The title is a bit of a mouthful, and it’s also in reference to a mouth–the shita in Oni-no-Shitaburui means “tongue.”
Why? Because the ogre (oni) is flapping his tongue around like water.
Welcome to one of my favorite hiking spots in the San’in region, found in the heart of Okuizumo!
This is a roughly 3km long V-shaped valley, with a boulder-filled river at the bottom of the V.
Knowing the legend of the goddess Tamahime and the wani (crocodile… shark… thing) that loved her as recorded in the 8th century Izumo-no-Kuni Fudoki records, I went looking for what was left of this lovestruck and stuck beast.
Rather than the archaic word wani, the area is now named after a Japanese beast of a different variety, an oni. They are horned creatures sometimes translated as “demon,” but I would prefer to call them ogres. Just because they don’t typically get along with humans throughout folklore doesn’t mean they’re evil, after all. But even if they’re misunderstood, you probably wouldn’t want to run into one all alone in the woods.
This particular oni is stuck in the river, and people say that this rocks looks like its face. Some people also loosely explain the name change as that the wani turned into an oni, but I don’t have any sources for this–it seems more likely that people just say that to tie up loose ends.
Though many locals know the love/hate story about the spot, the oni term is its common name, so after a nice hike you can enjoy lunch at nearby places with names like “Oni Soba” (because Izumo Soba is big here under any name).
Just another day in the myth-filled inaka.