Shuten-dōji - 酒呑童子 (しゅてんどうじ)- "Lil Drunkard."
Shuten is One of Japan's Three Great Evil Yokai. (日本三大悪妖怪, "Nihon san dai aku yōkai.") listed among side the likes of 'Tamana-no-mae' & 'Otakimaru' (often listed in hindsight is: 'Sutoku Tennō.') these 3 evil yōkai are said to have menaced the country during medieval times!
• About this Yokai: Shuten-douji was the self-appointed 'Oni King' of Mount Ōe near kyoto, He is one of the most famous and powerful Oni of all time, he was Given the nickname “little drunkard” because he could easily out-drink anyone. - Shuten was the Leader of a gang of ruthless Demon Bandits & thieves who cruelly robbed, kidnapped, and ate young noble women & children. At one point, they had also plotted to invade Kyoto & take over the capital, however, before he could properly put his plan into action, Shuten was vanquished by the legendary hero: Minamoto no Yorimitsu and his band of men. The legend goes a little like this...
...Once, long ago in the Heian period, during the reign of Emperor Ichijo; Kyoto had a problem, Young maidens were suddenly going missing in and around the capital. - Soon enough, The emperor asked the famous kitsune-born magician & Onmyoji: 'Abe no Seimei' to use his powers to divine the cause; it was revealed to be the work of Oni living on Mount Ōe. - Orders were given from the Emperor to Governing Samurai: Minamoto no Yorimitsu & Fujiwara no Yasumasa to exterminate the threat. Yorimitsu asked for his four strongest men (a team of four famous warriors known as the "Shitennō" (four divine kings) to join him on their quest: this group included Urabe no Suetake. (卜部季武) Sakata no Kintoki (坂田公時), Usui Sadamitsu (碓井貞光), and Watanabe Tsuna. (渡辺綱)
The group of six men then made pilgrimages to three nearby shrines to pray for success in their mission. - [often said to be Yawata Shrine, Sumiyoshi Shrine, and Kumano Shrine.] - On their way to Mount Ōe, The group of six were stopped by three elderly men who claimed to have useful information: first, they gave them disguises and told them to act as as yamabushi (ascetic monks) to gain the Onis trust. Secondly, Shuten-doji was named as such because he was known alcoholic, so the old men gave them a bottle of "Magical Oni-Poison Sake" (神便鬼毒酒) that would only affect the demons, knocking them out & robbing them of their powers. Finally Yorimitsu was given an indestructible plate helmet to wear under his usual helmet during the battle. - From the divine quality of these gifts & foresight of information, the men where astonished, however, before they could thank them, the there old men had vanished into thin air!! The group could tell that they had been blessed by the gods of the shrines which they had just visited...
...Venturing further up the mountain, nearby a big cave and stream, they met a hostage: a maiden (one of the nobles daughters.) who was being forced to do laundry, she was soaking some blood soaked rags in the stream. She cried: Shuten and his men where draining the maidens of their blood and eating their flesh, the uncertainty of when or if she would be their next victim haunted her, the oni where ruthless, if someone refused to work, they'd just eat them and replace them with another, she was currently washing the rags of their latest victims.. She revealed to the heroes that shuten douji and his men where holed up in their lair, a place called Iron Palace (鐵の御所) within a deep cavern known as Oni no iwa (鬼の岩屋). - She warned that Shuten had his own rival group of terrible Demon-Shitennō, Shutens mighty subordinates where listed as: Ibaraki-dōji (茨木童子, Shutens 'right hand' lutenant.), Kuma-dōji (熊童子, 'bear demon'), Torakuma-dōji (虎熊童子, 'Tigerbear demon.') Hoshikuma-dōji (星熊童子, 'Starbear demon.'), & finally, Kin-dōji (金童子, 'gold/iron demon') - [Note: quite dissapointingly, no further description seems to have been written or iillustrated about most of these named oni, they are just not well documented.. I'll list them here for future reference Reguardless because it’s fun to imagine shutens posse, the inclusion of 'Kin-doji' makes me wonder if they where meant to mirror Yorimitsu and his men? (particularly "kintaro.")]
