A 174-Year-Old Japanese Woodblock Meme is Here to Fight COVID-19

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In Japan, art and folklore are being weaponized against COVID-19, and a nearly 200-year-old meme is back.

Part human and part fish (and all around mermaid-ish), the creature known as the Amabie was first documented on a woodblock print in 1846. As The Japan Times recaps the legend, a man saw something shining in the waters near what is today Kumamoto Prefecture, and went to inspect. The Amabie emerged and announced, “There will be a bountiful harvest for six years, but disease will also spread.

Quickly draw a picture of me and show it to the people”

Whether vanity or goodwill dictated its decree, it got its wish, and a local newspaper created the now-famous woodblock print to run with an article about the encounter.

Japanese Woodblock Meme

The Amabie is a yokai, spirits that evolved from supernatural belief-based entities to folklore entertainment at some point between the 17th and 19th centuries.

In March, Kyoto University Library posted the original Amabie print—and it went viral (obligatory “no pun intended”), with users on every imaginable platform posting Amabie art in every imaginable medium under the #Amabiechallenge hashtag.

As Mie University professor Yuji Yamada told The Japan Times, “Japan has traditionally had a custom of trying to drive off epidemics by such means as drawing oni ogres on pieces of paper and displaying them. When many people are suffering and dying, our wish for an end (of the pandemic) is the same in all ages.”

Here are 16 Amabies to ward off COVID-19, from among the thousands circulating on social media.

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アマビエちゃん完成しました~!!嬉しい︎💕︎ @annastwutea さんの図案でYoutubeのアーカイブをふむふむ。色は @hiyori_home さんのを参考にさせて頂きました。有難うございます❣これをマスクケースに仕立てます。pic2にあるのと同じ形で。このマスクケースは @youhooray さんのです。pic2のはお知り合いにあげたりする用に幾つか作りました。今日一つお嫁入りしました。Amabie is a Japanese legendary spirit. it is said that if disease spreads, show a picture of amabie to those who fall ill and they will be cured. #マスクケース #マスクケース手作り #アマビエ#アマビエチャレンジ #amabie #刺繍 #刺繍部 #刺繍好き #アンナス #刺繍好きさんと繋がりたい #ハンドメイド好きさんと繋がりたい #ハンドメイド#ミシン部 #ミシン

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J'ai décidé d'adapter l'excellente recette d'Amabie (le yōkai du moment) de @udonnoww, en version sans gluten, et à ma sauce. (Soba 100% sarrazin, daikon en bâton et daikon râpé, negi, umeboshi, et crayons de couleurs. @udonnowwのアマビエのすごいレシピを私のスタイルで描きたかったんです。小麦にアレルギがあるので、十割そばで作った。そして、大根のスティック、大根おろし、梅干し、ねぎ、と色鉛筆を入れようとした。そうしたら、アマビエが出て来た! 世界の皆さんがもうすぐ安心できるように願っています。 @udonnoww、@takumi_ インスピレーションありがとう!☺️ #amabie #アマビエ #bonappétitetbonnesanté

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Largely f
orgotten for generations, Amabie, as it’s known, is an auspicious yokai (a class of supernatural spirits popularised through Japanese folklore) that was first documented in 1846. As the story goes, a government official was investigating a mysterious green light in the water in the former Higo province (present-day Kumamoto prefecture). When he arrived at the spot of the light, a glowing-green creature with fishy scales, long hair, three fin-like legs and a beak emerged from the sea. Amabie introduced itself to the man and predicted two things: a rich harvest would bless Japan for the next six years, and a pandemic would ravage the country. However, the mysterious merperson instructed that in order to stave off the disease, people should draw an image of it and share it with as many people as possible.@bbc #japanesefolklore

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#Amabie #COVID19