm x 10.5cm (4" x 5.75")

Last day to enter the draw: 11.1.2020

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