Mythological Creature Archive

Mythological Creature; the Amemasu, a giant fish shapeshifter from Japan- with writing prompt

According to Wikipedia the Amemasu is the name given to the white-spotted char fish, the Salvelinus leucomaenis leucomaenis. However it is also a Japanese yokai or supernatural creature from Japanese mythology.

The Amemasu or the Ō-amemasu is a giant whale- or fish-like creature from Ainu folklore. Some of the largest amemasu are said to live in Lake Mashū and Lake Shikotsu in Hokkaidō, with smaller ones inhabiting lakes throughout northern areas of Honshu. The amemasu are known for capsizing boats, creating earthquakes, and causing other natural disasters.

The Ainu or the Aynu, are the indigenous people of Japan and parts of Russia. They lived in the area called the Ezo ( the land north of Honshu.)

The official estimated number of the Ainu is 25,000, but unofficially the number is estimated at 200,000. Many Ainu have been completely assimilated into Japanese society and have no knowledge of their ancestry.

An amemasu is able to shapeshift into a human. Similar to the greek Siren, they become a beautiful woman, in order to lure young men to their deaths. The skin of an amemasu is said to be cold and clammy, much like fish skin, which is how they can be identified, when they are in human form.

The Myths and Legends

Long ago, the inhabitants of Hokkaido believed that the large amemasu held up the Earth. Sometimes, the fish would get tired and cause earthquakes, similar to the namazu.

There was an island in the middle of Lake Kussharo in Hokkaido. The lake was said to be home to a large amemasu, whose head resembled a rock and whose tail stretched to the Kushiro River. An Ainu hero, Otashitonkuru, took a harpoon, determined to poke out the eyes of the amemasu. However, the fish started fighting back. Desperate to hold on to the harpoon, Otashitonkuru held on to a rock and the struggling amemasu pulled so hard that the rock became the island in the middle of the lake!

In one tale, the amemasu swallowed a deer that came down to the lake to drink, but the deer’s antler tore open the great fish’s belly and kills it. The amemasu’s enormous corpse then blocked up the lake and put it in danger of flooding. A god in the form of a bird warned the people in villages nearby. The villagers upstream escaped to higher ground, but the people downstream, not believing the bird god, found the amemasu’s body and drug it out of the lake, after which the water came rushing out with such force that everything downriver was washed away. That area is now the flat Konsengen’ya plains.

Writing Prompt

You are the scientist that finds that there was a prehistoric freshwater whale creature similar to the amemasu in a lake north of Honshu. There was just a story in the news about scientists finding a prehistoric dinosaur that looked exactly like the Loch Ness monster, you can read about it here. National Geographic reports on the creature here.

When you go to take pictures of the prehistoric animal, you aren’t able to. Your camera suddenly isn’t working. You hire a professional diving crew, who dive down to the bottom of the lake and suddenly have problems with their oxygen. There was plenty of oxygen in the tank, it just gets jammed for no apparent reason.

Then people begin to die after trying to capture photos of the creature. This leads folklorists to believe that this truly is a supernatural yokai and not a creature left over from the prehistoric age.

You decide to write a book on The Curse of the Amemasu and it brings nothing but misery to you are your family. Your house floods for no apparent reason.

What is the story behind this curse. Since there isn’t a lot of documentation on this creature- this prompt should get you started. Enormous creatures fascinate us, like the Megalodon and other gigantic beasts. Tell me your best tale.

If you find this article fun and interesting and you decide to expand on this story -let me know how it continues in the comment section below, and as usual…happy writing!

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