They are generally portrayed as enormous muscular creatures with either red or green skin, as well as having horns. They are said to wear loincloths or tiger-pelt togas, and are known as cannibals.
Sekien in his portrayal states they gain their name from the direction known as the north-east (ushitora – ‘ox-tiger’) which also goes by the name of the ‘Gate of Oni’ (kimon).
In the Nihon Ryōiki the Yōkai called the Gagoze is also stated as ‘the Oni Gagoze.’ Other creatures as well are said to be of this type such as the Sansei, Hannya, Hashi-Hime and Jami. The creature known as Shuten-dōji had his own army of these creatures upon Mount Ōe.1 There are two other famous creatures of this type by the names of Zenki and Goki who renounce their evil ways after meeting En no Gyōja.2
The name ‘Oni’ is often used as term for ‘scary.’1
The Foktale of Momotaro, concerns the island of Onigashima where a group of Oni live. They have been terrorizing Japan and so the boy Momotaro, with a faithful group of animal go to subdue them. They defeat the Oni and rescue their captives with Momotaro becoming a hero.3
- View the Konjaku Gazu Zoku Hyakki online here: Konjaku Online.
1. Yoda, H. and Alt, M. (2016) “Japandemonium: Illustrated: The Yokai Encyclopaedia of Toriyama Sekien.”. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.
2. Yoda, H & Alt, M. (2012) “Ninja Attack: True Tales of Assassins, Samurai and Outlaws” Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing.
3. Ozaki, Y.T. (1903) “The Japanese Fairy Book”. Westminster: Archibald Constable & Co. Ltd.
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