When speaking about yokai, a class of supernatural monsters within Japanese folklore, one cannot help but be reminded of the late Mizuki Shigeru, the manga, author and historian who is known for his yokai related work. His passion for the world of yokai had led him to create manga and books about yokai, among which are Shigeru Mizuki’s Ghosts and Demons, Kappa no Sanpei, Akuma-Kun, and of course the notable Gegege no Kitaro.
His works have been so widely recognized that there is a road named after him back in his hometown! Let’s take a stroll to find out more!
Located in Tottori Prefecture, the town of Sakaiminato was actually founded in 1956, 34 years before Mizuki Shigeru was born! The town was known as Sakai and was an open port for trading with the United States and the United Kingdom. The town isn’t very much of a tourist attraction besides being known as the birthplace of Mizuki Shigeru and for the Mizuki Shigeru Road.
— The Daily Japan (@TheDailyJapan) December 22, 2016
The road encompasses a shopping district spanning 800 meters from JR Sakaiminato Station to Honmachi Arcade. At times, there will be people dressing up as yokai characters from Mizuki Shigeru’s manga on the street!
Don’t be surprised if you find bronze statues of various yokai lining the Mizuki Shigeru Road because they are all characters from the manga authored and illustrated by the one-handed Mizuki Shigeru. The statues look pretty adorable, with postures matching their characters from the manga. It began with just 23 statues in 1993 and added up over the years to 153 statues today.
From the summer of 2018, 18 more statues will be added to the 153 statues and all of them will be reorganized into five zones, including yokai from houses and forests. Besides that, special lamps will be installed along the street to create yokai shadows inside spotlight circles at night time. Shops along the Mizuki Shigeru Road will also change their business hours in order to coincide with the lamps’ debut!
How to get there
By car, it takes 30 minutes from Yonago Expressway Yonago IC, or 10 minutes from Yonago Kitaro Airport, directly adjacent to Sakaiminato Station.
— Zack Davisson ECCC Y7 (@ZackDavisson) May 2, 2013
This museum stands at the end of the Mizuki Shigeru Road which starts from the JR Sakaiminato station. The exhibits in the two-story museum include the history of Mizuki Shigeru, his masterpieces, personal item collections, photo galleries, paintings, and many other exhibits related not just to his work but also yokai. The museum compound includes a Japanese garden and a souvenir shop.
The admission fee is 300 yen (school students) and 700 yen (adults). There is also a foreign passport discount which is 300 yen (adults), 200 yen (teens), and 100 yen (children with ID). The museum is open from 9:30 am until 5:00 pm (last entry 30 minutes before closing), and it is open all year round.
How to Get There
The museum is 10 minutes on foot from JR Sakaiminato Station, and 30 minutes by car from Yonago Expressway Yonago IC in the direction of Sakaiminato.
From the Sakaiminato Tourist Centre and some shops on the street, you can get a guidebook about all the different kinds of yokai. The guidebook, which costs about 100 yen, introduces you to the names of yokai and their native places. It also serves as a scrapbook for you to collect yokai stamps from the shops on the street of Mizuki Shigeru Road. When you manage to collect 20 stamps, you will be given a Nonki-seal (a take-it-easy sticker) and a Kanso-sho (a reached-the-goal certification) will be awarded if all 37 shop stamps are collected!
If you are fascinated with yokai just like Mizuki Shigeru, why not visit the Yokai Shrine? Founded by the artist himself in the year 2000 for yokai to hang out and relax, it houses a 300-year old tree and a stone eye, which looks a lot like Medama Oyaji.
When you get to Sakaiminato, do not forget to mail a letter via the yokai-post as the mail will be stamped with the yokai-character postmark!
Also, do not forget to take a ride on the train! The train coaches in service between Sakaiminato Station and Yonago Station of the JR Sakai line are painted in the themes of Kitaro and other yokai characters. Even the train announcements are conducted in Kitaro’s voice. The stations of the JR Sakai line have other names connected with yokai. For instance, Sakaiminato Station is also called Kitaro Station.
The town appreciates Mizuki Shigeru so much that they even have an airport name after the main character from his famous manga Gegege no Kitaro. Called the Yonago Kitaro Airport, you can easily find the characters from the manga decorating the airport!
You don’t have to be a fan of Mizuki Shigeru’s work to pay a visit to Sakaiminato as this town not only houses his work but also the culture of Yokai. It is, after all, a place that was manifested from a man’s passion for the world of yokai.