The Myth of Japan’s Shuten Dōji
Today we shall travel to the wonderfully dark world of vampire myth and legend, to a Japanese tale of a bloodthirsty beast named Shuten Dōji (Drunken Boy). While the creature of this story isn’t technically a vampire, he has a vampiric taste for blood that would rival that of any undead.
According to Asian legend, Drunken Boy was a monstrous ogre who lived at Mount Ibuki and dressed in scarlet. He gorged himself on the blood of others, but not just any blood, it was said that his favorite blood to devour was that of women. While he is more demon than vampire, any being who feasts on mass amounts of blood is definitely welcome in the world of vampires.
There is an old Japanese tale that tells the story of Minamoto Yorimitsu, an incredible hero who disguised himself and his four companions as yamabushi (mountain monks) in order to deceive Drunken Boy. The five men snuck their way into the Drunken Boy’s wicked lair, where a blood party was taking place. The heroes managed to get ogres drunk, which is when they struck. They threw off their disguises and attacked the villains. An epic battle ensued and, according to legend, the Drunken Boy’s head continued to fight even after it had been decapitated. In the end, Yorimitsu won and took the female victims he had saved, as well as his trophy head, back to the imperial capital.
It’s quite a good tale of bloodthirsty monsters and the heroes that save the day.
For those of you in the London area or those planning a trip there, the British Museum actually has painted handscrolls from the 17th century that illustrates the legend of Shuten Dōji. They are absolutely stunning works of art, so if you have the chance, I highly suggest viewing them.