Writing Echoes

Delijah's Writing Blog

Tag Archives: research-webpage


Otoroshi (おとろし) are also called Odoro-odoro (おどろ〱) or Ke-ippai (毛一杯). Otoroshi vaguely means ‘frightening’ or ‘creepy’. They are described as hairy creature that perches on the torii that lead to shrines and temples. They pounce on the evil or impious humans when they walk underneath to scare them away or eat them, depending on the story. Not much is known about it except for the hairiness. Sometimes it is shown with a bird in its paw.

References: [link] [link] [link]


Lisbon earthquake (1755)

It was the first of November of 1755, about 9:50 a.m. when a fault broke under the Atlantic Ocean between Madeira and the Iberian Peninsula (estimated coordinates 36ºN, 11ºW). The magnitude has been estimated in 8.8, and the duration of the shaking was 6 and a half minutes. Twenty minutes later, a tsunami washed over the east coast of Portugal, the south-east coast of Spain and the east and north-east coast of Africa. The highest waveheight seems to be about 13 metres (some historical sources say up to 30 or even 40 metres), and the number of tsunami waves (run-ups) was to 51.

This is what has been historically called “The (Great) Lisbon Earthquake and Tsunami of 1755” due to the great destruction it caused in the capital of the Portuguese realm. It completely dynamited the country’s colonial race and had great impact in the European society at the time.

It is less known how it affected the city of Cádiz, a small peninsula in the south-west of Spain. The wave arrived about an hour after a “soft” tremor was felt, and washed through the city. Local legends say that everyone who tried to escape through the narrow sandbar that joins the city with the mainland were swallowed by the sea, and only the Governor’s order of closing the City gates prevented more deaths (although the toll is estimated to be “thousands”).

Although the number of wave run-ups was over 50, according to the local legends, there was only one wave that actually flooded Cádiz. In the church of La Palma there is a plaque that commemorates the event:

En el año mil setecientos cincuenta y cinco, primer día de Noviembre, la tierra en violentos vaivenes de un temblor se estremecía enfureciendo al mar sus movimientos por los muros de Cádiz se subía preparando entre horror, ansias y males, el último castigo a los mortales. Un sacerdote saca fervoroso el guión de la imagen de la palma; DE AQUÍ NO PASES, dice al mar furioso; y al punto al mar se vuelve y todo calma. Por este caso tan notable y prodigioso esta ilustre hermandad, con vida y alma de Dios y de María, en honra y Gloria en gratitud erigió esta memoria.

Which roughly translates to: “In the year of 1755, first day of November, the earth shuddered with violent movements, angering the sea with its movements. Over the walls of Cádiz the sea climbed, preparing among horror, anxiety and evil the last punishment for the mortals. A priest brings out in fervour the image of the Virgin of La Plama; DO NOT PASS THIS POINT, he tells to the furious sea; and immediately the sea retreats and calmness comes. For this notable and portentous case, this brotherhood, whose souls belong to God and Mary, in honour and Glory wrote this thankful note.”

There are many legends related to the 1755 Cádiz tsunami. There are also many facts. It was not the first and it will probably won’t be the last. The question that remains is, did the waters unnaturally retreat? And if they did… how and why? It’s probably worth mentioning now that the two promontories that flank the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar are called the Pillars of Hercules, and that they marked the end of the known world, although there were rumours of land beyond them… maybe Atlantis?

Nope, I’ve not gone postal… yet. I am indeed planning to write something that involves this. I’m just not telling you because… I don’t even know what it is about yet XD. Meanshile, this is how the beachfront of Cádiz looks:

Also… you have any clue how hard it was not to write “YOU SHALL NOT PASS” up there? LOTS.

Historical Tsunami Database NOAA
El Tsunami de Cádiz

Hyakki Yagyō Research

In this post I have compiled a few references that I have used for Hyakki Yagyō. My Japanese is very, very limited, so I’ve been using mostly English Wikipedia people [link], but also a couple of old folklore books provided by the Gutemberg Project [link]. As I worked I also built a map for locations that you can also see in this post.

