Profiting From Polytheism: The Commodification of Mythical Beings During the Covid-19 Outbreak in Japan


With their roots in animism and Shintōism, Japan’s mythical creatures known as yōkai have been feared, revered, and used to explain calamities or inexplicable phenomena. Needless to say, in the early stages of the Covid-19 outbreak and even now to some extent, very little was known about the origins of the virus, its potency, and how it could be prevented or treated effectively. Naturally, this threw most countries in the world into a state of confusion and Japan was no exception. However, as opposed to seeking answers from conspiracy theories to make sense of the unknown, Japan turned to アマビエ(Amabié)— a mermaid-like yōkai known for prophesizing either an impending epidemic or an abundant harvest. While Amabié offers no explanation, advice or immediate help, it is believed that by recreating manifestations of its image, people can defend themselves against illness. Whether it was wishful thinking or simply a trend is debatable, but countless artists, city councils, product manufacturers, and shrines around the country all jumped onto the bandwagon of producing and promoting products with images of Amabié in 2020. Although their motives varied and a sense of hope certainly inspired the production and consumption of Amabié, in this presentation I argue that the profit factor was a major incentive for shrines and businesses who invested in the trend. I will demonstrate this by drawing upon previous research on the commodification of religion while providing examples of the commodification of Amabié by local, corporate, and secular entities.

Author Information
Antonija Cavcic, The University of Shiga Prefecture, Japan

Paper Information
Conference: ACERP2022
Stream: Religion – Mysticism

This paper is part of the ACERP2022 Conference Proceedings (View)
Full Paper
View / Download the full paper in a new tab/window

To cite this article:
Cavcic A. (2022) Profiting From Polytheism: The Commodification of Mythical Beings During the Covid-19 Outbreak in Japan ISSN: 2187-476X – The Asian Conference on Ethics, Religion & Philosophy 2022 Official Conference Proceedings
To link to this article:

Comments & Feedback

Place a comment using your LinkedIn profile


Share on activity feed

Powered by WP LinkPress

Share this Research

Posted by James Alexander Gordon