Shuten Doji (酒呑童子)

Shuten Doji was the chief of the oni (a kind of demon or ogre), who were believed to live on Oi no Saka (Oi Hill Road) in Oe at the border between Kyoto and Tanba Province (he may also have been a robber). Various different kanji characters have been used to represent his name, including 酒顛童子, 酒天童子, 朱点童子, and 酒呑童子. According to "Otogi Zoshi" (a collection of fairy tales compiled in the Muromachi Period), Shuten Doji was over 6 meters tall and had a slightly red face, short and disheveled red hair, 5 horns, and 15 eyes. Shuten Doji's domain extended throughout the Oe-yama mountain range, where he lived in a great mansion that looked like the Palace of the Dragon King with many oni as his minions.

Various Legends about His Birth

One version says Shuten Doji was born in Nakamura, in the county of Kanbara, Echigo Province, while in another version he was born at the foot of Mt. Ibuki, Omi Province, the child of the daughter of a powerful local ruler and Yamata-no-Orochi, a legendary giant snake with eight heads who appears in Nihon Shoki, or Chronicles of Japan, and who fled to Omi from Izumo Province after being beaten by Susano, the Shinto god of the sea and storms. The fact that both Shuten Doji and Yamata-na-Orochi were both extremely fond of sake is cited as evidence for the latter version.

Another version says a child who attacked and ate people at night at Byakugo-ji Temple in Nara Prefecture grew up to become Shuten Doji.

Province of Echigo Legend

According to this version of legend, Shuten Doji was born in the Province of Echigo in the early Heian Period, a contemporary of the famous Japanese Buddhist leaders Denkyo Hoshi (Saicho) and Kobo Daishi (Kukai), and became a page of Kokujo-ji Temple (Tsubame City, Niigata Prefecture) (there is a path called 'Chigo Do,' or literally Page's Path, at the foot of Mt. Kugami, which is believed to have been used by Shuten Doji).

By the age of 12 or 13 his beauty was beyond comparison, causing many women to fall in love with him but he rejected all of them and they all died of lovesickness. He burned the love letters sent from those women, and when the letter of a woman bitter at not being able to convey her feelings was burnt, the smoke covered him and changed him into an oni. As an oni, Shuten Doji roamed about the mountains in Honshu, the main island of Japan, and finally settled on Mt. Oe according to this legend.

In another legend, he was born as a son of a blacksmith in Echigo Province, spent 16 months in his mother's womb, started walking and speaking like a five or six year old boy immediately after delivery, was as strong and intelligent as a 16 year old by the age of four and was detested by all the villagers, who nicknamed him 'onikko,' or 'oni-like child,' because of his abnormal wit and rough nature. According to the "Zen Taiheiki," a historical epic story mainly depicting samurai heroes in the Heian Period, he was abandoned by his mother at the age of six, wandered around various places and chose the life of oni.

Mt. Ibuki Legend

Born to a human mother and Yamata-no-Orochi, Shuten Doji underwent training as a Buddhist temple page at Mt. Hiei. But he was detested by his fellow pages as he drank, and drank heavily, an act prohibited by the Buddhist rule. One day he wore a ritual oni mask for a Buddhist fete, found the mask could not be removed after the fete, no matter how hard he tried and he then had to hide deep in the mountains and lead the life of an oni. According to this version of legend, he then met Ibaraki Doji and they decided to go up to Kyoto together.

Oe Town Legend

The "Oni" were a group of outlaws who rampaged through Kyoto from the Heian to the Kamakura Period and were believed to be based at Oe-cho (the Rakusai district in Kyoto City), an area covering today's Nishikyo Ward and Ukyo Ward of Kyoto City and neighboring Oji, Shino-cho, Kameoka City, a hilly area that was once called Mt. Oe. This area is traditionally considered to be the border between Kyoto and the outside world, and the place is generally considered to be the Mt. Oe where Shuten Doji is believed to have lived.

