Getting Things Moving – A Bit About Me and Some Cool Pictures of an Oni

I figure now is as good a time as any to pick a direction for this blog, and since my areas of interest are few in number but high in intensity, the decision wasn’t that hard. I’m currently studying Japanese (and have been for a number of years now) and I have a passion for Japanese culture, so I will be writing occasionally about all sorts of Japanese things. I also enjoy playing video games, so don’t be too surprised if those areas overlap here. Makes sense so far, right? I do, however, fear that this will be but one more Japan-centric blog, so if you read anything here and find that you have enjoyed yourself, please let me know. Likewise, constructive criticism is always welcome 🙂

To start things off with a real first post – ya know, something with substance, even if only a little – I’m going to share a bit of Japanese “mythology.” I use quotes here because it’s not necessarily the best word to describe what I’ll discuss, but as is often the case with Japanese, the most easily understood translation leaves something to be desired. Never fear though, as it gets the point across well enough for our purposes. But before we dive into it, let’s engage our minds in another way with a visual. Also, simply because I like pictures.

Sleeping Shuten Dōji

The great oni, Shuten Dōji, lies sleeping on the floor.

And because more is frequently better, have another!

The Slaying of Shuten Dōji

"Preliminary sketch for the "Tale of Shuten Dōji" on a fan by Kawanabe Kyōsai, 1831-1889. Courtesy of the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. In this scene, the lead samurai beheads the monster."

If you think those are cool, you should click on the images (they should take you to the websites where I found them) where you can learn a bit more in the way of details on the story of this famous Japanese “demon” (once more, the quotes are simply to denote a lack of technical accuracy). Hopefully I can incite your curiosity enough for you to give them a click. Shuten Dōji is what is called an oni in Japanese (JP: 鬼/おに). In many cases, this term refers to what Westerners would most likely call an ogre, but it most certainly does not have such strict boundaries that would prevent it from being applied to other sorts of demonic beings. But enough of the technical mumbo jumbo! Let’s take a quick look at some of the things that make this oni so interesting.

  1. Take a look at the first picture. See all those women surrounding Shuten Dōji? Guess why they’re there! He kidnapped them. Every single one of them. Know why he bothered to kidnap all of these daughters of court officials? Because he likes to drink their blood and eat their flesh. Mmm, tasty.
  2. Shuten Dōji is also interesting simply because he is associated with some very cool warriors, most notably Raikō, which you can see in the second image.
  3. He loves to drink and he is not a pleasant drunk. I’m sure he would at least make for an interesting story were someone to go to a bar with him though. Just imagine the brawls he would start. And how quickly they would end.
  4. When Raikō, aided by his Four Heavenly Guardians, finally managed to slay Shuten Dōji by chopping off his head, the great oni‘s head attacked Raikō! Were it not for a protective helmet granted to him by a deity, Raikō would surely have lost the battle.

I think that’s pretty darn cool, personally. The best part is that there are many, many more creatures like Shuten Dōji in Japanese mythology/legend/folklore/etc. If you find yourself feeling unsatisfied with the little taste I have offered here, take matters into your own hands. As always, if you know the right terms and phrases, you can find just about anything on the internet, so here’s a brief list of terms that will yield plentiful results:

  • oni
  • yōkai
  • ayakashi
  • obakemono (also: obake)
  • hyakki yagyō (also: hyakki yakō)
  • otogizōshi (also: otogibanashi; otogi)
  • shinwa

Posted on 2011/12/20, in Folklore, Introductory and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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