Japanese folklore holds some of the most frightening and dark tales on the planet. There are stories about monsters that hunger for human flesh, house items coming alive to terrorize their owners and the dead arising from the grave to devour souls. Some legends warn if one been wronged in life, their spirit could return as a malicious force capable of harming the living. One such entity, fishermen and sailors fear lurking in the open water is the funayurei.
In Japanese lore, people who drown in the sea, their ghost remains on earth becoming a vengeful spirit known as the funayurie. These entities inhabit the waters seeking to reunite with love ones and friends by drag them down into the brine with them. The funayurie will appear on a foggy or stormy night during a full moon, manifesting as skeletons or rotten bodies wearing burial robes. They could be either hovering over the water or sailing on ship.
Legends reveal these spirits seek to sink vessels and drown their occupants. If a funayurie ship is encountered, it will appear as if ramming the other ship causing the crew to steer away to either capsize or run into rocks. In some myths, a large mass of these spirits will gather under the boat to pull it under water by force or punch holes into the hull. Another way the funayurie may attempt to sink a ship is by gathering whatever containers are on board and using them to fill the vessel with seawater until its submerged. In a similar fashion, a few tales say the funayurie carry their own large ladles and buckets. In one version, these ghosts would assemble to form a giant that emerges out of the water to flip over the craft or pull it under the sea.
As in most Japanese legends, there are methods mentioned on surviving such supernatural encounters. When confronting an unknown vessel at night, lore suggests take the gamble it’s a ghost ship and sail directly through it instead of steering away. Other myths convey to bring buckets and ladles with holes as it may discourage the funayurie from trying to fill the ship with seawater. There is a tradition where crews would throw food or objects over board as an offering to the ghosts in hopes to appease them.
Today, there are a few who still believe the funayurie are real and lay waiting out at the sea. Some maritime accidents involving commercial shipping where people drown has been blamed on these spirit. Even now, some fishermen throw small offerings into the sea praying the ghost will leave them alone.