the online database of Japanese ghosts and monsters

Kazenbō

By on December 29, 2017, in Buddhism, fire, Kansai, Konjaku hyakki shūi, Kyoto, mountain, onryō, Patreon, priest, Toriyama Sekien, yōkai

Kazenbou火前坊
かぜんぼう

TRANSLATION: monk in the flames
HABITAT: Toribeyama, a mountain in Kyōto
DIET: none

APPEARANCE: Kazenbō is a ghostly apparition which resembles a monk wreathed in flames, being burnt alive. They appear on a mountain in Kyoto called Toribeyama, which has been used as a grave site for many centuries

BEHAVIOR: Kazenbō appear occasionally to visitors to the mountain. They don’t do anything harmful, but their horrific appearance is very disturbing. They materialize, appear to suffer in flames which never completely consume them, and then disappear.

ORIGIN: During the Heian period, Toribeyama was an important burial ground and cremation site, especially for the nobility of the city. During major epidemics, many diseased bodies were burned there. It is said that there was an unending column of smoke rising from the mountain from all the burning bodies.

Towards the end of the 10th century, a number of monks decided to offer themselves up in ritual sacrifice by fire. They believed that in doing so, they would rid themselves of their worldy attachments, along with their bodies, and achieve enlightenment. The ceremony was open to the public, and a large number of people came to witness the event. However, it would seem that a number of these priests did not actually achieve enlightenment. They must not have been able to truly give up their attachments to the material world. So now, instead, their ghosts are doomed to haunt Toribeyama, appearing in ghostly flames as beggar-monks wreathed in the fires of ignorance and sin.