Onmyoji (陰陽師)

Onmyoji (pronounced as on-myo-ji or on-yo-ji, meaning oracle) was the name of a government post in the Onmyoryo (Bureau of Divination) of the Nakatsukasasho (Central Affairs Ministry) under the Ritsuryo legal system of ancient Japan. Onmyoji, who were assigned as hogi (otherwise known as a gikan, meaning a bureaucrat with specialized skills), originally performed only senzei and chiso (rituals performed to determine lucky and unlucky directions) using Onmyodo, which is based on the principles of Inyo gogyo (Yin-Yang and the Five Elements), but later were given responsibility for all divinations, magic, and religious services outside the provisions of the Ritsuryo legal system. After the medieval period, Onmyoji referred mainly to non-bureaucrats who performed divination, magic, and religious services independently among the civilian population in various locations, today, they are a type of Shinto-priest who recite prayers and perform divination in the private sector. It may be pronounced as 'on-yo-ji' without applying tone sandhi.

Introduction to the principles of Inyo gogyo and the founding of Onmyoryo

The principles of inyo gogyo, that began in the Xia and Shang Dynasties and nearly completed within the Zhou Dynasty, assume that every event occurs due to certain combinations of inyo together with the principles of gogyo or astronomy, calendar, eki and clock, all closely linked to inyo gogyo, and were introduced to Japan directly from mainland China (Han/Sui) or via the Korean Peninsula (Goguryeo/Baekje) during the Asuka Period in the 5th and 6th centuries, or, at the latest, when Gokyo Hakase in 512, and Eki Hakase in 554 from Baekje, visited Japan.

While the effect of these principles on politics and culture was insignificant at first, after Kanroku, the pioneer of Onmyodo in Japan, arrived from Baekje in 602 and lectured to 34 selected bureaucrats, including Shotoku Taishi (Prince Shotoku), they began to have a major impact on national politics. The influence of inyo gogyo became significant when the almanac (Genka-reki or Genka calendar) was adopted as the official calendar for the first time in Japan, and when Kenzuishi (Japanese delegates to the Sui Dynasty) were dispatched to the culturally advanced Sui commencing in 607 to absorb Buppo (Law of Buddhism/ Dharma), the principles of Inyo Gogyo and rekiho (method of making calendars), and when the Seventeen-Article Constitution and Twelve-cap rank system were established by Shotoku taishi. Thereafter, the Imperial Court continued to strive to absorb additional knowledge by having students accompany Kenzuishi (and subsequently Kentoshi, the Japanese delegations to visit the Tang Dynasty) and by inviting numerous Buddhist monks and scholars from Mainland China or various ports of call from the Korean Peninsula. As the introduction of these learnings progressed, a perception developed, whereby, to "predict the future and receive guidance for everything concerning human life by studying the movements and positions of nichigetsuseishin (the sun, the moon, and the stars) and to judge good, bad, auspicious or harmful signs based upon the principles of gogyo and the way of productive and conflicting relationships in the natural world" became important and greater faith in the principles of inyo gogyo as a measure used to establish codes of conduct by judging good and bad fortunes.

In the 7th century, Emperor Tenmu, a master of tenmontonko who personally performed divinations with a choku during the Jinshin War and who had great knowledge of the principles of inyo gogyo, set up 'Onmyoryo' and Japan's first senseidai (astrology station) in 676. In 685, as the principles of inyo gogyo grew more popular, with the term 'onmyoji' starting to be used, it was put into statutory form to install Onmyoryo as a ryo (in line with the ritsuryo system) as a division of Department of Nakatsukasasho, by the ritsuryo formally announced in the Yoro period in 718 and when it was stipulated that tenmon hakase, onmyo hakase, onmyoji, reki hakase, and rokoku hakase be made permanent posts as gikan (bureaucrats with specialized skills), they began to officially perform divinations alongside jingikan (a bureaucrat in charge of Shinto ceremonies) who were responsible for kiiboku (fortune telling using turtle shells).

Since hogi was responsible for the arts being brought over from the continent, toraijin (foreigners that came to Japan) were well versed in the various learnings with good reading skills in the Chinese classics, who were generally from Eastern Han, Western Han, or Sui that gained supremacy in place of the Hans in Mainland China, as well as Goguryeo/Baekje that had power in western Korean Peninsula, and, in rare cases, scholar monks from Silla that were powerful in eastern Korean Peninsula at that time were appointed as various hakase or onmyoji. In particular, later in 663, during the fall of the Baekje Dynasty after losing the Baekgang War when Japan had sent reinforcements to its ally Baekje and Silla consolidated the Korean Peninsula, a large number of experts in various fields came to Japan as refugees and many of them were subsequently appointed to government posts.

When Onmyoryo was first set up, as hogi's duties only consisted of seizen, chiso (something like the present 'Feng Shui'), astronomy, astrology, calendar-making, judging lucky and unlucky days and the clock, they exclusively worked to observe astronomy, to manage the calendar and clock and to make predictions on good and bad luck concerning events using logical analyses based on inyo gogyo, while never performing religious ceremonies or magic rituals like jingikan or monks, they played a key role in selecting lucky days when building or reconstruction work was required at the Imperial Court and performed divinations for lucky and unlucky properties/directions for relocating the capital.

Structure of Onmyoryo and duties of onmyoji under the Ritsuryo System

At Onmyoryo, as executive officers who are administrative officials,

Onmyo no kami (chief of onmyo)

Director of Onmyoryo. The position that manages Onmyoryo to supervise all work related to astronomy, the calendar, wind/clouds and atmospheric conditions, when abnormal conditions occur, to seal the record to make sure information is not leaked outside and private reports to the Emperor (tenmon misso (reporting unusual astronomical phenomena to the emperor)), to submit the new year's calendar developed by reki hakase by November 1 of the year (goryakuso (submission of the next year's calendar)), and reporting the outcome of senzei and chiso to the Emperor each time they are performed. Number of positions 1. Official rank is Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade).

Onmyo no suke (Deputy chief of onmyo)

Worked as assistant to Onmyo no kami
Number of positions 1. Jurokuinojo (Junior Sixth Rank, Upper Grade).

Onmyo no jo

Hogan. Supervised the bureau and managed all office work, such as reviewing documents. Number of positions 1.
Jushichiinojo (Junior Seventh Rank, Upper Grade)

Onmyo no taizoku

Senior sakan
Performed recordkeeping such as; writing/reading aloud government documentations. Number of positions 1. Juhachiinoge (Junior Eighth Rank, Lower Grade).

Onmyo no shozoku

Junior sakan. Performed recordkeeping, assisting Onmyo no taizoku. Number of positions 1. Daihatsuinojo (Greater Initial Rank, Upper Grade).

As a hogi that is also a gikan (bureaucrat with specialized skills)

Tenmon hakase (master of astronomy)

The main person in charge of astronomy. Observes astronomical conditions to seal off any abnormal changes, and functions as Instrustor to train 10 astronomy student apprentices. Number of positions 1. Shoshichiinoge (Senior Seventh Rank, Lower Grade) whose rank is set higher than for other hakase (masters) as astronomy was considered the most difficult discipline of those among onmyo.

Onmyo hakase (master of onmyo)

The main person in charge of Onmyodo. Instructor who trains 10 Onmyo no sho (students of onmyo). Number of positions 1. Shoshichiinoge (Senior Seventh Rank, Lower Grade) whose rank is set high, similar to that of tenmon hakase (master of astronomy).


Specialist of senzei (predicting good and bad fortune) and chiso (observing correct direction). Number of positions: 6. Jushichiinojo (Junior Seventh Rank, Upper Grade).

reki hakase (master of reki (calendar))

The main person in charge of rekido (calendar). Is responsible for developing, editing, and managing the calendar and is also an Instructor that trains 10 reki no sho (students of reki). Number of positions: 1. Jushichiinojo (Junior Seventh Rank, Upper Grade).

rokoku hakase (master of the clock)

The main person in charge of managing time. Performs duties to design/manage rokoku (water clock), to lead shushincho to operate the water clock and to read graduations to manage time. Number of positions was 2 for 2 work shifts. Jushichiinoge (Junior Seventh Rank, Lower Grade).

