the online database of Japanese folkore

Azuki arai

小豆洗い
あずきあらい

Translation: the bean washer
Alternate names: azuki togi (“bean grinder”)
Habitat: remote forests; found throughout Japan
Diet: unknown, but probably includes azuki beans

Appearance: Azuki arai are mysterious yōkai encountered in mountainous regions all across Japan. They have many regional nicknames, a common one being azukitogi. These yōkai live deep in forests and mountains, spending their time near streams. Few actual sightings have been recorded, but they are said to be short and squat, with big, round eyes, and overall resembling Buddhist priests. They appear full of mirth with silly smiles and large hands with only three fingers.

Behavior: Azuki arai are more often heard than seen. Their main activity seems to be washing red azuki beans by the riverside while singing a dreadful song interspersed with the “shoki shoki” sound of beans being washed in a basket:

Azuki araou ka? Hito totte kuou ka? (shoki shoki)
Shall I wash my red beans, or shall I catch a human to eat? (shoki shoki)

Interactions: Passersby who hear an azuki arai singing usually slip and fall into the river. The noise from the splash scares the yōkai away. Nearly all encounters with azuki arai are purely auditory; they are notoriously shy, and do all they can to avoid being seen. Their uncanny ability to mimic the sounds of nature and animals helps them to hide. Because of their elusiveness, spotting an azuki arai is supposed to bring good luck.

Alphabetical list of yōkai