Oni - Japanese Demons

In Japanese folklore, an oni is a kind of ferocious demon similar to an ogre. They usually have horns, big fangs and sharp claws. Although their skin colour can vary, it is common to see them portrayed as red or blue skinned, club wielding monsters. Oni have extreme strength and it is believed that they form an army of underworld demons. They spread disease, bring disaster and punish the damned in hell with all manner of horrific tortures which they are said to enjoy immensely.

Detail of hanging scroll depicting oni, 1764 - full image at end of post.

In Chinese Taoism, which influenced the Japanese esoteric practices of onmyodo (the way of yin and yang), the northeasterly direction is knowns as the kimon, or demon gate. This is considered a very unlucky direction as it is believed this gate is where evil spirits such as oni can pass between this world and the underworld. 

Oni, as illustrated in Konjaku Gazu Zoku Hyakki by Toriyama Sekien

 
'Demon Converted to Buddhism' - Kawanabe Kyosai, Edo period.

'Shuten Doji's Head Attacking Raiko's Band of Warriors' - Utagawa yoshitsuya (Detail).

'An Oni Preparing to Write in an Account Book' - Totoya Hokkei, 1830.

'Kintoki Throwing Beans at a Demon' - Katsukawa Shunsho, Edo period.

Oni in pilgrim's clothing, hanging scroll from Tokugawa period.

Demon mask, unknown artist.

'Samurai Toki Daishiro and Red Demon' - Tsukioka yoshitoshi, 1869.

Case (inro) with design of oni carrying temple bell and fish head on pole.

'Shuten Doji's Head Attacking Raiko's Band of Warriors' - Utagawa Yoshitsuya.

Sessen Doji Offering His Life to an Ogre (Japanese Oni), hanging scroll, color on paper, c. 1764

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