I made friends at school and was never bullied, and yet I was never fulfilled. On silent nights or on my way home, it would hit me. LONELY. I’m just so lonely, even though I’m loved, so why, why do I feel so lonely?

Undersea creature (ningyo or mermaid)

Author: Kawahara Keiga (Japanese, ca. 1786-1860)
Date: ca. 1828
Medium: Ink and color on Dutch paper
Location: Freer and Sackler Galleries, The Smithsonian’s Museums of Asian Art

Ningyo (人魚, “human fish,” often translated as “mermaid”) is a fish-like creature from Japanese folklore. Anciently, it was described as having a monkey’s mouth with small teeth like a fish’s, shining golden scales, and a quiet voice like a skylark or a flute. Its flesh is pleasant-tasting, and anyone who eats it will attain remarkable longevity. However, catching a ningyo was believed to bring storms and misfortune, so fishermen who caught these creatures were said to throw them back into the sea. A ningyo washed onto a beach was considered an omen of war or calamity.