As Onmyodo students,

Tenmon no sho (student of astronomy)

Number of positions: 10

Onmyo no sho (student of onmyo)

Number of positions: 10

Reki no sho (student of reki)

Number of positions: 10

It was possible for commoners as well as sons of civil servants to gain appointments to these positions.

Additionally, as administrative workers, the following duties have been posted.


Persons responsible for reading the water clock under the supervision of the master of the clock and announcing the time by using instruments (drums and bells) on the hour. Number of positions: 20.


Administrative workers that perform common duties within their individual departments. Number of positions: 20.


Laborers that perform assigned common duties within their individual department. Number of positions: 2.

Of the hogi belonging to Onmyoryo, onmyoji specialized in senzei/chiso, may be defined 'narrowly as onmyoji,' whereas, all of the other hogi, including tenmon hakase, onmyo hakase, onmyoji, reki hakase and rokoku hakase may be defined 'broadly as onmyoji.'
Additionally, thereafter, the group of broadly defined onmyoji was sometimes referred as 'Onmyodo.'

The ritsuyo system strictly prohibited all outsiders (everybody, not only oracles and monks but also general civil servants and private citizens) except for the persons appointed as trainees at Onmyoryo to learn astronomy, onmyo, reki, or measuring hours, or to discuss the occurrence of disasters, unusual phenomenon or auspicious events, it also prohibited any equipment relating to astronomical observation and measuring time, or documents about the various arts of onmyo, to be removed from Onmyoryo, and it even forbade private individuals from owning any of the foregoing equipment or documents. Onmyodo was, therefore, managed as a state secret under the exclusive control of Onmyoryo until early Heian Period in the beginning of the 9th century, while the ritsuryo system was being rigorously observed.

Thereafter, in keeping with the trends of the time, 'kaku' and 'shiki' (enforcement orders to amend details of the ritsuryo) began to be frequently issued, causing the number of staff at government offices to balloon and the number of staff at Onmyoryo to increase substantially up until the mid-Heian period.

Onmyo no jo, the position of judge overseeing general internal affairs split into 2 positions; Onmyo no daijo and Onmyo no shojo. The number of these positions was one each with the court rank being Jushichiinojo (Junior Seventh Rank, Upper Grade) for both but Onmyo no shojo's role was to assist Onmyo no daijo.

Gon no shoku' (a staffing practice not prescribed in the ritsuryo while in reality, 'gon no shoku' did not initially perform any of the corresponding duties, it was set up as an honorary interim job title having the status of "Gon no X" when assigned to someone other than a formal appointee for that job and later when it was made a permanent post, it had the authority equivalent or close to that of the official position) was made a permanent position.

Onmyo no gonsuke, which was a temporary government post 'suke,' was made a permanent position at the Jurokui (Junior Sixth Rank), similar to the formal position Onmyo no suke for assisting Onmyo no kami, this effectively split Onmyo no suke into 2 positions.

With respect to hogi (gikan), 'gon no shoku' was set up in conjunction with each hakase and Tenmon gon no hakase, Onmyo gon no hakase, Reki gon no hakase, and Rokoku gon no hakase, were made permanent positions. However, their court rank, was set up one rank lower than for each of the regular hakase and they acted as regular hakase's assistants.

After the model of staffing practice with students in Daigakuryo (students who, having completed specialized study, remained in Daigakuryo aspiring to be hakase working towards the level of academic achievement equivalent to a Master's or Doctoral program of today), Tenmon tokugyo no sho (tenmon student) (number of positions: 2), Onmyo tokugyo no sho (onmyo student) (number of positions: 3), and Reki tokugyo no sho (reki student) (number of positions: 2) were set up as official candidates for the positions of the respective hakase and onmyoji.

With respect to administrative jobs, Onmyo no shisho (number of positions unknown) was set up to perform messenger services such as; copying documents and delivering hingisho (meeting agenda) within the bureau. While it was explained that part of jibu, initially prescribed in the ritsuryo, was transferred or Onmyo no shisho was set up as a new job classification, the truth remains unknown as the existing records are insufficient.

Changes in the treatment of onmyoji under the Ritsuryo system.

Among hogi (gikan) generally given a lower court rank in every department, that for hogi in Onmyoryo, albeit on the low side, was set up higher compared to their counterparts belonging to the other departments. However, since Onmyoryo was Shoryo (lower ranking in the tsukasa system) under Nakatsukasasho, the court rank for the administrative officer Shitokan (four classifications of bureaucrat ranking) was lower compared to similar positions in other departments and what was called, around the mid Heian Period, Tenjobito known as Senseki who were allowed to come to the palace and address the emperor was only Onmyo no kami with a Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade) while all others were Jigenin who were not allowed to enter the palace.

When the ritsuyo system was originally implemented, toraijin scholar monks, who came to Japan from other advanced nations, were exclusively appointed as hogi including the various masters and onmyoji, whereas, qualified persons among secular people (people who have not entered the priesthood or lay people) gained appointments as trainees such as students of astronomy, students of onmyo, and students of reki. This was precipitated in an effort to develop human resources with no restrictions attached to their employment and working conditions in the Imperial Court by training bureaucrats from the secular class because; considering the nature of the priesthood, it was impossible to have scholar monks work in the Imperial Court that governed a secular society, and since it seemed unlikely to force priests to leave the priesthood (to return to the lay personhood) other than to issue an imperial ordinance an ordinance like this one could not be issued lightly.

Originally, Shitokan (four classifications of bureaucrat ranks) (administration officer) and hogi (gikan) were appointed with strict distinctions from one another and, up until the latter half of the 7th century, a scholar monk appointed to the post of gikan, such as hakase or onmyoji, would leave the priesthood by imperial decree. This practice, however, became increasingly lax, with some scholar monks being appointed as hogi without leaving the priesthood and who subsequently transferred or held an additional post of a senior Shitokan position (particularly kami and suke) while working as administration officers. Due to the fact that the rank could not be raised within the job classification of hogi according to the general rule governing 'suitable court rank,' basic to the ritsuryo system, a measure was taken to raise the court rank by appointing the incumbent to an additional post of senior Shitokan as 'Gon no shoku' (a temporary position) when raising the rank of a scholar monk hogi while remaining in the priesthood. Further, as training progressed, the number of hogi who were bureaucrats from the secular class increased and personnel exchanges began to take place more freely. In any event, transfers or double assignments as an administration officer among gikan in Onmyoryo were quite common and many former or active gikan held the additional post of Onmyo no kami, or chief of that bureau as well, developing a characteristically strong technical government office from Nara to early Heian Period.

However, with discontinuation of Kentoshi after the last delegation in 838 (some argue that 894 was the last year of Kentoshi but it is widely accepted that since Ambassador SUGAWARA no Michizane recommended the cancellation to the emperor, there was no Kentoshi in that year), opportunities to invite fine toraijin from Tang in the continental mainland were lost (Japan's relationship with the United Silla was not as close as that with Baekje). As a result of Onmyoryo's policy to continue exclusive development of only 30 selected trainees to become hogi (gikan), the number of gikan in Onmyoryo and the number of posts in that office gradually decreased, while a power struggle among court nobles intensified during the early Heian Period of 9th century. In light of the above, Onmyo no kami, the only job classification equivalent to tenjobito in Onmyoryo, began to be used as another post for court nobles instead of for gikan like the various hakase, and since that position was at the bottom of the senseki class being a Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade), it tended to be a post given to the disadvantaged minor court nobles whose careers tended to be sidetracked. Around that time, temporary assignments started to become particularly common which subsequently were made permanent positions, however, it was not due to respect for those in the priesthood but mainly for the purpose of offering job satisfaction to court nobles.

