Special Feature on Shrines and Temples Related to 'Oni' (Demons)
※Click on the image in the text to see an enlarged image.

The legend of Momotaro also exists in Yamanashi Prefecture at the "Neno Shrine."

A shrine with red soil stained by the blood of an Oni-demon??

Momotaro, Momotaro,♪
You have dumplings* in the pouch at your waist~
Please give me one.
I'll give you one, I'll give you one,
For the future of the oni-demon expedition,
I'll give you one if you come.

The song which depicts the old stories of Momotaro, the protagonist, is very famous.
It is well-known in Japan.

The legend of Momotaro has its origins in various parts of Japan, including Okayama City in Okayama Prefecture, Tawaramoto-cho in Nara Prefecture, Takamatsu City in Kagawa Prefecture, and Inuyama City in Aichi Prefecture.
For example, the legend of Momotaro in Okayama Prefecture is based on a person named Kibitsuhiko, who was an imperial prince and defeated a prince of Kudara, and is considered to be the model for Momotaro.
It is said that the myth of demon extermination remains at Kibitsu Shrine in Okayama Prefecture.
In modern times, Namba Kinnosuke from Okayama City published “The Truth About Momotaro” in 1930 (Showa 5), which attracted nationwide attention.
After that, it is said that the appeal of the Momotaro legend was raised as a prefectural appeal material at the National Athletic Meet held in Okayama in 1962, which also proves the importance of Momotaro legend in Okayama.
In Tawaramoto-cho, Nara Prefecture, there is a palace of the Emperor of the 7th generation, Kōrei, the father of Kibitsuhiko, who is said to have conquered Kibi by heading west from here after becoming an adult, and it is considered to be the birthplace of Momotaro.
Takamatsu City in Kagawa Prefecture has a place name called “Kinashi”, and it is said that this is the place where Momotaro defeated the demons in Onigashima and there were no more demons.
In Inuyama City, Aichi Prefecture, there is a “Momotaro Shrine” with many statues related to Momotaro, and it is called the “birthplace of Momotaro”.
And in Otsuki City, Yamanashi Prefecture, which we are introducing this time, the legend of Momotaro has been handed down.
What kind of demon appears in Otsuki City among various legends of Momotaro throughout Japan?
Given that it's Setsubun, I'd like to shine a spotlight on demons and find it out.
First, we will visit places where we can see old stories and pictures of Momotaro that remain in Otsuki and places where traces of demons remain.

Old Stories of Momotaro

In Otsuki, Yamanashi, there is a folktale about Momotaro that has been passed down. It’s a bit long, but here’s a local folktale:

“Once upon a time, there were ten demons living on Mount Kuki, located southwest of Iwadono Mountain. One of them was a red demon and the others were blue demons. The red demon was big and strong, but he was also a troublemaker who was eventually ostracized by the blue demons. He moved to Iwadono Mountain and became violent, kidnapping women and children from the village and stealing cows and horses to eat. The villagers around Iwadono Mountain were in great trouble and were very afraid.

In particular, there were many beautiful women in the village northeast of Iwadono Mountain who were occasionally abducted by demons. The villagers consulted with a great monk named “Doshitera Yokanbee,” who lived in a hut on Tokugan Mountain. He told them to dig up and plant kudzu roots around their homes. They did as he said, and the kudzu leaves grew thicker every year, hiding their homes. From then on, their daughters were no longer abducted, so they named the village Kadono.

Now, to the east of Iwadono Mountain is Momokura Mountain (also known as Momokura-yama), where many peach trees grew. A particularly large peach rolled down from this mountain into the Kazuno River and flowed downstream to Tsurushima in Uenohara.

On Tsurushima, there lived a friendly old couple. One day, while the old man was gathering firewood in the mountains and the old woman was washing clothes in the river, a giant peach came floating down the river.

“What a huge peach!” exclaimed the old woman as she picked it up and brought it home to share with her husband. When they tried to cut it open, a cute and healthy baby boy popped out.

They named him Momotaro and raised him to be strong and brave. When Momotaro heard about the demons on Iwadono Mountain, he decided to go and defeat them. His old woman made him kibi dango (millet dumplings) for the journey.
Along the way, he recruited a dog at Inume Pass, a pheasant at Torizawa, and a monkey at Sarubashi as his followers. After eating kibi dango and gaining strength, he shouted loudly, “Red demon of Iwadono Mountain! Momotaro is coming to defeat you!” The demon was napping but woke up when he heard his voice. He was angry, broke the stone stick, and threw it in the direction where the voice came from. He threw it with his left hand, but it was so powerful that it made a very loud sound that could nearly move a big stone. This place is now called Ishidou, and the stone stick is called Oninotue (demon’s stick).

