Phew… today was a long day. Left the house at 8:30 and got home at 11:30… pm… A 15 hour day. But Wednesdays are my busiest day, and I knew that going into this project, so I was happy that I had done all of my research for this project last month. When I got home all I had to do was draw and paint! But like Monday, it was another all-nighter! Do to time constraints, this painting was done on a smaller shikishi than normal, so it only took about 4 hours instead of the usual 12. Anyway, it’s a strange and interesting yokai, so please read on!
Ushi-oni literally means “ox demon,” and as vague as that sounds, the creature itself is even more mysterious. There are many many different depictions of ushi-oni throughout Japanese folklore. It’s a common theme across the country, but it seems that every region of Japan has its own version of the ushi-oni, each one drastically different from the one before it.
You may remember the smaller one I painted last year as part of the Hyakki Yako panels (another all-nighter!). That one, admittedly, is my favorite depiction of the ushi-oni. Based on a painting by Sawaki Suushi, an 18th century painter who did a gorgeous yokai anthology called Hyakkai-Zukan, it depicts a monstrous crab-like beast with a hairy carapace and the head of a bull. It likes to attack fishermen, and is also often found working in cahoots with a nure-onna (which I will paint later this month, and which was also part of last year’s Hyakki Yakko panels). This ushi-oni is found in Shimane prefecture and around western Japan.
Another famous ushi-oni is from Ehime prefecture, most famous for its likely named festival, the Ushi-oni Matsuri. This yokai more resembles a Chinese dragon, with many dancers forming a head and a body, and with a long sword at the end of its tail. This ox demon is said to drive away evil spirits.
There are many others, however the one I bring you today comes from Negoro-ji temple in tiny Kagawa prefecture, Shikoku (also the location of the strange Japanese movie, Battle Royale). This guy has tusks, wrist spurs, flying-squirrel-like wings, and is not a jovial bovine. About 400 years ago he terrorized the area until he was slain by a famous archer. The archer dedicated the creature’s horns to the temple, where they can still be seen today! And in the monster’s memory a large statue was erected. I hope I can visit it some day… and then go get some yakiniku!
Etsy prints will be available very soon! Please bear with me a bit longer, until I have a day where I don’t have to pull an all-nighter to finish.