the online database of Japanese folkore

Taki reiō


Translation: waterfall spirit king
Habitat: waterfalls

Appearance: Taki reiō are apparitions which are found in the basins of holy waterfalls across East Asia. These apparitions take the form of deities, most commonly Fudō Myōō. The images are so powerful that all types of demons, spirits, and yōkai will bow down before them.

Origin: Taki reiō was invented by Toriyama Sekien and first appears in Konjaku hyakki shūi. However, legends of apparitions appearing in waterfalls go back much further. Sekien’s description cites the Seiryōso (“The Seiryū Commentaries”), an annotated version of the Diamond Sutra.

Many waterfalls in Japan are associated with Fudō Myōō. He is a major focus of the esoteric Buddhist sects (such as Shingon and Shugendō), and followers of these faiths immerse themselves in icy waterfalls as part of their religious practice. Fudō Myōō statues have been erected in numerous waterfalls around Japan.

Myōō-in, a Buddhist temple in Ōtsu, Shiga has a statue of Fudō Myōō which was carved by the the high priest Sōō (831–918 CE) from a holy tree taken from the basin of a nearby waterfall. According to Mizuki Shigeru, this statue’s legend may have inspired Toriyama Sekien to document taki reiō.

Alphabetical list of yōkai