Amabie is a 19th-century Japanese spirit (known as yokai) who is said to ward of plagues.
According to legend, Amabie was said to have appeared to a Samauri and told him to draw a picture of her and show it to people to keep them safe from a coming pandemic, according to BBC News.
The fishy, longhaired, birdlike yokai has inspired everything in Japan in recent weeks — from cakes and noodles to face masks and hand sanitizers. She even sparked the “AmabieChallenge” on Twitter that urges people to draw her.
A sea lion named Leo at an aquarium in Yokohama recently drew a respectable likeness.
“He started drawing Amabie in late March, practicing for about a month,” the sea lion’s keeper Sae Ishino said, according to Channel News Asia in Singapore. “We perform the drawing of Amabie hoping the pandemic of the new coronavirus will come to an end soon.”
Amabie’s comeback came in March when the Kyoto University Library tweeted an Amabie drawing from 1846.
A man who drew Amabie on the side of his truck said, “I travel all over the country with my [goods] and Amabie to pray for the disease to go away,” according to BBC News.
While some yokai are evil spirits, others like Amabie are said to have benevolent powers and are well-loved in Japan.
Another kind-spirited yokai known as Tofu Kozo morphs into the form of a child, follows people home and offers them tofu.
Yokai first appeared in Japan’s Edo period (1603-1868) and newspapers frequently reported yokai sightings until the early 20th century, according to BBC.
“Yokai often play the role of helping people process unpleasant feelings or situations. They can sometimes be a kind of pressure valve for when things get tense,” Hiroko Yoda, co-author of the book “Yōkai Attack! The Japanese Monster Survival Guide,” told BBC.
“There is a lot of dark news at the moment,” Okazaki said. “I think people who see all of that want to enjoy themselves.”