Mokumoku-Ren – A to Z Challenge

Mokumoku-Ren by Toriyama Sekien

Twilight hung in the balance, as the towering pine trees raked their long claws across the sun’s dying face – I needed somewhere to spend the evening.

Seven ri from Kibukawa. Seven ri from the nearest inn.

Seven ri in the gathering darkness, and on my already aching feet.

An eternity, into the stygian night.

A house loomed along the roadside, desolately inviting. Decrepit, abandoned to the elements, some forgotten family long since consumed. Like so many other farmhouses, vanquished by the twin spectres of famine and plague.

Hesitant, I peered through the tattered shoji, whispering into the shadows.


There was no reply, other than the phantom voice of the wind murmuring through the bent sakura, as though the ghosts of the ancestors welcomed me in. A good omen, I decided.

The house creaked and muttered its complaints as the night settled around it, the flickering light offered by my small fire seemed to cast only shadows rather than light, the familial shrine scattered, their spirits unplacatable.

I slept.

Very little.

I woke in the middle of the night, a creeping sense of horror upon me, a terrible weight bearing down from the walls around me.

The moaning of the wind seemed more desperate beneath the crescent moon, its half-light barely enough to illuminate the room.

And then I saw them.

The eyes, the eyes.

Staring down at me, begging me, pleading with me.

I had only one answer, and hastily began repairing the torn shoji with the washi paper I had prepared for sale in Kyoto.

Dawn broke, and the eyes slowly faded.


Another little Japanese tale for my series on Under-represented Monsters, written for the A to Z Blogging Challenge. If you head to the Wikipedia page for Mokumoku-Ren, you’ll see it’s only a stub. And that I wrote it. I am apparently the expert on Mokumoku-Ren in the West. Excellent. And now for an explanation of the Japanese terms in the story: Ri is a traditional Japanese unit of measurement. One ri is about four kilometres (around two and a half miles.) Shoji are those sliding paper walls the Japanese are so fond of, and where the Mokumoku-Ri make their homes. Sumimasen means both “Excuse me” and “I’m sorry” (and about a dozen other things.) I’m not sure if they use washi paper to make shoji, but hey, maybe they do (just checked: Yes they do!) Let me know what you think, comments and criticism always welcome!

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7 thoughts on “Mokumoku-Ren – A to Z Challenge

  1. There’s a very nice sense of atmosphere here. Great blog. I’m looking forward to reading more!

    • Thanks, it’s something I’m trying out at the moment (building a foreboding atmosphere) for a series I’m planning for later this year, Victorian-style ghost stories…glad to know it’s working!

  2. stankmeaner says:

    Not only do I really enjoy reading your stories (this one may be my favorite so far that I’ve read) because they’re well crafted and well written tales, but you also give me cool things to google when I’m bored.

    • Exactly what I’ve been going for! We’ve all read a thousand and one stories about vampires/werewolves/ghosts, so we feel (well, I do at least) that we know these stories inside and out. So I’m trying to bring out some of these amazing monsters that have little to no press in the West. I must warn you off the Wikipedia lists of legendary creatures though…so many hours have disappeared…

  3. mel says:

    I love this. An eyeball paper monster! Going to catch up with the rest of your stories. Looks like you’re on a roll with this A-Z Challenge 🙂

Comments and criticism always welcome!

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