Momotaro went around to the west side of the mountain and shouted, “Red demon! Get ready!” The demon roared and threw his stone stick at Momotaro in his right hand. It flew over Momotaro’s head and landed on the border of Sasago no Shirano and Hara. This place is now called Oni no Tateishi.

The demon lost his stick and began throwing rocks and kicking them around in a frenzy. A large boulder near the top of Iwadono Mountain rolled down to Katsura River, and the shape of the mountain changed.

The demon fought hard but was eventually cornered. He tried to escape to Tokugan Mountain in the east but slipped and fell, broke his groin open and died. His intestines turned into rocks and rolled into the corner of the field below. The villagers called them “oni no chou” (demon’s intestines). The blood he spilled soaked into the soil and still comes out like red blood near Iwadono’s Neno Shrine, so it is called “Oni no chi” (demon’s blood).

※Edited by Fuka Ishii, former director of the Nigioka Community Center in Otsuki City
From "Folk Tales of the Hometown"
View of Iwadono Mountain from halfway up Momokura Mountain
View of Iwadono Mountain from halfway up Momokura Mountain

*Iwadono Mountain* (From Wikipedia)
A historic castle in Japan located in Nigioka-cho, Otsuki City, Yamanashi Prefecture. It was built on Iwadono Mountain at an altitude of 634 meters. This mountain castle was known as the residence of the Oyamada clan, a local lord of Tsuru District in Kai Province. During the Sengoku period, it was known as one of the most impregnable castles in the eastern part of the country. It is a historical site designated by Yamanashi Prefecture.

Stage of the Momotaro Legend: 7 Places

Oni No Iwaya (Cave of the Demon)
Oni No Iwaya (Cave of the Demon)

Next, we will introduce the locations associated with the legend of Momotaro.
In a region surrounded by small hills, there are traces of demons!

①Oni no Iwaya (house cave) (Entsuji Shingu Castle Ruins)
According to the information I found, “Oni no Iwaya” (Cave of the Demon) is a cave located halfway up the Iwadono Mountain, where the garan (monastic complex) of Entsu-ji Temple, a Shugendo mountain temple, was built.
Unfortunately, the temple no longer exists today. However, ancient maps show that a building was built in front of the valley, and a scene where waterfalls fall from above is depicted.

Oni no Iwaya

※The Japanese term “garan” has its roots in the Sanskrit word “saṃghārāma” and refers to a “quiet and pure place where monks gather to practice Buddhism”
After climbing a steep mountain path for about 5 minutes from the entrance of the Iwadono Mountain trail, you will see a creepy cave.
Due to the cold, ice has formed on the rocks in the cave, and icicles can be seen as well.
It is said that when you look out from inside the cave, the rocks resemble Mount Fuji, but unfortunately, it is currently prohibited to enter.
According to local legend, a red demon initially lived with nine blue demons on Mt. Kuki (which is known as a stage for demon extermination in Tsuru City). However, due to his naughty personality and different color, he was ostracized by his companions and moved to Iwadono Mountain.
There are also stories that he hid stolen items in the cave.
It’s quite sad to think that he lived alone in such a cave.

A rough and rugged cave that just looks like a demon living in it.
A rough and rugged cave that just looks like a demon living in it.

②Blood of Demon /Neno Kami Shrine
Neno Kami shrine was founded in September 808.
It is said to have enshrined “Ookuninushi no Mikoto”, the leader of the Kunitsukami, who is also known as “Oonamuchi no Kami”, and who used mice as messengers. The shrine is located at the “onimon” (Ushitora) of Entsu-ji Temple, which is now a ruined temple.
Because mice are associated with the Chinese zodiac sign “子”, the shrine was named “Neno kami Shrine”

According to legend, Ōkuninushi-no-mikoto is considered to be the descendant (son) of Susano-o-no-mikoto and is a kind-hearted god who saved the suffering white rabbit of Inaba whose skin was peeled off and exposed to in seawater.
It's fascinating to think that such a small shrine enshrines a deity who accomplished nation-building and is also enshrined in Izumo Taisha.

