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Inugami: A Guide to the Mythical Japanese Creature

Inugami is a type of yokai, or supernatural creature, in Japanese mythology. The term “Inugami” literally translates to “dog god” or “dog spirit.” According to legend, Inugami are created by cutting off the head of a dog and burying it in a special shrine. The spirit of the dog then becomes an Inugami, which can be summoned and controlled by its owner.

Inugami are often associated with black magic and are said to possess great power. They are also believed to bring wealth and prosperity to their owners. In some parts of Japan, Inugami were used as a form of vengeance against enemies, as they were believed to be able to cause illness or death to those who crossed their owners. However, in other parts of Japan, Inugami were viewed as benevolent spirits and were kept as household guardians.

Mythological Origins

Japanese Folklore

Inugami is a type of yokai, or supernatural creature, in Japanese folklore. According to legends, inugami were created by powerful families who sought to use their power to control others. They would perform a ritual to trap the spirit of a dog, often a white dog, and then use it to control their enemies or gain wealth and power. Inugami were considered to be very powerful and dangerous, often causing harm to those who crossed them.

Shinto Beliefs

In Shinto beliefs, inugami were thought to be the spirits of dogs that had been mistreated or killed by humans. They were believed to be able to possess humans and cause them harm or misfortune. In some cases, inugami were worshipped as deities and were believed to bring good fortune to those who showed them respect. However, inugami were also feared and were thought to be able to cause illness and death to those who angered them.

Overall, inugami have a complex and fascinating history in Japanese mythology. While they are often associated with dark magic and evil intentions, they also have a more positive side in some beliefs. Despite their fearsome reputation, inugami continue to capture the imagination of people around the world.



Inugami, also known as “dog god,” is a type of canine deity in Japanese mythology. It is described as a yokai with the appearance of a dog. In public, an inugami looks identical to an ordinary dog to blend in with society. However, its true form is that of a desiccated, mummified dog’s head, often dressed up in ceremonial trappings. This is kept safe (and away from prying eyes) in a secret shrine in its owner’s house. It is said that they have a somewhat large patch of color around the size of a mouse, and they have split ends on their tail. As they were a species of talpidae, their eyes cannot be seen, and moved in single file one after another.

Powers and Abilities

Inugami is often described as a very powerful spirit that has the power to possess a human being if he wants to. It is believed that the inugami is capable of granting its owner wealth, power, and protection. The inugami is also known for its ability to curse people. It is believed that if an inugami is mistreated or its owner dies, it will become enraged and seek revenge on those who wronged it. Inugami is also believed to have the power to cause natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods. Inugami is also known for its ability to control other animals and humans, making them do its bidding.

Cultural Significance

Inugami holds a significant place in Japanese folklore and culture. The dog spirit has been portrayed in numerous literary works, arts, and modern media.

Literature and Arts

Inugami has been featured in various Japanese literary works and arts. For instance, the famous Japanese author, Lafcadio Hearn, wrote a story about Inugami in his book, “Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things.” The story features a woman who seeks revenge on her unfaithful husband by using Inugami. In addition, Inugami has been depicted in various Japanese paintings, sculptures, and other forms of arts.

Modern Media

Inugami has also been featured in modern media such as anime, manga, and video games. For instance, the anime series, “Inugami-san to Nekoyama-san,” features a romantic comedy between a dog spirit and a cat spirit. Additionally, Inugami has been featured in various video games such as “Okami” and “Persona 5 Strikers.”

In conclusion, Inugami holds a significant place in Japanese folklore and culture. The dog spirit has been portrayed in various literary works, arts, and modern media.

Regional Variations

Inugami in Kyushu

Inugami, also known as “dog spirit,” is a spiritual possession by the spirit of a dog. In western Japan, it is widely known, particularly in eastern Ōita Prefecture, Shimane Prefecture, and a part of Kōchi Prefecture in northern Shikoku. However, the popularity of Inugami varies in different regions of Japan. In Kyushu, for instance, Inugami is more prevalent in the eastern parts of the region than the western parts.

Differences in Honshu

Inugami is also more popular in some parts of Honshu than others. In particular, it is more common in the eastern parts of Honshu than in the western parts. However, there are no significant variations of the name Inugami in any region or culture. The name can be written in different ways using different kanji characters, which can change its meaning slightly.

In summary, the prevalence of Inugami varies in different regions of Japan. While it is more common in some parts of the country than others, there are no significant differences in the popularity of the name.

Rituals and Practices

Inugami are known to be created through a ritual called kojutsu or kodoku, which involves the sacrifice of a dog. The practice has been banned in Japan since the Heian era, which was over a thousand years ago.

The ritual involves starving a dog to death and then burying it in a specific manner, with its head facing downwards. The head is then dug up after a certain amount of time and then placed in a special container. The container is then used to summon the Inugami spirit, which is believed to be able to curse, possess, or protect humans.

It is important to note that the ritual is considered to be animal cruelty and is not practiced in modern times. Inugami are no longer used as magical familiars, and the practice of using animals for spiritual purposes has been banned in Japan.

Inugami are also associated with Shintoism, an indigenous religion of Japan that incorporates various aspects of nature. Wolves and dogs hold a significant place within Shintoism, and they are often regarded as symbols of protection and loyalty. Inugami are seen as both protectors and bringers of misfortune, depending on their relationship with humans.

Inugami in Popular Culture

Anime and Manga

Inugami has been featured in various anime and manga series. One such example is the series “Inugami-san to Nekoyama-san” which follows the story of two girls, one of whom is a dog-like inugami, and the other is a cat-like nekoyama. Another popular anime series featuring inugami is “Kamisama Kiss”, where the protagonist, Nanami, acquires an inugami as her familiar.

Video Games

Inugami has also made appearances in various video games. One such example is “Okami”, a game set in ancient Japan where the player controls a wolf who has the ability to defeat demons and other supernatural creatures, including inugami. Another popular game featuring inugami is “Persona 5”, where the player can summon a persona named “Inugami” to aid them in battle.

Overall, inugami has become a popular figure in Japanese popular culture, appearing in various forms of media such as anime, manga, and video games.

Comparative Mythology

Inugami is a fascinating creature that is part of Japanese mythology. It is a kind of familiar, or spirit of possession, which is found in Kyushu, Shikoku, and elsewhere in West Japan. Inugami have much in common with other familiars, such as shikigami and kitsune-tsuki. Comparative mythologists come from various fields, including folklore, literature, history, linguistics, and religious studies, and they have used a variety of methods to compare myths.

Some scholars look at the linguistic relationships between the myths of different cultures. Others compare the themes, motifs, and symbols found in myths from different cultures. Still, others use a psychological approach to compare myths, looking at the ways in which they reflect universal human experiences and emotions. Comparative mythology is a fascinating field that can help us better understand the similarities and differences between cultures around the world.

In the case of Inugami, comparative mythology can help us better understand how this creature fits into the larger context of Japanese mythology. By comparing Inugami to other familiars and spirits of possession found in Japanese mythology, we can gain a deeper appreciation for the role that these creatures played in the lives of the people who believed in them.