Ushi Oni: 20 Facts About Bovine Monster Of Yokai

Ushi-oni is a type of yokai, a supernatural monster or spirit from Japanese folklore. It is typically depicted as a giant bovine-headed demon with tentacles. In legends, it is said to prey on humans and livestock, and is often depicted as a fearsome creature to be avoided. Despite its fearsome reputation, the Ushi-oni has also been depicted in a more comical light in some forms of Japanese pop culture.

1Ushi Oni Has Depicted With Ox Head & These Monsters Prey On Human Beings

Ushi Oni Yokai

Ushi-oni are known for their aggressive and vicious nature. They can look different based on where they are from, but typically have a head like an ox with curved horns, dangerous teeth, and a long tongue. They are said to release poison from their mouth and relish the act of killing and consuming humans. Their body is often depicted as having a spider-like appearance with six legs and claws on the end of each limb.

In other versions, Ushi-oni have an ox head and the body of an oni. Some tales describe them appearing at mountain temple gates dressed in human clothing or with wings like an insect. There are also accounts of Ushi-oni that have the head of an oni and the body of an ox.

2Some Japanese Locations Names Are Associated With Ushi Oni

Ushi-oni is said to be found in various locations such as beaches, mountains, forests, rivers, swamps, and lakes. They are frequently seen in stream pools and there are several places with names such as “ushi-oni fuchi” or “ushi-oni taki” in regions such as Kinki and Shikoku.

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3According To Mia Prefecture, Ushi Oni Is Believed To Bring Bad Luck

The Ushi-oni is believed to bring misfortune to the Mie Prefecture. There is a story of an Ushi-oni residing in the caves of Gokasho-ura, Minamiise. The lord of the Gokasho castle, Aisu Shigeaki, shot the Ushi-oni with a bow, but as a result, the lord’s wife became seriously ill due to a curse. This caused Shigeaki to distance himself from his wife and become infatuated with a dancer from the capital. This caused a rift between the Aisu and the wife’s parents, the Kitabatake, leading to the downfall of the Aisu.


4It Is Believed That Ushi Oni Comes In Ushi-oni Stream Pool Located At Nishimuro District

In Nishimuro District, there is a Ushi-oni stream pool that is connected to the sea at the bottom. When the water in the pool becomes dirty, it is said that the Ushi-oni is present. Just encountering the Ushi-oni is said to result in illness. The Ushi-oni in this area is described as having a cat-like body with a tail that is over 3.3 meters in length and a springy body like a ball, so it makes no sound as it walks.

5Your Life Can Be Endued If You Gift Alcohol To Ushi Oni

Ushi Oni Yokai

There is a legend of a Ushi-oni at the waterfall basin that can cause a high fever and death if its shadow licks someone. To avoid this fate, it is said that one can provide the Ushi-oni with its favorite thing, alcohol, every year at New Year’s.

6Your Body Will Be Melted If You Are Saved By Ushi Oni From Any Accidents

The tale of the Ushi-oni at the Mio River pool is a unique one, as it tells of a Ushi-oni that can shapeshift into a human and even help a human. The story goes that a young boy shared his bento with a woman who was actually the shapeshifted Ushi-oni master of the stream pool. The boy was later swept away in a flood, but was saved by the Ushi-oni. However, there is a rule that says a Ushi-oni who saves a human must leave the world in exchange, and as the Ushi-oni saved the boy, its body melted and disappeared, leaving deep red blood behind

7Even Direct Eyes Contact With Ushi Oni Will Lead To Death

In Wakayama Prefecture, Ushi-oni are believed to live in the mountains. Legend says that if a hiker or traveler makes eye contact with the Ushi-oni, they will not be able to look away and their soul or energy will be drained, leading to death. This is referred to as “eating the shadow” or “drinking the soul.”

