the online database of Japanese folkore

Aka shita

赤舌
あかした

Translation: red tongue
Alternate names: aka kuchi (“red mouth”)
Habitat: rice fields and farming villages; commonly found in Tsugaru
Diet: farmers

Appearance: Aka shita is a mysterious spirit which takes the form of a dark cloud with sharp claws, and a hairy, bestial face. Its most prominent feature and namesake is the long, bright red tongue that lolls from its mouth. Only the shape of its hairy, monstrous face and long, bestial claws are known. The rest of its body is perpetually hidden inside of the dark, black clouds in which it lives.

Behavior: The aka shita appears during the summer months, when rain and water are at their highest demand to ensure a successful growing season. They are agents of retribution, primarily known as punishers in water disputes. Because plenty of water is essential for keeping rice paddies flooded, Japan’s farmlands are interlaced with an intricate series of interconnected aqueducts and canals meant to deliver water to all of the farmers equally. In times of drought, however, a wicked farmer may open up the sluice gates and drain his neighbor’s water into his own field. Such a serious crime can cost a family its livelihood, and water bandits face the violent wrath of their neighbors. Some clever water thieves are never caught, and may think they’ve gotten away with their crime. But then the aka shita appears, and drains the water from the water thieves’ fields and snatches them up with its long, red tongue.

Alphabetical list of yōkai