When I was very small, about three or so, my grandfather used to tell me stories about monsters. Later on I found out they were actually his professional short stories, just made simple so I could understand them. Before I ever met them in comic books-- or elsewhere-- I learned about all the classic spooks: the rokurokubi with their long snaky necks who peer over walls to spy on their neighbours, the nukekubi whose heads detach from their bodies and go flying about attacking people, Akanbei with his one drooping eye, and the hitodama, those eyes trailing fire that mark the spirits of the dead. Grandfather mentioned lots of mischievous household imps-- Makura-gaeshi who pulls your pillow out from under your head at night, and Amakiri who cuts open mosquito nets so you get bitten, and Sodehiki-kozo, the invisible little boy who catches your kimono sleeve. Some I found charming and odd and inexplicable, like Tofu-kouzo, a small boy who walks about carrying a block of tofu, or Ame-furikouzo, another little boy who plays outside in the rain, or Abura-akago, a baby who licks the oil out of oil-lamps.
But there were other, odder ones that made me feel nervous about being by myself in our house. Nando-baba is an old woman who hides under the floor in abandoned storerooms, Aka-teko a red hand that dangles out of a tree, Kosode-no-te a short-sleeved kimono with its own hands. Those were bad enough, but the one that really got to me was Mokumokuren, a swarm of eyes that appears on the fusuma of old buildings. The idea of that made me nearly sick to my stomach from terror.
Grandfather told me not to worry. The fusuma in our house have a dragon on them, he said. No eyes will appear if there's a dragon there to eat them.
Well, he was right about that, at least. We've had everything else in our house, but no eyes on the fusuma.