Afterwards, in the early 10th century, when the Kamo clan and the Abe clan began to pass their respective jobs down exclusively by succession, people from these families virtually monopolized the higher positions including Onmyo no kami in Onmyoryo. Since the various arts of Onmyo performed by the both families became a quasi-religion going beyond their original official capacity, and since their art was favored by the nerve center of the Imperial Court, despite the fact that the Kamo clan and the Abe clan only performed the art of Onmyo, they were appointed to higher government posts over others, climbing to the Jushiinoge (Junior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade) which exceeded Onmyoryo-related positions as stipulated by the ritsuryo which was Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade) being the highest. The Abe clan, in particular, were assigned to high Jushiinojo (Junior Fourth Rank, Upper Grade) in the 11th century and in addition, in the 12th century, during the Muromachi Period, to receiving the classification of Tosho-ke, which was generally assigned to kugyo (the 3rd court rank or above) by relying on the patronage of Shogun Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA as a stepping stone, thereby referring to themselves as members of the Tsuchimikado family. While experiencing a decline between the late Muromachi Period and the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States), in more recent years the Tsuchimikado family was given regulatory rights across the country over onmyoji by the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) and they enjoyed their prosperity until the beginning of the Meiji Period.

Onmyodo turning to religion and charismatic onmyoji during the Heian Period.

In the early 9th century, during the Heian Period, beginning with the relocation of the capital from Nagaoka-kyo to Heian-kyo prompted by Emperor Kanmu's constant fear of demons caused by frequent disasters and deaths around him after the assassination of FUJIWARA no Tanetsugu, belief in ghosts suddenly spread in and around the imperial court. Interest in seeking the benefit of powerful magic to drive demons away became strong, creating an atmosphere in which theistic Seishin worship (worshipping the sun, moon, stars) or magic with a strong undertone of Taoism such as reifu in addition to the Koshinto (ancient Shinto) religion started to attract more attention. Jugon hakase and Jugonshi in Tenyaku no ryo was established as an agency in charge of Shini (prediction), Taoism, and Buddhism, particularly Jugondo with its element of esoteric Buddhist prayers as a healing art were eliminated or consolidated into Onmyoryo during FUJIWARA no Kamatari's generation, who was Inyoka. Given this, Onmyodo possessed elements that started to show the various features of Taoism or Buddhism (particularly, the magic of esoteric Buddhism introduced at the end of the 8th century and an astrology called Suiyodo which accompanied magic to Japan) to Koshinto combined, but in time Goryo started to show more diversity. For example, magic such as katatagae (fortune telling based upon directions) and monoimi (abstaining from contact with the unpure) that became common in the Onmyodo practice in the latter half of the 9th century and ceremonies such as Taizanfukun-sai originating from Taoism, whereas, sanmai (throwing rice), norito (shinto prayer) and uho (a method of incantation) derived from Koshindo. Additionally, while Fujiwara hokke (Northern household of the Fujiwara clan) was in the process of expanding and establishing their clout in the imperial court, power struggles among court nobles became considerably intensified and Onmyodo was used to concoct slander or false accusations aimed at bringing down the rival power from time to time.

This trend became prevalent as FUJIWARA no Yoshifusa gained power during the eras of Emperor Ninmyo and Emperor Montoku (833 - 858) and aside from Emperor Uta being personally familiar with the art of divination (shueki (eki established in the Zhou Dynasty)), FUJIWARA no Morosuke was so well versed in Onmyodo that he wrote 'Kujodonoikai' and 'Kujo nenchugyoji' (Kujo annual events) incorporating many taboos and manners based upon the principles of Onmyo into guidebooks. This environment produced some charismatic onmyoji including SHIGEOKA no Kawahito and YUGE no Koreo and, also, a change of era name to eliminate the effect of disaster based upon 'Shinisetsu' (a periodical prediction theory) preached by the Chinese classic scholar Kiyoyuki MIYOSHI was implemented in 901, which thereafter became a custom, further strengthening the influence of Onmyodo in the Imperial Court. Further, the fact that persons such as Kugyo FUJIWARA no Morosuke and the Chinese classic scholar Kiyoyuki MIYOSHI, who did not belong to Onmyoryo, but who had mastered astronomy, Onmyo, the art of divination, and the art of the calendar, shows that the national secret policy prescribed in the ritsuryo whereby the arts of Onmyo were prohibited from being taken out of Onmyoryo, had failed by this time.

Before long, as the ritsuryo system became more relaxed after the mid-Heian period, with the Sekkan seiji (politics run by the sessho and kanpaku) and the shoen (manor) system becoming widespread, a custom developed in which 'illegal onmyoji,' who were not bureaucrats that belonged officially to the Onmyoryo, openly violated the ritsuryo by privately getting close to noblemen, starting what became a common practice of them secretly performing divinations to judge good and bad luck or ceremonies to prevent disasters; in some cases, people would even contract them to cast a spell to kill an adversary. As a result, a steady stream of the 'official onmyoji' in Onmyoryo subsequently began to go along with the flow of the times and their actions were far from their duties as prescribed by the original ritsuryo and by arbitrarily indoctrinating lucky and unlucky directions or aspects of stars, they intruded into controlling private activities of the Emperor/Royal family and kugyo/kuge (court noble) and started to manage the inner space of the nerve center of the Imperial Court, working behind the scenes in the shadow of the administration going beyond the normal duties based on the official system.

In the 10th century, KAMO no Tadayuki and his son KAMO no Yasunori, and his student ABE no Seimei, having a mastery of all astronomy, Onmyodo, and calendar-making, appeared, and being an exception to people with an onmyoji hogi background who generally advanced to the Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade), they climbed to the Jushiinoge (Junior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade) by winning the trust of the very nerve center of the Imperial Court. KAMO no Yasunori taught everything there is to know about the art of calendar-making to his heir KAMO no Mitsuyoshi and astronomy to his student ABE no Seimei, and since both turned their learning into an esoteric art which was passed down by succession within their own respective families, ABE's astronomy acquired an extremely specific characteristic of forecasting disasters and auspicious signs, whereas, the art of calendar-making of the KAMO family changed into an art with a distinctively strong flavor of Sukuyodo rather than rekido in its pure form. As a result, the point was reached where onmyoji came exclusively from the Kamo and Abe clans and when ABE no Akichika, the grandson of ABE no Seimei, was assigned as Onmyo no kami, a policy was announced to permanently appoint the Kamo family members to reki hakase and the Abe family members to tenmon hakase and thereafter, the Kamo and Abe clans virtually monopolized all of the posts in Onmyoryo that were originally not designed to be inherited by succession. Further, when these families began to assume even higher government posts, surpassing the role of Onmyoryo while remaining onmyoji in reality, the official Onmyoryo became totally reduced to a shell and onmyoji became the charismatic spiritual rulers identified exclusively by their religious magic and ceremonies and thereby dominating the Imperial Court. With respect to policymakers in the nerve center of the Imperial Court between the 10th and 11th centuries, in particular, onmyoji played a significant role in various affairs, from politics and staffing to an Emperor's abdication from the throne, including being instrumental in the incident when Sadaijin (minister of the left) FUJIWARA no Tokihira demoted SUGAWARA no Michizane from a ministerial office to Dazai no gon no sochi (Shotai Incident).

Additionally, it was about this time when persons performing onmyoji acts outside Onmyoryo, that were originally supposed to be prohibited by the ritsuryo, became common in localities other than the capital and numerous charismatic onmyoji, including Doman ASHIYA, appeared in the private sector.

Throughout the 11th and 12th centuries, numerous masters came from the Abe family that specialized in astronomy, considered the most difficult among the arts of Onmyo, and a pattern was established making Onmyo no kami and Onmyo no suke the positions to be succeeded by the Abe and Kamo clans, respectively. Around the time of the War of Genpei at the end of the Heian Period, ABE no Yasuchika, the great-great-grandchild of ABE Seimei's child ABE no Yoshihira, had climbed to the Shoshiinojo (Senior Fourth Rank, Upper Grade) and his child ABE no Suehiro the Shoshiinoge (Senior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade), but their power declined for a time due to their losing political influence because power subsequently shifted to the Kamakura bakufu, with the confusion during the (Japanese) Nanbokucho period (period of North and South Courts) and with the family's infighting over which Court they were to side with.

