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Ukiyo-e print of the sailor Tokuso encountering an umibōzu, by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Umibōzu (海坊主?, "sea bonze") is a spirit in Japanese folklore. The Umibōzu is said to live in the ocean and capsize the ship of anyone who dares speak to it. This spirit's name, which combines the character for "sea" with the character of "Buddhist monk," is possibly related to the fact that the Umibōzu is said to have a large, round head, resembling the shaven heads of Buddhist monks. Alternatively they are enormous Yōkai (spectres) that appear to shipwreck victims and fishermen. They are believed to be drowned priests, and exhibit the shaven head and typically appears to be praying. It is usually reported as having a grey, cloud-like torso and serpentine limbs.

According to one story, if angered, they ask that the crews provide a barrel that it proceeds to fill with sea water to drown them. To avoid this disastrous fate, it is necessary to give him a bottomless barrel.

Edo-period obake karuta card depicting an umibōzu

This folktale is likely related to another Japanese tradition, which says that the souls of people who have no one to look after their graves take refuge at sea.

In popular culture[edit]

The umibōzu is a very well known yōkai as it is also recognized in modern Japanese culture.

  • Shigeru Mizuki's manga series Gegege no Kitaro features an umibōzu in its cast.
  • A traditional Umibōzu folktale is told in the second story arc of the anime Mononoke, a sequel to Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales, which combined folktales, Kabuki plays, and animated versions of 19th century woodblock art prints to retell classic ghost stories.
  • In the manga and anime One Piece, when the crew is sailing out of the Florian Triangle at the end of the "Thriller Bark" arc (volume 50, chapter 490), a giant mysterious shadow with eyes appears in the fog. This is believed by many to be an umibōzu. Another character called "Wadatsumi" slightly resembles the umibōzu. Wadatsumi is also nicknamed "great monk" and was mistaken for an umibōzu by Usopp.
  • Umibozu (pronounced "oo-me-boh-zoo") the black operations detachment of the JMSDF (Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force)in the anime Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex. They wear masks with white faceplates depicting sea monsters similar to the ceramic masks of the shogunate era shinobi assassins.
  • Itsuki's Pet, "Uraotoko", in the series Yu Yu Hakusho bears a striking resemblance to the Umibōzu.
  • Hideaki Sorachi's manga series and anime adaptation Gin Tama features an umibōzu in its cast. Albeit the only similar feature to the yōkai is the round balding head.
  • The umibōzu (written as "Umi Bozu") is Monster in My Pocket #118.
  • The umibōzu is also a monster of the day in the Super Sentai series Ninja Sentai Kakuranger and also appears as Hydro Hog in season 3 of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers in the 10 episode arc Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers.
  • In Pathfinder Bestiary 3, the "sea bonze" is a creature spawned from "the combined despair and horror of death at sea, such as when a ship sinks and the entire crew drowns."[1] It is infamous for capsizing ships.
  • Name of a special forces unit in Ghost In The Shell S.A.C.
  • In Love★Com it is the name of a musician that is liked by two of the main characters.
  • The shōjo series Akazukin Chacha features an umibōzu in its third episode.
  • In the video game Pikmin 2 for the GameCube, an mysterious watery ghost known as the Waterwraith is known as Amibōzu in Japanese. He appears in an aquatic cave and chases the main character and attempts to crush him.
  • In the sequel Pikmin 3 for the Wii U, the final boss is called Plasm Wraith in Japanese and is implied to have caused the crash of the heroes' ship, and kidnaps the main character and prevents him from leaving. Most likely referencing the Umibōzu. In Japan it is also referred to as the Amebouzu (sorrowful beast).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Bestiary 3 (OGL) Hardcover". Retrieved 2011-01-20. 
  • Allardice, Pamela. Myths, Gods, and Fantasy: A Sourcebook. Dorset: Prism Press, 1991. p. 209.
  • Suzuki, Setsuko (Ed.) (1996). 英語で話す「日本の心」Keys to the Japanese Heart and Soul. Kodansha International. ISBN 4-7700-2082-1. 
  • The Obakemono Project
  • Umi Bōzu – The Sea Monk a detailed account of umibozu at