By Crystal Morey
I want to continue blogging on some of the more obscure Japanese yokai and as chance would have it, Matty No Times from Three Kings Tattoo was just out here on tour and wanted to have Horiyoshi III tattoo something on him that is some way mirrored his visage… and I immediately thought of a HiHi. We pitched the idea to Horiyoshi III who thought it was hilarious and, sourcing Yoshitoshi, he did an amazing piece in about 45 minutes…
I’ve videoed the tattoo start to finish… Sorry for all the chatter, Horiyoshi called in some of his client for the guys to check out and they came while Matty was getting tattooed.
There is not a lot of written literature on the HiHi and a lot of what is out there is found in Japanese Manga… Modern stories involving Japanese mythical creatures, but not necessarily based on authentic folklore. Essentially they are yokai that resemble a baboon but loom three to four times taller than a human being. Their most distinguishing feature is an upturned, elongated upper lip that is usually curled into a snarl, revealing fierce teeth.
They are covered in a hard impenetrable shell of silver hair, believed to be the result of the animal rolling in pine resin and then sand over and over until their fur is matted into a protective outer covering so strong that it repels both bullets and arrows. HiHi have a high-pitched squeal and can shape-shift into humans when it suits them.
They are man-eaters and there are legends told from Fukushima to Hamamatsu about virgins being sacrificed to HiHi residing nearby, to insure to safety of the other townspeople. Their eyes are the one vulnerable point on their bodies and dogs are their mortal enemies.
Most HiHi who are overcome by humans were distracted by a hunter’s dog while the hunters shot him in the eye or were tricked by samurai dressing as young girls and catching the unassuming HiHi off guard. A phoenix shriek once startled a transformed HiHi and revealed him as a yokai to a group of puzzled villagers.
One more thing that should be noted… That is not a HiHi in the famous Kuniyoshi ukiyo-e below, but a giant monkey. You can pull from it for physical attributes, but it is not an actual HiHi.