Shuten-dōji (酒呑童子, sometimes called 酒顛童子, 酒天童子 or also 朱点童子) is a mythical oni leader (or also a demon leader) in Japan, who according to legend was killed by the hero Minamoto Raikō.

Despite being decapitated, the demon's head managed to bite the hero and prevented his death by wearing multiple helmets stacked on his head himself.

Shuten-dōji had his lair on Mount Ōe (大江山), northwest of Kyoto city, though also on Mount Ibuki depending on the version.

It has also been theorized that the original mountain was the named Mount Ōe (大江山) located in the south of Kyoto city.

Shuten-dōji Texts

The oldest text of the legend is recorded in Oeyama Ekotoba (大江山絵詞) from the 14th century. "(Tale of Mount Ōe in pictures and words)," a picture scroll housed in the Itsuo Art Museum.

It was later incorporated into the body of Otogi-zoshi (Supplementary Tales), and was widely read in the woodblock printed versions that were called Otogi Bunko (a Library company), especially in the editions of Shibukawa Seiemon (ch. 1720).

In addition there is a set of texts which locate the fortress of Shuten Doji on Mount Ibuki. The Mount Ibuki group texts revealed the villain honji (avatar identity) as the "Demon King of the Sixth Heaven" (Dairokuten maō).

While the Mount Ōe group texts do not identify him in this way with the exception of Oeyama Ekotoba which is the oldest.

Shuten-dōji's Location

There are two different mountains named Mount Ōe in Tanba province. The location is quite clear in the late period Otogi Zoshi text referred to by Ōeyama (ja) (大江山) northwest of the capital city of Kyoto, as it specifically mentions Senjōdake, which is part of this mountain range.

But recent scholarship assigns the original mountain, Mount Ōe (大枝山) further south (at the southern end of Kyoto city and also extending to Kameoka, Kyoto) This other Mount Ōe has a slope called Oi-no-Saka (老ノ坂, "Slope of Aging").

In fact, there are some comparative versions that place the demon's lair on the southern mountain (Mount Ōe), or depict Senjōdake as the main one and Oi-no-Saka as the secondary stronghold for demons, according to the folkloric and religious scholar Takeda Chōshū.

Shuten-dōji's Summary (Older version)


The oldest text (Ōeyama Ekotoba or Ōeyama Emaki) Version of the legend can be summarized as follows:

During the reign of Emperor Ichijo (r. 986-1011), a large number of missing persons were reported in the capital city of Kyoto, most of the victims being young women.

Abe no Seimei, a famous diviner onmyōdō of the imperial court, determined that the ogre oni King of Mount Ōe (later identified as Shuten- dōji) was responsible for the disappearances.

The Emperor ordered Minamoto no Raikō and Fujiwara no Hōshō (Fujiwara no Yasumasa to exterminate the demon.

Raikō had his four lieutenants call him shintennō while Hōshō had only Daizaifu's junior secretary (shōgen) to assist him. The expedition left Kyoto in 995.

On the expedition were a group of four men who transformed into four deities. On their recommendation, Raikō and his entourage disguised themselves as yamabushi priests, on their journey they went through a cave tunnel that led them to a river where they found one of the abducted women washing clothes.

The old woman explained that those women who were abducted were forced to act as servants, although the ogres who abducted them killed them mercilessly, eating their flesh and drinking their blood.

The warriors pretending to be priests convinced the ogre king to give them lodging.

The ogre King offered his guests sake in addition to telling them a tale about himself, the tale was about how he received the name Shuten-dōji, sake drinker, which the ogre King said was due to his renunciations of love for sake and how the ogres had been displaced from their Ancestral Mountains when the Enryaku-ji temple was built near them. And their stay at Mt. Ōe since 849.

Raikō, one of the warriors, offered Shuten-dōji sake that left him incapacitated. The warriors stripped off their ecclesiastical robes revealing their armor and weapons which they concealed in priestly chests called oi (笈).

