Do you sometimes wonder about those lights that are ridiculously high up on museum ceilings? Turns out there isn’t a fairy hovering around with a box of fresh light bulbs and a tiny employee badge around her neck. I turned a corner at the Jordan Schnitzer MOA to find this creature, which I first glimpsed during my night at the museum. I swear I’ll tame that thing some day, and then I’ll lie on my belly in the basket and scoot around like I’m FLYING!
One-Eyed Tofu Bearing Boy
The museum has lately been populated by quite a few monsters that could probably beat the spindly extendo-machine in a fight. They’re characters on a giant-size version of a Japanese Sugoroku board, which was translated and designed by UO student Faith Kreskey as part of her master’s thesis. I met with Kreskey to talk about pumpkin monsters, glowering paper umbrellas, haunted lanterns and the like.
Sugoroku is a chutes and ladders-type dice game that was popular during the Edo period (1613-1868), and this particular board has a different Japanese critter on each square. It’s kind of like a giant monster guide for little kids, who truly must have been tougher in the good old days. Think the boogie man was scary? You had it easy, sonny.
Take One-Eyed Tofu Bearing Boy, who seems to be a distant ancestor of Mike from Monster’s, Inc. Save the cyclops eye and pointy tongue, he looks like a regular little boy dressed for New Year’s. He acts as a sweet tofu deliveryboy, unless he doesn’t like you. If Tofu Boy offers you tofu with a red maple leaf on top, it be POISONED!!
The Filth Licker
Then there’s the Filth Licker, who will creep into your house and lick things if you don’t properly clean. What’s up with this fascination with KISS-style tongues?
Also in attendance are a cat witch who’s about to get beheaded, a three-eyed priest, a transforming giant, a flying squirrel monster, a furry creature who bounces around on a very sensitive part of his anatomy, and the Kappa, who likes to eat… well, you can do more research if you want to.
At some point between Kreskey’s descriptions of the “tree that grows fruit in the shape of baby heads” and the monster that follows you around “if you don’t throw away your umbrella correctly,” I started to understand how Japanese game shows make sense in terms of cultural evolution.
As we hopped around the board, which fills an entire room, Kreskey had that rabid superfan look in her eye. It must be thrilling to physically move through a world you’ve so meticulously studied. It’s hard to explain it, but the characters are bizarrely lovable. Even you, Tofu Boy, even you.