The Goblin of Oyeyama by Yei Theodora Ozaki
Long, long ago in Old Japan, in the reign of the Emperor Ichijo, the
sixty-sixth Emperor, there lived a very brave general called
Minamoto-no-Raiko. Minamoto was the name of the powerful clan to which
he belonged, and in England it would be called his surname, and Raiko,
or Yorimitsu, was his own name.
In those times it was the custom for generals to keep as a body-guard
four picked knights renowned for their daring spirit, their great
strength, and their skill in wielding the sword. These four braves were
called Shitenno, or Four Kings of Heaven, and they participated in all
the exploits and martial expeditions of their chief, and vied with one
another in excelling in bravery and dexterity.
Minamoto-no-Raiko was no exception to the general rule of those ancient
leaders of Japan, and he had under him Usui-Sadamitsu, Sakata Kintoki,
Urabe Suetake, and Watanabe Tsuna (the clan or surname comes first in
Japan). Search the wide world from north to south and from east to west,
and no braver warriors than the Shitenno of Minamoto-no-Raiko could you
find. Each one of the four was said to be a match single-handed for a
thousand men. They lived for adventure, and their delight was in war.
Now it happened about this time that Kyoto, the capital, was ringing
with the stories of the doings of a frightful demon that lived in the
fastnesses of a high mountain called Mount Oye, in the province of
Tamba. This goblin or demon's name was Shutendoji. To look upon the
creature was a horrible thing, and those who once caught sight of him
never forgot the sight to their dying day. He sometimes took upon him
the form of a human being, and leaving his den would steal into the
capital and haunt the streets and carry off precious sons and beloved
daughters of the Kyoto homes. Having seized these treasures and flowers
of the people, he would drag them to his castle in the wilds of Mount
Oye, and there he would make them work and wait upon him till he was
ready to devour them, then he would tear them limb from limb.
For a long time the flower of the youth of the capital had been
kidnapped in this way; many homes had been made desolate. For a long,
long time no one had the least idea of what happened to the sons and
daughters thus stolen, but at the period when this story begins, the
dread news of the cannibal Shutendoji and his mountain den began to be
Now at the Court there was an official, Knight Kimitaka by name, who was
thrice happy in the possession of a beautiful daughter. She was his only
child, and upon her he and his wife doted. One day the darling of the
family disappeared, and no trace whatsoever of the beautiful girl could
be found. The household was plunged into the deepest grief and misery.
The mother at last determined to consult a soothsayer, and, bidding an
attendant follow her, she repaired to the house of a famous
fortune-teller and diviner, who revealed to her that her daughter had
been stolen away by the goblin of Mount Oye. The mother hastened home
terror-stricken, and the father, when he was told the dire news, was
dumb with grief. He gave up going on duty at the Palace, for he was so
broken-hearted that he could do nothing but weep night and day over the
loss of his only daughter. To lose her was bad enough, but the thought
of the horrible hands into which she had fallen was unendurable, and all
who loved the poor child, even her own father, were powerless to save
her. Oh! the bitter, bitter grief!
At last the Emperor heard of the sorrow that had overtaken Kimitaka,
and his wrath was great to think that the hateful goblin had dared to
enter the precincts of the sacred capital without permission, and had
dared to steal away his subjects in this manner. And in his royal
indignation he sprang to his feet and threw down his tasselled fan and
cried aloud: "Is there no one in my domains who will punish this goblin
and destroy him utterly, and avenge the wrongs he has done my people and
this city, and so set my heart at ease?"
Then the Emperor called his Council together, and put the matter before
them and asked them what it were best to do, for the city must at all
costs be rid of this terrible scourge.
"How dare he haunt my dominions and lay hands on my people in the very
precincts of my Palace?" cried the distressed Emperor.
Then the Ministers respectfully answered the Emperor and said: "There
are numbers of brave warriors in Your Majesty's realm, but there are
none so able to do your bidding as Minamoto-no-Raiko. We would humbly
advise our August Emperor, the Son of Heaven, to send for the knight and
command him to slay the demon. Our poor counsel may not find favour in
the Son of Heaven's sight, but at the present moment we can think of
nothing else to suggest!"
This advice pleased the Emperor Ichijo, and he answered that he had
often heard of Raiko as a valiant knight and true, who knew not what
fear was, and he had no doubt that, as his Ministers said, he was just
the man for the adventure. And so the Emperor summoned Raiko to the
Palace at once.
