immortal wishes:
labor and transcendence
on a Japanese sacred mountain

Ellen Schattschneider

Duke University Press (2003)


Teaching Resources

Akakura Mountain Shrine

Sacred Beings

Oni (Demons)

(see Immortal Wishes, pp. 162-165)

Worshippers believe that Akakura mountain is inhabited by a multitude of demons (oni), who pose particular dangers to those undertaking shugyo (ascetic discipline) on its slopes. Demons may call out the name of unwary ascetics climbing the mountain, and possess them.

Various sites on the mountain have strong associations with demons, including the "lookout of the demons" and the "Demon Sumo Ring".

The nearby "Oni Jinja" (Demon shrine) is dedicated to these complex beings, especially the figure of Onigamisama, considered by many to be the original presiding spirit of the mountain. As elsewhere in Japan, "oni" were formerly venerated as indigenous divinities and are now widely regarded as subjugated, dangerous figures.

This demon mask is stored on the altar of the Shinden (inner sanctuary)

Internet Resources on Demons in Japan

Very interesting and helpful article on the common ritual of expelling demons at New Year's. A version of this rite is performed each New Year's at Akakura Mountain Shrine.

Tengu: The Legendary Mountain Goblins of Japan (Charles Goodwin)

The Japanese Oni Exchange Museum (Ohe, Tango Province, Kyoto Prefecture)


Japanese Ghosts (Tim Screech, SOAS)

What is Oni? (Yukio Taniguchi)

A Japanese ceramic artists reflects on the meanings of oni


From the Glossary of Shinto Names and Terms
A helpful on line dictionary of Shinto terms, prepared by the Institute for Japanese Culture and Classics, Kokugakuin University



Website developed by Ellen Schattschneider (Brandeis University)