The rise of the Samurai and the decline of the bureaucratic onmyoji

At the end of the Heian Period in the late 12th century, the Samurai class gained prominence with the rise of Heike (the Taira family) originated from Hokumen no bushi (warriors who served Emperor Daijo to provide protection) that was given an important position during the times of Insei (Cloistered politics) and Genji (the Minamoto clan) who defeated Heike, the military government, the Kamakura bakufu formally came into power in 1192. Since onmyoji was essential to establishing the code of conduct for both the Minamoto clan and the Taira clan since the days of the War of Genpei, the new Shogunate also had a high regard for Onmyodo. The originator of Shogunate, MINAMOTO no Yoritomo used the lucky days as divined by onmyoji in all matters from fighting at various places to seize power, to actions taken for all of the measures and policies in early days of the Shogunate and the second Shogun MINAMOTO no Yoriie followed Yoritomo's examples by inviting onmyoji from Kyoto, but Yoriie used onmyoji exclusively as accessories to add a formal touch to public functions, never letting onmyoji meddle with his private life.

After the assassination of the third shogun MINAMOTO no Sanetomo, with evolution of the Shikken administration (regent to shogun), it became common for royalty or a court noble to be invited to assume the status of the Kamakura Seii taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians") as a puppet shogun under the control of the Regent Hojo clan and because of their background, the invited shogun and people around them naturally attached importance to onmyoji. When the development of marshland in Musashi Province (presently Tokyo and Saitama Prefecture) was completed for the time being, the fourth shogun FUJIWARA no Yoritsune was told of a government strategy that, as a public works project, they planned to draw irrigation water from the Tama-gawa River water system to secure drinking water and to develop rice paddies but since it was located true north of Kamakura City, the home of the Kamakura Shogunate, the direction of the proposed development was judged as daibondo (the unluckiest direction) by onmyoji and the Shogun's residence consequently was moved (katatagae as called in Onmyodo) from Kamakura to another house of Akita jo no suke Yoshikage (秋田城介善景) in the present Tsurumi Ward, Yokohama City which was deemed a lucky direction prior to ordering the commencement of construction. Thereafter, subsequent generations of shogun began to keep a group of onmyoji called 'Kenmon onmyodo' close by instead of inviting onmyoji from Kyoto each time and, when the Jokyu War broke out later on, the Imperial Court had onmyoji in Onmyoryo and the shogun had Kenmon onmyoji say prayers, making onmyoji indispensable particularly to the shogun in the mid and late Kamakura Period.

However, only those close to the shogun who came from the Royal Family or the court noble class were devoted to Onmyodo, whereas, the Regent Hojo clan was indifferent and, from Bando hachi Heishi (the Taira clan in Eastern Japan) to the class of warriors originating from all regions throughout the country who later became known as 'kokujin' (people of the country) serving under the Hojo clan were not interested in prestige of the Imperial Court nor were they in the habit of consulting onmyoji on the code of conduct, onmyoji never acquired the power of spiritual influence to trample on the entire samurai class, limiting their visibility to within the powerless Imperial Court as well as the world of kugyo and court nobles. During the early Kamakura Period, the authority of shugonin bugyo (subsequently shugo) or jito over kokugaryo (state-owned land) and shoen (manor) was not so conspicuous, but after the mid Kamakura Period, as the tax revenue efficiency of the state-owned land and shoen or properties themselves began to be rapidly eaten away by these people, the Imperial Court and court nobles, who were the protection basis of onmyoji, started to experience financial difficulties.

When the (Japanese) Nanbokucho Period (period of North and South Courts) came as Takauji ASHIKAGA started the Muromachi bakufu, breaking away from Emperor Godaigo after the Kamakura bakufu was overthrown by the order of that emperor, the Ashikaga Shogunate family, having the feudal government in Kyoto and supporting the North Court, gradually began to adopt the court noble-like lifestyle and onmyoji once again began to have influence around the time of the third Seii taishogun Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA.
(It is said that Yoshimitsu was planning to make the authority of the Chrysanthemum Throne his own and his giving an important role to onmyoji was aimed at seizing the responsibility for religious services performed in the Imperial Court.)

Of the 2 families that passed down Onmyodo by succession, the Kadenokoji family that the Kamo family became commonly known as in the Nanbokucho Period (in the Muromachi Period, since their residence was located on Kadenokoji Street, the Kamo clan began to call themselves by this name, but it was different from the Kadenokoji family of the Fujiwara hokke Hino family line or the Shiba clan line) gradually lost their power and, even though KAMO no Arikata wrote 'Rekirinmondoshu' and flourished, the family line ceased to exist when the heir to the main branch of the Kadenokoji family was killed in the mid Muromachi Period. On the other hand, the Abe clan played their cards well, with ABE no Ariyo (the 14th generation ABE no Seimei) climbing to kugyo status of Junii (Junior Second Rank) by using the patronage of Seii taishogun ASHIKAGA Yoshimitsu as a stepping stone and it became the talk of the town as a landmark incident in which onmyoji, who were dreaded and detested because of the nature of their official capacity in the Imperial Court in those days, were made kugyo. Thereafter, ABE no Arimori, the child of ABE no Ariyo, ABE no Arisue, as well as ABE no Arinobu, were made kugyo from generation to generation, eventually advancing the Abe clan that was originally middle class nobility to the status of Tosho-ke, and during the days of ABE no Arinobu in the 16th century, by seizing the opportunity presented when the Kadenokoji family (formerly the Kamo clan) was extinguished, the Abe clan became a monopoly in both arts of astronomy and calendar-making for over 5 generations. Since the residence of the family head was located in the Tsuchimikado area for generations beginning in the days of ABE no Ariyo, the Abe clan began to refer to themselves as the Tsuchimikado family (named after the geographical name and this was different than the MINAMOTO no Michichika line of the Tsuchimikado family descended from Murakami-Genji (Minamoto clan)) monopolizing support of the Imperial Court and the Shogun and, up to this point, it seemed that the Abe clan enjoyed infallible power in relation to the arts of Onmyo.

The actual political power of the Ashikaga Shogunate, however, was not long-lived and, after the mid Muromachi Period, San-ke Shi-shoku (三家四職), except for the Hosokawa clan, declined and, rather than the Shogunate rein, the coalition government due to some powerful shugo, became stronger and this created a power struggle among factions that lead to frequent wars, such as the Onin War, breaking out. Additionally, as provincial military governors became daimyo (Japanese territorial lords) in the Sengoku period and the climate of gekokujo (an inverted social order when the lowly reigned over the elite) became widespread among shugodai (deputy military governors) and kokujin (local lords), samurai were desperately trying to survive and Onmyodo, which had been used as accessories for formal functions, were no longer seen as important; meanwhile, with Kyoto, which was home to the patron of the onmyoji, the Imperial Court, left devastated by a series of wars and the tyranny of the Sengoku daimyo, the sight of the shogun fleeing the capital became increasingly common. During the first half of the 16th century, ABE no Arinobu took refuge on his property in Natanosho Village Notaoi in Wakasa Province where he had never visited in peace time and although having been assigned as Onmyo no kami for 3 consecutive generations that included himself, his son Ariharu TSUCHIMIKADO and his grandchild Hisanaga TSUCHIMIKADO, they almost never reported to work in Kyoto. While staying in Wakasa, ABE no Arinobu performed various religious services such as Taizan fukunsai (a religious service to pray for a long life) which forced the perplexed Imperial Court to summon Aritomi KADENOKOJI who was a member of a branch family of the Kamo clan, to have him perform various kanjin (勘申) and the performance of Onmyoryo started to become extremely artificial. Thereafter, after the Oda clan, as the Toyotomi family consolidated power, when Taiko Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI ostracized his adoptive son Kanpaku Hidetsugu TOYOTOMI and ordered him to commit suicide by hara-kiri, Hisanaga TSUCHIMIKADO was convicted for having recited prayers at the request of Hidetsugu TOYOTOMI and was banished to Owari Province. After a massive crack down on onmyoji by Hideyoshi, the post of Onmyo no kami and its subordinate positions in Onmyoryo became vacant and when onmyoji had no work at the center of the government, the court Onmyodo lost its significance for a period of time.

