Matsumotos Corner Vol.5

Amabie – Mythical Monster that Repels Plague

A mermaid-like monster Amabie appeared in the former Higo province in the west of Japan 174 years ago. It is pronounced Ah – Ma – Bi – Ye. Some of you may know it as it has been coming up a lot in SNS and media.
One day the sea glowed and this monster appeared from there and said, “I’m Amabie living in the sea. For the next 6 years from this year, a rich harvest will continue. If a plague would take place, draw an image of me and show it to the people immediately.”

Photograph courtesy of the Main Library, Kyoto University – Higokoku kaichuu no kai / Adapted.

In the fight against the COVID-19, this folklore became a hot topic that it would end the pandemic, and from March, many illustrations of Amabie have been posted on SNS. Various goods and sweets with images of Amabie on them are also available.
What’s interesting is that Amabie has only appeared once, and had not said it would repel plague. Because of that, some people say the name Amabie was written incorrectly from the name of another monster “Amabiko”. As “Amabiko”, which appeared several times in the past, said people who saw drawing of its image could avoid disease.
Then why has Amabie, which most Japanese didn’t know before the pandemic, become so popular? I think the main reason is the drawing of Amabie on the news bulletin at the time is very amateurish but cute. Amabie’s easy nature of forgetting to say “it will repel plague” also makes me feel familiar sense. We can find several short comics about Amabie on the internet. All of their stories are full of humor and heartwarming. Aside from the truth of the folklore, it’s certain that Amabie is easing the hearts of the people.