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Utagawa Kuniyoshi, "Souma no furudairi (相馬の古内裏)" also known as "Takiyasha the Witch and the Skeleton Spectre".

Gashadokuro (がしゃどくろ/ 餓者髑髏, literally "starving skeleton", also known as Odokuro) are mythical creatures in Japanese mythology.


The Gashadokuro are spirits that take the form of giant skeletons and are fifteen times larger than an average person, said to be created from the ghosts of the people who died in battle and were not buried. The peoples’ desire for vengeance causes the Gashadokuro to roam after midnight, grabbing lone travelers and biting off their heads to drink their spraying blood. There is a way to know of their approach, as the victim would hear the sound of loud ringing in the ear caused by the rattling of its teeth. The Gashadokuro are said to possess the powers of invisibility and indestructibility since it is composed of the bones of people who are already deceased, though Shinto charms are said to ward them off.[1][better source needed] Otherwise, a Gashadokuro will continue hunting its prey until its pent up anger is released, causing the bones to crumple and the Gashadokuro to collapse.[2]

In the entry for Gashadokuro in Mizuki's book, a related tale from the Nihon Ryōiki is introduced. It tells of a man in Bingo Province (Hiroshima Prefecture) who is in a field at night and, hearing an eerie voice moaning, "My eye hurts," finds a skeleton there with a bamboo shoot growing from its eye socket. He removes the bamboo shoot and offers the skeleton dried boiled rice, upon which the skeleton tells him the story of its murder and its personal history, and rewards him for his kindness. Though this tale has been conflated with that of the Gashadokuro, the two are in fact unrelated, the Gashadokuro having originated in the later half of the 20th century.


One of the first known myths of the Gashadokuro dates back to the tenth century. During the tenth century in Japan, Taira no Masakado, a prominent samurai from the Kanto region was ambushed one day by three of his cousins due to quarrelling over marriages. Enraged by this, Masakado retaliated by burning down their residence, killing one of his uncles, Kunika. Taira no Yoshimasa, who was either Masakado’s parental uncle or cousin, wanted to avenge Kunika and challenged Taira no Masakado to a duel. Upon winning the duel, Yoshimasa, embarrassed by his defeat, called upon Taira no Yoshikane, another one of Masakado’s relatives who fought over the same woman. Yoshikane, who was the assistant governor for Kazusa Province, was easily able to gather many warriors and other officials from his province. On the day of their battle, Masakado, despite only having around 100 poorly-equipped soldiers, was able to inflict heavy casualties on Yoshikane and Yoshimasa’s forces, which was estimated to be thousands strong.

After his victory, Masakado was summoned to the imperial court in Kyoto due to complaints received about him. Fujiwara no Tadihira, Masakado’s lord, however, most likely lightened his punishment and helped him get a pardon from the court. In 937, Yoshikane, anxious to avenge his humiliating defeat, once again battled with Masakado. Masakado, injured in the fight, tried to flee with his wife, Yoshikane’s daughter, but was unsuccessful. In 939, Masakado started a minor rebellion referred to as the ‘Tengyō no Ran’ (天慶の乱) ("War in the Tengyō era" or "Tengyō Disturbance"). The armed revolt officially began when Masakado attacked one of the central government’s outposts in Hitachi Province. Later that year, he conquered Shimotsuke and Kōzuke Provinces, claiming the title of Shinnō (New Emperor). The government in Kyoto acknowledged his attacks as a revolt and put a bounty on his head. Taira no Sadamori, his cousin, and Fujiwara no Hidesato killed him in 940, decapitating him and brought his head to the capital in Kyoto for a reward. Masakado’s daughter, Takiyasha Hime, a famous and powerful sorceress, was infuriated at her father’s killers for disrespecting him. She conjured up the first Gashadokuro with the bones of those dead in the battle where Masakado died. To take revenge, Takiyasha Hime unleashed the Gashadokuro on Kyoto. It ravaged the city until Masakado’s head was moved to Shibasaki, a fishing village that eventually became Tokyo. The head became a sort of demigod there, with a grave still standing today near the Tokyo Imperial Palace.[3]


  1. ^ Jonathan Maberry (2006). Vampire Universe: The Dark World of Supernatural Beings That Haunt Us, Hunt Us, and Hunger for Us. ISBN 9780806528137.
  2. ^ Judith A. Markowitz (2019). Robots That Kill: Deadly Machines and Their Precursors in Myth, Folklore, Literature, Popular Culture and Reality. ISBN 9781476668130.
  3. ^ Karl F. Friday (2008). The First Samurai: the Life and Legend of the Warrior Rebel Taira Masakado. ISBN 9780471760825.