Until the Meiji Restoration, Iwadono-yama Shichishagongen was the ubusuna kami of Iwadono village, but since then, it has been revered as the ujigami of this village. In January of Meiji 29, the shrine was renovated and became what it looks like today. According to legend, the reason the soil within the shrine grounds is red is because the Red Demon, while fleeing from a battle with Momotaro, tried to escape to the neighboring Tokudake mountain. In the process, he tore his groin and bled, and it's said that his blood stained the soil here.
Unfortunately, the red demon died from excessive bleeding…
In the Momotaro legend of Otsuki, the demon was not defeated by Momotaro, but rather met his end through his own misfortune...

  • Red soil soaked with the demon's blood
    Red soil soaked with the demon's blood
  • Main Hall of Neno Kami Shrine
    Main Hall of Neno Kami Shrine

③Sakazuki of the Demon/Chozuishi
Up until the Meiji era, the stone was located in Kannon Hall of Entsuji Temple and the bell tower. Due to its shape and inscriptions, it's believed that this stone served as a Chozuishi..
According to legend, a demon living on Iwadono Mountain used this stone ..
The right side of the stone is inscribed with “Hounou Tenpou Juuichinen Kanoe-ne Nen Sangatsu-hi Wakamono” (Dedicated by a young person on March 1840, the eleventh year of the Tenpou era) .
※What is “Chozuishi” (hand-washing stone)※
It is also known as a “suibachi” (water basin), “taraiishi”, or “suiban” (water tray).
It is a custom that has been practiced since ancient times to purify oneself by rinsing one’s mouth and hands with water before visiting shrines and temples, and to approach the deity with a fresh mind. During the Edo period, Chozuishi spread quickly throughout Japan, and every shrine was built with Chozuishi just like torii gate.

  • Sakazuki of the Demon
    Sakazuki of the Demon
  • Sakazuki of the Demon
    Sakazuki of the Demon

The picture on the signboard of the demon shows the demon holding Sakazuki.
It was a very big Sakazuki.
It seems that the demon was fond of alcohol.
The water in the Sakazuki was frozen due to the cold.
Since it was located in the mountains, it should be particularly cold in winter, but I’m wondering if the demon did not feel cold.

Monument of Shichishagongen where Sakazuki of Demon was located
Monument of Shichishagongen where Sakazuki of Demon was located

“Shichishagongen” at Iwadono Mountain
Shichishagongen refers to Izu Gongen, Hakone Gongen, Nikko Gongen, Hakusan Gongen, Kumano Gongen, Zao Gongen, and Sanno Gongen. These statues were carved around the 16th century and are all made of hinoki wood from a whole tree. The average height of each statue is 200 cm.
In the past, they were enshrined at a shrine in a cave halfway up the Iwadono Mountain. Currently, they are placed near Neno Kami Shrine at Shinzo-in Temple, Shinzo-in Temple was a separate hall of Entsuin Temple mentioned in ① (the temple located in “Oni no Iwaya”) .
If you want to see the Shichishagongen, it seems that you can visit Shinzo-in Temple by reservation.

④Momotaro Jizo
Next to the “Sakazuki” of the demon is a Jizo statue nicknamed “Momotaro Jizo”. According to the inscriptions, this Jizo is called “Iwafune Jizo”, which is a “Meguri Jizo”.
“Iwafune Jizo” was created during the Edo period when many children died from illness and starvation. It was created to pray for the health of children. The statue was taken to each household in turn and worshipped for several days, which was a custom at that time.
It is said that this Jizo statue, which started its journey from a temple in present-day Iwafune Town, Tochigi City, Tochigi Prefecture, was passed from village to village in various locations.
The statue of “Momotaro Jizo” holds a round rice ball-like object in its left hand. It is called “Momotaro Jizo” because the treasure it holds in its left-hand looks like a peach.

  • Momotaro Jizo
    Momotaro Jizo
  • Momotaro Jizo
    Momotaro Jizo
Stick of the Demon
Stick of the Demon

⑤Stick of the Demon
Speaking of demons, one might think of a golden rod.
Here, a demon’s stick remains.
When Momotaro headed to Iwadono Mountain to defeat the demons, he recruited a dog in Inume (Uenohara City), a pheasant in Torisawa, and a monkey in Sarubashi as his followers. He then shouted to the red demon living in Iwadono Mountain, “We’re going to defeat you!”
Then, the angry demon threw a stone staff from Iwadono Mountain. This is the spot where the staff pierced the ground.

