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Oni in pilgrim's clothing. Tokugawa period. Hanging scroll, ink and color on paper. 59.2 cm x 22.1 cm

Oni ( ?) are creatures from Japanese folklore, variously translated as demons, devils, ogres or trolls. They are popular characters in Japanese art, literature and theatre.[1]

Depictions of oni vary widely but usually portray them as hideous, gigantic creatures with sharp claws, wild hair, and two long horns growing from their heads.[2] They are humanoid for the most part, but occasionally, they are shown with unnatural features such as odd numbers of eyes or extra fingers and toes.[3] Their skin may be any number of colors, but red and blue are particularly common.[4][5]

They are often depicted wearing tiger-skin loincloths and carrying iron clubs, called kanabō (金棒 ?). This image leads to the expression "oni with an iron club" (鬼に金棒 oni-ni-kanabō ?), that is, to be invincible or undefeatable. It can also be used in the sense of "strong beyond strong", or having one's natural quality enhanced or supplemented by the use of some tool.[6][7]

Contents

Origins

The word "oni" in sometimes speculated to be derived from on, the on'yomi reading of a character () meaning to hide or conceal, as oni were originally invisible spirits or gods which caused disasters, disease, and other unpleasant things. These nebulous beings could also take on a variety of forms to deceive (and often devour) humans. Thus a Chinese character () meaning "ghost" came to be used for these formless creatures.

The invisible oni eventually became anthropomorphized and took on its modern, ogre-like form, partly via syncretism with creatures imported by Buddhism, such as the Indian rakshasa and yaksha, the hungry ghosts called gaki, and the devilish underlings of Enma-Ō who punish sinners in Jigoku (Hell).

The Demon Gate

A statue of a red oni wielding a kanabō.

Another source for the oni's image is a concept from China and Onmyōdō. The northeast direction was once termed the kimon (鬼門, "demon gate"), and was considered an unlucky direction through which evil spirits passed. Based on the assignment of the twelve zodiac animals to the cardinal directions, the kimon was also known as the ushitora (丑寅), or "ox tiger" direction, and the oni's bovine horns and cat-like fangs, claws, and tiger-skin loincloth developed as a visual depiction of this term.[8]

Temples are often built facing that direction, and Japanese buildings sometimes have L-shaped indentions at the northeast to ward oni away. Enryakuji, on Mount Hiei northeast of the center of Kyoto, and Kaneiji, in that direction from Edo Castle, are examples. The Japanese capital itself moved northeast from Nagaoka to Kyoto in the 8th century.

Traditional culture

Some villages hold yearly ceremonies to drive away oni, particularly at the beginning of Spring. During the Setsubun festival, people throw soybeans outside their homes and shout "Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!" ("鬼は外!福は内!" ?, " Oni go out! Blessings come in!").[9] Monkey statues are also thought to guard against oni, since the Japanese word for monkey, saru, is a homophone for the word for "leaving". In Japanese versions of the game tag, the player who is "it" is instead called the "oni".[10]

In more recent times, oni have lost some of their original wickedness and sometimes take on a more protective function. Men in oni costumes often lead Japanese parades to ward off any bad luck, for example. Japanese buildings sometimes include oni-faced roof tiles called onigawara (鬼瓦 ?), which are thought to ward away bad luck, much as gargoyles in Western tradition.

Oni are prominently featured in the Japanese children's story Momotaro (Peach Boy), and the book The Funny Little Woman.

Many Japanese idioms and proverbs also make reference to oni. For example, the expression oya-ni ninu ko-wa oni-no ko (親に似ぬ子は鬼の子 ?) means literally "a child that does not resemble its parents is the child of an oni," but it is used idiomatically to refer to the fact that all children naturally take after their parents, and in the odd case that a child appears not to do so, it might be because the child's true biological parents are not the ones who are raising the child. Depending on the context in which it is used, it can have connotations of "children who do not act like their parents are not true human beings," and may be used by a parent to chastise a misbehaving child. Variants of this expression include oya-ni ninu ko-wa onigo (親に似ぬ子は鬼子 ?) and oya-ni ninu ko-wa onikko (親に似ぬ子は鬼っ子 ?).[11]

Popular culture

Some popular manga and anime series also make references to oni:

  • Chie Shinohara's manga Ao no Fuuin uses oni as a main theme when the female protagonist is a descendant of a beautiful oni queen who wants to resurrect her kind.
  • Takahashi's Ranma 1/2 features a story in which one of the characters, Kasumi Tendo, is possessed by an oni, causing her to behave in uncharacteristically "evil" (yet humorous) ways.
  • The Touhou Project series of shoot-'em-up games has a character named Suika Ibuki, an oni with a massive gourd on her back capable of producing an endless amount of sake; legend has it that no one has seen her sober in her 700 year life. A later game in the series marked the appearance of Yuugi Hoshiguma, Suika's oni associate from a group of four incredibly powerful oni that they both belong to, called the "Four Devas of the Mountains." Yuugi, despite being as great a drinker as Suika while being just as cheerful, is even less of a lightweight than Suika, being able to enter into a fight without seeming intoxicated or even spilling any of the sake in her sake dish. Bleach (manga) character Love Aikawa has an Oni-themed mask, also, his zanpakuto's released form is a large spiked kanabo. In the Japanese release of The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, the Fierce Deity incarnation of Link is referred to as Oni Link. In the Mortal Kombat universe, the denizens of the Netherrealm (the series' equivalent of hell) are called Oni, and the oni character Drahmin's right arm is replaced by a metal club. In the Dragon Ball (manga) and Dragon Ball Z (anime) an oni called King Yemma runs the Check-In Station in Other World, where he decides which souls go to Heaven and which to Hell. The Check-In Station and Hell are also staffed by many other oni, many of which hold iron clubs. In the Digimon series, there is a level Champion digimon called Ogremon, which is a classical interpretation of the japanese oni. Hyogamon and Fugamon (two variations of Ogremon, representing ice and wind respectively) are also oni.
  • Kamen Rider Hibiki, Japanese tokusatsu series, uses oni as a main theme of the series. It tells the story about ancient battle between the Oni and the Makamou. In another popular tokusatsu, the Ultra series, it is not uncommon for Oni to appear and do battle with an Ultraman.
  • In The Venture Brothers season two episode "I Know Why the Caged Bird Kills‎", Dr. Venture is haunted by a floating oni which has followed him from Japan. Venture and Doctor Byron Orpheus, a necromancer, attempt to banish the spirit using "tempest tongs" but the effort fails. Venture then attempts to trap the oni in the trunk of his car, at which point the demon possesses the automobile. The oni attempts to lead Venture to Myra Brandish, Venture's former bodyguard and love who has kidnapped his sons. At the conclusion of the episode, the oni leaves with Dr. Henry Killinger, for whom the spirit has been working throughout the episode.

References

  1. ^ Lim, Shirley; Ling, Amy (1992). Reading the literatures of Asian America. Temole University Press. p. 242. ISBN 0-87722-935-X. http://books.google.com/books?id=X0ntg_EzA0kC&pg=PA242&dq=ogres+oni&num=100&as_brr=3&cd=2#v=onepage&q=ogres%20oni&f=false.  
  2. ^ Mack, Carol; Mack, Dinah (1998). A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels, and Other Subversive Spirits. Arcade Publishing. p. 116. ISBN 1-55970-447-1. http://books.google.com/books?id=1IDS3UUrqAIC&pg=PA116&dq=oni#v=onepage&q=oni&f=false.  
  3. ^ Bush, Laurence C. (2001). Asian horror encyclopedia: Asian horror culture in literature, manga and folklore. Writers Club Press. p. 141. ISBN 0-595-20181-4. http://books.google.com/books?id=lesg5YSXckQC&pg=PA141&dq=oni#v=onepage&q=oni&f=false.  
  4. ^ Hackin, J.; Couchoud, Paul Louis (2005). Asiatic Mythology 1932. p. 443. ISBN 1417976950. http://books.google.com/books?id=0ECwJUcn1_UC&pg=PA443&dq=oni#v=onepage&q=oni&f=false.  
  5. ^ Turne, Patricia; Coulter, Charles Russell (2000). Dictionary of ancient deities. Oxford University Press. p. 363. ISBN 0-19-514504-6. http://books.google.com/books?id=jEcpkWjYOZQC&pg=PA363&dq=oni#v=onepage&q=oni&f=false.  
  6. ^ Jones, David E. (2002). Evil in Our Midst: A Chilling Glimpse of Our Most Feared and Frightening Demons. Square One Publishers. p. 168. ISBN 0-7570-0009-6. http://books.google.com/books?id=_oFqBqj4HVAC&pg=PA168&dq=oni+kanabo&num=100&as_brr=3&cd=7#v=onepage&q=oni%20kanabo&f=false.  
  7. ^ Buchanan, Daniel Crump (1965). Japanese Proverbs and Sayings. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 136. ISBN 0-8061-1082-1. http://books.google.com/books?id=wGb4zNqYj10C&pg=PA136&dq=oni-ni-kanabo&num=100&as_brr=3&hl=ja&cd=3#v=onepage&q=oni-ni-kanabo&f=false.  
  8. ^ Hastings, James (2003). Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics. Kessinger Publishing. p. 611. ISBN 0-7661-3678-7. http://books.google.com/books?id=EEQlVC_clo8C&pg=PA611&dq=kimon+oni&num=100&as_brr=3&hl=ja&cd=1#v=onepage&q=kimon%20oni&f=false.  
  9. ^ Sosnoski, Daniel (1966). Introduction to Japanese culture. Charles E. Tuttle Publishing. p. 9. ISBN 0-8048-2056-2. http://books.google.com/books?id=T2blg2Kw_zcC&pg=PP17&dq=Oni+wa+soto+Fuku+wa+uchi+setsubun#v=onepage&q=Oni%20wa%20soto%20Fuku%20wa%20uchi%20setsubun&f=false.  
  10. ^ Chong, Ilyoung (2002). Information Networking: Wired communications and management. Springer-Verlag. p. 41. ISBN 3-540-44256-1. http://books.google.com/books?id=eOlQJauoRAEC&pg=PA41&dq=onigokko&as_brr=3&hl=ja&cd=9#v=onepage&q=onigokko&f=false.  
  11. ^ Buchanan, Daniel Crump (1965). Japanese Proverbs and Sayings. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 136. ISBN 0-8061-1082-1. http://books.google.com/books?id=wGb4zNqYj10C&pg=PA228&dq=oya#v=onepage&q=oya&f=false.  

See also

External links


Simple English

of red oni.]]

An Oni is a creature from Japanese folklore. They are described as large humanoids such as ogres and trolls. Sometimes they are described with horns usually wearing a jaguar skin loincloth and are very masculine.








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