the online database of Japanese folkore

Ichimoku nyūdō

一目入道
いちもくにゅうどう

Translation: one eyed priest
Alternate names: Kamokoshin, Hitotsume nyūdō

Appearance: Ichimoku nyūdō is the guardian of Lake Kamo, the largest lake on the island of Sado in Niigata Prefecture. He is a water god with a large, single eye on the top of his head. He is often described as a kappa, or kappa-like in appearance.

Origin: There are many legends all over Sado Island about the one-eyed god of Lake Kamo. These stories share many similarities, but have minor differences in story details as well as the god’s name. Kamokoshin (“the god of Lake Kamo”) and Hitotsume nyūdō (“one eyed priest”) are other common names for this spirit.

Although today he is commonly described as kappa-like, however there are no original documents which describe him as a kappa. He is merely described as a water god. However, because he appears every year around New Year’s, there is a strong possibility that he is related to other raihōjin–visiting gods–such as namahage and toshidoshi.

Legends: One fine day long ago, Ichimoku nyūdō grew curious about the lands surrounding Lake Kamo and decided to explore. As he wandered, he discovered a small copse of trees. Tied to one of those trees was a horse. The inquisitive Ichimoku nyūdō was fascinated by the creature. He climbed up onto its back and skillfully ride it around, laughing and crying out in joy.

Unfortunately for Ichimoku nyūdō, before long the horse’s owner returned. He quickly captured Ichimoku nyūdō. While unmatched in the water, Ichimoku nyūdō was powerless on land. He could do nothing but prostrate himself before the human and beg for forgiveness.

“Please sir, forgive me! If you let me go, I promise to catch fresh fish for you every day from now on. I will string them up under the willow tree by the lake with my magic hook. Just promise to return my magic hook, so I can catch more fish the following day.”

The horse owner forgave Ichimoku nyūdō and released him back to the water. The next day, he visited the willow tree by Lake Kamo, and sure enough, there was a large, splendid, freshly caught fish hanging from the branches by a lapis lazuli hook. The man unhooked the fish and tossed the hook back into the water, then returned home. The following morning when the man returned to the willow, again a large, fresh fish was hanging from the branches. He took the fish and returned the hook to the lake. This continued for years.

One day, the man had a nasty idea. That morning, when he retrieved the fish from the tree, he decided not to throw the hook back into the lake. He kept it for himself. However, once he did that, he never again saw a fish hanging from the willow tree. Then, on the 15th day after New Year’s, Ichimoku nyūdō attacked the man’s house, causing all kinds of damage. He prayed all night long to Buddha for protection. When morning came the attacks stopped–it seemed his prayers had worked. However, every year on the same day, Ichimoku nyūdō would attack again.

The man was terrified. In order to protect himself from Ichimoku nyūdō’s wrath, he donated the lapis lazuli hook to a nearby temple dedicated to Kannon, the bodhisattva of compassion. The next year, Ichimoku nyūdō and an army of his underlings attacked the temple. The priests prayed throughout the night, and when morning came, they had been spared. Since then, every year on the 15th day after New Year’s, the priests at that temple prepare for Ichimoku nyūdō’s coming and prepare an all-night vigil to ward off his attack.

In some versions of the story, the horse owner sells the lapis lazuli hook to a merchant for a great sum. After that, Ichimoku nyūdō attacks his house and slaughters his entire family. The terrified villagers then erect a temple to Kannon to pray for salvation from Ichimoku nyūdō’s wrath.

Alphabetical list of yōkai