This statue is believed to be a laying-of-spirits offering, presented to a Shinto temple to quell or appease an angry ghost or demon.
The tale of Jas-Hon is a popular one in Japanese folklore. A child who drowned during an inauspicious Friday excursion on the Lake of Crystal returns as a vengeful homicidal demon wearing a ritual mask who kills everyone associated with his death. The legend spawned many variations.
For example, in Inauspicious Friday, version II, a new summer excursion crew attempts to set up business by the Lake of Crystal and is systematically slaughtered by Jas-Hon. In version III the demon destroys outlaw bandits who wish to cut themselves in on the profits of the excursion trade, and in version VI, Jas-Hon Lives!, his spirit is accidentally raised by a friend of one of the dead and wreaks yet more terror.
There are nine known versions of the tale. The statue shown here represents the eighth, called Inauspicious Friday: Jas-Hon Does Tokyo. Additional versions may turn up in the future as new sites are excavated. The popularity of the tale with the audiences of traveling storytellers apparently accounts for the variety and extensions, as the storytellers discovered that they were rewarded handsomely for even the slightest variation of the same plot.
"Jas-Hon Does Tokyo"
Japan 5th–6th century CE
34cm x 28cm
Earthenware w / painted, incised decoration