A top of the line wooden lute Tsukumogami which has come to life after 100 years of neglect from its owners, mournful for not being played and now it wanders the streets as a beggar, playin’ for tips. – That’s the popular story for this yokai at least: In honesty there are actually quite a few appearances of lutes as Yokai, Across scrolls they can be pretty comical in appearance.
The most popular Biwa yokai is the Biwa-bokuboku included in Gazu Hyakki Tsurezure Bukuro [last slide]
This yokai was, in turn; a combination reference of two prized & legendary Biwa: - “The Genjo” & “The Bokuba” – in a nutshell: the "Bokuba" Was a famous biwa lute which was said to be able to play itself when nobody was looking, it played so nicely it was even able to placate a demon. – while, The "Genjo" refused to be played by anyone without talent, during a fire: it was assumed that an Oni had invisibly stolen it from the emperors palace, but it turns out it was the Biwa /itself/ that had become frustrated from being neglected in storage for such a long time.
Toriyama Seikens Biwa-bokuboku is based on a blind musical monk called a zato – many lute players in edo where in fact: blind. – today there are rumors out there that they would cause this themselves, gouging their eyes out of devotion to the craft. However: Im 99% sure that that is in fact false* – It is to my understanding that these "Blind Monks" had become more of an occupation, they where a bit more like a magical soothsayers: it was said that their songs could quell Demons, Ghosts and some where even able to prevent Plagues with their melodies.. The main reason that the blind where often musicians? – is in-fact because for a time, it actually paid incredibly well!
In the Edo period they where often sponsored by temples and sometimes even the shogunate – People relied on them for poetry and stories (as not as many people could read.) as well as for spiritual reasons. – So Zato became a lucrative occupation, and the Biwa became incredibly popular as an instrument for that reason.
Then unfortunately towards the end of Edo period, along with a ban on folklore, magic and yokai: blind biwa players where swept under a rug, and hidden by a change in government & the rise of tech & the modern era... – That's perhaps why the poor biwa-bokuboku is now commonly said to be a beggar, But in actuality the robes he wears are very nice!!
*going further back is the legend of "Hoichi the Earless" which is a famous ghost story, and might have something to do with -why- people tend to believe the misinformation that self mutilation was part of it.. but This is getting a bit long winded so, perhaps i'll save that for a sticker/story for another time.
I hope that my sticker will inspire you to look up some good biwa music or to keep you jamming and practising whatever you might play!
Sticker Art by @Samkalensky (yo thats me!) - Part of my Night parade of 100 Demons - Yokai & Japanese folklore sticker collection, weather-resistant 4" Glossy sticker. Check my shop & follow @samkalensky for many more!