After this, they stormed Shuten-dōji's dormitory while the four divinities held the limbs of the incapacitated ogre, Raikō, cut off Shuten-dōji's head.

The severed head that was still alive moved its jaw in the direction of the hero's head, which he managed to dodge using his helmet and that of his entourage as protection.

The group returned triumphantly to the city of Kyoto with the ogre's head, which they deposited in the Uji no hōzō (Uji's treasure house) at Byodo-in temple.

Physical description.

According to Ōeyama Ekotoba's version, Shuten-dōji slept in his true form, which was a gigantic colorful statue.

It was 50 feet tall, had a red-colored body and five horns on its head, had fifteen eyes, one leg was white and the other black.

Otogi Bunko Version (Fairy tale)

The version of the legend found in Shibukawa (Otogi Bunko - fairy tale) was printed in English translation by Haruo Shirane and Noriko T.Reider. Some of the similarities and differences are detailed below.

Expedition and divination

This version is inaccurate in the time frame. In the capital of Kyoto people are being kidnapped.

A middle councilor sought the whereabouts of his kidnapped daughter and summoned a diviner named Muraoka no Masatoki (instead of Seimei, as in the old text) Masatoki named the demons of Mount Ōe of Tanba province as the culprits.

The Mikado8 ordered the formation of a very severe squadron, consisting of six standard warriors, Minamoto no Raikō and his four guardian kings (shitennō) in which Watanabe no Tsuna and Hōshō were included.

Three gods and divine sake

Because demons are formidable enemies and can change appearance, the group decided to pay homage at three shrines, Yawata Shrine (Iwashimizu Hachiman-gū), Sumiyoshi Shrine and Kumano Shrine.

Later, the group met the gods of the three shrines who had posed as elders. The gods gave Raikō the "poisonous sake for demons" (神便鬼毒酒, jinben kidoku shu). Which robbed the ogres of their ability to fly and stupefied them.

Although Raikō kept his own vermilion-colored helmet in the trunk, he received from the gods another helmet (hoshi kabuto translated as "helmet with helmet") which he is instructed to wear when decapitating the ogre with the sword.


Just before reaching the lair, Raikō's group found a hostage working together with the washerwoman who became their source. In this version, she is not an old woman but the daughter of a 17-18 year old courtier.

She revealed that the lair called the Iron Palace (Kurogane no gosho, 鐵の御所) was located inside the Demon's Cavern (Oni no iwaya 鬼の岩屋), and further warned the group about the four ogres guarding the palace, these were lieutenants of the demon. 

As in the ancient text discussed above, Raikō's group intended to pose as yamabushi ascetics in order to gain entry to Shuten-dōji's residence.

Raikō disarmed the ogre's suspicion by explaining to them that they, as yamabushi, followed the ways of En no Gyōja who was compassionate and hospitable to demons.

The warriors decided to drink the human blood and eat the fresh meat to gain the ogres' trust. The highlight was when Raikō offered Shuten-dōji the divine sake previously given to him by the gods.

Shuten-dōji began to tell his story (originally from Echigo province according to this text), and further told how his trusted man, Ibaraki-dōji lost an arm in the latter's encounter with Tsuna, one of Raikō's men.

As in the ancient text, the warriors equipped their armor and weapons in hiding from Shuten-dōji and attacked the demon in his chamber, where he slept. The three gods arrived to help and chained the ogre's limbs while Raikō positioned himself with his Chisui (or "Bloodsucker") sword in hand.

Meanwhile the ogre blamed the hero for his strategies exclaiming, "How sad you priests! You said you did not lie, we demons do not lie in our words. "

The warriors attacked with their swords and cut off Shuten--dōji's head as in the ancient text, the freshly severed head tried to bite Raikō's head, but he was protected by the two helmets on his head:

his "Lion King" helmet on top of the helmeted helmet (hoshi kabuto given to him by the gods and below the vermilion helmet he took from the chest. Subsequently, Ibaraki--dōji and Watanabe no Tsuna engaged in a fight that lasted for a prolonged time and while they struggled, Raikō severed Ibaraki-dōji's head.