Onmyoryo and onmyoji lost their presence as bureaucrats due to the complete breakdown of the ritsuryo system and Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI's oppression but, on the other hand, Onmyodo, that was supposed to have been a state secret, burst into the private sector and a large number of civilian onmyoji flourished across the country. In the Middle and early modern ages, the term onmyoji consequently no longer meant bureaucrats in Onmyoryo, but came to mean non-government civilian worker onmyoji performing kaji kito (removing bad spirits by offering prayers) or divinations personally requested by common people in the private sectors and their onmyodo went through unique transitions being blended in with popular faith and ethnic rituals in various regions. Around that time, 'Hokinaiden, ' apparently written by ABE no Seimei during the Nanbokucho Period (Japan), became widely known as a civil book of onmyo linked to the Gozutenno faith.

Bogus Shinto priests and monks as well as groups of eta hinin (people below the regular social class established in the Edo Period) called themselves onmyoji and traveled to various regions to perform reibai (spirit medium) or kuchiyose, demanding exorbitant fees for reciting prayers or performing divinations, and a clandestine and dubious public perception of such people associated with the term 'onmyoji' became widely established.

Subsequent to this time, some of civilian onmyoji who were on the constant move with no permanent home were looked down upon as were other homeless rovers.
They were sometimes called 'hakase.'

Re-emergence of bureaucrat onmyoji and the rise of civilian onmyoji in the early modern times

When the Toyotomi family began to lose their power after the death of Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI followed by the defeat of the West in the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Hisanaga TSUCHIMIKADO received a chigyo (enfeoffment) totaling 177 koku 6 to including Kaide Village and Terado Village in Otokuni District, Umenokoji Village and Saiin Village in Kadono District and Kisshoin Village in Kii District of Yamashiro Province from Ieyasu TOKUGAWA and returned to the Imperial Court. When the Edo bakufu was established in 1603, the Tsuchimikado family was officially acknowledged as the main branch of Onmyodo with their service often being sought for judging chiso, for the construction and layout of facilities when Edo was developed and when Nikko Toshogu Shrine was built later on. To put a lid on popular faith to prevent rumors from circulating, the Shogunate began to control activities of the flourishing civilian onmyoji in various regions at that time and to give that measure authority, the Shogunate schemed to use 2 onmyoji families (the Kamo clan and the Abe clan) from the Heian Period to administer civilian onmyoji in various provinces assigning the existing Tsuchimikado family and the Kamo family that was restored by Kotokui family, a branch family of the extinguished Kamo clan, to this task.

In view of this development, the Tsuchimikado powerhouse seized the opportunity to effectively eliminate the restored Kotokui family Kamo clan when Tomosuke KOTOKUI (幸徳井友傳) died in 1682, once again monopolizing all of the jobs in Onmyoryo and, in addition to the patronage of the good old Imperial Court, they were successfully authorized to exercise the exclusive rights to control all onmyoji across the country, by the Edo bakufu. Further, by exercising the exclusive rights to issue diplomas to onmyoji (a permit for Onmyo no sho, a student of Onmyo rather than an onmyoji) around the country, the Tsuchimikado family established themselves as the certified grand Onmyodo master and their Onmyodo became widely known as'Tsuchimikado Shinto' because of the Shinto style they adopted for their art leading them to their golden age. Onmyodo, ignored by the samurai class during wartime, was adopted in rituals observed by the Shogunate and became one of the fields of study for yusoku kojitsu (a study on government posts, ceremonies, and costumes in accordance with precedent since ancient times) by shogunate bureaucrats under the Edo bakufu government in time of peace.

Onmyoji around country were also active and with the Akaboshi family of the Katsuragisan shinzoku linage going back before the Nara Period, the Kuga family, the samurai onmyoji Ogasawara ryu of the Seiwa-Minamoto family lineage, the regional Saga family, Hachiman ryu, Heki family (日直家), the Onitsura family, Inasa-Nagura family (引佐名倉家), the Takashi family of the Enshu yamazumi lineage, the Nakao family of Shikoku and various families of the Azumi lineage taking the lead, they transformed Onmyodo by repeatedly blending regional folk customs of various locations with Onmyodo and it stayed in fashion as a popular faith among common people throughout the Edo Period.

In 1684, Harumi SHIBUKAWA, from the Tenmongata shogunate, completed Jokyo reki, the first solar calendar developed by Japanese to replace Senmyo reki (Senmyo calendar) which had been in use for 823 years and the shogunate took the calendar regulatory rights away from the Tsuchimikado family. Approximately 70 years later in 1755, however, when Yasukuni TSUCHIMIKADO made Horyaku reki (Horyaku calendar) successfully reforming the calendar and regaining the rights of regulating the calendar and calendar reform, but it is said that Horyaku reki contained numerous flaws and was considered to be inferior to the scientifically developed Jokyo reki.

Except for adopting temporal hours, as compared to the Tsuchimikado family's Horyaku reki or to the Jokyo reki, considered more accurate than Horyaku reki, the Tenpo reki (Tenpo calendar), subsequently developed after the Tenmongata shogunate regained leadership, is believed to a highly-accurate calendar.

Government measures to eliminate Onmyoji in the early modern age and present day Onmyoji

When the Meiji Period began, after Taisei hokan (restoration of Imperial political power), taking advantage of the confusion created by the Meiji Restoration, Onmyo no kami Haruo TSUCHIMIKADO requested and received permission for Onmyoryo to take over the former Tenmongata shogunate and expropriated complete authority over astronomical observation, as well as mapping, and surveys. Later, learning that the Meiji Government was planning to adopt the western style solar calendar, Haruo TSUCHIMIKADO vehemently insisted on Meiji kaireki (changing of the calendar in the Meiji period) to maintain the old lunisolar calendar, but this proposal was never taken up due to the demise Haruo TSUCHIMIKADO himself.

Consequently, among the top level people in the Meiji Government who received the proposal 'to change the calendar from Onmyoryo, the pro-western civilization people argued that to move ahead with introduction of the western advanced technology and to achieve Fukoku kyohei (fortifying the country, strengthening the military), because there was a strong possibility that Onmyoryo could lead the opposition to adopting modern science, Onmyodo had be eliminated,' whereas, Shinto purists or supporters of Joi ron (principle of expelling foreigners) argued that 'by having the emperor at the top of the government, they could not allow barbaric acts such as allegiants exercising real power by going over the emperor's head or breaching etiquette, such as; allegiants dictating what the emperor should do, and, further, they could not tolerate that, despite the fact that Shinto was the tradition in Japan, Onmyodo, and an art originating from a foreign country (China) should go unchallenged,' and with both parties identifying with the arguments put forward, most of them agreed to drive Onmyodo out. Additionally, Harenaga TSUCHIMIKADO, who assumed the post of Onmyo no kami after the passing of Haruo TSUCHIMIKADO, was still a child and was in no position to challenge what had been said on his own initiative.

Seizing this opportunity, in 1870, the Meiji government went ahead and abolished Onmyoryo and transferred tenmon and rekizan (calculation of calendar) to the university, observatory, or to a section of the Navy (Japan). The former Onmyo no kami Harenaga TSUCHIMIKADO was assigned as Seigakukyoku (astronomy department) goyogakari but was subsequently removed from that position in the end of that year and the arts of tenmon, onmyo and reki became totally detached from the Tsuchimikado family. In 1872, Tensha kinshirei (Ban on Tensha) was issued and dissemination of Onmyodo was also prohibited among the common people based on the grounds that it was superstition. An Onmyodo ceremony 'Tensochifusai' (following the example of the Royal Family, this ceremony was always performed for the Tokugawa samurai Shogunate each time the new shogun received the Emperor's order to assume the position of Seii taishogun) that had invariably been performed every time a new emperor ascended to the Chrysanthemum throne from Emperor Goyozei in ancient times to the last emperor of the Edo Period Emperor Komei, was not held for Emperor Meiji. The Tsuchimikado family lost the government post to conduct the arts of Onmyo as well as the exclusive right to issue diplomas and while they further moved Tsuchimikado Onmyodo towards Shinto, out of necessity, they also lost their influence over civilian onmyoji in various regions.