The warrior, on receiving the royal and unexpected summons, hastened to
the Palace, wondering what it could mean. When he was told what was
wanted of him, he prostrated himself before the throne in humble
acquiescence to the royal command. Indeed Raiko was right glad at the
thought of the adventure in store for him, for it had been quiet for
some time in Kyoto, and he and his braves had chafed at the enforced
The more he realized the awful difficulty of his task, the higher his
courage and his spirits rose to face it and the more he determined to do
it or die in the attempt.
He went home and thought out a plan of action.
As the enemy was no human being, but a formidable goblin, he thought
that the wisest course would be to resort to stratagem instead of an
open encounter, so he decided to take with him a few of his most trusted
men rather than a great number of soldiers. He then called together his
four braves, Kintoki, Sadamitsu, Suetake, and Tsuna, and besides these
another knight, by name Hirai Yasumasa, nicknamed Hitori, which meant,
as applied to him, "the only warrior."
Raiko told them of the expedition, and explained that, as the demon was
no common foe, he thought it wise that they should go to his mountain in
disguise; in this way they would the more likely and the more easily
overcome the goblin. They all agreed to what their chief said and set
about making their preparations with great joy. They polished up their
armour and sharpened their long swords and tried on their helmets,
rejoicing in the prospect of the action confronting them. Before
starting on this dangerous enterprise, they thought it wise to seek the
protection and blessing of the gods, so Raiko and Yasumasa went to pray
for help at the Temple of Hachiman, the God of War, at Mount Otoko,
while Tsuna and Kintoki went to the Sumiyoshi Shrine of the Goddess of
Mercy, and Sadamitsu and Suetake to the Temple of Gongen at Kumano. At
each shrine the six knights offered up the same prayer for divine help
and strength, and on bended knees and with hands laid palm to palm they
besought the gods to grant them success in their expedition and a safe
return to the capital.
Then the brave band disguised themselves as mountain priests. They wore
priests' caps and sacerdotal garments and stoles; they hid their armour
and their helmets and their weapons in the knapsacks they carried on
their backs; in their right hands they carried a pilgrim's staff, and
in their left a rosary, and they wore rough straw sandals on their
feet. No one meeting these dignified, solemn-looking priests would have
thought that they were on the way to attack the goblin of Mount Oye, and
no one would have dreamt that the leader of the band was the warrior
Raiko, who for courage and strength had not his peer in the whole of the
In this way Raiko and his men travelled across the country till at last
they reached the province of Tamba and came to the foot of the mountain
of Oye. Now as the goblin had chosen Mount Oye as his place of abode,
you can imagine how difficult of access it was! Raiko and his men had
often travelled in mountainous districts, but they had never experienced
anything like the steepness of Mount Oye. It was indescribable. Great
rocks obstructed the way, and the branches of the trees were so thickly
interlaced overhead that the light of day could not penetrate through
the foliage even at midday, and the shadows were so black that the
warriors would have been glad of lanterns. Sometimes the path led them
over precipices where they could hear the water rushing along the deep
ravines beneath. So deep were these chasms that as Raiko and his men
passed them they were overcome with giddiness. For the first time they
realized now the dangers and difficulties of the task they had
undertaken, and they were somewhat disheartened. At times they rested
themselves on the roots of trees to gain breath, sometimes they stopped
to quench their thirst at some trickling spring, catching the water up
in their hands. They did not, however, allow themselves to be
discouraged long, but pushed their way deeper and deeper into the
mountain, encouraging each other with brave words of cheer when they
felt their spirits flagging. But the thought sometimes crossed their
minds, though they one and all kept it to themselves, "What if
Shutendoji, or some of his demons, should be lurking behind any of the
rocks or cliffs?"
Suddenly from behind a rock three old men appeared. Now Raiko, who was
as wise as he was brave, and who at that very moment had been thinking
of what he should do were they to encounter the goblin unexpectedly,
thought that sure enough here were some of the goblins, who had heard of
his approach. They had simply disguised themselves as these venerable
old men so as to deceive him and his men! But he was not to be outwitted
by any such prank. He made signs with his eyes to the men behind him to
be on their guard, and they in obedience to his gesture put themselves
in attitudes of defence.
The three old men saw at once the mistake Raiko had made, for they
smiled at him and then drawing nearer, they bowed before him, and the
foremost one said: "Do not be afraid of us; we are not the goblins of
this mountain. I am from the province of Settsu. My friend is from Kii,
and the third lives near the capital. We have all been bereft of our
beloved wives and daughters by Shutendoji the goblin. Because of our
great age we can do nothing to help them, though our sorrow for their
loss, instead of growing less, grows greater day by day. We have heard
of your coming, and we have awaited you here, so that we might ask you
to help us in our distress. It is a great favour we ask, but we entreat
you if you encounter Shutendoji to show him no mercy, but to slay him
and so avenge the wrongs of our wives and children and many others who
have been torn away from their homes in the Flower Capital."
