the online database of Japanese folkore

Mikoshi nyūdō

見越入道
みこしにゅうどう

Translation: anticipating priest
Alternate names: mikoshi, miage nyūdō, taka bōzu
Habitat: bridges, roads, streets; especially at night
Diet: omnivorous; prefers travelers

Appearance: Mikoshi nyūdō are fearsome yōkai who appear late at night to lone travelers on empty streets, intersections, or bridges. They appear to be harmless traveling priests or monks, no taller than an ordinary person; but in an instant they grow abnormally tall, with long claws and hair like a wild beast.

Behavior: As soon as a person raises his eyes to look upon a mikoshi nyūdō, the giant grows to an immense height—as tall the observer is able to raise his eyes, and just as fast. This causes the person to look up so high and fast that they lose their balance and tumble backwards. That’s when the mikoshi nyūdō lunges forward and bites their throat out with its teeth.

Interactions: Those unfortunate enough to meet this cruel yōkai usually do not live to tell the tale. Much depends on the person’s reaction. If they try to ignore and walk past the mikoshi nyūdō, the angry giant will crush them or pierce them with bamboo spears and branches. The same fate is met by those who turn and try to run away. People who stare at the mikoshi nyūdō frozen in fear will drop dead on the spot, overcome by its presence.

The only possible escape is to anticipate the mikoshi nyūdō (thus its name). Meet it face-to-face, eye-to-eye, and show no fear. Then, look from its head down to its feet, rather than starting at the feet and looking up. If done properly, the giant’s power to grow will be sapped. Telling the giant, “You lost! I anticipated your trick!” causes it to vanish in anger, leaving the traveler to pass safely along.

Other forms: Mikoshi nyūdō is a popular form of some shape-shifting animals. In particular, itachi and tanuki transform into these giants in order to hunt humans. Kitsune and mujina are known to occasionally take this form as well, though less often. When a mikoshi nyūdō is result of a transformation, it carries a bucket, a lantern, or some other tool. This tool is where the shape-shifter’s true body is stored. If you can snatch the object away from the giant before it attacks, the spell is broken and the transformed yōkai will be at its captor’s mercy.

Alphabetical list of yōkai