the online database of Japanese folkore

Otoroshi

おとろし

Translation: a regional corruption of osoroshii, meaning “scary”
Alternate names: odoroshi, odoro odoro, keippai
Habitat: shrines, temples, and homes; found above gates and doors
Diet: small animals and wicked people

Behavior: Otoroshi are known by many regional names, most of them being wordplays denoting this monster’s fearsome appearance and wild, course mane that covers its body. Otoroshi appear as hairy, hunched, four-legged beasts with fierce claws and tusks. They have blue or orange skin.

Appearance: Though its existence has been known of for centuries, little is known about this rare and mysterious creature. Otoroshi are masters of disguise and are rarely seen except for when they want to be. They are most commonly spotted in high places like roofs. Other favorite places are the torii archways at shrines and the gates above temples that separate the physical world from the realm of the gods.

Interactions: Otoroshi act as a kind of guardian of these holy places. They eat the wild animals found in shrines and temples—particularly pigeons, sparrows, and other birds. Otoroshi attack humans only rarely: when they spot a wicked or imprudent person near a holy place—or when one tries to enter through the gateway they are guarding. Otoroshi attack by pouncing on their victims from above, tearing them to shreds, and devouring their remains.

Origin: While its name implies ferocity and its appearance is quite grotesque, it is only known to be dangerous to the wicked. The name otoroshi, while not a word itself, appears to be derived from variations in regional dialects. It is generally accepted to be a corruption of osoroshii, meaning “scary.” Nothing is known of its origins; it is speculated to be related to a similar yōkai, the waira, due to their common habits and environment.

Alphabetical list of yōkai