rokurokubi (a type of demon)
This top depicts a rokurokubi, literally “lathe neck” or “pulley neck,” which is a type of yōkai (supernatural monster) in Japanese lore. These popular figures are characterized by looking like humans but having long necks that extend to the ceiling or heads that can come off of their bodies and fly around freely. Hiroi-sensei’s rokurokubi is the kind with the elongated neck. This kind was first described in an early nineteenth century tale as stretching its neck up to the ceiling to lick the oil from evening lanterns. Hiroi-sensei notes that his rokurokubi plays the shamisen, and as it plays, the rokurokubi’s neck slowly elongates towards the ceiling.
Hiroi Michiaki: Mmm this is Rokuro kubi.
Mrs. Hiroi: Yeah.
Hiroi: This is… umm… In the past, there was a person with a long neck, and this is actually a kind of yokai (demon). He plays this shamisen here and slowly slowly slowly slowly his neck stretches out. And he licks at the oil of evening lamps.