An uwan as dipicted in Sawaki Suushi's Hyakkai-Zukan

An uwan (うわん) in Japanese folklore is a disembodied voice that inhabits old, abandoned temples and homes. According to ancient legends from Aomori Prefecture Japan, when a person enters one of these buildings, the formless yōkai shouts out an ear-piercing “Uwan!” The voice is only audible to people inside the building — those outside hear nothing. Since an uwan does not physically exist and only consists of sound, it poses no physical danger.

Ancient Japanese legends provide several examples of formless yōkai like the uwan, which consist of nothing but sound, light or other natural phenomena. In the Edo period, however, these demon spirits assumed physical bodies as artists such as Sawaki Suushi incorporated them into their work.


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