What Is Oni? The Mythology Of The Japanese Oni In Folklore

The word "Oni" is often used to describe something that seems unstoppable or unbreakable.

What is Oni ?

In Japan, there are many tales of Oni, demons with sharp teeth and horns, terrorizing its victims. In Shinto mythology, Oni is an ancestral demon.

In folklore, Oni's skin color ranges from blue to the more common red. However, it can also be white or even a mix of colors. This may have been inspired by the Japanese dragons, which are said to have many colors. The blue Oni may be inspired by the Chinese mythological creature Bai Ze, who is considered a protector of justice in some provinces.


It was believed that Oni could transform themselves into familiar animals or disguise themselves as people. However, in modern times they are portrayed as they originally were. The Oni is depicted as a humanoid with horns and sharp teeth.

The Japanese Oni is known for its strength and will use that strength to take over shrines or villages. The reasons for Oni's strength vary throughout tales, but it is most commonly caused by anger or rage. This can be seen in one of Oni's titles, "Oni of Infinite Rage". Sometimes the Oni's strength can be attributed to a demon bloodline. To defeat an Oni, you must cut off all of its limbs before it reaches the ground again. Otherwise, it will become whole again and resume its attack.

In some regions of Japan, Onis are still worshiped as ancestors of their village. When a villager dies, they may be cremated and brought to a mountain where they can become an Oni. They would then be called back as family members and protect their village from harm. Since Onis are said to be demons that protect their villages, they are treated like royalty in some regions.

Types of Oni According to Japanese Folklore:

Oni is a broad category of Yokai that embodies evil and greedy nature. They come in different shapes and sizes, with some Oni being many stories tall while others taking human form. The following list details the more common types of Oni:

Gaki (餓鬼) :-

Voracious ghosts or demons of gluttony.

Gaki Oni

Kijo (鬼女) :-

Hideous Oni with long teeth and fingers used to murder humans. These are Oni females who murder humans, often for pleasure. However, they don't always kill their victims. Sometimes they take human form to seduce young men in order to get pregnant so they can give birth to an Oni child.

Kijo Oni

They also kidnap small children and hide them in the mountains where they raise them as future servants of evil. Oftentimes Kijo seems gentle at first glance, especially when compared with male Oni, but once you unknowingly make yourself their enemy there is no escape.

Onmoraki (陰魔井) :-

A Japanese demon who hides in the darkness of caves and basements, preying on those who enter. They are said to be related to the Tengu.

Onmoraki Oni

Otoroshi (オトロシ) :-

A hairy, ape-like Oni with an enlarged brow ridge and long fangs. It is said to whistle as it approaches you which could be mistaken for wind chimes if you are not careful.

Otoroshi Oni

Ushi-Oni (牛鬼) :-

Demon cows that often appear in Japanese folklore to scare humans out of their fields and eat them. They're called bovine ogres in English, but "ushi-oni" has become its own term since being imported into the West via manga & anime many years ago.


Yaen () :-

Twin Oni who are usually depicted as young men in Yokai art and folklore. They are masters of the ninja arts and will use smoke and poison to kill their victims.

Zenko (禍野鬼) :-

A powerful type of Oni who is said to guard graveyards, temples, or mountains during the hours of 5:00-7:00 am. Its name means "evil field demon" and its face is usually painted white with black eyebrows. It has shaggy eyebrows that converge above his nose that look like horns, which makes him particularly menacing when he glares at you from between them.

Zenko Oni

Gozu (牛頭) :-

A pair of demon cows that travel together. They are said to enjoy loud noises and shouting, similar to Baku (獏). While Gozu refers to the two of them collectively, individually they are instead called Ushi-Oni (牛鬼).

Gozu Oni

The most famous tale about them is about how one day some priests were meditating in the forest when suddenly the ground started rumbling beneath them. Without warning, two gigantic cow heads burst through the ground with horns several feet long. The frightened monks all ran away screaming except for one who was so shocked he couldn't move at first

Tearai Oni :-

Tearai Oni is a particularly rare type of Oni that takes the form of both genders. They typically inhabit wooded areas and they can change gender at will. Because they are so varied, there is no one cursed item to ward against them nor any sure way to recognize one if encountered.

Tearai Oni

If you find yourself in close quarters with this kind of Oni you might consider yourself lucky because some say they also keep treasure hidden in their caves but be prepared for an adventure like no other when you go looking for it!

Shura (修羅) :-

Demonic beings that live among us on Earth because of a curse that keeps them from entering Hell or the Underworld.

Shura Oni

Rokurokubi (轆轤首) :-

These are basically humans who have their heads stretched from their bodies at night.

Rokurokubi Oni

Shinigami (死神) :–

These are spirits in Japanese folklore who are responsible for guiding souls to the afterlife.

Shinigami Oni

We hope you all enjoyed this article on Oni as much as we enjoyed researching and writing about them. As always, feel free to leave a comment or your own knowledge about the subject in the comments section below. If you're interested then you can buy a huge variety of Japanese Oni masks from us to play your favorite oni character.

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