the online database of Japanese folklore



Translation: ogress, demoness
Habitat: remote mountains, caves, islands, secluded huts
Diet: omnivorous; anything and anybody, particularly travelers

Appearance: Kijo are female demons. They resemble human women in most ways, although they are hideously ugly to behold. Some have red or yellow eyes, blue skin, sharp horns, long claws, or other supernatural features. They usually dress in rags and wear their hair long and unkempt. They live like savages far from civilization.

Behavior: Kijo refers chiefly to women who have been transformed from humans into horrible monsters—either out of intense jealousy, wicked crimes, or a terrible grudge that twists the soul into pure hatred. These transformed women retreat from common society into more secluded places where they continue to perpetrate their wicked deeds. They can be found living in remote mountain caves, abandoned houses, or along mountain roads where they receive a steady supply of victims. Kijo are stronger than most humans, though their strength pales in comparison to oni. These demonesses excel in magic; they accumulate powerful spells over their long lives. Kijo are capable of bestowing hexes and curses, brewing poisons and potions, and weaving complex illusions. A few kijo dedicate themselves to personal vengeance or some political goal. But most just keep to themselves and go unnoticed by humankind for centuries.

Interactions: Like oni, kijo are the stuff of Japanese legends. Innumerable fairy tales, bedtime stories, kabuki plays, films, and so featuring kijo on have been created to entertain, to caution, and to preach morality. Women who do bad things might turn into kijo, and men who go after unscrupulous women might be heading to their deaths.

Origin: Kijo is a broad term that in its most general sense encompasses any female demon, just as the term oni can technically refer to any male demon. Indeed, the name kijo is formed simply by combining the two kanji for oni and woman. Though their name might suggest that kijo are the female counterparts to the male oni, there is nothing to support this. Tales show oni working either as tormentors of the damned or as menaces to human society in the living world, but kijo do not seem to have any connection to hell or the afterlife. They work solo, and have their own motives. Further, kijo and oni are not commonly seen together. Little to nothing is known about how either creature reproduces (or if they even do). It is likely that kijo are entirely separate creatures from oni, other than the fact that both are born from corrupted human souls.

Alphabetical list of yōkai