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Browsing all posts in: Okinawa



TRANSLATION: living evil spirit
ALTERNATE NAMES: ichimabui, ikimaburi
HABITAT: Okinawa and islands in southern Kyūshū

APPEARANCE: Ichijama is a curse from Okinawa. It is a type of ikiryō—a spirit of a still-living person which leaves the body to haunt its victim. The magic which summons this spirit, the person who casts the spell, and the family line of that person are all referred to as ichijama. Not only people, but cows, pigs, horses and other livestock, as well as crops can be cursed by an ichijama.

INTERACTIONS: An ichijama is summoned by praying to a special doll known as an ichijama butokii. The ichijama butokii is boiled in a pot while reciting the name of the body part which is to be cursed. After the ritual is performed, a spirit which looks exactly like the person casting the spell visits the home of the intended victim. It delivers a gift to its target—usually fruit or vegetables such as bananas, garlic, or wild onions. After receiving the gift, the target develops an unidentifiable sickness in whichever body part was chanted during the spell. If untreated, the victim will die.

Omyōdō did not exist in Okinawa, so this curse could only be overcome with the help of Okinawan magic, by shamans known as yuta. This was accomplished by performing yet another curse. The yuta would bind the victim’s thumbs together and hit them with a nail while chanting bad things about the curse victim. Performing this curse would drive out the ichijama from its victim.

ORIGIN: The ability to summon an ichijama is a hereditary secret passed down from mother to daughter. Families with such magical power are said to be very beautiful and have a sharp look in their eyes. The ability to use black magic carries a strong social stigma in Okinawa. Marrying into one of these families should be avoided at all costs. But it is difficult to tell; ichijama clans are often careful about hiding their family secret.



TRANSLATION: the Ryukyuan pronunciation of shishi, another name for komainu
HABITAT: shrines, castles, graveyards, villages; found on rooftops in particular
DIET: carnivorous

APPEARANCE: Shīsā are small, dog-like yokai which are found throughout Okinawa, in close proximity to humans. While they are very similar to Japanese komainu, there are a few notable differences. Shīsā are native to Okinawa, and are thus only found on the Ryukyu archipelago and the southernmost islands of Japan. Shīsā are smaller and more dog-like than their Japanese (medium sized dog-lion hybrids) and Chinese (large and very lion-like) cousins.

INTERACTIONS: Lion-dogs are commonly depicted in East Asian sculpture as guardian deities. Komainu and shishi are nearly always found in pairs, yet it is common to find solitary shīsā perched on the roofs of houses that they guard. Chinese shishi are usually used as imperial guardians, Japanese komainu are usually used as shrine guardians, and Ryukyuan shīsā are usually used as house or village guardians, perched on rooftops, village gates, castles, or gravesites.

Shīsā are also depicted as shrine guardians, with male/female pairs representing the “a” and “un” sounds. This behavior was likely imported from Japan after the Ryukyu islands were conquered. In Okinawan depictions, the right, open-mouthed shīsā is the female, beckoning good luck and fortune, while the left, close-mouthed shīsā is the male, protecting the village from natural disasters and evil spirits.

ORIGIN: Shīsā are very close relatives to komainu, and share the same ancestor: China’s imperial guardian lions. However, while komainu arrived in mainland Japan via Korea, shīsā were imported to the Ryukyu islands directly from China, before Okinawa was part of Japan. In fact, the name shīsā is actually the Ryukyuan pronunciation of their Chinese name, shishi, which is also sometimes used for komainu in Japanese.



TRANSLATION: the name comes from an old Okinawan village, Kijimuka
ALTERNATE NAMES: sēma, bunagaya
HABITAT: banyan trees on the islands of Okinawa
DIET: seafood; prefers fish heads and eyes

APPEARANCE: The southern island chain of Okinawa is home to a number of unique yokai which are not found anywhere else in Japan. One of these is the kijimunā: an elfin creature which makes it home in the banyan trees which grow all over the Ryukyu archipelago. Physically, kijimunā are about the same height as a child, with wild and thick bright red hair, and skin tinted red as well. They wear skirts made of grass, and move about by hopping rather than walking. Kijimunā retain the appearance of child-like youthfulness into their adulthood. Males are noted for their large and prominent testicles.

BEHAVIOR: Kijimunā lifestyle mimics that of humans in many ways. They fish along the shores, live in family units, get married, and raise children in much the same way as the native islanders do. On rare occasions they even have been known to marry into human families. The kijimunā diet consists entirely of seafood. They are excellent fishers, and are particular skilled at diving, which they regularly do to catch a favorite dish: fish heads (specifically double-lined fusilier fish heads). They are especially fond of fish eyes (even preferring the left eye over the right). Okinawans attribute eyeless corpses of fish found on the beach to picky kijimunā.

Kijimunā have a number of peculiar fears and prejudices. They despise chickens and cooking pots. They are extremely put off by people passing gas. However, the thing they hate most, above all else, is the octopus. They avoid octopuses at all costs, despising them and fearing them at the same time.

INTERACTIONS: Kijimunā often help fishermen catch fish, or aid humans in other ways in return for a cooked meal. When they form friendships with humans, they can last for a lifetime; such will often return to their human friends many times, even spending holidays with their adopted family.

Kijimunā attacks on humans are very rare. Cutting down the banyan tree in which a one lives is a sure way to earn its wrath. Kijimunā thus wronged have been known to murder livestock, sabotage boats so they sink while their owners are far out at sea, or magically trap people in hollow trees from which they cannot escape. Sometimes they press down on peoples’ chests while they sleep, or snuff out lights during the night. The enmity of a kijimunā, once earned, can never be satisfied for as long as it lives.