the online database of Japanese folkore

Torakoishi

虎子石
とらこいし

Translation: little Tora stone; little tiger stone
Alternate names: toragoishi, toragaishi

Appearance: Torakoishi is a large stones with the legs and tail of a tiger. It is found in the village of Ōiso in Kanagawa Prefecture.

Behavior: Torakoishi is not a particularly dangerous yōkai. It enjoys startling people, but does not cause harm.

Origin: Torakoishi was invented by Utagawa Yoshikazu in his series depicting the fifty stations of the Tōkaidō. Torakoishi appears playfully jumping at people in the print of Ōiso station. Its name is a pun based on a legendary stone named Toragoishi which was kept at Endaiji Temple in Ōiso, Kanagawa Prefecture. While the actual stone was named for a girl called Tora, Utagawa Yoshikazu used the literal meaning of the name Tora—tiger—to turn it into an animal yōkai.

Legends: In the late 12th century lived a samurai named Yamashita Chōja. Though he was growing old, he had still not been blessed with any children. His wife prayed day and night to Toraike Benzaiten, a local manifestation of the goddess of mercy, for a miracle. One night, Benzaiten appeared to her in a dream. The following morning, she awoke to find a beautiful stone placed next to her. Believing it to be a gift from the goddess, she worshipped the stone day and night. Her prayers were answered, and soon she was blessed with a baby girl. They named her Tora in honor of Toraike Benzaiten, who gave her to them. Yamashita Chōja built a shrine honoring Toraike Benzaiten and housed the stone inside it. And as Tora grew older, the stone likewise grew in size until it was like a small boulder.

Tora grew to be a beautiful young woman. She became a renowned dancer and a prostitute, and eventually became a concubine of the warrior Soga Sukenari. One day, Sukenari’s enemy Kudō Suketsune sent an assassin to kill him while he was visiting Yamashita Chōja’s manor. The assassin fired an arrow, but it bounced off of him harmlessly. Then the assassin slashed at him with his sword, but again he could not harm him. Looking closely, the assassin saw that he had struck a large stone. It was Tora’s stone, which had magically disguised itself as Sukenari to save his life. The assassin fled, but the chips in the stone where the arrow and sword struck it remained as proof of its life-saving power.

The miraculous stone’s tale spread far and wide. It became the village of Ōiso’s famous tourist attraction, and people came from near and far to marvel at the stone. The stone is now enshrined at Endaiji, where it remains a popular attraction for worshippers seeking safe childbirth, protection, and other blessings.

Alphabetical list of yōkai