Humans who led greedy, gluttonous lives are believed to return as hungry ghosts. In the right scroll, a crowd of figures squeezed into a tree trunk represents those who had destroyed trees out of avarice. They are now condemned to live inside one and be eaten by parasitic insects. The greenish figures in the river with indented heads are kappa, water sprites that appear in Japanese folklore. An attendant crouches down to give them fruit to appease their odd appetites.
In the left scroll, inside the packed cave sits Hariti, goddess of childbirth. Originally a cannibalistic demon who abducted village children to feed them to her own, she now receives a rakan’s offerings. An attendant stands behind with a basket of pomegranates for her hungry offspring, a symbol of fecundity and substitute for human flesh.
Kano Kazunobu (1816–63)
Japan, Edo Period, ca. 1854–63
Hanging scroll, ink and color on silk
Collection, Zōjōji, Tokyo