Relationship with Ibaraki Doji

Ibaraki Doji is another legendary figure who raised havoc in Kyoto together with Shuten Doji, and there are various versions of stories that describe his relationship with Shuten Doji. He is described as a "female oni, not a male one" in one version and as Shuten Doji's son or girlfriend in others. Whoever he was, according to legend he came to know Shuten Doji and agreed to go to Kyoto together.

Shuten Doji as One of Japan's Trio of Heinous Specters

It is often said that Shuten Doji is Japan's strongest oni, and he came to be counted as one of Japan's Trio of Heinous Specters, the other two being Tamamonomae, a women of incredible beauty who is in fact a white-faced fox with nine golden tails and Emperor Sutoku who, out of bitterness, turned into a great Tengu, a legendary supernatural creature. Among the numerous Japanese specters, Shuten Doji is now counted as one of the best-known.

According to legend, Shuten Doji, based at Mt. Oe, Kyoto, often appeared in the urban area of Kyoto with many of his subordinates, including Ibaraki Doji, kidnapped noble princesses to make them serve him or filleted and ate them raw, according to the legend. Because of his extreme wickedness, the Emperor ordered the formation of a punitive force composed of the Four Loyal Retainers of Yorimitsu, led by MINAMOTO no Yorimitsu of the Settsu-Genji and WATANABE no Tsuna of the Saga-Genji. After being put at ease with a feast of noble women's blood and flesh, at the height of festivities, Yorimitsu slipped Shuten Doji some poisoned sake called 'Jinbenkidoku-shu,' which he had given, together with a helmet, by a god and when Shuten Doji was paralyzed after drinking the sake, Yorimitsu cut off his head. But it is said that even after Shuten Doji's head was cut off, he bit Yorimitsu's helmet.

Yorimitsu and his team brought the head to Kyoto, but when they heard advice from a roadside Jizoson (Ksitigarbha) at Oi no Saka saying 'Do not bring a filthy thing to Kyoto,' the head stopped moving even an inch at all since then. Therefore, the team buried the head then and there. Another version tells that Shuten Doji, as he was dying, repented all his sins and wished to help people who suffer diseases above their neck and was therefore enshrined as a Daimyo-jin, literally a great Shinto god. The Kubizuka Daimyo-jin, literally "head mound great Shinto god," located at Oi no Saka Pass, is believed to be the Shinto shrine where the head of Shuten Doji was enshrined, and today is visited by many people hoping to be cured of diseases above the neck.

Nariai-ji Temple in Kyoto Prefecture keeps a sake bottle and a drinking cup believed to have been used to serve the Jinbenkidoku-shu.

The oldest existing literature to record the name Shuten Doji is the 'Oeyama Shuten Doji Emaki' (Picture Scroll of Shuten Doji in Mt. Oe, owned by Itsuo Art Museum), which is designated as an important cultural asset, but his description in this literature is quite different from that described above. Firstly the Picture Scroll uses "天" (meaning sky, heaven) instead of "呑" (meaning drink) for his name Shuten Doji (酒呑童子); secondly it describes him as a kind of a powerful local figure or a fierce god.
It also says 'Shuten Doji owned Mt. Hiei for generations but was forced by Denkyo Daishi to move to Mt. Oe.'
It tells that Shuten Doji told Yorimitsu and his fellows that 'an oni never cheats' and severely swore at them for making him drunk and off guard before he was beaten.


There are several movies filmed before and after World War II on the themes of Shuten Doji and oni extermination.

One of them, "Mount Oe Shuten Doji", made by Daiei Kyoto in 1960, was a blockbuster movie starring most of the Daiei stars of the time.

Mount Oe Shuten Doji (Daiei 1960) directed by Tokuzo TANAKA and starring Kazuo HASEGAWA, Raizo ICHIKAWA, and Shintaro KATSU.


Shuten Doji

A romantic manga created by Go NAGAI. An animated film and a novel were also produced based on this manga.

Go NAGAI studied early versions of the legend and the characters and events that Shuten Doji was based on and put together the results in the book, "Yami no Utage Shuten Doji Ibun," literally "A Banquet in the Dark: Strange Stories of Shuten Doji."