Hyakki Yagyō has been in the back of my mind for long, but I always thought that the research work would be humongous and did not feel up to tackling it with my level of Japanese, so I kept thinking “not now”. Fortunately for me, Denise [link], doing some research for one of her own projects, found a Wikipedia List of legendary creatures from Japan [link] that helped me organise my thoughts and find out the beings I needed for the story to work. All thanks to her. You can find the summary of this list at the end of this post, or on the printed pdf with the lot of articles I was using.


You can browse them online, download them using the downward arrow on the lower right area, print, share them, anything (just don’t hotlink too much, my bandwith is limited XD).

Collection of Wikipedia articles, for reference [link] (CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported License, I just printed the articles in pdf form)

The Fire-fly’s lovers, and other fairy tales of old Japan (1908), by W. E. Griffis (public domain book) [link]

In Ghostly Japan by L.Hearn (public domain book) [link]


List of the Main Preternatural Beings

Aka Manto (赤マント(?)): A malicious spirit who haunts bathrooms and asks the cubicle occupants if they want red or blue paper [link]

Amanojaku (天邪鬼) A small demon that instigates people into wickedness. [link]

Amefurikozō (雨降り小僧): Child-looking spirit that plays in the rain [link]

Bake-kujira (化け鯨): A ghostly whale skeleton that drifts along the coastline of Shimane Prefecture.

Bakeneko (化け猫) A shape-shifting cat [link]

Basan (波山) / Basabasa (婆娑婆娑) / Inuhōō (犬鳳凰)- A large fire-breathing chicken monster [link]

Chōchinobake (提灯お化け) A possessed chōchin lantern. [link]

Funayūrei (船幽霊): Ghosts of people who died at sea [link]

Inugami (犬神) A dog-spirit created, worshipped, and employed by a family via sorcery [link]

Jubokko (樹木子): a Vampire Tree [link]

Kitsune (狐) A fox spirit [link]

Kiyohime (清姫) A woman who transformed into a serpent demon out of the rage of unrequited love [link]

Komainu (狛犬): lion dogs that guard the entrance of Shinto Shrines [link]

Mizuko (水子) dead fetus or, archaically, a dead baby or infant, their souls [link] or statues [link]

Nue (鵺): A monster with the head of a monkey, the body of a raccoon dog, the legs of a tiger, and a snake-headed tail. Can cause nightmares [link]

Nurikabe (ぬりかべ) A ghostly wall that traps a traveler at night [link]

Obake (お化け) / Bakemono (化け物): Shapeshifting spirits [link]

Onryō (怨霊): The vengeful spirits of the dead. The seeking vengence spirits, yurei up to no good [link]

Samebito (鮫人) A shark-man from the undersea Dragon Palace [link]

Tsukumogami (付喪神): Any 100-year-old inanimate object that has come to life [link]

Uwan (うわん): A spirit named for the sound it shouts when surprising people [link]

Yuki-onna (雪女) The snow woman [link] To be honest, I did not write about the Yuki-onna (that’s why name is not bold), but… but.

Sourcing: Adelstein, Jake

Do you guys remember the Eyjafjallajökull volcano thingy? I do. March / April 2010. In May it was the unofficially official reason I started my first ebay dispute. See, I had heard of this bloke who had this book on yakuza and I happened to buy said book from a friendly bookseller on ebay (Didn’t know about the Book Depository yet [link]. Whoops. Sorry for the commercial break). First the book was delayed. Then it was delayed again. Three months after buying it and two weeks after the ash cloud was dissipated the book was not here (and not even marked as sent in the ebay page although the seller kept telling me they had sent it). I wrote a slightly peeved email, threatening with opening a dispute. The next day the item appeared marked as sent and the book was here in a week. Oh, joy.