8According To A Legend, A Monster Jinriki Turned Into Ushi Oni After Killed By Empress Jingū

Ushi Oni Yokai

In the legends of Ushimado, there’s a story about the empress Jingū who encountered an eight-headed ox-monster called Jinrinki while invading the three Korean kingdoms. She managed to kill the monster with an arrow, and its parts turned into several islands in the Ushimado area. However, Jinrinki’s spirit was still not at peace and became an ushi-oni that attacked again. The Sumiyoshi sanjin defeated the ushi-oni, causing it to fall apart and become more islands. The name “Ushimado” is thought to come from a distorted version of “Ushimarobi,” meaning “where the ox fell.” There is also a mention of an oni named Jinrin in the Hachiman Gudōkun, who fought with Emperor Chūai, and is believed to be related to this legend.

In Tomata District, there’s a story in the Sakuyōshi about a paranormal phenomenon known as “gyūki.” A young girl became pregnant by a man who claimed to be a government official. The child was born with fangs and developed into an ushi-oni, so the parents killed the child and displayed it on a stake by the roadside. Folklorist Kunio Yanagita suggested that this was once a revered mountain god who was later viewed as a yōkai.

9It Is Believed Ushi Oni Also Kills People Along With Nure Onna & Iso Onna

From the San’in region to northern Kyushu, it’s said that ushi-oni, along with nure-onna and iso-onna, emerge from the sea. The ushi-oni is said to disguise itself as a woman carrying a baby, and when it approaches someone, it asks them to hold the baby. Once the baby is held, it becomes heavy as a stone, making it impossible for the person to move. 

The ushi-oni takes advantage of this situation to kill and eat the person. However, it’s said that even after transforming, their reflection on the water still shows the ushi-oni’s true form, so one can identify them. 

10You Can Be Killed By Ushi Oni If You Was Asked To Carry A Baby Of Unknown Woman

In Iwami (now Shimane Prefecture), a fisherman was once approached by a woman carrying a baby who asked him to hold it. As soon as he took the baby, the woman disappeared, and the ushi-oni emerged from the sea. The baby became so heavy that the fisherman was unable to move, but his family’s ancestral sword saved him by flying and piercing the ushi-oni’s neck. Ushi-oni is also connected to the naming of certain places, such as the island of Ushijima in Hikari, Yamaguchi Prefecture, which is said to be named after an ushi-oni that appeared there.

Related Reads: 15 Shocking Facts About Yuki Onna (Snow Woman Of Yokai Lore)

11A Warrior Named Chikamori Sakon Was Said To Kill Ushi Oni With A Single Arrow Shot

Ushi Oni Yokai

In 1776 during a drought year in the village of Okanouchi (now Kami), a man named Jirōkichi claimed to have seen an ushi-oni at the Mine no Kawa river. There is a tale in the same prefecture where the ushi-oni killed and ate the livestock ox and those who tried to slay it, but a warrior named Chikamori Sakon was able to slay the ushi-oni with a single arrow shot. This is said to be the origin of the Momotesai festival, where people imitate pulling an arrow to tell the story of how the ushi-oni was defeated.

12Once Upon A TIme An Old Lady Saved An Ushi Oni & Ushi Oni Never Attacked Her In Return

In the legends of Azahodo field in Monobe (now Kami), it is said that an old lady rescued a trapped ushi-oni from a pot-shaped bowl, and since then, the ushi-oni never cursed the area again.

13Legends Says Ushi Oni From Ehime Prefecture Was Killed & Sliced Into Pieces By A Yamabushi From Kita District

The legend of the ushi-oni in Uwajima is one of the most well-known among all the legends of the creature. At one point, an ushi-oni attacked both people and livestock, so a yamabushi from Kawabe in Kita District was called to defeat it. When the yamabushi faced the ushi-oni in the village, he blew a conch and recited a mantra, causing the ushi-oni to recoil, and then the yamabushi stabbed a sword between its eyebrows, cutting its body into pieces. The ushi-oni’s blood flowed for 7 days and 7 nights, forming a stream pool. There are several places called “ushi-oni fuchi,” including Tosayama in Kōchi Prefecture, Shirakiyama in Tokushima Prefecture, and Negoro-ji in Kagawa Prefecture, that are believed to be the sites of this event.

