Hitotsume Kozo

Hitotsume kozo are child-like and cheeky yokai appearing as small one-eyed goblins, with shaved heads and usually dressed in Buddhist robes. They have one enormous eye and a long red tongue. While relatively harmless they are known to appear suddenly on dark streets to frighten people or shout at them to be quiet. It is also believed that they are bad omens, and so it is best to avoid seeing one. Apparently, hanging a basket on your door with many holes in it will repel them. This is believed to be because the many holes look like many eyes, and hitotsume kozo will feel both jealous and ashamed because of their single eye, and so run way.

'Hitotsume Kozu' - Utagawa Toyokuni, 1793.
They are well-known throughout Japan and it is believed that in December they travel the land checking to see who has been good and bad. They have the power to decide on family fortunes for the upcoming year. Sometimes they are confused with the yokai known as tofu kozu as there are some images showing hitotsume kozu licking a block of tofu. Somehow over time it because accepted that tofu was the favourite food of hitotsume kozu.

Image from Obake Karuta (Yokai Cards) from early 19th Century.

Masayoshi Kitao, from Kibyoshi, Edo Period.