It used to be about 2 meters high, but now it’s about 125 cm high.
The true story is unknown, but there is information that it was broken by heavy machinery...Nevertheless, it’s amazing that a demon could throw such a stone!
It was left hidden in a depression under the trees.
The signboard of the demon drawn by Wada Sadao, a woodblock print artist from Otsuki and researcher of Iwadono Mountain who is familiar with legend of demons, is nice.
Signboards with cute demons are now landmarks and can also be found at Sakazuki of the Demon and Neno Kami shrine.

  • Replica of Momotaro Legend in the place where the stick of the demon is located
    Replica of Momotaro Legend in the place where the stick of the demon is located
  • Replica of Momotaro Legend in the place where the stick of the demon is located
    Replica of Momotaro Legend in the place where the stick of the demon is located
Kazuno River has a calm stream that seems to have peaches flowing in it
Kazuno River has a calm stream that seems to have peaches flowing in it

⑥Momo-Kura Bridge
“Momo-kura Bridge” is a very ordinary bridge that spans the Kazuno River.
It is now a bridge with car traffic, but it must have been a peaceful landscape in the past.
If you look up from the middle of the bridge, you can see Kazuno River, where peaches flow down with the stream, Momokura Mountain, where peaches are said to have tumbled down, Mt. Tokudake, which the demon walked through when fleeing from Momotaro, and Iwadono Mountain, where the demon lived.

Iwadono Mountain” (the pointed mountain in the center) as seen from Momokura Bridge
Iwadono Mountain” (the pointed mountain in the center) as seen from Momokura Bridge
Momo-Kura Mountain
Momo-Kura Mountain

If you pass Momokura Bridge and you have reached halfway up the Momokura Mountain. Momokura Mountain was called “Momokura Mountain(桃倉山)” in old stories, and it was a mountain where an old man and an old woman lived. Standing in front of it, the higher one on the right is Momokura Mountain. The area around Otsuki is surrounded by many small hills, making it very difficult to identify which mountain is which.


⑦Saruhashi Bridge
It is one of the three famous bridges in Japan, along with Kintai Bridge and Kiso no Kakehashi.
It is 31 meters long and is supported by four layers of cantilevers that extend from both banks without using bridge piers.
According to legend, around 600 AD, a gardening expert named Shirako who came from Kudara on the Korean Peninsula got the idea of building a bridge by watching many monkeys connecting to each other to cross the river.
It was also depicted in Ukiyo-e by Hiroshige Utagawa.
It was restored with reference to the construction book when it was replaced in 1851 and is currently under construction as of January 2023.
It’s also nice to enjoy the natural and peaceful scenery of Inume (Uenohara) and Torisawa while riding on a regular train on the JR Chuo Line.

There are also medium-sized shrines and small shrines near Saruhashi Bridge.

The medium-sized shrine on the left is Sannou Shrine, and the small shrine on the right is Shouichi-i Kiraku Inari Shrine.
The medium-sized shrine on the left is Sannou Shrine, and the small shrine on the right is Shouichi-i Kiraku Inari Shrine.

The highest rank of “Shouichi-i” is attached to it because Emperor Gotoba of the Kamakura period allowed even small branch shrines to call themselves “Shouichi-i” when he visited Fushimi Inari Taisha, which is the main shrine.
There are about 30,000 sub-shrines throughout Japan.

Mt. Fuji is drawn in the picture of Momotaro in ukiyo-e

Next is about the picture of old tales
A picture of Momotaro drawn by Hishikawa Tomonobu, a disciple of Hishikawa Moronobu, the founder of ukiyo-e, is stored in the Edo-Tokyo Museum, and Mt. Fuji is drawn in this picture.
From the angle of the picture, it seems to be Mt. Fuji seen from Otsuki.
In addition, in the story of Momotaro written by Saito Ioe (Kodansha) in the early Showa period, a picture of Mt. Fuji is drawn at the same angle as Hishikawa Tomonobu’s picture.

This photo is a view of Mt. Fuji from Otsuki as of 2023.
There are various books on the story of Momotaro, but the shape and angle of Mt. Fuji depicted are the same as those in this photo.

Mt.Fuji seen from Otsuki nowadays
Mt.Fuji seen from Otsuki nowadays

The specialty of Saruhashi

The specialty of Saruhashi is said to be “Momotaro mochi” during the Taisho period.
It is also said to be the oldest product that made based on the image of Momotaro.
The wrapping paper had Momotaro and his followers, monkeys, birds, and dogs drawn on it.
It was sold by “Katsuragawa Hotel” near Saruhashi, which was founded in Taisho 15. Currently, no one remembers what kind of mochi it was since it is no longer sold, according to the tourist association.
Just as the 'Shingen Mochi' is known as a local souvenir from Yamanashi, I wish 'Momotaro Mochi' was still available, being passed down through generations.
If 'Momotaro Mochi' was still being sold today, perhaps the Momotaro legend of Otsuki would be more widely known.
Instead of 'Momotaro Mochi', cookies shaped like monkey faces called 'Sarukki' and 'Oni's Staff Biscotti' were sold.

