the online database of Japanese folklore



Translation: hossu guardian
Habitat: temples

Appearance: Hossumori are the tsukumogami of hossu—wand-like brushes used by Buddhist priests. After many years of being handled by a Zen master, they have become enlightened themselves.

Origin: Hossu are Buddhist tools originating in India. Flies and other insects can be quite distracting and troublesome to meditating priests and monks. Swatting and killing even a fly or a mosquito is a sin in Buddhism. Thus, a hossu can be used to gently shoo away insects which land on their bodies or bite them without harming the insect. In addition to their practical use of keeping insects away, hossu are spiritual tools symbolic of warding away demons and anything else that might distract one from focusing on the Buddha.

Hossumori appear in Toriyama Sekien’s Hyakki tsurezure bukuro. He references a famous kōan (a Zen question) in which a student asks Zen master Jōshū whether dogs have buddha nature. Sekien suggests that if even a dog has a buddha nature, then perhaps a hossu used for nine years by a Zen master might also realize its buddha nature. The nine years mentioned by Sekien is a reference to the nine years that Daruma (aka Bodhidharma), the founder of Zen Buddhism, spent in meditation.

Alphabetical list of yōkai