the online database of Japanese folkore

Katawaguruma

片輪車
かたわぐるま

Translation: crippled wheel
Habitat: hell; encountered on roads and mountain passes, and occasionally villages
Diet: souls

Appearance: Instead of a giant monk’s head stuck in a wheel, a katawaguruma appear as tormented, naked women riding single, flaming, ox-cart wheels. They suffer eternally, burning in pain.

Behavior: Katawaguruma look and act in much the same manner as wa nyūdō, rolling along the roads of Japan, occasionally stopping in towns to hunt for impure souls to drag back to their hellish masters.

Interactions: These demons bestow powerful curses on any who see them. This curse spreads rapidly through town, traveling on the news and gossip about the katawaguruma. Eventually, this brings calamity upon an entire village. Despite this, there is evidence that the katawaguruma has a capacity for mercy alien to its male counterpart.

Legends: In a 17th century record, when a katawaguruma attacked a village in what is now Shiga, she abducted the child of a woman who dared to peek at her through a crack in her door, saying “Instead of watching me you should have been watching your child!” The distraught woman realized her own curiosity was responsible for the loss of her child. She composed a poem expressing her faults, and displayed it all around town, warning others to watch their children more carefully. The next night, the katawaguruma came again and saw that the woman was truly regretful. She returned the child unharmed. The katawaguruma was never seen in that village again.

Alphabetical list of yōkai