Cutered and green oni (demon) biscotti, the monkey cookie 'Saruhashi Sarukki', and local vegetables were available at the Otsuki City Tourist Association next to Otsuki Station.

  • Oni's Staff Biscotti
    Oni's Staff Biscotti
  • The monkey cookie 'Saruhashi Sarukki'
    The monkey cookie 'Saruhashi Sarukki'

Places with Names of Dog, Bird, and Monkey

♪Kibidango (millet dumplings)~
Please give me one...

He recruited the dog in Inume, the bird in Torisawa, and the monkey in Saruhashi as his followers, gave them millet dumplings, and headed towards Iwadono Mountain where the demons lived.
The place names where Momotaro scouted his followers still exist along the Koshu Highway.
*Koshu Highway*
Shimosuwa---Kofu---Hatsukari---Saruhashi---Torisawa---Inume (Uenohara)---Hachioji---Nihonbashi

The approximately 200km-long road connecting Edo and Kofu Castle was an essential distribution network, linking Tokyo, Yamanashi, and Nagano as one of the five highways.
It is said that there were about 44 inns (stations) along the highway.
Even in the names of the JR Chuo Line stations, the names of the three followers remained.

Momotaro Lawson

Located along National Route 20, "Momotaro Lawson" just opened the year before last in March.
The store, adorned with illustrations of Momotaro and his companions, stands out prominently in pink. They were also selling Momotaro-related souvenirs like "kibi dango" (millet dumplings).
Inside, the charming illustrations of the oni (demon), Momotaro, and his companions are very adorable.

  • Momota Lowson
    Momota Lowson
  • Interior of Momota Lowson
    Interior of Momota Lowson


How did you find the Momotaro legend of Otsuki? As I walked along the rural road on the mountainside, the atmosphere felt as though a real demon might emerge any time.
It seemed like the story of Momotaro and the charming oni (demons) is told with fondness and passed down through generations.
In 1997, a Momotaro Summit was established by Momotaro enthusiasts, and it seems that the "18th Momotaro Summit in Otsuki" was held in October 2021.
It's wonderful that organizations from various regions with the Momotaro legend gather and learn about Momotaro.
At the Otsuki City Tourist Association in front of Otsuki Station, a course map of Momotaro legend tour is available, and you can also hear stories about Momotaro from the staff.
☆Course Map of the Momotaro Legend Tour (in PDF format).

▪Access to Otsuki Station▪
By Train:
From JR Chuo Shinjuku Station (Chuo Line): Limited Express 1 hour, Local Train 1.5 hours.
From Kofu Station: Limited Express 30 minutes, Local Train 1 hour.
By Car:
Approximately 1 hour on the Chuo Expressway from Tokyo.

▪Momotaro Legend (Walking Course)
Otsuki Station --- (60 mins) --- Oni's Iwaya --- (about 18 mins) --- Oni's Blood --- (about 5 mins) --- Oni's Sakazuki & Momotaro Jizo --- (about 15 mins) --- Oni's Stick --- (about 15 mins) --- Momokura Bridge --- (about 20 mins) --- Saruhashi (Monkey Bridge) --- (about 30 mins) --- Saruhashi Station

Starting from Otsuki Station and walking along the Momotaro Legend course up to Saruhashi seems to be popular. There's also a course where you can take a bus from Otsuki Station to Oni's Iwaya and then walk from the Iwaya to Saruhashi.
The area from Oni's Iwaya to Iwadono Mountain is also popular as a casual trekking course.
While I drove around, I felt that the walking course allowed for a more leisurely exploration.
Along the way, I saw mountain climbers heading to Iwadono Mountain and people touring the Momotaro Legend.

Near Otsuki, there are many other enjoyable places, such as the nature-rich Wellness Park and the Yamanashi Prefectural Linear Viewing Center.
While tracing the footsteps of the demons in Otsuki, I felt as if I had received some of the Oni's power.
Please come and trace the footsteps of the naughty, possibly sake-loving? red demon in Otsuki!