the online database of Japanese folklore

Hitotsume nyūdō


Translation: one-eyed priest
Habitat: roads and highways
Diet: omnivorous; occasionally humans

Appearance: Hitotsume nyūdō could pass for really tall human priests if not for the large, single eye in the center of their faces. They dress in luxurious robes and travel in enormous, ornate palanquins carried by lesser yōkai or human slaves. Their palanquins are surrounded by a splendid precession fit for a corrupt abbot or a rich lord. The fantastic procession is enough to make most travelers stop and stare, speculating about what nobleman or lady might be riding inside. But when the palanquin stops and a hitotsume nyūdō comes strolling out, it means trouble for any curious gawkers.

Behavior: Hitotsume nyūdō are one of the most demonic types of ōnyūdō. They roam the roads and highways outside of the cities, assaulting lone travelers unfortunate enough to get in their way. Like many giants, they are able to increase and decrease their size at will. They can grow taller than the highest trees and trample forests to crush any who might be hiding within. With their long legs they are faster than any human. Running away is impossible. Like many ōnyūdō, hitotsume nyūdō attacks are blamed on mischievous kitsune or tanuki disguised by transformation magic; and occasionally this is true.

Legends: A legend from Wakayama tells how a man, traveling along a wooded road, came across a splendid procession unlike any he had ever seen. Entranced, he climbed a tree to get a better look. As the procession approached, it stopped just as it reached his tree. There was a frighteningly large palanquin, and out from it stepped a giant, one-eyed monster. The creature went after the man, climbing the tree he was hiding in. In a panic the man swung his sword at the creature. At the moment he did so, the hitotsume nyūdō and the entire procession vanished.

Another hitotsume nyūdō, frequently seen outside of Kyōto, was said to be the reincarnation of a particularly fierce abbot of Enryaku-ji. Renowned for his strict discipline, in life he was known for expelling lazy monks from his temple. He saw the world as growing increasingly secular and wicked, and he constantly lamented and criticized the corruption and sin of the monks of his day. After his death, it is said he was reincarnated into a yōkai. This allowed him to continue punishing the wicked and impious clergy.

Alphabetical list of yōkai