Since the Meiji government issued the ban, nothing deriving from Onmyodo was seen at public functions any more and Onmyodo was also no longer in fashion among the people. The Onmyodo calendar, however, remained unofficially in circulation with rekichu having its own wings backed by its mounting popularity and Junichoku (12 choku) was particularly preferred which many people referred to for formality or codes of conduct.

After the Second World War, since the ban on Onmyodo was officially annulled in conjunction with obsolescence of the laws and notices established by the old Meiji government, Rokuyo (6 yo) (originally 'Rokki' meaning sensho/sakigachi/sakikachi, tomobiki, senbu/sakimake/senmake, butsumetsu, taian and shakko/shakku), a rekichu that onmyoji used in the past became more popular than Junichoku (12 choku) and it came into general use as part of Important Dates in calendars and day planners but, first and foremost, its use remains a supplementary rekichu. With respect to divinations and calendars, Takashima ekidan and Takashima-reki (Takashima calendar) by Jingukan in Ueno Ward, Tokyo is relatively in common use, but their art cannot be referred to as Onmyodo.

Today, since virtually no one relies on Onmyodo or the art of onmyoji to guide their actions or personal principles in general, there is nothing to remind us of the once powerful Onmyodo or onmyoji remaining and, aside from the Tsuchimikado family, although their present art is far removed from Onmyodo in the mid and late Heian Period, who remain in existence as Onmyo artists under the name of Tensha Tsuchimikado Shinto Head Office in Oi-cho, Fukui Prefecture (formerly Natacho Village) in the old Wakasa Province which was once the family estate, only a few remaining regional onmyoji such as Izanagi ryu that have been around in Kami City, Kochi Prefecture (formerly Monobe Village) exist.

Pre Asuka period Onmyo artists

Eji ? - 623

Came to the Japanese Imperial Court from Goguryeo in 595 (the 3rd year of Emperor Suiko's era) during the Asuka Period, becoming Shotoku Taishi's instructor for Buppo. Eji spread Buppo and, together with Eso who came from Goguryeo, became a manager of Hoko-ji Temple (presently Asuka-dera Temple Ango-in) as 'Sanpo no toryo' when it was built in 596. Eji brought the principles of inyo gogyo in conjunction with Buppo. In 615, Eji returned to Goguryeo bearing the Buddhist scriptures Sankyogisho (Three sutras) (Hokekyo (Lotus sutra), Shomangyo (Srimala Sutra) and Yuimagyo (Vimalakirti Sutra)) written by Shotoku taishi.

Kanroku ? - ?

A scholar-monk who came from Baekje in October 602 (the 10tn year of Emperor Suiko's era). The first sojo in Japan. Kanroku introduced the book of astronomy/geography, Genka-reki (Genka calendar), and Tonko hojutsu as well as Matogakyo based on the principles of inyo gogyo, giving lectures to the 34 selected students including Shotoku taishi.

It is said that Kanroku taught calendar-making to YAKO no Tamafuru, astronomy to OTOMO no Takasato and Tonko hojutsu to YAMASHIRO no Hitate (Nihonshoki (Chronicles of Japan), vol. 22).

The book of Genka calendar was formally adopted as the official calendar by Shotoku taishi in 640 (Seiji yoryaku (Book of exempla for administering affairs of state)).

Kanroku was the pioneer or the grass roots of Onmyodo in Japan, coming as the first Sojo by having 'the status of Kanroku enshrined to seal off the influence of the existing Gobosei bunka (Pentagram culture) with Onmyodo.'
Initially, Kanroku resided at Asuka-ji Temple, Hoko-ji Temple affiliated with the pro-Baekje Soga clan and Genko-ji Temple, and founded Kurada-daiji Temple on Kudara River in the Yamato Province in 639.

In 1998, mokkan (a piece of wood) on which his name was inscribed, that read, 'Emperor ….677…Kanroku…' was excavated from the Asukaike archaeological site, the remains of the Bureau of Onmyo and astrology station built at a later date in the years of Emperor Tenmu.

YAKO no Tamafuru (or YAKO no Fumibito no Oyatamafuru) ? - ?

It is said that YAKO was from Han and he came to Japan from Sui or during the era of Emperor Suiko or was a son of one of the feudal lords in the Osumi Province. The ancestor of YAKO no Fumibito (or YAKO no Fuhito). In 602, YAKO studied and mastered reki under Kanroku and becoming the founder of the principles of reki in Japan (Nihonshoki (Chronicles of Japan) Volume 22).

OTOMO no Takasato (or OTOMO no Suguri Takasato) ? - ?

Came from Eastern Han and came to Japan during Emperor Suiko's era. Was also referred to as OTOMO no Suguri Takasato. In 602, OTOMO studied and mastered tenmon under Kanroku becoming the founder of the principles of tenmon in Japan (Nihonshoki (Chronicles of Japan) Volume 22).

YAMASHIRO no Hitate (or YAMASHIRO no Omihitate) ? - ?

Also referred to as YAMASHIRO no Hinami (or YAMASHIRO no Omihinami). The likeliest explanation is that he came from the Royal Family. In 602, YAMASHIRO studied and mastered tonko which was ninjutsu described in the book of military science as "art to seize good luck and to circumvent bad luck" under Kanroku and became the founder of the principles of tonko hojutsu in Japan (Nihonshoki (Chronicles of Japan) Volume 22).

So MIN (or So NICHIBUN) ? - 653

A returnee from Baekje representing the conservative wing of Baekje. Manager of Kurada-daiji Temple succeeding Kanroku. While the formal Buddhist name was written as 僧日文 (So Nichibun), the vertical writing of that name was misread as 僧旻 and established as his name.

In 608, So MIN accompanied the first Kenzuishi ONO no Imoko and subsequently studied in Sui for 24 years mastering a wide range of studies including Buddhism, Confucianism, the principles of Inyo Gogyo, tenmon and eki. In August 632, So MIN returned to Japan accompanying the first Kentoshi INUGAMI no Mitasuki. Thereafter, So MIN was appointed to important positions, lecturing on eki (such as shueki, which was an eki established during the Zhou Dynasty) to the pro-Baekje SOGA no Iruka, a funeral servant called FUJIWARA no Kamatari and others (according to a book called Taishokukanden).

So MIN was well versed in astronomy, preaching that the meteors of 637 were the roar of tengu (goblin with long nose) and that the meteors appearing in 639 were the omen of a famine.

After the Isshi Incident, during the Taika era reforms lasting from 645 to the following year, So MIN was designated as a high priest, being one of the '10 Masters' in keeping with the pro-Buddhist state policy. He was subsequently assigned as Kokuhakase (political brain, an unofficial advisory body, a close aide to the Emperor and) along with TAKAMUKO no Kuromaro, playing a key role in developing various Imperial proclamations, ordinances, and systems including the 'Proclamation of Taika Era Reforms' and Hassho hyakkan no sei (Eight-ministry Hundred-kan system) in 649. In 650, when a white pheasant was presented by Kokushi of Shirato Province, on the basis of a precedent in which the appearance of an uncommon bird was considered as an auspicious sign written in an isho in the Han period in China as well as in Chinese books on history, So MIN submitted a jonzui kaigen (a principle of Onmyodo which suggests a new era name be established when a phenomenon considered as a lucky omen occurs) to Emperor Kotoku urging that 'since heaven presented an auspicious sign responding to the Emperor's virtues, a general amnesty should be granted to the entire nation,' thereby the imperial era name was changed Hakuchi (white pheasant) and he remained in an important post until his death in 653.

Doken (or Hoshi Doken) ? - ?

