the online database of Japanese folkore

Konaki jijii

子泣き爺
こなきじじい

Translation: crybaby old man
Habitat: mountains

Appearance: Konaki jijii are mountain-dwelling spirits who look like old human men. They carry walking sticks and wear straw raincoats on top of over-sized baby clothes.

Behavior: Konaki jijii get their name from their distinctive habit of crying like babies. They usually hide in the mountains near roads and trails, and when a human passes within earshot, they begin to scream and cry like a human baby.

Interactions: A konaki jijii’s crying often evokes sympathy in those who hear it. A person who passes by a konaki jijii and tries to comfort it is in for a nasty surprise. When they hug the crying spirit, it rapidly becomes heavier and heavier. The konaki jijii clings to its victim, who is unable to pull themself free. They are inevitably crushed to death under its increasing weight.

Origin: Konakijijii comes from the mountain folklore of Tokushima Prefecture. It is thought to be a yōkai that was invented by combining two different folktales into a new form. One tale tells of a mountain-dwelling yōkai that mimics a baby’s cry and crushes to death any who try to pick it up. This pattern of behavior—tricking passersby into helping a crying baby and then crushing them like a stone—is shared by several yōkai across Japan, such as obariyon, ubume, and nure onna. The other tale tells of an old man—who supposedly actually existed—who walked around mimicking a baby’s cry. He was disliked by the locals, and parents would warn children that if they didn’t behave, he would come and get them. Some folklorists believe these local superstitions mixed together and eventually wound up as the yōkai called konaki jijii.

Alphabetical list of yōkai