14In Ehime Prefecture, Ushi Oni Has Another Version With Ox Head & Whale Body

There is another theory that the ushi-oni in Ehime Prefecture had the head of an ox and the body of a whale. Despite being legends under the same name, they have a variety of appearances, which has led yōkai researcher Bintarō Yamaguchi to suggest that sea monsters that are large in size may have all been called ushi-oni.

15Ushi Oni Festival Is Celebrated On 23rd & 24th July Every Year

In Uwajima Domain, the Warei Shrine, built due to a conflict known as the Warei Sōdō, holds the Ushi-oni Festival on July 23 and 24. Similar to dragon dancers in Chinese New Year celebrations, the ushi-oni is represented by a large costume carried by several people, featuring a cloth body and a carved and painted head held on a pole. The costume has an oni-like head, a long neck, the body of an ox, and a short sword in place of a tail. It is believed to ward off evil spirits and is either red or brown in color, with shaggy hair resembling that of a yak.

16According To Tsubaki Root Theory, Ushi Oni Emerge From Tsubaki Plant

Another interpretation of the ushi-oni is that it may be an old tsubaki root. In Japan, there are legends that divine spirits reside in Tsubaki plants, so it is thought that the ushi-oni represents this spirit and is revered for its ability to protect against evil spirits. Tsubaki is also considered a sacred flower that grows in holy areas at the end of cliffs and coasts. As tsubaki blooms at the edges, this is said to be where ushi-oni appears. Both the ushi-oni and its counterpart, the nure-onna, are said to emerge from coastlines, not from any other location.

17Statue That Depicts The Terror Of Ushi Oni 400 Years Ago

Another ushi-oni is depicted in a statue located on the premises of the Negoro-ji Temple in Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture. The statue depicts a two-legged monster with large tusks, spiked wrists and webbed membranes like a flying squirrel. A nearby sign states that this creature terrorized the region approximately 400 years ago and was defeated by a skilled archer named Yamada Kurando Takakiyo. He offered the horns of the monster to the temple, and they are still on display.

18Ushi Oni As Atmospheric Ghost Light Theory Is Mentioned In An Essay By Wada Masamichi

In the essay “Isetsu Machimachi” by Wada Masamichi, a warrior from the Sekiyado Domain, there is mention of ushi-oni being ghost lights in the atmosphere. According to the essay, in the northern parts of Shimane Prefecture during a time of continuous rain, people would see white lights flying about and sticking to their bodies. If this happened, they would say “I have encountered ushi-oni” and the lights would disappear if they warmed themselves by a fire. This is similar to the atmospheric ghost light known as minobi, found in Niigata and Shiga Prefectures. In legends from the eastern part of Tottori Prefecture, on snowy evenings, firefly-like lights would collect on people’s clothing and if they tried to shake them off, they would fall to the ground and swirl up again, sticking to the person. Eventually, their clothing and umbrella would be covered with a green light.

19From Uwajima region To Kōchi Prefecture, Ushi Oni Festival Is Celebrated In Many Regions Throughout The Japan

The Ushi-oni is the central figure in the Uwajima region’s festival. During the Warei Festival from July 22nd to 24th, the Ushi-oni is showcased not only in Uwajima, but also in the mountainous areas and in Kōchi Prefecture (Nishitosa). The Ushi-oni are created by the Uwajima city staff and preservation societies from various regions. Additionally, the Ushi-oni also participate in autumn festivals in places like Akehama and Seiyo. Following the lead of the Ehime Prefecture festival, the Ushi-oni can also be seen in events in other areas, such as with the taiko floats in Niihama or with danjiri carts in Saijo.

20All Ushi Oni Based Festivals Are Believed To Ward Off Evil Spirits

Ushi Oni Yokai

Every year, on the first Friday, Saturday, and Monday, the Matsuri in Hawaii: Pan-Pacific Festival is held since Uwajima became a sister city to Honolulu, Hawaii. In the Nanyo region, the Ushi-oni lead the procession of mikoshi and are believed to chase away evil spirits. Additionally, the Ushi-oni can be seen in festivals in various locations, such as the Cape Sada region, Mikame, Seiyo, and the Kita District.