Yokai Wiki
Romanized Tsuchigumo
Kanji 土蜘蛛
Kana つちぐも
Meaning Earth spider
Other names Yatsukahagi, Ōgumo
Type Animal form
Places Nara Prefecture,
Kyoto Prefecture
Book(s) Konjaku Gazu Zoku Hyakki

Tsuchigumo (土蜘蛛, Tsuchigumo) is a kind of yokai from Japanese folklore.


They appeared to people as having faces of an oni, a body of a tiger, arms and legs of a spider, and wore giant outfits. They all lived in mountains, firmly captured travelers with strings, and ate them.

In the Tsuchigumo Soushi (土蜘蛛草紙) written in the 14th century, tsuchigumo appeared in the capital as monsters. The commander Minamoto no Yorimitsu of the mid Heian era, known for the slaying of Shuten-doji, was brought by his servant Watanabe no Tsuna to go in the direction of Rendai field (蓮台野), a mountain north of Kyoto, where they encountered a flying skull. Yorimitsu and the others, who thought it was dubious, started to follow it, and arrived at an old estate, where there appeared various atypical yokai that agonized Yorimitsu and the others, and when dawn arrived, there appeared a beautiful woman who was about to trick them, but Yorimitsu, not giving in, cut it with his katana, and the woman disappeared, leaving white blood. Pursuing that trail, they arrived at a cave in mountain recesses, where there was a huge spider, who was the true identity of all the monsters that appeared. At the end of a long battle, Yorimitsu cut off the spider's head, and the heads of 1,990 dead people came out from its stomach. Furthermore, from its flanks, countless small spiders flew about, and investigating them further, they found about 20 more skulls.

There are various theories to the story of the tsuchigumo, and in the Heike Monogatari, there is as following (they were written as 山蜘蛛). When Yorimitsu suffered from malaria, and lay on a bed, a strange monk who was 7 shaku (about 2.1 meters) tall appeared, released some rope, and tried to capture him. Yorimitsu, despite his sickness, cut him with his famous sword, the Hizamaru (膝丸), causing the monk to flee. The next day, Yorimitsu led his Four Guardian Kings to chase after the blood trail of the monk, and arrived at a mound behind Kitano jinja where there was a large spider that was 4 shaku wide (about 1.2 meters). Yorimitsu and the others caught it, pierced it with an iron skewer, and exposed it to a riverbed. Yorimitsu's illness left him immediately, and the sword that cut the spider was from then on called the Kumo-kiri (蜘蛛切り, spider-cutter). The true identity of this tsuchigumo was said to be an onryō of the aforementioned local clan defeated by Emperor Jimmu. This tale is also known from the very fifth noh, "Tsuchigumo."

In one story, Yorimitsu's father, Minamoto no Mitsunaka, conspired with the aforementioned oni and tsuchigumo local clan and planned a revolt against the Fujiwara clan, but during the "Anna no Hen" when he betrayed the local clan to protect himself, it has been said that his son, Yorimitsu, and his guardian kings will be cursed by oni and tsuchigumo yokai.

In Kita-ku, Kyoto, Jōbonrendai-ji, there is the Minamoto Yorimitsu Ason-no-tsuka (源頼光朝臣塚) deifying Yorimitsu, but this mound has been said to be a nest built by tsuchigumo, and there is a story that when the tree that was previously beside it fell to lumbering, the logger fell into a mysterious illness and died. Also, in Ichijō-dōri in Kamigyō-ku, there is also a mound said to be built from tsuchigumo, where lanterns were discovered in an excavation and said to be spider lanterns, but those who received this immediately started to trend to receive great fortune, and became afraid of being cursed by tsuchigumo, so these spider lanterns are now dedicated to the temple Tōkō-Kannon-ji in Kannonji-monzen-chō, Kamigyō-ku.

There is also a similar yokai called umigumo (海蜘蛛). They are said to send out strings from their mouths and attack people. Their appearance has been set to be the coast of Kyushu.