Janjanbi (fire of mysterious) (じゃんじゃん火)

"Janjanbi" is a fire of mysterious or suspicious origin which comes down in various regions of Nara Prefecture. It is said to be a kind of Onibi (fox fire). In Miyazaki Prefecture it is called "Musabi" and in Kochi Prefecture "Kechibi."


The name comes from its sound "janjan". Many stories tell they are fire balls turned from spirit of the dead, such as those jointly committed suicide or of busho (Japanese military commander) in the Sengoku period.

There are a variety of stories in Nara Prefecture, and it is called in different names in each area.

Byakugoji-cho, Nara City

It refers to the two fire balls which appear from graves of Byakugo-ji Temple and Daian-ji Temple. The two fireballs meet at Fuufu-gawa River, get into a tangle, and after a while they go back to their original graves.

It is said that the fire balls come close to you if you keep your eyes on them. It is also said the fire balls followed the person to the above of a pond where he went into trying to escape from them.

It is said that the fire balls are actually a man and a woman who jointly committed suicide, and they meet each other as fire balls since they were buried in different temples.

Yamatokoriyama City

It refers to the two spirits which visit a bridge over Saho-gawa River on June 7 every year. They are said to be spirits of a man and a woman as it is in Byakugoji-cho.

They say there used to be a custom that twenty men and women selected from nearby villages danced on the bridge where the fire balls appeared in order to comfort the masters of the spirits every June 7.

Fujii-cho, Tenri city

It refers to a fire ball which appears from a castle ruin and flies to the west. If you happen to meet the fire ball, you have to hide for example under a bridge until it goes away. It is also called zannenbi.

Yanagimoto-cho in Tenri City, Tainosho-cho, Kashihara City, Tenri City

The fire ball comes when you call 'hoihoi' to the ruin of Toichi-jo Castle in the night of a summer day when it seems to rain soon, makes a sound 'janjan,' then disappears. It is also called Hoihoibi.

It is said to be a vengeful spirit of a busho Totada TOCHI who was killed by Hisahide MATSUNAGA in the Azuchi Momoyama period. If you see this fire you will suffer from fever for three days and nights due to a curse of a vengeful spirit (vindictive ghost). They also say that it sounds 'jan, jan' because the samurai warriors who were killed together with Totada chant in crowds 'zannen, zannen' (it's a shame).

In Tainosho-cho, Tenri City, there is a jizo (guardian deity of children) called Kubikiri (chop-neck) Jizo whose head is detached from the body. It is said that when a samurai was attacked by janjanbi, he swung around his sword and mistakenly cut the neck of jizo located by the wayside. That samurai is said to have died burnt after all.

[Original Japanese]