Doken returned from Goguryeo in Emperor Saimei's era.
He was also referred to as 'Samon Doken,' 'So Doken,' or 'Dogen.'

Rather than performing Buddhist-related activities, Doken worked as a policy maker focusing on diplomacy by using shikisen (divination).

Doken authored Nihon Seiki, private notes of diplomacy between Japan and Baekje/Goguryeo. Of the existing books, it used the country name of 'Japan' for the first time.

Rokufukumu ? - ?

Onmyoji from the noble class in Baekje. It reads 'KAKU Ponmo' in Hanguel.

After the fall of Baekje and the defeat in the Battle of Hakusonko (Battle of Baekgang), Rokufukumu came to Japan as a refugee on a Japanese salvage boat in 663 (Nihonshoki). Rokufukumu was given 'Shosen jo' which was the 18th of 26 court ranks.

Gyojin ? - ?

Gyojin came to Japan from the former Baekje region in the United Silla during the era of Emperor Tenchi. He was accused as an accessory for allegely leading Prince Otsu into rebellion and was transported to the Izu Province and then to the Hida Province.

Hozo (Sohozo) ? - ?

Hozo came to Japan as a refugee escaping from the war due to the fall of Baekje during the years of Emperor Tenmu.

Ryukan (Takara) ? - ?

Ryukan was the son of the toraiso Gyojin who came from the United Silla. Taking over from his father who was banished to Izu Province and then moved to a temple in Hida Province, he became a monk scholar familiar with the various arts of Onmyo referring to himself using the Buddhist name of 'Ryukan' receiving a reduction of punishment for predicting an auspicious sign on the occasion that kokushi (provincial bureaucrat) of Hida Province presented shinme (horses presented to shrines or horses used for ceremonies held at shrines in Japan) in 702 and was allowed to go to the capital city (Shoku nihongi).
Afterwards, when he worked in the Imperial Court, Ryukan returned to a secular life changing his name to 'Takara.'

KIBI no Makibi 695 - 775

KIBI no Makibi was a nobleman and scholar who studied the principles of inyo gogyo while visiting Tang as a Kentoshi brought back the numerous related literature and demonstrated the talent as onmyoji. Serving Emperor Shomu, he replaced the conventional Jugonshi with Onmyodo and adopted Taien reki (Taien calendar) based on Onmyodo. KIBI no Makibi was demoted by FUJIWARA no Nakamaro but subsequently climbed to the post of Udaijin (minister of the right) in recognition of his success in repressing Nakamaro's rebellion. The story about assuaging the ghost of FUJIWARA no Hirotsugu is well known (Konjaku monogatari (Tales of Now and Then)).

ABE no Nakamaro 698 - 770

ABE accompanied Kentoshi as an exchange student who, having studied hard, successfully taking Kakyo/Keju (examinations for Chinese state bureaucrats) climbed to a high-ranking official in Tang but never returned to Japan.
ABE's Chinese name was 'Choko.'
ABE no Seimei claimed that ABE no Nakamaro was his ancestor, but it contradicted the historical facts.

OTSU no Obito

OTSU came from the family of toraijin from the United Silla.
He was also referred to as 'OTSU no Murajiobito.'

After entering priesthood, OTSU was active as a monk 'Giho' but was sent to United Silla as an ambassador and, after coming back to Japan, he returned to a secular life by royal decree to work in the Imperial Court and was given the name OTSU no Obito. He was an ancestor of the Otsu family, members of which held the position of onmyoji for generations until the time of OTSU Oura.

OTSU received Jugoinojo (Junior Fifth Rank, Upper Grade) in 721. He worked as Onmyo no kami and also as Kogogu no suke (around 730).

Onmyoji performed primary duties as prescribed by the Ritsuryo during the Nara Period

TSUMORI Toru (TSUMORI no Muraji Toru) ? - ?

TSUMORI was an Onmyoji from the toraijin lineage in the early Nara Period.
He was also referred to as 'TSUMORI no Muraji Toru.'
TSUMORI was given a responsible position by Emperor Jito and Prince Kusakabe, he divined and publicly exposed a secret meeting of the rival Prince Otsu.
After this event, Prince Otsu wrote a poem (Manyoshu the 108 poem, volume 2)
Prince Otsu when his secret rendezvous with ISHIKAWA no Iratsume was exposed by divination performed by TSUMORI no Muraji Toru> "Although we knew if we went on the big boat, the port master in the inlet would catch us. We still slept together"

Prince Otsu when his secret rendezvous with ISHIKAWA no Iratsume was exposed by divination performed by an onmyoji by the name of TSUMORI no Muraji Toru> "We slept together knowing full well that, if we boarded the big boat (an analogy of a conspicuous action meaning a secret rendezvous), we would be caught in 'ura' (is a double-meaning word, i.e., 'inlet' and 'divination') that is under surveillance by 'Tsumori' (is a double-meaning word, i.e., 'port authority' and 'TSUMORI,' the name of Onmyoji).

is well known.

TSUMORI received the Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade), Kunimori (Official of a province) of the Mimasaka Province, October 714. TSUMORI received the Jugoinojo (Junior Fifth Rank, Upper Grade) in October 724.
(Shoku nihongi Volume 9)

Kokinzo (Shinzei) ? - ?

Kokinzo came from Goguryeo.
His Buddhist name was 'Shinzei.'

Onmyoji, 701 to 723. Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade) (also Onmyo no kami?).

Roku no Emaro

The name '角彔' should be written as one Kanji character, and 'Roku no Emaro' was also known as 'Tsununo Emaro.'

Onmyo hakase 701 to 727. Shorokuinojo (Senior Sixth Rank, Upper Grade) 721.

O Chubun ? - ?

O came from Goguryeo and his Buddhist name was 'Toro.'

Tenmon hakase 701 to 720. Shorokuinojo (Senior Sixth Rank, Upper Grade) 721.


Takara was from Silla and had the Japanese name of 'Ryukan' and the posthumous name of 'Kunimi no Muraji Takara.'

702 - 724

FUMI no Imiki Hiromaro

He was from Han.

Onmyoji in the 700's.

池辺史大嶋 ? - ?

He was from Han ?

Rokoku hakase in the 700's.

YAMAGUCHI no Imikitanushi ? - ?

He was from Han. YAMAGUCHI excelled in rekido and was also a renowned expert in mathematics, receiving the Shorokuinojo (Senior Sixth Rank, Upper Grade) in 721 followed by an official designation as the master torchbearer of mathematics in 730.

Shorokuinojo (Senior Sixth Rank, Upper Grade) 721. Onmyo Reki hakase 709 to 730.

YO no Yasukatsu ? - ?

A descendant of the exiled royal family of Baekje.

Shorokuinojo (Senior Sixth Rank, Upper Grade) 721.

Shigahe no Muraji Amida ? - ?

He was from Han.
Shigahe was also known as 'Shigahe no Muraji Amida (志我閇連阿弥太).''

Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade) 721 to 723.

Narahisashokun (楢日佐諸君)

He was from Han.

Onmyo no taizoku 728.

YO no Mahito ? - ?

He was a descendant of the exiled royal family of Baekje.

Yoro (717 - 723) - Jinki (724 - 728) Eras
Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade) 717.

YANA Koju (NANIWA no mura Koju) ? - ?

YANA was from Goguryeo.
He was also known as 'YANA Koju (谷那康受).'
YANA was given a kabane (surname) of Naniwa no muaji.

Pre 720's.

Gishi no Norimaro

There is a poem about plum flowers in Dazaifu written by ISOUJI in Manyoshu.

ISOUJI was assigned as Dazai Onmyoji in Dazaifu in 730.

Naniwa no Muraji Yoshinari ? - ?

He was from Goguryeo.

730 - 731.

KO no Mugita ? - ?

KO was from Goguryeo.

Onmyoji 737 to 740.
Also Onmyo no kami 738

YO no Masuhito (Kudara no Asomi Masuhito) ? - ?

He was a descendant of the exiled royal family of Baekje. YO was given a kabane (surname) of Kudara ason.