Raiko listened attentively to all the old man said, and then answered:
"Now that you have told me so much, I need not reserve the truth from
you"; and he went on to tell them of the order he had received from the
Emperor to destroy Shutendoji and his den, and the warrior did his best
to comfort the old men and to assure them that he would do all in his
power to restore their kidnapped wives and daughters.
Then the old men expressed great joy; their faces beamed like the sun as
they thanked Raiko warmly for his kind sympathy, and they presented him
with ajar of saké, saying as they bowed low: "As a token of our
gratitude we wish to present you with this magic wine. It is called
Shimben-Kidoku-Shu.' The name means, 'a cordial for men but a poison to
goblins.' Therefore if a demon drinks of this wine, all his strength
will go from him, and he will be as one paralyzed. Before you attack
Shutendoji, give him to drink of this wine, and for the rest you will
find no difficulty."
And with these words the venerable spokesman handed the warrior a small
white stone jar containing the wine. As soon as Raiko had taken the jar
into his hands, a radiance like that of sunlight suddenly shone round
the old men, and they vanished upwards from sight till their shining
figures were lost in the clouds.
The warriors were struck with astonishment. They gazed upwards as if
stupefied. But Raiko was the first to recover from his surprise. He
clapped his hands and laughed as he said: "Be not afraid at what you
have seen! Be sure that the three who thus appeared to us are none other
than the gods of the shrines we visited before starting on this perilous
enterprise. The old man who said he was from Settsu must have been the
deity of Sumiyoshi, the one from the province of Kii was the divinity of
Kumano, and the one from the capital the god Hachiman of Mount Otoko.
This is a most propitious sign. The three deities have taken us under
their special protection. This saké is their gift, and it will surely
be of magic power in helping us to overcome the demons. We must,
therefore, render thanks to Heaven for the protection vouchsafed to us."
Then Raiko and his five knights knelt down on the mountain pass and
bowed themselves to the ground and prayed for some minutes in silence,
overcome with awe at the thought that the three gods whose aid they had
invoked had visited them. Raiko sprang to his feet and lifted the jar of
saké reverently above his head, then he placed it with his armour and
weapons in the box he carried on his back. Having done this, they all
proceeded on their way, but oh! how safe and confident they now felt.
Raiko with his magic wine felt more than a match for any demon now.
There is a proverb which says, "A giant with an iron rod," which means
strength added to strength, and this was fully illustrated in the case
of Raiko. The goblin Shutendoji was now to be pitied; it would surely go
hard with him!
As they sped on their way they came to a mountain stream, and here they
found a damsel washing a blood-stained garment, and as she washed and
beat the garment against the current, they saw that she often had to
stop and wipe the tears away with her sleeve, for she was weeping
bitterly. Raiko's heart was stirred with pity at her distress, and he
went up to her and said: "This is a goblin-haunted mountain; how is it
that I find a damsel such as you here?"
The Princess (for such she was) looked up in his face wonderingly and
said: "It is indeed true that this is a goblin-haunted mountain, and
hitherto inaccessible to mortals. How is it that you have managed to get
here?" and she looked from Raiko to his men.
Then Raiko said: "I will tell you the truth quite frankly. The Emperor
has commanded us to slay the demon; that is why we are here!"
Without waiting to hear any more, the Princess ran up to Raiko in her
joy and clung to him, crying out in broken sentences: "Are you indeed
the great Raiko of whom I have so often heard? How thankful I am that
you have come. I will be your guide to the goblin's den. Hasten, Knight
Raiko, and kill the demons! I already feel that I am saved!"
When they heard these words the warriors knew that she was one of the
goblin's victims. The Princess turned and led the way up the hill.
Presently they saw a large iron gate guarded by two demons. The demon on
the right was red and the demon on the left was black, and each was
armed with a great iron stick or club. The Princess whispered to Raiko:
"Behold the home of the demon. Enter the gates, and you will find a
beautiful palace, built of black iron from the foundations to the roof.
It is therefore called the Palace of Black Iron or Kurogane. It is
large, and the inside is as beautiful as a great Daimio's palace. Within
the walls of the Palace of Black Iron, Shutendoji holds a feast night
and day. He is waited upon by maidens such as I, whom he has carried off
from the capital and from the provinces to be his slaves. The wine he
drinks, poured out in crimson lacquer cups, is the blood of human
beings, and the food of those feasts is the flesh of his victims who are
slain in turn. What numbers have I seen disappear, alas! all murdered to
supply the awful food and wine of those cannibal feasts. How I have
prayed to Heaven to punish this monster! But when I saw the fate of my
friends, how could I hope to live? I knew not when my turn would come.
