Sarugami – 猿神 9. January 2022

The Sarugami is a mythical creature from Japanese folklore that was once revered as a divine being, but has since fallen from grace and become a feared and reviled monster. In this article, we will explore the appearance, behavior and decline, as well as a popular legend surrounding this creature.

The appearance

In terms of appearance, they look like Japanese macaques, but they are much larger, reaching up to two meters in height. They are sometimes depicted wearing human clothes and the hat of a Shinto priest.

The behavior

Sarugami inhabit the mountains of Japan and avoid contact with humans, behaving much like wild monkeys. They are more vicious and intelligent, with the ability to speak human language. In encounters, the monkey-yokai usually kidnaps a young woman, so a hero has to rescue her.

The decline

Sarugami were once worshipped as gods and considered servants and messengers of the sun. This connection to the sun came from the fact that Japanese macaques are active and noisy at sunrise, which was significant for the peasants who began their day at the same time. However, with the rise of agriculture, monkey worship fell out of favor, and today, farmers view them as pests that damage crops. As a result, the Sarugami is now considered a degenerate version of its former self and classified as a Yōkai.

A Legend

A giant monkey lived in the mountains of Mimasaka Province, present-day Okayama Prefecture. Every year, the Sarugami demanded a young woman’s sacrifice from surrounding villages. One year, a hunter took the place of a young woman selected for sacrifice and attacked the Sarugami and its retinue of monkeys, defeating them. The Sarugami then possessed one of the priests, asking for forgiveness and promising to never demand another sacrifice. The hunter allowed the Sarugami to flee, and the creature has never required a sacrifice again.

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