A manga created by Makoto NIWANO serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump
Shuten Doji in this manga is depicted as a person named Ivan Stendorf. See THE MOMOTAROH Oni Ichizoku for details.

In addition, manga cartoonist Haruto UMEZAWA also serialized a manga "Shuten☆Doji" with 'Shuten Doji as a motif' in Weekly Shonen Jump.


The "Fusatsuki" series

A novel by Kei SHIMOJIMA
Shuten Doji (also known as Kidomaru and Hijiri TOKURA) was talked into mending his ways by Seimei ABE and, together with Raiden (also known as Takato HAJI and Yumio SHIJIMA), kept the evil spirits under control. He looks like an ordinary young man in his late teens or early twenties. He is an impulsive doer who puts action before thinking. This is in stark contrast to the character of Raiden. He also thinks more of others than himself and is very friendly and amiable. He speaks the Kansai dialect.


Otogi Zoshi (anime)

An anime created by Nippon Television
In this cartoon, Shuten Doji appears as the chieftain of the Kumaso people, intending to revolt against the Japanese Imperial Court. He obtained the necessary weapons through trading with the continent, led his army from Kyushu to Honshu, built a fortress at Mt. Oe and attacked Heian-kyo with catapults, but in reality he was just being used as a pawn by the behind-the-scenes manipulator, Seimei ABE.

Yoroiden Samurai Troopers

An anime produced by Nagoya Broadcasting Network Co., Ltd. and Sunrise Inc., an animated film production company, and aired by TV Asahi. In this film, Shuten Doji is called Onimasho Shuten Doji, one of the Four Dark Warlords who serve Arago the Demon Lord. See Yoroiden Samurai Troopers, Four Dark Warlords for details.


The fifth Kinnikuman movie, "Kinnikuman Hour of Triumph! Seigi Choujin," has Shuten Doji as the ancestor of an Evil Lord. Kinnikuman traveled back in time to the Edo Period and fought against Shuten Doji.


O・TO・GI - Otogi - (English title: Otogi: Myth of Demons)

An action game for the Xbox
The main character is Raiko GENJI (also known as MINAMOTO no Yorimitsu), and Shuten Doji is his rival. Shuten Doji also makes a guest appearance in the sequel, "O・TO・GI - Hyakki Tobatsu Emaki" (English title: Otogi 2: Immortal Warriors), in which the main characters include Seimei ABE and the Four Retainers of Raiko in addition to Raiko GENJI.

Momotaro Densetsu

Computer RPG
Shuten Doji appears as one of the boss characters. In this story and its sequel, Shin Momotaro Densetsu, Shuten Doji is depicted as a rival of the hero characters rather than a villain because he is a royal vassal of Yama, the King of Hell, is highly trusted by his Four Retainers as well as many other ogres, and makes a fight fair and square with no cheap tricks. In this series of stories, Ibaraki Doji also appears, but he is just one of the minor characters, not a direct vassal of Shuten Doji. In some of the stories, the relationship is quite opposite; Ibaraki Doji appears as one of the boss characters, and Shuten Doji is just a minor villain.

Tengai Makyō II: Manjimaru

Computer RPG PC Engine/Play Station 2/Game Cube
Shuten Doji appears as the father of Kinu, a woman who is one of the descendants of the Fire clan. In this story, when an assault echelon of the Roots clan led by Fubuki Gozen attacks Mt. Oe, Shuten Doji is killed by them, but he resurrects at the end of the story and appears for the first time in the story.

Over My Dead Body

Computer RPG
In this game, Shuten Doji appears in the opening movie where he brutally kills the parents of the first main character and puts a 'Sterilization Curse' and a 'Short-life Curse' on the main character so that he won't be able to have descendants with a human and he will be extremely short-lived.


In Tsubasa City, Niigata Prefecture, the place mentioned above in 'Province of Echigo Legend,' there is a yosakoi dance team named 'Shuten Doji' which performs dances based on the Shuten Doji legend at the city's 'Shuten Doji Parade' held every fall.