Shoki (Zhong Kui in Chinese), derived from Chinese Taoism, is a god for warding off diseases. According to a legend, one night when Emperor Genso (Xuanzong) of the Tang Dynasty had a high fever, Shoki appeared to him in a dream, killed a monster, and saved the Emperor at last. In tribute to the legend, Shoki has been worshipped as a god who protects people from illness for hundreds of years in China and Japan. The role of Shoki in the legend is that of the immune system itself. In this drawing, Shoki holds a sasumata (spear fork) with an IgG-like spearhead in the right hand and wears a cloth with a crest of IgM and a pattern of a dendritic cell; they are weapons of mammalian adaptive immunity. In contrast, his left hand contains a monster (pathogen) by melanization, which is one of the weapons of the innate immunity of insects. We thank Prof. Hirotaka Kanuka's lab (The Jikei University School of Medicine) for their valuable suggestions for our drawing.
Transposons (transposable elements), discovered in maize by Barbara McClintock in 1948, are DNA sequences that can change their positions within the genome. Transposition of transposons can introduce mutations in the host genome. Actually, there was a close and astonishing relationship between transposons and the culture of the Edo era. In late Edo, a large number of mutant Asagaos (Japanese morning glory) were isolated, and it became popular to cultivate them; in fact, many mutations were caused by transposons. These mutant Asagaos have been collected by researchers and are currently maintained by a group led mainly by Kyushu University. See the website of National BioResource Project (NBRP) “Asagao” (http://www.shigen.nig.ac.jp/asagao/) for further details.