The book in question was Tokyo Vice – An American Reporter on the police beat in Japan. I talked about that book back at the beginning here [link], although some day I will re-read it and write a proper review (you can tell that’s my copy in the picture, though. Just look at all the post-its) For now, have the basic data:

Book: Tokyo Vice – An American Reporter on the police beat in Japan
Authors: Jake Adelstein
Publisher: Pantheon books, NY
ISBN: 978-0-307-37879-8
Number of pages: 335

Tokyo Vice follows a few years in the life of Adelstein, told by himself as he worked as a reporter for the Yomiuri Shinbun [link], mostly covering crime (thus being in the police beat. Dead giveaway). During his time there he became involved in quite a few investigations, and… okay, let the publicity guy from Pantheon books tell you:

For twelve years of eighty-hour workweeks, he covered the seedy side of Japan, where extortion, murder, human trafficking, and corruption are as familiar as ramen noodles and sake. But when his final scoop brought him face to face with Japan’s most infamous yakuza boss—and the threat of death for him and his family—Adelstein decided to step down… momentarily. Then, he fought back.

Basically, the guy pissed off half of the yakuza, and is on relatively good terms with the other half. The book is a bit on the self-depreciating side, but let’s be honest – out of yakuza books? This one is probably the best one focused on the recent years. The best part is that it comes with online updates. Not really, but one of Adelstein’s side projects is the Japan Subculture Research Center [link] gets more than regular updates.

The JSRC was founded in 2007, its goal is, according to the authors, to expose the hidden side of Japan: underground economy, sex trade, and everything that a Japanese would consider ‘scandals’. Lately they are having a big coverage on TEPCO and what is being called the ‘nuclear mafia’. You know, for someone who grew up 40km away from a nuclear powers station with a crack on the tower… hm.

At the moment Adelstein works with the Polaris Project Japan [link], whose mission is “combating human trafficking and modern-day slavery in Japan through advocacy work and by building relationships with victims of sexual and labor exploitation.”. Adelstein had / has contact with the sexual trade ‘volunteers’ in Japan. He was personally involved in the Lucie Blackman case [link] and one of his friends / informants was probably killed by a gang for feeding him information (officially he went missing).

Currently he also writes for the Atlantic Wire [link] and might be the most active person on my TL [link]. He participated on 2:46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake [link] and Reconstructing 3/11: Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown – how Japan’s future depends on its understanding of the 2011 triple disaster [link], both of which are chilling tales of the Great Tohoku Earthquake and its aftermath for Japan.

That’s all for today. I just thought that considering how often I quote the guy here, a short post about him and his work was in order.

Also, thinking of changing the blog header / looks. Any suggestions?

Ngram Search: “Calligrapher”

Calligraphy: Fancy penmanship, especially highly decorative handwriting, as with a great many flourishes [link]. But how do you call a person who practices the art of Calligraphy? I started Ngram-ing again (note that the first graph is not smoothed while the other two are).

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Source: Google Ngram Viewer [link]

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Source: Google Ngram Viewer [link]

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Source: Google Ngram Viewer [link]

So after much search and replace, my Victim #14 serial killer is The Calligrapher *accomplished sigh* (This all started, by the way, because I keep typing “Caligrapher” instead of “Calligrapher” and my spell check did not like any of them, thus the LL/L search. Then I came across “Calligraphist” and banged my head against a wall, did a search/replace, then undid it and now I am happy.

Yes, this post was completely pointless. You may go complain in the comments for wasting your time.

Research Lectures on Crime, psychopaths and violence

TED [link] Conferences are more addictive than LOLcats, and way more informative. Roaming through the archive, I found three that I have found terribly interesting and that have concepts that I have tried to incorporate in Victim #14.

Jim Fallon: Exploring the mind of a killer
James Fallon is an American neuroscientist who has made some interesting research over the brain activity of psychopaths.

There is a follow-up / sister talk in Moth, too Moth: Confessions of a Pro-Social Psychopath [link].

Philip Zimbardo shows how people become monsters… or heroes
Philip George Zimbardo is the psychologist who carried out the Stanford Prison Experiment in 1971, which went terribly wrong. In this talk he reflects over it in the wake of the US Army abuses against Iraqi war prisoners a few years ago.