The female prisoners were released and the warriors returned in triumph.


In this version, Ibaraki-dōji, famous in his own right, played the role of one of Shuten-dōji's henchmen.

There was also a group of subordinates who called themselves Shuten-dōji's "Four Divine Kings": Hoshikuma-dōji, Kuma-dōji, Torakuma-dōji and Kane-dōji.

Shuten-dōji after telling his life story, related the episode of Ibaraki-dōji and Watanabe no Tsuna (one of Raikō's men) where the warrior severed his arm. Later, Raikō would behead Ibaraki-dōji while fighting Tsuna.

"The four divine kings" (shitennō) were described by the washerwoman, so Raikō's group, took advantage of the situation in advance. Their names along with their meanings were: Hoshikuma-dōji (Star Bear Demon) Kuma-dōji (Bear Demon) Torakuma-dōji (Tiger Bear Demon) and Kane-dōji (Iron Demon).

Names of swords and weapons

The warriors in their oi chests concealed their armor and swords, many of which have proper names.

Raikō's chest contained the sword Chisui (ちすゐ, which is also "血吸", bloodsucker), a vermilion armor (hiodoshi) called randen gusari (らんでん鎖, Randen Chain) and a vermilion helmet called Shishiō (Lion King).

Hōshō's chest contained a two-footed halberd (ko-naginata) called Iwakiri (Cutter).

Tsuna's chest contained a sword called Onikiri (Slashing demon) and a set of yellow-green armor and helmet.

The royal sword Dojigiri, which is one of the Five Best Swords under Heaven and a designated national treasure in Japan, is associated with the tradition of being the sword that killed Shuten-dōji.

However, in the Otogi Bunko (Fairy Tale) text discussed here, with the appearance of so many swords it is uncertain which sword should be credited with beheading the demon.

Shuten-dōji's Analysis

It has been said that Shuten-dōji was the strongest oni in Japan, Academic folklorist Kazuhiko Komatsu has singled out Shuten-dōji among the three most feared yōkai of the Middle Ages in the city of Kyoto along with the fox Tamano-no-Mae and the demon Ōtakemaru.

Shuten-dōji's Local folklore

Shuten-dōji, according to one legend, was born in Ganbara, Echigo.

However, there is an idea that from the base of Mount Ibuki, where in literature such as Nihonshoki appears the legend of the defeat of the giant snake Yamata no Orochi against Susanoo in a battle, he fled from Izumo to Ōmi, where he had a child with a wealthy person, that child was Shuten-dōji.

Both father and son had an unmatched thirst for sake, often cited as a prop.


According to the Otogi Bunko version as described above, Shuten-dōji originally hailed from Echigo Province (now Niigata Prefecture) and had lived since the Heian period (8th c.) when Dengyō Daishi and Kōbō-Daishi were active.

Local legends elaborated that he was a page of the Kokojou-ji (国上寺) (in Tsubame, Niigata) (On Mount Kugami), there is a Chigo-dō where he explains what happened).

Being 12 years old, he was a rather handsome boy and rejected all the women who loved him, all of whom died for love.

When he burned all the letters he received from the girls in love, a smoke came out and enveloped him, turning him into an Oni. Because of this, it was said that he became an oni and after moving from one mountain to another centered on Honshu he finally settled on Mount Ōe.

One story of those told was that he was the son of a blacksmith in Echigo, that he was in his mother's womb for 16 months and carried teeth and hair when he was born, in addition to this, he could immediately walk and talk at the level of a 5-6 year old child.

He had the wisdom and physical strength of a 16 year old and had a rough temperament and because of this wit he was rejected as an "oni child".

According to Zentaiheiki, when he was 6 years old, he was abandoned by his mother, wandered from place to place and finally took the path to become an oni.

There is also another legend that tells that since he was scorned as an oni child he was custioded in a temple, the head priest of that temple was a practitioner of unorthodox techniques and the child became an oni after learning those techniques that exhausted the limits of evil.

