In Japanese Buddhism, greedy or miserly people become Jikiniki (in the modern Japanese, spelled ‘shokujinki,’ meaning “human-eating ghost”) after they die. These demons are cursed to hunt out and scavenge fresh human corpses by night, a compulsion that disgusts and horrifies them. Some legends describe them as decomposed bodies with long claws and red eyes, whereas others claim they can manifest in a normal human form and lead regular “lives.” When in their shapeshifted form, they sometimes loot the corpses they devour to bribe local authorities. They may be redeemed from their awful existence through the prayers and offerings of a righteous living man.

The legend of the Jikiniki is told through the tale of traveling monk Muso Kukoshi, who, after encountering a mysterious priest who the locals denied existed, discovers that the priest, loving the clothes and offerings given to him by his adherents more so than the faith he espoused, was cursed to be a Jikiniki after he died many years prior.


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