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Ushi-oni, from Bakemono no e scroll, Brigham Young University.
Ushi-oni illustrated by Toriyama Sekien.

The Ushi-Oni (牛鬼, Ox Oni (demon)), or gyūki, is a creature which appears in the folklore of Japan. There are various kinds of ushi-oni, all of them some sort of monster with a horned, bovine head.


The ushi-oni has a different appearance based mainly on geographical location. It most often has the head of an ox with some oni-like attributes, sharp horns curving upward, sharp fangs, and a slender tongue. The body is most commonly depicted as spider-like with six legs and long singular claws at the end of each appendage.[1][2] Variations in the ushi-oni anatomy are noted below.


Ehime Prefecture, Uwajima City (愛媛県宇和島市)[edit]

Perhaps the most famous ushi-oni appears as a protective symbol in the Uwajima Ushi-oni Festival, which is held in late July in Uwajima of Ehime Prefecture. Something like the dragon dancers at a Chinese New Year celebration, this ushi-oni is represented with a huge, multiple-person costume with a cloth body and a carved, painted head held upon a pole. It has an oni-like head, a long neck, and the body of an ox. The body is either red or brown with shaggy hair similar to the coat of a yak. A short sword replaces its tail, and it is thought to drive away evil spirits.[3]

Shimane Prefecture, Iwami Area (島根県石見)[edit]

Another well-known ushi-oni is a massive, brutal sea-monster which lives off the coast of Shimane Prefecture and other places in Western Japan and attacks fishermen. It is often depicted with a spider- or crab-like body. This ushi-oni seems to be connected to another monster called the nure-onna, who sometimes appears before an ushi-oni attack and tricks the victim into holding her child, which then becomes stuck to the person's hands and grows heavier in order to hinder escape.[4]

Izumo Region (出雲)[edit]

The appearance of the ushi-oni in the Izumo region according to some legends differs radically compared to the other legends. This bakemono doesn’t look like an ox at all. In contrast, it looks like a shining, white butterfly. This version of the ushi-oni appears in groups and sticks to travelers’ bodies when they cross bridges on humid, rainy days.[4][5]

Kagawa Prefecture, Takamatsu City (香川県高松市)[edit]

Yet another ushi-oni is depicted as a statue on the grounds of the Negoroji temple in Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture. It is a bipedal monster with huge tusks, spurred wrists, and membranes like a flying squirrel. A sign nearby explains that this creature terrorized the area about four-hundred years ago, and was slain by a skilled archer by the name of Yamada Kurando Takakiyo (山田蔵人高清). He dedicated its horns to the temple, and they can still be seen to this day.[6]

Kyoto, Kumihama Bay (京都府久美浜湾)[edit]

When night fishing in Kumihama Bay of Kyoto, a voice is heard by fishermen beckoning them from the opposite shore. Upon arriving to the other shore, however, no one is there. The voice is then heard from the original shore. After chasing the voice around for a while, the fisherman returns to his boat, only to find all the fish that were in the boat are gone. This terror is attributed to the ushi-oni.[4]

Wakayama Prefecture (和歌山県)[edit]

In Wakayama Prefecture, ushi-oni are mountain-dwelling beasts. Legend says when a hiker or traveler makes eye contact with the ushi-oni, the person cannot avert his or her gaze. The person’s soul or energy is drained and he or she dies. This is called “Kage wo kuu (影を食う)” or sometimes "Kage wo nomu (影を飲む)", which translates to “eating the shadow” or "drinking the soul".[4][5]

Tokushima Prefecture, Shirokiyama Village (徳島県白木山)[edit]

Legend says that Shirokiyama village and its people were terrorized by an Ushioni. It was defeated by a famous warrior.[5]

Other mythology[edit]

Ushi-oni are also mentioned in Sei Shōnagon's 10th-century diary The Pillow Book, and in the Taiheiki of the 14th century.

Popular culture[edit]

  • The Super Sentai franchise had its adaption of the Ushi-oni:
  • In One Piece, Gyūki: Yuzume is the name of an attack Zoro uses to defeat T-Bone.
  • In both the Nurarihyon no Mago manga and anime series, the beast known as Gyūki happens to be an ushi-oni with the head of an ox and the torso of a spider-like creature with large claws that with its demonic powers would lead lost travelers astray and prey on them.
  • In Naruto, Gyūki is Killer Bee's tailed beast where it is a cross of an ox and an octopus with the tentacles making up the tails. He can transform into the beast at will.
  • In Kamen Rider Decade, Hibiki's desire to destroy all Makamou caused his oni power to consume him and turn him into the ox Makamou Gyuki. When Asumu becomes the new Kamen Rider Hibiki, he puts the original Hibiki out of his misery by destroying him with his Mouka Dotou form.
  • In Gegege no Kitaro, an ushi-oni steals Kitaro (GeGeGe no Kitaro)'s soul and forces him to do its bidding.
  • In Touhou Project, Urumi Ushizaki is an ushi-oni.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Ushi oni –". Retrieved 2018-12-15.
  2. ^ "Bakemono no e." c. 1700. Retrieved 2018-12-15.
  3. ^ "うわじま牛鬼まつりとは". 公式ホームページ(愛媛県宇和島市) (in Japanese). Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  4. ^ a b c d Nihon kaii yōkai daijiten. Komatsu, Kazuhiko, 1947-, Tsunemitsu, Tōru, 1948-, Yamada, Shōji, 1963-, Iikura, Yoshiyuki, 1975-, 小松和彦, 1947-, 常光徹, 1948- (Saihan ed.). Tōkyō-to Chiyoda-ku: Tōkyōdō Shuppan. 2013. pp. 55–56. ISBN 9784490108378. OCLC 852779765.CS1 maint: others (link)
  5. ^ a b c Chiba, Mikio (2014). Zenkoku yōkai jiten. Tokyo: Kōdansha. pp. 171, 179, 199. ISBN 9784062922708.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-12-23. Retrieved 2014-08-12.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)