the online database of Japanese folkore

Kijimunā

キジムナー
きじむなあ

Translation: the name comes from an old Okinawan village, Kijimuka
Alternate names: sēma, bunagaya
Habitat: banyan trees on the islands of Okinawa
Diet: seafood; prefers fish heads and eyes

Appearance: The southern island chain of Okinawa is home to a number of unique yōkai that are not found anywhere else in Japan. One of these is the kijimunā: an elfin creature that makes it home in the banyan trees that grow all over the Ryukyu archipelago. Physically, kijimunā are about the same height as a child, with wild and thick bright red hair, and red tinted skin. They wear skirts made of grass, and move about by hopping rather than walking. Although kijimunā retain the appearance of child-like youthfulness into their adulthood, males are noted for their large and prominent testicles.

Behavior: The kijimunā lifestyle mimics humans in many ways. They fish along the shores, live in family units, get married, and raise children in much the same way as the native islanders. On rare occasions, they marry into human families. The kijimunā diet consists entirely of seafood. They are excellent fishers, and are particularly skilled at diving. Kijimunā use both these skills to catch their favorite dish: fish heads—specifically the head of the snapper species called the double-lined fusilier. They are especially fond of fish eyes, even preferring the left eye over the right. Okinawans attribute eyeless corpses of fish found on the beach to picky kijimunā.

Kijimunā have a number of peculiar fears and prejudices. They loathe chickens and cooking pots. They are extremely put off by people passing gas. However, the thing they hate above all else is the octopus. They avoid octopuses at all costs, despising them and fearing them at the same time.

Interactions: Kijimunā often help fishermen catch fish, or aid humans in other ways in return for a cooked meal. When they form friendships with humans, it can last for a lifetime. Kijimunā will often return to their human friends many times, even spending holidays with their adopted family.

Unprovoked kijimunā attacks on humans are rare. Cutting down the banyan tree in which they live is a sure way to earn their wrath. Kijimunā thus wronged have been known to murder livestock, sabotage boats so they sink while their owners are far out at sea, or magically trap people in hollow trees from which they cannot escape. Sometimes they press down on peoples’ chests while they sleep, or snuff out lights during the night. Once earned, the enmity of a kijimunā can never be assuaged.

Alphabetical list of yōkai