Steven Pinker on the myth of violence
Steven Arthur Pinker is a Canadian-American experimental psychologist (and a hell load more things) who makes an analysis over violence in history, and how, apparently, things are not as bad as they look

Speaking of Victim #14, I go to write my daily 500 words of Victim #14 and stop procrastinating. Although this reminds me that I got myself another research book, on cops who chase serial killers. I thought it would be more useful and not as difficult to stomach than those famous serial-killers interview books. Unrelatedly, I also got another book on prostitution and the sex business in Japan, which is a bit old but I was depressed, it was cheap, and it’s research material XD

P.S. Random blog post is random, maybe, but today it’s a year since I started writingechoes, so I thought about posting something XD

“Serial Killer” Ngram Search

I was doublechecking some information offered by the book I am reading (Malicious Intent: A Writer’s Guide to How Murderers, Robbers, Rapists and Other Criminals Think), and went to play in Google Ngrams. The results were interesting. The little bump in “serial killer” just before 1900 might be related to 1888, when Jack the Ripper was roaming the streets of London, and the first big peak of “mass murder” seems to be around the World War II and its aftermath. 1980 brought the boom of the serial killer book, both in fiction and true-crime literature.

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Source: Google Ngram Viewer [link]

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Source: Google Ngram Viewer [link]

I hope to add up to that not-so-little fiction pile sometime ^^

Decisions, Decisions

A while back I got myself a couple of books from the Howdunit Series. I loved one of them, Murder One and hated the other, Armed and Dangerous. For a while I have been thinking that I need to break the tie-in, because one bad and one good… gah. I am on a research book hype since I got myself Yakuza – Japan’s Criminal Underworld, which I love but I need to read slowly to absorb all the facts, so I have been looking at the Howdunit Series again (Side note: be prepared for a completely flaily review about Yakuza when I’m done with it).

So here’s what I want:

  • Body Trauma : A Writer’s Guide to Wounds and Injuries by David W. Page
  • Deadly Doses: A Writer’s Guide to Poisons by Serita Deborah Stevens
  • Cause of Death: A Writer’s Guide to death, murder & forensic Medicine, by Keith D. Wilson
  • Malicious Intent: A Writer’s Guide to how murderers, robbers, rapists and other criminals think, by Sean P. Mactire

… I wonder what that list says about me XD

Malicious Intent really caught my eye, because it presents itself as a “reference book offering information on criminal psychology, covering motivation, choice of victim, and police detective methods”, but the reviews are… disheartening to say the least, most of them reasoned and backed-up. On the other hand is out for less than £3 (second hand), shipping included, so maybe it is worth it? After all I am interested in the psychological part of it all…

Body Trauma calls me because… well, it is no surprise to anyone that many of my charas end up beaten a lot and yeah, there is that weird hospital fixation of mine too, and Deadly Doses sounds awfully interesting, and kind of handy to have, especially when you can search for poisons based on their symptoms. And lets face it, it will help me look less like a psychopath on my google history XD. Finally, you may call me morbid but I want Cause of Death because I would like to write about a Medical Examiner at some point. I’ve actually tried it before, but always given up due to different reasons, or only have had them as minor characters.

But there’s the want and then is the hm. I’d really like to get the last three books, and let’s be honest, I probably will get at least two of them. They are cheap in Amazon’s marketplace after all XD, and for some reason I don’t mind them being second-hand. Probably due to the lack of faith I have at the moment XD

About the first one, Malicious Intent… I don’t know, maybe for that price I will consider it, even if the reviews were so negative. Thinking about it, however, I have remembered a resource I have been using before, from the US Federal Bureu of Investigations (yup, the FBI): Serial Murder –Multidisciplinary Perspectives for Investigators which actually makes a few interesting points on how ‘bad guys’ think. Although the hand-out focuses on serial killers, it can be used for other criminal profiles and makes an interesting myth vs. truth list. Considering how much we are exposed to fictional psychopaths, it was a good thing to read, very informative.

Then again, this whole post might be me ranting because I’m totally stuck on Undeliverable and I don’t want to type a ‘Writer’s block’ post? You’ll find out what I decided when I start making reviews of the books I get in the end…

Internet Newspaper Note: Yakuza to the Rescue

Newspaper Article: Yakuza to the Rescue. [link]
Author: Jake Adelstein.
Source: The Daily Beast
Date: March 18, 2011

Yakuza code of honor is rather… special, I’d say. When I started my research a while back I found a note on the 1995 Kobe Earthquake which said that the yakuza had been the first on scene with some kind of organized/efficient relief strategy. Kobe is the main HQ of the Yamaguchi-gumi, so it made some kind of sense that they would ‘do something’ for their people.

