Ijuu – The Strange Beast

Mizuki Shigeru Ijuu Strange Beast

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).

Suzuki Bokushi Iju Strange Beast

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.

Sakaiminato_Mizuki_Shigeru_Road_Ijyu_Statue_1

Translator’s Note:

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.

Further Reading:

For more mysterious monsters, check out:

Shirime – Eyeball Butt

Onikuma – The Demon Bear

The Kappa of Mikawa-cho

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. spdude48
    Jun 04, 2013 @ 18:35:38

    Another great read as always!

    Reply

  2. Mouryo
    Jun 04, 2013 @ 19:17:51

    I`ve seen tpictures of the stature before. Finally I know the story behind ths creature

    Reply

  3. Blue Satan
    Jun 05, 2013 @ 06:44:37

    Wow, very nice. So uncommon as ever!

    Reply

  4. Zack Davisson
    Jun 05, 2013 @ 11:07:28

    Thanks! Glad you like them! I don’t usually do these small guys, because there isn’t much to say about them–there is just the one story. But I’m glad to see people are enjoying them. I’ll do some more of the lesser-known yokai.

    Reply

  5. Jose Prado
    Jun 06, 2013 @ 23:35:09

    Please do! I enjoyed learning about Ijuu.

    Reply

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