Daikoku And The Oni
: Japanese Fairy World
A long while ago, when the idols of Buddha and his host of disciples came
to Japan, after traveling through China from India, they were very much
vexed because the people still liked the little black fellow named
Daikoku. Even when they became Buddhists they still burned incense to
Daikoku, because he was the patron of wealth; for everybody then, as now,
wanted to be rich. So the Buddhist idols determined to get rid of the
little fat fellow. How to do it was the question. At last they called
Yemma, the judge of the lower regions, and gave him the power to destroy
Now Yemma had under him a whole legion of oni, some green, some black,
others blue as indigo, and others of a vermillion color, which he usually
sent on ordinary errands.
But for so important an expedition he now called Shino a very cunning old
fellow, and ordered him to kill or remove Daikoku out of the way.
Shino made his bow to his master, tightened his tiger-skin belt around
his loins and set off.
It was not an easy thing to find Daikoku, even though every one
worshipped him. So the oni had to travel a long way, and ask a great many
questions of people, and often lose his way before he got any clue. One
day he met a sparrow who directed him to Daikoku's palace, where among
all his money-bags and treasure piled to the ceiling, the fat and
lop-eared fellow was accustomed to sit eating daikon radish, and amuse
himself with his favorite pets, the rats. Around him was stored in straw
bags his rice which he considered more precious than money.
Entering the gate, the oni peeped about cautiously but saw no one. He
went further on till he came to a large store house standing alone and
built in the shape of a huge rice-measure. Not a door or window could be
seen, but climbing up a narrow plank set against the top edge he peeped
over, and there sat Daikoku.
The oni descended and got into the room. Then he thought it would be an
easy thing to pounce upon Daikoku. He was already chuckling to himself
over the prospect of such wealth being his own, when Daikoku squeaked out
to his chief rat.
"Nedzumi san, (Mr. Rat) I feel some strange creature must be near. Go
chase him off the premises."
Away scampered the rat to the garden and plucked a sprig of holly with
leaves full of thorns like needles. With this in his fore-paw, he ran at
the oni, whacked him soundly, and stuck him all over with the sharp
The oni yelling with pain ran away as fast as he could run. He was so
frightened that he never stopped until he reached Yemma's palace, when he
fell down breathless. He then told his master the tale of his adventure,
but begged that he might never again be sent against Daikoku.
So the Buddhist idols finding they could not banish or kill Daikoku,
agreed to recognize him, and so they made peace with him and to this day
Buddhists and Shint[=o]ists alike worship the fat little god of wealth.
When people heard how the chief oni had been driven away by only a rat
armed with holly, they thought it a good thing to keep off all oni. So
ever afterward, even to this day, after driving out all the bad creatures
with parched beans, they place sprigs of holly at their door-posts on New
Year's eve, to keep away the oni and all evil spirits.