the online database of Japanese folkore

Ise Ebizō

伊勢海老蔵
いせえびぞう

Translation: a pun name for a spiny lobster

Appearance: Ise Ebizō is one of the attendants of the royal court of Ryūgū, the royal palace of the god of the ocean. He looks like a cross between a spiny lobster (Panulirus japonicus) and a brave samurai.

Origin: Ise Ebizō appears in Tatsu no miyako sentakubanashi: imotako no yurai (“Tales from the Dragon Palace: The Origin of Imotako”), a comical story published in 1791 which depicts the political drama of the undersea court. His name is a pun, based on the Japanese name for the spiny lobster (ise ebi) and Ichikawa Ebizō, a popular kabuki actor’s name.

Legends: Ise Ebizō was a loyal and faithful advisor to the dragon king Ryūō VII for many years. However, one day he spoke out in court against the evil schemes of the dragon king’s closest advisor, an octopus. The octopus convinced the king to dismiss Ise Ebizō, and Ise Ebizō went into exile.

Eventually the dragon king Ryūō VII passed. The new king, Ryūō VIII, was only a child, so the son of Otohime and Urashima Tarō, Mizue Kotarō, was named regent. The octopus was hated by the rest of the court, and without the protection of the king his life was in danger. He fled to a distant fortress and raised an army of sharks and whales with the intent of attacking Ryūgū.

The regent remembered Ise Ebizō’s honor and loyalty to the former king, and he restored his position at court. At the same time, he did not forget the octopus’ treachery and disloyalty. They set a trap for the octopus, luring him back to Ryūgū with the promise of honors and rewards for his service. Then they sprinkled ash all over the palace floor. When the octopus arrived, his feet could not grip the ashy floor, and he was unable to move. Ise Ebizō stepped forth and challenged the octopus. The octopus desperately tried to swim away, but he was no match for the spiny lobster. In a masterful display of swordsmanship, Ise Ebizō cut the octopus into pieces.

Alphabetical list of yōkai