...Yorimitsu & his men followed the maiden back to the palace, (still disguised as ascetic monks.) They where captured immidiately, thinking on his feet, Yorimitsu explained (lied) that their gods where amicable with demons, and that they would give them their sake, in exchange for a safe place to stay for the evening. The lie worked because rather than eat them, the demons invited the monks into the palace. - Shuten-Douji: appeared as a gigantic beast of a man with a flushed red face: he was laying about with dozens of maidens who where waiting on him hand and foot. The demon guards relayed to him what the monks had said...
Shuten offered the monks a room for the night and to partake in a huge feast for the evening: reassuring them that there where "no lies in the words of demons." Shuten clapped and commanded some of his subordinates to dance for the parties entertainment, one of the demons got up, danced with a fan and sang: "From the capital, what kind of people lost their way to become condiments of sake? How interesting." [Suggesting that the demons would normally make comndiments out of people from the capital.]
[Otogi-zoshi, Hoshikuma Douji dances. - img source]
The full course meal was then revealed: human limbs where placed on huge chopping boards: The feast consisted of maiden blood-red wine as well as raw human flesh. - Yorimitsu and his men went ahead and began to chow down!! Shuten was shocked, but impressed with their immidiate and unhesitant cannibalisim. -
[Shuten-Douji: "Sheesh man." - img Source.]
...Yorimitsu explained (lied again) that their god said to accept whatever their host offers, even if you dont like it. Then he took a sip of the magical sake & handed Shuten the bottle in toast as thanks for the delicious meal.
Shuten, being a drunken lout merilly drank down a huge gulp!! then he passed it around the room, sharing it with his men, as the party went on into the night, Shuten recounted his groups origins* and all of his mens terribble exploits; He boasted about his power & the might of his demons, how drinking the blood of the noble virgins made them powerful, in his ramblings he revealed that his men had planned to take over the capital someday. - The party continued drinking long into the night, it seemed the flask was almost never ending. - Shuten-doujis men eventuslly passed out cold & drunk. Shuten who was satisfied and tired, retired to his bedroom with the maidens.
Seeing an oppertunity, Yorimitsu & his men changed back into their armor and began chopping the heads off every oni in sight. Eventually, they snuck into Shutens room. While he slept, his true form was revealed: he was nearly 50 ft tall, with flaming red skin, he had fearsome jowels, an awful white beard & a number of gigantic horns sprouting from his head. - As the oni snored horribly, yorimitsu and his group bound the onis arms, tying them up against the posts in the room…
Yorimitsu then took his sword, and with an executing swing, finally lopped off the oni kings head, just then Shuten-Douji's eyes snapped awake!! The oni roared spitefully: "HOW SAD, YOU PRIESTS! You said you do not lie!! --THERE IS NOTHING FALSE IN THE WORDS OF DEMONS!!!" Shutens head spat flames and bounced off the ground, flying up in a torrent of blood, it crash landed and furiously bit into Yorimitsus head. - Fortunately, he was wearing the divine helmet.
[CHOMP!! -"The Tale of The Drunken Demon" scrolls (19th century), Nezu museum.]
During the battle, Ibaraki-dōji, who was fighting with Watanabe no Tsuna, saw Shuten-dōji get decapitated, not wanting to be exterminated as well, they retreated down the mountain (they where the only one of shutens gang that was able to flee alive.)
...The female prisoners where freed, and the men returned to the capital as heroes! THE END…?
• History: It's often theorized that this story was perhaps, a fantastic (embellished) retelling of true events, it's said that ShutenDoji and his men were not "real oni" but were actually, perhaps a particularly cruel group of bandits living on Mt.Oe sometime in the 11th century. Folklore and time did its thing and so we have the Shuten-Douji story we know today. - [This is backed up by the fact that Yorimitsu and his men are also the heros of Tshchigumo-zoshi. - Tsuchigumo (a derogatory term) was used to refer to renegade aboriginal clans (& anyone who was an enemy of the state at the time.] - as others have pointed out: there is certainly political commentary to be made in the fact that Yorimitsu and his men lied throughout their entire encounter, as well as the fact that Shuten only kidnapped the families of the rich.
