Translated and Sourced from Mizuki Shigeru’s Mujyara, Kaii Yokai Densho Database, Japanese Wikipedia, and Other Sources
If you are wandering through the forests of Japan and happen across a beast that looks like a strange blend of monkey and bear, don’t be scared. Just offer to split your lunch with it and the creature will most likely repay you by carrying your heavy load. At least that’s the story of the Ijuu, the strange beast.
What Does Ijuu Mean?
Whoever named the Ijuu wasn’t feeling particularly imaginative. Ijuu has two kanji making up its name, 異 (I; strange, mysterious) + 獣 (Juu; beast, creature). The name translates literally as “strange beast.”
The Tale of the Ijuu
There is only one story of the Ijuu, and it comes from Suzuki Bokushi’s Edo period book Hokuetsuseppu (北越雪譜; Snow Stories of North Etsu Province, 1837).
Long ago, in Echigo province (modern day Niigata prefecture), a porter named Takesuke was engaged in hauling a heavy load over a mountain pass to a faraway town. He had gone about 7 shaku (28 kilometers), when he became exhausted and hungry. Takesuke leaned his backpack against a tree, then sat down and rested against that same tree, unpacking his lunch and preparing to tuck in.
Before Takesuke could get a bite into his mouth, the thick bamboo of the forest was pushed aside, and an incredible monster stepped into sight. It was larger than a human, and looked like some mix between a monkey and a bear. It had long tufts of hair on its head, and fur covering its entire body.
Instead of panicking, the porter calmly looked at the strange beast. It looked hungry, Takesuke decided. He then casually split his lunch, offering the animal half. The creature was delighted, and accepted the food and ate it with vigor.
With the meal done, the strange beast leapt to its feel and shouldered Takesuke’s burden as if it weighted nothing at all. The porter walked ahead down the mountain trail, while the creature happily ambled along behind. When they got within sight of the porter’s definition, the creature took off the heavy backpack, set it down carefully, and scampered back into the forest.
It was never seen again.
Ijyuu is another one-shot yokai with only one appearance, and another translation for reader Michael Goldstein of Yokai Composed.
For as obscure and limited the Ijyuu is, it still got one of the coveted spots as a bronze statue on Mizuki Shigeru Road in Sakaiminato, Tottori prefecture.
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