Tsukumogami Bakezōri: Spirit of a discarded sandal

Tsukumogami (“artefact spirits”) like this Bakezōri – spirit of a discarded sandal or “sandal goblin” – are a category of the Yōkai, figures of Japanese folklore.

According to tradition, they are “born” after 100 years have passed, when a commodity and everyday object is neglected or carelessly discarded, like the Bakezōri, which wanders around the house at night making noises and causing mischief.
The haunting objects can be traced back to writings of the Heian period 794-1192. They became increasingly popular in the 19th century, which is also the period of origin of the woodblock prints with numerous tsukomogamis and animal and plant Yōkais shown in the exhibition. Originally vengeful and bloodthirsty, the artefact spirits are now mainly cheeky. They appear in films, mangas, as plastic figures and stickers.
The animated lanterns, sandals, umbrellas, stoves and teapots remind their owners to use things sustainably and carefully. In traditional housecleaning ceremonies, irreparable things are blessed in a shrine to prevent the creation of new Tsukomogamis.

The object is part of our new special exhibition “The Story of My Life. Object Biography as Concept, Method and Genre”, which can be seen at the Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge from 19 January 2023.