Friday, October 28, 2011

Dodomeki, "The Demon With 100 Eyes", An Urban Legend Yōkai From the Edo Period


金 means "gold".

Today's focus is very different from the other stories I've told so far, in that it is neither really a ghost nor a yōkai (unless you count the opinion of Mizuki Shigeru, which really, you should...).  This story doesn't really adhere to the usual Japanese ghost story, yōkai story, or folktale.  Instead, it follows the newer method of folk telling, much like the recent and popular mass hysteria surrounding this new "Urban Legend Yōkai", Kuchisake Onna.

While today's creature has had their legend told since long before, it wasn't until the Edo period that the story really worked itself into a frenzy.  As I've mentioned before, the court nobles and fine people of the old capital of Kyoto, suddenly forced to live in this new, unfamiliar, countrified place, were filled with fear about the strange things lurking in the city, and that's originally why they got together to have 100 Ghost Story Night.  However, this story was not the type shared at Ghost Story Night.  Like Kuchisake Onna, people wanted to share the supposedly true story of this monster, and how they know for a fact that it really happened to their friend's wife's brother's cousin's nephew.  They wanted to warn their friends of the mysterious and dangerous forces of this city that they lived in.

So let's get into this new breed of Urban Legend Yōkai, based on the number one thing everybody could agree was unavoidable in their city:  gold.


Dodomeki, "Many-Eyed Demon", or "The Demon With 100 Eyes".  Yes, she's an oni!  (Not your traditional oni... your Neo-Japanesque oni.)


In Edo, there is a monster who runs about, so you must be careful not to encounter it!

It seems that there were a pair of pickpockets, wandering the street at night as they often did.  The front fold of the kimono of merchants on their way home from the greengrocers, the small purse hanging from the neck of a shop assistant, they could snatch coins from even these most difficult of pickpocketing places.

That particular evening, they saw a young lady dressed in a very nice kimono, with a cloak over her head.

"She looks rich."  One of the pickpockets commented.

He needn't have, for, as she came closer to them, they heard that delicious, unmistakeable sound... the jingling of many coins resting against kimono fabric.  The first pickpocket brushed by her nonchalantly, slipping his hand into the back of her kimono sleeve, where the fabric is open and women often store things.  He found nothing there.  Making a loop, he returned to his partner.

"Perhaps in the front?" he suggested.

"I don't think so... there isn't any particular look of a wallet being kept there, and listen!"  The sound of the girl as she kept walking, the swish, swish of her kimono, and the clinking sound of hundreds of coins.  The thieves looked at one another.  It wasn't something they were particularly fond of, but women didn't walk alone, dressed this well, carrying that much money often, if ever that they could remember.  They ran to catch up with her and cornered her down an alleyway.

"Hey!  Give us your money!"

The girl stood silently, no scream from her, nor did she try to run or fight them.

"Are you deaf?  Give us your money!  We can hear all those coins you've got!"

The girl's lips, only just visible under her hood, curved into a smile.

"Oh... these?" she hissed.

Slowly, ever so slowly, she extended her arm, and pulled back the sleeve of her kimono.  There, on her bare arm, were dozens of eyes, blinking up at the terrified pickpockets.

Yes, these eyes were flashing, moving within her skin.  They were gold, coins embedded there.  Suddenly, the girl leapt at the thieves, and pick-pocketed from them their very souls.  Composing herself, she raised her hand to touch her cheek, where two golden coins had pressed through, small cuts and red flesh tethering them there.

"Oh, someplace new." she mused, and continued on her walk.

The End

Also, this story was told to me by my friend who is a blacksmith down that alleyway and he saw and heard the whole thing through his open window that night!  What a dreadful place, this city we live in!

Seriously, though.  This is how I'd often heard the story, and how it was written in most of my older folktale books.  More recently, however, the popular motif is that the coin eyes are actual eyes, which alludes to the fact that, back in the day, thieves and pickpockets were punished by being tattooed with a bird's eye, which watches them and judges their bad behaviour.  Who knows?  I like the coins, better.

So what is she?  A ghost, a demon, a yōkai?  A very disturbed, self-harming and vengeful human?

Mizuki says that she is a yōkai, but a good one (there are good yōkai, just as there are bad yōkai, trickster yōkai, and yōkai who don't seem to do much of anything at all).  He says that she (or he, or it, from the way he designed Dodomeki) is on a mission to terrify and weed out anyone who would steal money.

Mizuki's Dodomeki, from GeGeGe no Kitaro.

Some say that she is the product of a young woman who became a pickpocket.  Girls born with long arms are said to possess the ability to transform themselves into a Dodomeki.  Because having long arms is a metaphor for someone who is always stealing, of course.  Speaking of pun-type-things...

Sekien's Dodomeki.

Some stories say that only her arms and hands have the eyes, and when she touches thieves with them, all of their money will be sucked up into her skin and become coin-eyes.  Others say she takes their disturbed souls, and it kills them.  A few versions say that, when pickpockets die, they will become a Dodomeki wraith, roaming the city forever to teach lessons to others who make their poor choices.  However, as the coins eventually became eyes, Dodomeki eventually came in both female and male varieties, or a genderless monster thing.

If you're interested in more versions of the Dodomeki, this site has a ton of really good fan-art pictures depicting Dodomeki in a variety of guises and forms.

Anyway, the original idea is that Dodomeki has always been a girl, or at least appeared to be a feminine body, a pickpocket girl who, every night, roams the streets of Edo (or whichever city you or the story teller happens to live in).

Have you seen her?


  1. Is there a reason why Dodomeki would visit someone in a dream? I had a dream last night about a tall, distinctly female yokai who had hundreds of eyes on her face, but they looked like buttons in my dream. Upon reading your post, yen coins have holes in them which would definitely look like buttons or be translated as buttons in a dream. She was scary in my dream, I felt very frightened, but she didn't harm me. We just had an odd staring contest, but I woke up immediately after frightened enough to wake up the man and have him cuddle me. Have there been stories of her warning people? Or anything like that? Please feel free to e-mail me at


    1. I don't know, have you been struggling with kleptomania?

      Yōkai generally serve as manifestations of the unknown, but there are many different schools of thought that also see them as allegories for certain vices, habits, or even, as you said, warnings of things to come.

      There are tons of stories about her, however, with any number of crazy things trying to explain her appearance and purpose. If you're completely certain it was Dodomeki, most warnings she gives seem to be deterrents against thieves and criminal activity.

      But if any sort of creature shows up in your dreams, my advice would generally be to try to think about what sort of things may be weighing on your mind or spirit to determine what message the yōkai might be trying to get across to you, and to make sure you it isn't you manifesting and wandering around in some sort of ghostly form. Also try not to offend any sort of area known to be inhabited by the supernatural. Good luck!!