Kazenbo (火前坊)

Kazenbo (literally, a bonze in front of the fire) is a type of Japanese yokai (ghosts, spirits and monsters) described in "Konjaku Hyakki Shui" (literally, Supplement to The Hundred Demons from the Present and the Past), a yokai art collection book or a supernatural bestiary by Sekien TORIYAMA.


The Kazenbo was believed to appear in Mt. Toribe (alternatively called Toribeno) in Kyoto Prefecture, which was known as an old burial place in the Heian period. In the "Konjaku Hyakki Shui," it is portrayed as a beggar bonze who is engulfed by flames and smoke.

It is said that powerful members of the Imperial Family and the nobility were buried in Mount Toribe-yama, and in the end of the 10th century venerable monks reportedly burned themselves to death, hoping to attain 'funshi ojo' (according to their Buddhist beliefs, it was a way to become a Buddha after death). Many lay people wanted to see this religious ritual of self-cremation, and it was assumed that despite the ritual, some monks did not die a peaceful death because they were attached to the life on the earth. The souls of those failed Buddhas supposedly appeared in Mt. Toribe in the form of the mysterious fiery apparition, which was therefore called Kazenbo.

[Original Japanese]