This month, when the Great Tohoku Earthquake hit again, the yakuza moved again, and once more they were the first on scene. In barely 24 hours they arranged trucks of basic necessities and drove up north east with whatever they could find. Probably they just plunged into Conbini storage warehouses or something and just took what they wanted; as mentioned their code of honor is rather particular.

What gives, nonetheless, a glimpse of the magnitude of the disaster is the fact that the yakuza, an extremely ethnic and racist group is this: There are no yakuza or katagi (ordinary citizens) or gaijin (foreigners) in Japan right now. We are all Japanese. For the yakuza, this is something huge. Then again, I’m probably just flailing the fact that they drove north for 12 hours to drop by the supplies and ‘not mentioned that they were from the yakuza so they did not get rejected’. Oh, minna ♥

Ongoing Research Resources list and tips

Note: Not complete, not universal, not comprehensive either. Just a few favourites, tips, and shameless pimping of some of my sources.

Google [link]
Google is available in many, many languages. In my opinion, the English one (.com) is the most powerful one. Google works on a keyword-query. The trick to google is patience to make different searches. Here’s a few tips:

  1. When doing a search, try different keywords, with and without quotes. osaka guardians and “osaka guardians” will not yield to the same results.
  2. Google does not understand upper or lowercase, so OSAKA, Osaka and osaka will get you to the same pages.
  3. Use -keyterm to exclude certain words.
  4. Remember that Google has options to search for images and videos, too. And there’s Google Scholar [link] for the geekiest.
  5. * is a wildcard, meaning it can substitute any word you’re looking for in a sentence.
  6. Use filetype:pdf to get only pdf results (filetype:ext to get any file extension).
  7. Be careful of brilliant pages and with what you download in your computer!!
  8. Google can (and many times will) lead you to other kind of engines, such as answers.com [link] or yahoo answers [link]. Link hopping is really useful
  9. Skim at least 3 pages of links before giving up


Wikipedia comes in various languages, and what makes it awesomely useful is the fact that you can search for anything in any language and switch into any other. Generally, the English articles are more extensive, but you can (and should!) check for information in any language you read and has a good article.

Find your way around

  1. Google maps [link] will give you walking and car distances from and to many places, and with the street view feature, you can be IN the map
  2. Google Earth is nice and handy too, for bookmarking your own locations

When on the internet: link hop

Explore wikipedia’s references, and ‘related topics’ when you’re on answering engines.


Don’t give up on the third link.


I’m old school, when I was younger getting a photocopy was a luxury, and there was no internet XD

  1. Your local library can be a good source of information.
  2. ebay [link]. Here you can buy second or first hand books, many of them cheap.
  3. Amazon [link] is the reference online bookshop, and has some second hand book for as little as 1cent + S&H
  4. A personal favourite: The Book Depository [link] has 0 S&H and nice offers.
  5. Public Domain Books (and basically anything) can be found in The Internet Archive [link]

Writing Forums or LJ communities

  1. Detail Oriented [link]: an LJ community for writers.
  2. NaNoWriMo’s forums [link]

Uber-geeky search engines (Research Journal articles):

  1. I use Science Direct [link] a lot, but if you got access to a university library you might have access to many more.
  2. JSTOR [link] is more focused on social science, and thus is useful too

Specific Forums
Forums are an amazing fountain of wisdom and real life experience. The people posting there have specific knowledge about a specific topic and can help you cross-reference your preconceptions.

TED Talks [link]
TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) provides access to a wide range of information under a Creative Commons license in 18 minutes or less, bringing together some of the authorities in the topic at hand – whichever that is.

What is not a good idea to count as research:

Anything that comes from a movie or a tv series, unless you’ve double-checked. Sometimes screenwriters get amusingly unaccurate. An example? Old blood is not blood red. How many times have you seen in a cop show a body covered in bright red blood when the victim was killed a few nights before?

Personal list of Resources:

  • Apparelized [link] Spinal Cord injuries forum.
  • eMedicine [link] Medical Articles in plain/acessible English