But since I have met you I feel that we shall all be saved and great is
my joy and gratitude!"
By this time they had reached the gate, and the Princess went forward
and said to the red and black demon sentinels: "These poor travellers
have lost their way on this mountain. I took compassion on them and
brought them here, so that they may rest for a while before going on
their journey. I hope you will be kind to them."
When the Princess first began to speak the demons looked and saw Raiko
and his fellow priests. Little dreaming who these men were, and that in
admitting them they were letting in the bravest knights in the whole of
Japan, and still less suspecting their purpose, the demons laughed in
their hearts. Good prey had indeed fallen into their hands; they would
surely be allowed a share in the feast that these fresh victims would
They grinned from ear to ear at the Princess and told her that she had
done well, and bade her take the six travellers into the Palace and
inform Shutendoji of their arrival. Thus the six warriors entered into
the very stronghold of the demons as if they were invited guests.
Triumphant glee at the success of their plan made them exchange
lightning glances with each other. They passed through the great iron
gate, up to the porch, and then the Princess led them through large
spacious rooms and along great corridors till at last they reached the
inner part of the Palace. Here they were shown into a large hall. At the
upper end in the seat of honour sat the demon king Shutendoji. Never had
the knights in their wildest dreams dreamt of such a hideous monster. He
was ten feet in height, his skin was bright red and his wild shock of
hair was like a broom. He wore a crimson hakama, and he rested his
huge arms on a stand. As the knights entered, he glared at them fiercely
with eyes as big as a dish. The sight of this dread monster was enough
to make any one tremble with fear, and had Raiko and his knights been
weak they must have fainted away with horror.
Raiko could hardly restrain himself from flying at the monster then and
there, but he controlled himself and bowed humbly so as not to awaken
the enemy's suspicion in any way.
Shutendoji, glaring at him, said haughtily: "I do not know who you are
in the least, or how you have found your way into this mountain, but
make yourself at home!"
Then Raiko answered meekly: "We are only humble mountain priests from
Mount Haguro of Dewa. We were on our way to the capital, having been on
a pilgrimage to the shrine of Omine. In travelling across these
mountains we have lost our way. While wandering about and wondering
which was the right path to take, we were met by one of the inmates of
your palace and kindly brought here. Please pardon us for trespassing on
your domains and for all the trouble we are giving you!"
"Don't mention it," said Shutendoji; "I am sorry to hear of your plight.
Do not stand on ceremony while you are here, and let us feast together."
Then turning to the attendant demons he shouted orders for the dinner to
be served, and clapped his red hands together.
At this the partitions between the rooms slid apart and beautiful
damsels magnificently robed came gliding in, bearing aloft in their
hands large wine-cups, jars of saké and dishes of fish of all kinds,
which they placed before the ugly goblin and the guests. Raiko knew that
all these lovely princesses had been snatched from the Flower Capital by
Shutendoji, who, heedless of their tears and misery, kept them here to
be his handmaidens. He said to himself fiercely that they should soon be
Now that the wine-cups were brought in, the warrior seized his
opportunity. From his satchel he took out the jar containing the
enchanted wine, Shimben-Kidoku-Shu, which he had received from the gods
of the three shrines, and said to Shutendoji: "Here is some wine which
we have brought from Mount Haguro. It is a poor wine and unworthy of
your acceptance, but we have always found it of great benefit in
refreshing us when we were weary from fatigue and in cheering our
drooping spirits. It will give us much pleasure if you will try a little
of our humble wine, though it may not please your taste!"
Shutendoji seemed pleased at this courtesy. He handed out a huge cup to
be filled, saying: "Give me some of your wine. I should like to try it."
The goblin drained it at one swallow and smacked his lips over it.
"I have never tasted such excellent wine," he said and held out his cup
to be filled again.
You can imagine how delighted Raiko was, for he knew full well that the
demon was given into his hand. But he dissembled cleverly and said as he
filled the goblin's wine-cup: "I am delighted that the Honourable Host
should deign to like our poor country wine. While you drink, I and my
companions will venture to amuse you by our dancing."
Then Raiko made a sign to his men and they began to chant an
accompaniment, while he himself danced.
Shutendoji was highly amused as well as his attendants. They had never
seen men dance before, and they thought that the strangers were very
The goblins now began to pass the magic wine round and to grow merry.
