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Hyakki Yagyō

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"Hyakki Yagyō" by Kawanabe Kyōsai[1]

Hyakki Yagyō (百鬼夜行, "Night Parade of One Hundred Demons"[2]), also transliterated Hyakki Yakō, is an idiom in Japanese folklore. Sometimes an orderly procession, other times a riot, it refers to a parade of thousands of supernatural creatures known as oni and yōkai that march through the streets of Japan at night.[3] As a terrifying eruption of the supernatural into the real world, it is similar (though not precisely equivalent) to the concept of pandemonium in English.[4]

Various legends[edit]

Over more than one thousand years of history, and its role as a popular theme in traditional storytelling and art, a great deal of folklore has developed around the concept, making it difficult if not impossible to isolate any canonical meanings.

One legend of recent vintage states that "every year the yōkai Nurarihyon, will lead all of the yōkai through the streets of Japan during summer nights." Anyone who comes across the procession would perish or be spirited away by the yōkai, unless protected by exorcism scrolls handwritten by Onmyōji spell-casters. It is said that only an onmyōji clan head is strong enough to pass Nurarihyon's Hyakki Yagyō unharmed.[5]

According to another account in the Shūgaishō (拾芥抄), a medieval Japanese encyclopedia, the only way to be kept safe from the night parade if it were to come by your house is to stay inside on the specific nights associated with the Chinese zodiac or to chant the magic spell: "KA-TA-SHI-HA-YA, E-KA-SE-NI-KU-RI-NI, TA-ME-RU-SA-KE, TE-E-HI, A-SHI-E-HI, WA-RE-SHI-KO-NI-KE-RI" (カタシハヤ, エカセニクリニ, タメルサケ, テエヒ, アシエヒ, ワレシコニケリ).[6]

In literature[edit]

The Hyakki Yagyō has appeared in several tales collected by Japanese folklorists.[5]

In art[edit]

The night parade was a popular theme in Japanese visual art.[2]

One of the oldest and most famous examples is the 16th-century handscroll Hyakki Yagyō Zu (百鬼夜行図), erroneously attributed to Tosa Mitsunobu, located in the Shinju-an of Daitoku-ji, Kyoto.[2] For other picture scrolls, the Hyakki Yagyō Emaki (百鬼夜行絵巻), contains the details of each member in the parade from the Muromachi period.[5]

Other notable works in this motif include those by Toriyama Sekien (Gazu Hyakki Yagyō)[7] and Utagawa Yoshiiku. However, Toriyama's work presents yōkai in separate, encyclopedic entries rather than assembled in a parade,[7] while Utagawa's Kokkei Wanisshi-ki ("Comical Record of Japanese History") employs the theme of 100 demons to comment on contemporary Japanese military actions in China.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Clark, Timothy (1993). Demon of Painting: The Art of Kawanabe Kyosai. British Museum Press. p. 64. ISBN 978-0714114620.
  2. ^ a b c Lillehoj, Elizabeth (1995). "Transfiguration: Man-Made Objects as Demons in Japanese Scrolls". Asian Folklore Studies. 54 (1): 7–34. doi:10.2307/1178217. JSTOR 1178217.
  3. ^ Yoda, Hiroko (2016). Japandemonium Illustrated: The Yokai Encyclopedias of Toriyama Sekien. Dover Publishing. p. x. ISBN 9780486800356.
  4. ^ Foster, Michael Dylan (2009). Pandemonium and Parade: Japanese Demonology and the Culture of the Yōkai. University of California Press. p. 9. ISBN 9780520942677.
  5. ^ a b c 村上健司編著 『妖怪事典』毎日新聞社、2000年、288-289頁。ISBN 4-620-31428-5
  6. ^ "Hyakki Yagyō". Retrieved 2014-05-19.
  7. ^ a b Foster, Michael Dylan (2009). Pandemonium and Parade: Japanese Demonology and the Culture of the Yōkai. University of California Press. p. 55. ISBN 9780520942677.
  8. ^ Lillehoj, Elizabeth. "Commentary". The Boone Collection. Archived from the original on 4 July 2013. Retrieved 8 April 2013.