the online database of Japanese folkore

Rokugyo

鯥魚
ろくぎょ

Translation: land dwelling fish
Alternate names: roku
Habitat: hilltops in the mountains of Taizan
Diet: unknown

Appearance: Rokugyo are a species of strange chimerical fish which live on land. They have snake-like tails and wings sprouting from above their ribs. They have the heads of cows and their voices sound like yaks.

Behavior: Rokugyo are native to a mountain called Taizan (柢山), located far to the southeast of China. This mountain has no trees or plants, but a great number of rivers and streams. They live on hilltops, and are active during the warmer months. They disappear in the winters, going into hibernation. They will threaten humans who get too close.

Interactions: While rokugyo can be dangerous, they can also be beneficial. Their meat has healing properties. Eating rokugyo meat is said prevent infectious tumors.

Origin: Rokugyo’s existence is recorded in Sengaikyō (Chinese: Shan Hai Jing), a classical Chinese geographical study which serves as the source for a great number of yōkai. The location of Taizan and the identity of whatever animal inspired this yōkai are lost to history.

The name rokugyo comes from roku, the Japanese pronunciation of its Chinese name, plus gyo (fish). The Chinese character invented for creature means “land-dwelling fish.” Today, this kanji is read as mutsu, and refers to the gnomefish (Scombrops boops). Interestingly, the gnomefish is named for its resemblance to a cow; boops means “cow eye.”

Alphabetical list of yōkai