Others meanwhile whispered among themselves, pitying the six travellers
who, all unconscious of the horrible fate which was about to overtake
them, were spending their last hours of liberty and probably of life in
giving wine to their slayers and in dancing and singing for their
Already, however, the power of the enchanted wine had begun to work and
Shutendoji grew drowsy. The wine in the jar never seemed to grow less,
however much was taken from it, and by this time all the demons had
helped themselves liberally. At last they all fell into a deep sleep,
and stretching themselves out on the floor and on one another, some in
one corner and some in another, they were soon snoring so loudly that
the room shook, and were as insensible to all that was going on as logs
"The time has come!" said Raiko, springing to his feet, and motioning to
his men to get to work. One and all hastily opened their knapsacks.
Taking out their helmets, their armour, and their long swords, they
armed themselves. When they were all ready they all knelt down, and,
placing their hands palm to palm, they prayed fervently to their patron
gods to help them now in their hour of greatest need and peril.
As they prayed, a shining light filled the room, and in a radiant cloud
the three deities appeared again. "Fear not, Warrior Raiko," they said.
"We have tied the hands and feet of the demon fast, so you have nothing
to fear. While your knights cut off his limbs, do you cut off his head;
then kill the rest of the oni and your work will be done." The three
old men then disappeared as mysteriously as they had come.
Raiko rejoiced at the vision and worshipped with his heart full of
gratitude the vanishing deities. The knights then rose from their knees,
took their swords and wet the rivets with water, so as to fix the blade
firmly in the hilt. Then they all stole stealthily and cautiously
towards Shutendoji. No longer the timid mountain priests; clad in full
armour, they were transformed into avenging warriors. With flashing eyes
and dauntless mien they moved across the room.
The captive princesses standing round realized that these men were
deliverers, from their beloved capital. Their joy and wonder cannot be
put into words. Some cried aloud with joy; others covered their faces
with their sleeves and burst into soft weeping; others raised their
hands to Heaven and exclaimed, "A Buddha come to Hell! Surely these
brave men will kill the demons and set us free"; and with clasped hands
they entreated the knights to slay their captors and take them back to
Now Raiko stood over the sleeping Shutendoji with drawn sword, and
raising it on high with a mighty sweep he aimed at the demon's neck,
which was as big round as a barrel.
The head was severed from the body at one blow, but, horrible to relate,
instead of falling to the ground, it flew up into the air in a great
rage. It hung over Raiko for a moment snorting flames of fire, and then
swooped down as if it would bite off the warrior's head, but it was
daunted by the glittering star on his helmet, and drew back and gazed in
surprise at the transformed man. Raiko was scorched by the demon's
flaming breath. Once more he raised his long sword and striking the
terrible head brought it to the ground at last.
The noise of the combat and the triumphant shouts of the warriors awoke
the other demons, who roused themselves as quickly as their stupefied
senses allowed them. They were in a great fright, and without waiting to
get their iron clubs, they made a rush upon Raiko. But they were too
late. His five braves dashed in and attacked them right and left, until
in a few minutes there was not one left to tell the tale of the
destruction which had come down upon them like the autumn whirlwind upon
the leaves of the forest glades.
The captive princesses, when they saw that their captors were all slain,
jumped about with gladness, waving their long sleeves to and fro, as the
tears of joy streamed down their pale faces. They ran to Raiko and
caught hold of his sleeves and praised him, saying: "Oh! Raiko Sama,
what a brave and noble knight you are! We are indeed grateful to you for
having saved our lives. Never have we seen such a wonderful warrior."
And with many such expressions of joy they gathered round the knight,
and their merry voices were now heard, instead of the groans of the
Now that Shutendoji was vanquished with all his horde, the way was quite
open for Raiko and his men to take the fair captives away from the
castle of horror and make their way back to the capital as soon as
First of all Raiko tied up the head of Shutendoji with a strong rope and
told the five brave knights to carry it. Then, followed by the
princesses, the little band left Mount Oye forever and set out on the
homeward journey. When they reached Kyoto the news of Raiko's return
spread like fire, and the people came out in crowds to welcome the
When the parents of the long-lost damsels saw their daughters again,
they felt as if they must be dreaming. It seemed too good to be true
that the dear and cherished ones should be restored to them safe and
well, and they overwhelmed Raiko with praise and with precious gifts.
Raiko took the head of Shutendoji to the Emperor and told him of all
that had happened to him. You may be sure that when His Majesty heard of
the success which had crowned Raiko and his expedition, he awarded him
great praise and merit and bestowed upon him higher Court rank than
In all the country, far and near, Raiko's name was in every one's mouth,
and he was acknowledged to be the greatest warrior in the land. Even in
the lonely country places there was not one poor farmer who did not know
of the brave deeds of the great general.
Ever since then his portrait is familiar to the boys of Japan, for it is
often painted on their kites.