The Tale of Momiji

In Japanese folklore there is a tale about a powerful mountain witch called Momiji. The name Momiji translates as maple leaves, and the story takes place during Autumn, when the leaves begin to fall. The tale begins with the samurai Koremochi who was given the task of hunting and killing oni (demons). He was travelling through the mountains with his retainers when they came across a leaf-viewing party. They were told that it was being hosted by Princess Sarashina and were requested to join. Out of politeness they did so and later that evening the beautiful princess danced for Koremochi. 
 
Scene from Kabuki play with actors as Kijo and Koremochi - Toyohara Kunichika, 1898.

That night the samurai had a dream of the god Hachiman who told him that in fact the princess was actually a powerful mountain witch or kijo (demon woman) called Momiji in disguise. In the dream, Hachiman also told him that he should kill her with a magical sword. When Koremochi woke he was holding the sword in his hand and immediately went to find the princess. Instead, he found an enormous kijo with flaming horns, and after a fierce battle he was able to defeat and kill her.
 
'Red Maple Hunting' - Tsukioka Kogyo, ca. 1925.
 
Japan's first narrative film told the story of Princess Sarashina. It was made in 1899 and was based on a noh play, and later a kabuki play.You can watch part of the film here and read more about it here. In 2009 the film was designated as Important Cultural Property of Japan.

Scene from 1899 film.
 
'Momikigari' - Katsukawa Shunsho, 1780.
 
'Momiji' - Enrico Bisetto

'Koremochi About to Kill the Female Demon' - Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1887

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