*Shutens origin: Shuten & his gang also have several origin stories, These range from shuten being the son of the gigantic evil Eight Headed Dragon (yamata no orochi, 'ヤマタノオロチ') - [Who in this case was most notably, also defeated by a hero using alcohol.] - Some versions of the tale place young shuten working at a shrine in Echigo Province, steadily becoming a corrupt monk, other simplify him to being "a mean drunkard who put on an oni mask at a festival but could not remove it." – Regardless of the true origin: Most versions of the story mention that 'Shuten-Doji used to be a human' and that the gang of oni had 'been at Mount Oe for at least 200 years.'
[Oni are often synonymous with evildoers and those who behave wickedly or malicious (for example bandits, theives.) - It's most often said that one 'becomes an oni.' (鬼になる, Oni Ni Naru)When they cast aside their moral ethics or act shamelessly beyond any sort of redemption. You don't necessarily need to die or sin to become an oni, simply behaving in irredeemable ways during life, or letting your emotions control you is enough to 'become an oni.' - [In the most traditional sense: people who behaved this way, where sure to become trapped in hell or would eventually reincarnate as Oni.] - [This is somewhat similar as to how Tengu are often synonymous with those who are 'overly confident/prideful.' [The saying "become a tengu' 天狗になる, Tengu Ni Naru), refers to someone who "looks down their upturned nose at others"]
• Related Power Spot's | Ghost Spots & related Artifacts:
Today, Shuten-Doji's head is often said to be buried in a mound at the famous Kubizuka Daimyojin Shrine (首塚大明神) - [Just outside of Kyoto, off route 9, near Oinosaka pass.] - Legend has it, after the slaying, Shuten's head was left there & enshrined by the heroes that didn't want to bring such an evil thing into the capital: [some say they were warned by a Jizo statue.] - The shrine is said to cure ailments from the neck up. - (I'd assume, Migraines, headaches, sore throats etc.) - [it is often said that Shuten Doji repented his previous sins at the time of death and wanted to heal people with the illness.] - Offerings of sake are constantly made there to this day, The Shuten-Doji Matsuri is also held annually nearby sometime in the Spring.
The location is just as often also lauded as a "Ghost spot", particularly, for its creepy atmosphere (even during the day) the bus stop near the Tori gate at the front of the mountain is said to be haunted by the ghost of a maiden with a down-trodden expression, and several burial mounds were found in the area too.
[Kubizuka Daimyojin Shrine (首塚大明神) img source.]
Yorimitsu's flask of Divine Oni-Poison Sake (神便鬼毒酒) is also said to be kept at Nariai-ji temple (成相寺) in Kyoto. - Nowadays, strong drinks are also called "Onikoroshi" (鬼殺し), which roughly means "a drink that even a person as strong as an oni can get drunk easily".
The blade that took shutens head: Various places also claim to house the"Doujigiri." (童子切, "Slayer of Shuten-dōji") each is allegedly "The very blade that decapitated shuten-doji." - However: it has been argued whether or not the credit of decapitation can actually be accredited to a single blade! - [There are some variations to the legend which claim that all of the men decapitated shuten at once, however, Yorimitsus blade is the most commonly accredited.] - The oldest blade in japan with this title,(often said to be the oldest blade in japan), is kept on display at Tokyo national museum, dubbed as a National treasure. This blade is often listed as one of the "tenka-goken" (天下五剣), "The 5 [greatest] swords under heaven."
• See also: ibaraki doji, Kidomaru, Yamata no orochi, Kintaro, Abe-No-Seimei.
Sticker Art by Samkalensky, part of my night parade of 100 yokai sticker collection check my shop & follow me for many more!