the online database of Japanese folkore

Kameosa

瓶長
かめおさ

Translation: elder jug
Habitat: homes

Appearance: Kameosa are old earthenware jugs used to hold water or sake that have changed into tsukumogami—objects that have been around for so long that they develop a spirit. They look like ordinary jugs, except that they have sprouted eyes, noses, mouths, and limbs.

Behavior: A kameosa still works as a jug, even as it gains the ability to move about the house. They are always full, and never need to be refilled. They are a bit mischievous like all tsukumogami, although while they may wander around the house a little bit, they don’t do anything harmful to humans.

Interactions: Despite their strange appearance, kameosa are spirits of good fortune and bounty. They are extremely lucky yōkai to have around the house. They can serve up an endless supply of water or sake—whatever they hold. No matter how much is scooped out for cooking, cleaning, or drinking, they always remain full.

Origin: Kameosa was invented by Toriyama Sekien for his fourth and final yōkai encyclopedia, Hyakki tsurezure bukuro—a book full of tsukumogami based on puns. Kameosa may be a pun based on Koikawa Harumachi, a student of Sekien’s whose nickname was also Kameosa (written with different characters), and who loved drinking sake. As kameosa is the final yōkai in the book, it is also the final yōkai in Sekien’s yōkai series. He may have designed this yōkai of good luck and bounteous fortune as a way to end his book and his series on a positive, celebratory note—or even as a way to pass the reigns to his disciple Harumachi.

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