The kamaitachi (鎌鼬) is a yōkai, a supernatural creature of Japanese mythology, traditionally associated with the wind and widespread in various parts of Japan, especially mountainous and, indeed, windy.
The Myth of Kamaitachi
There are many versions of this spirit, partly different in appearance and characteristics depending on the area of sighting, but in general it is a very fast being looking like a weasel (traditionally considered an evil animal),
which moves riding on gusts of wind and is equipped with razor-sharp claws with which it injures the legs of unfortunate passers-by and then immediately disappears.
The action is so fast that often the victims do not even notice the attack, also because, another peculiar characteristic of the kamaitachi, the wounds inflicted do not cause pain but only bleeding, sometimes copious.
According to some versions, instead, the exact opposite would happen, that is the wounds would not bleed almost at all but would cause great pain and in some cases would be fatal.
The most famous version of the kamaitachi originates in the mountains of the Mino and Hida regions (today united in the prefecture of Gifu), where it seems that it appeared as a trio of weasels of which the first one made the victim stumble, the second one cut the skin of the legs and the third one cured the wound with a medicine able to eliminate the pain.
This interpretation seems to be attributable to Toriyama Sekien, who was probably the first to associate the apparition to the weasel;
he performed, in fact, a typical play on words, slightly altering one of the most popular names of the creature, kamaetachi (構え太刀 "tachi attack"), to transform it into kamaitachi (鎌鼬 "weasel with scythes").
In Niigata prefecture, however, the kamaitachi was a single spirit but much more aggressive, so that its victims could not get rid of it.
Kamaitachi's Presence in modern mass culture
The image of weasels armed with sharp razors has recently made its way into several manga and anime, which indirectly pay homage to the mythological creature.
Here's a short list of appearances:
- Kamaitachi is a famous Japanese Visual kei/Punk metal band, which disbanded in 1991.
- In One Piece, the pirate Cavendish has an alter ego known as Rommel's Kamaitachi, partly inspired by the creature of the same name.
- In the anime Inuyasha, at the beginning of the episode titled The Vortex on the Right Hand: Deviant Monk, Miroku fights a weasel-like demon that could be traced back to the kamaitachi. Even more so may be the character of Kagura, who rides the wind carried by a giant feather and fights by hurling blades of wind.
- In the Ushio and Tora manga, a trio of kamaitachi appear (in the Granata Press version, the name is translated as "beasts of the wind").
- "Kamaitachi" is the name of a spirit in the Shaman King series.
- In the Naruto series, Temari uses techniques inspired by kamaitachi: with his huge fan he is able to hurl blades of wind, generate whirlwinds and be transported, as well as summoning a weasel armed with a scythe that in turn produces sharp gusts of wind.
- In the manga Bleach, a shinigami is nicknamed "Kamaitachi", given his particular technique in which he uses thousands of shuriken-like blades, spinning them rapidly around himself.
- In the anime Kanokon, the kamaitachi is the spirit of Omi Kiriyama.
- In the Pokémon video game series, Pokémon Sneasel and Weavile are similar to kamaitachi. "Kamaitachi" is also the Japanese name for the move "Fan". Ironically, they cannot learn it.
- Kamaitachi is also present in the video game Ōkami.
- "Kamaitachi" is the title of an instrumental song by the Brazilian band Sepultura from their album Against.
- In the anime Durarara!!, Izaya Orihara's character refers to himself as "the kamaitachi" because of his skill in handling cutting weapons (to be precise, this occurs in episode 3).
- "Kamaitachi" is one of the skills used in the Isuca anime series.
- In the video game Monster Hunter Rise monsters called Izuchi and Gran Izuchi, whose appearance is based on that of Kamaitachi, were introduced.