the online database of Japanese folkore

Shōkera

精螻蛄
しょうけら

Translation: mole cricket spirit
Habitat: rooftops, temples; only appears every sixty nights
Diet: wicked humans who try to outsmart the gods

Appearance: The shōkera is a large, dark-skinned, three-toed demon which spends most of its time lurking about on rooftops. Not much is known about this fearsome beast aside from its hunting practices. The shōkera is believed to be some kind of demon with connections to Kōshin, an esoteric Japanese folk religion with origins in Taoism.

Interactions: Shōkera only appear on special nights in the Kōshin faith which occurs every sixty nights. A shōkera spies through windows, doorways, or skylights in houses, and hunts for impious behavior. Then it pounces down in a vicious attack. Because Kōshin is no longer a widespread religion—and because victims of shōkera attacks would only be implicating themselves as wicked by admitting to seeing one—little else is known about the shōkera.

Origin: According to Kōshin, there are three spiritual worms or insects, called the sanshi, which live inside every human body. Every sixty nights, on a special night called kōshin machi, these worms leave the body while their host human sleeps. The sanshi travel to heaven to report on the good and bad deeds of their human. The emperor of heaven then uses this information to lengthen or shorten people’s lives according to their deeds. While good people have nothing to fear from kōshin machi, the wicked might try to circumvent having their bad deeds reported by staying awake and reciting prayers all night long during these special nights so that the sanshi cannot leave the body. That’s when the shōkera goes to work. It lurks about on rooftops during these nights, peers into windows, and hunts for anyone violating the laws of heaven.

Alphabetical list of yōkai