In the city of Wanou (now Niigata) it is said that when a pregnant woman eats a fish called "tochi", that child will become a thief if it is a boy and a prostitute if it is a girl.

It is also said that if a woman eats the same fish and her child is kept for 16 months in the womb upon giving birth that child would be Shuten-dōji. In Wanou, there are places with names such as Dōji estate or Dōji field.

Mount Ibuki, Shiga

Some versions of the legend locate Mount Ibuki in Omi Province (now Shiga Prefecture).

He, who was born to the great snake Yamata no Orochi (in his avatar as the myōjin of Mount Ibuki) and a girl, was a page at Mount Hiei from an early age, underwent training, but began to drink sake which was totally forbidden by Buddhism, indeed he was a heavy drinker and thus hated by all.

One day, after a religious party where he was dressed in an oni costume, at the end of the party he tried to take off the costume but realized that he could not do it since it was stuck to his face.

In a very bad way he entered the deepest part of the mountain where he began his life as an oni. Then he met Ibaraki-doji and together they went to the city of Kyoto.

Nara Prefecture

He was a page for the Byakugō-ji in Yamato Province (now Nara Prefecture), but he found a corpse on a mountain near where he was staying, and due to his curiosity, he brought that corpse to the temple and had its priest eat it without telling him that it was human flesh.

After this, the page, frequently brought back meat, but not only corpse meat but also fresh human flesh of those he killed. The priest, who became suspicious, followed him and discovered the truth.

The priest after this, blamed Shuten-dōji for what he was doing and abandoned him on a mountain. The page boy would later become Shuten-dōji. It is said that the place where he was abandoned was called chigo-saka (page boy's hill).

According to another theory, he was the son of the first priest of Byakugō-ji, but as he grew and matured he developed large fangs and a horn, later to become a child as dangerous as a beast.

The priest, embarrassed by the boy, abandoned him, but the boy later returned to Mount Ōe and became Shuten-dōji.

Kyoto Prefecture

Legend of Mt. Ōe

From the Heian period to the Kamakura period, he was an uncontrolled oni who settled on the mountain in Tanba province, although he also settled on Mount Ōe in Nishikyō-ku located in Kyoto,

also known as Oi no Saka (老ノ坂) (within the Rakusai district of Kyoto) as well as his neighboring city Shinochōōji, Kameoka. In the legend of Mount Ōe in Tanba Province, there is a theory that it was a misrepresentation of bandits within Mount Ōe harassing passing travelers.

Oi No Saka

According to local legend, Yorimitsu and the others returned headlong to the capital, but at Oi-no-Saka (老ノ坂, Slope of Aging) by Mount Ōe at the southern end of Kyoto City), they were warned by an image of Jizō at the roadside.

"do not bring something dirty to the capital," and since the head could not be moved they buried it right there. Another theory says that when Dōji was dying, regretting all his crimes so far, he wished to help people suffering from mental illness by becoming a deity of great wisdom (daimyōjin).

Being the Kubitsuka Daimyōjin of the Oi no Saka slope, according to legends, he would perform miracles to cure people's mental illnesses.


It has also been said that Shuten-dōji was buried on Mount Ōe in Fukuchiyama, Kyoto, which is the origin of Onidake-inari-san jinja (鬼岳稲荷山神社).

Nariaiji Temple in Kyoto Prefecture preserves the sake bottle and cup from which the demon drank where Shinbenkidokushu (the sake that poisoned Shuten-dōji) was offered to him.

Shuten-dōji's Relationship with Ibaraki-dōji

Shuten-dōji wreaked havoc in Kyoto along with Ibaraki-dōji, but there are actually a few theories about their relationship. One such theory is that Ibaraki-dōji was not a male oni, but a female oni and was Shuten-dōji's lover.

Therefore, it has been said that both Shuten-dōji and Ibaraki-dōji knew of each other's existence and were heading to the capital together. (Kyoto)

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