Dazai Onmyoji 758 to 764.

YAMANOUE no Asomifunanushi ? - ?

It is written that YAMANOUE, being implicated in the Rebellion of HIKAMI no Kawatsugu in 782, was demoted to the post of Oki no kami (actually a form of banishment) aside from his serving as Onmyo no kami during the years of Enryaku (Shoku nihongi).

Onmyo no kami and also Tenmon hakase 767 to 805.

Kudaranokimi no Akimaro ? - ?

Kudaranokimi no Akimaro was a descendant of the exiled royal family of Baekje.

Onmyo no taizoku 767. Onmyo no jo 769.

KUNIMI no Muraji Imamushi ? - ?

KUNIMI was from Silla.

Tenmon hakase 767.

OTSU no Oura

It is believed that he was a grandson of OTSU no Obito. It is also said that he was Mibu to Prince Otsu.

Onmyo no kami 771 to 774.

KI no Asominokami ? - ?

KI was from the royal family.

Onmyo no kami (?) 774 to 782.

Sakai no sukune Minomaro

He was from Goguryeo.
Also called HEKI no miyatsuko no Minomaro (日置造蓑麻呂)

Onmyo no kami 747 to 783.

TAKAHASHI no Asomi Misaka ? - ?

TAKAHASHI was from the royal family.

Onmyo no kami 785.

Fune no muraji taguchi (船連田口)

He was from Baekje.

Onmyo no suke 781 to 784.

FUJIWARA no Yoshio ? - ?

In 752, FUJIWARA accompanied a Kentoshi FUJIWARA no Kiyokawa as an exchange student and was characterized as a Zen artist more than Onmyo artist. After returning to Japan, he was assigned as Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade) and was given the surname FUJIWARA no Emi Ason. After being implicated in the Rebellion of Emi no Oshikatsu, FUJIWARA was banished to Oki in 764, was pardoned with restoration of Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade) as well as the surname of FUJIWARA no Emi Ason, in addition to permission to return to the capital in 772 and received Jugoinojo (Junior Fifth Rank, Upper Grade) in 778.

Onmyo no kami 791.

OMINU no Mahito Isomori ? - ?

He was considered royalty, but since the court ranks he was given were generally low, many refute that theory. He was also known as MINU no Mahito Isomori.

Onmyo no suke 786.

FUJIWARA no Sugatsugu

Onmyo no kami 784 to 791.

Onmyoji performing the duties originally stipulated in the Ritsuryo system in early Heian Period.

OTSU no Uminari

Onmyo no jo 798.

SUGAWARA no Yomichi (菅原世道)

Onmyo no shozoku 798.

NAKATOMI Shihi muraji kunimori (中臣志斐連国守)

Onmyo hakase (798 to 810). Tenmon hakase (808 to 810).

Enu no goori no omi (江沼臣小並)

Onmyo no suke (815 to 820).

Shihi no Hitonari

Student of Onmyo (Onmyo no sho) 820.

Hirohata no Kiyotsugu

Student of Onmyo 820.


Onmyoji 820.

FUJIWARA no Namifuji

Onmyo no kami 832 to 847.

Toki no Atae Kiyohama

Reki hakase 831.

Haji no Onari

Dazai Onmyoji 833.

Ookasuga no Yoshimune

Reki hakase (?) (sometime between 824 and 847).

HARUSONO no Tamanari

Onmyoji 836 to 837. Double assignments as Kento Onmyoji and also as 陰陽請益 839 to 841.
Onmyo hakase 841 to 842


暦請益 839.


Onmyo no kami 840.

OKASUGA no Manomaro

Reki hakase 856 to 862. Onmyo no kami 860 to 862.

KASA no Nadaka

Onmyo no gonhakase 857. Onmyo hakase 871. Onmyo no suke 858 to 871.

Nakatomi Shihi no muraji Harutsugu

Tenmon hakase 860 to 870.


Onmyo no jo 862 to 869.

KUSAKABE no Toshisada

Onmyo no daizoku 863 to 864. Onmyo no gon no jo 873. Onmyo no suke 877 to 882.

KUDARA no Kiyosada (百済淸貞)

Shozoku 863.

IEHARA no Satoyoshi

Reki hakase 867 to 884. Onmyo no suke 872. Onmyo no kami 877 to 884.

MIYAJI no Iyamasu

Rokoku hakase 877.

Yoshinao HATA (秦經尚)

Onmyo no gonjo (権允) 877.


Onmyo hakase 879 to 887.


Tenmon hakase 881.

Ookasuga no Ujinushi

Gon no reki no hakuji 882.

Nakatomi Shihi no muraji Hiromori

Tenmon hakase 886.

Munekimi KATSURAGI (KUZUKI) (葛木宗公)

He was assigned as Reki hakase (?)

Shigetsune KATSURAGI (KUZUKI) (葛木茂経)

Reki ?

Hironori OKASUGA (大春日弘範)

Star Onmyoji Performing Magic in the Mid to Late Heian Period.

SHIGEOKA no Kawahito (? - 868)

SHIGEOKA was an onmyoji who played an active role during the years of Emperor Montoku and Emperor Seiwa in the Early to Mid Heian Period and was also known as 'SHIGEOKA no Kawahito (滋丘川人)' with a different kanji for 'kawa.'
He is considered to be the ancestor of what we call the court onmyoji, an authority of shikisen and tonko as well as excelling in magic, and often performed ceremonies for eliminating insect plagues and for rain making.

SHIGEOKA is considered to have written numerous technical books including 'Seiyodoseikyo,' 'Shishosukuyokyo,' 'Jigaku shinjutsutonko sho,' 'Rokko rikujo,' 'Takkankyo' etc., but, unfortunately, none of them remain in existence today.

Committing an offense, SHIGEOKA no Kawahito and ABE no Yasuhito were hunted by the infuriated Earth God, but they managed to escape by hiding themselves by using SHIGEOKA's forte, Onkei no jutsu, and this episode is known as the 'Story of SHIGEOKA no Kawahito who was hunted by the Earth God' in Konjaku Monogatari (Tales of Now and Then).

Onmyo hakase 854 to 874. Also Onmyo no gonjo (権允) 854. Also Onmyo no gonsuke 857 to 865. He was also assigned the post of Gon no taijo in Harima Province in 861. Also Onmyo no kami 874.

YUGE no Koreo (弓削是雄) ? - ?

A student of Onmyoji SHIGEOKA no Kawahito, who flourished in days of Emperor Seiwa and Emperor Uda during the mid Heian Period. He was from the same clan as that of YUGE no Dokyo who was dubbed kaiso (怪僧) and it is said that he was a master of shikisen. A story where, at the invitation of FUJIWARA no Arikage, YUGE no Koreo visited Omi where he met an emissary of Kokuzoin TOMO no Yotsugi, and YUGE no Koreo saved the life of TOMO by performing divination and taking countermeasures against a nightmare TOMO had ('Tenmon Hakase YUGE no Koreo divined a dream,' Konjaku Monogatari) and another story where, out of compassion for a trainee monk, over 60 years old, who had yet to pass an exam to become a monk, YUGE no Koreo eliminated the observing examiner by using magic in an attempt to help the trainee monk pass the exam and the trainee monk passed the exam at the discretion of Kiyoyuki MIYOSHI who was a good friend of YUGE no Koreo (Zenke isetsu); these stories are well known.

KAMO no Tadayuki ? - 960
Onmyo no jo 873 to 877.
Onmyo no gonsuke 877 to 885
Onmyo no kami 885.

Kiyoyuki MIYOSHI (also known as Kiyotsura MIYOSHI) 847 - 919

A classic Chinese scholar in the mid Heian Period.
Also known as 善相公
It is said that since he was a righteous person who refused to give in to authority, it took him a long time to advance in his career.

Originally, MIYOSHI was a classic Chinese scholar mastering Kidendo (literature) in the university and not Onmyoji from Onmyoryo, but was very knowledgeable about the arts of astronomy, Onmyo, and divination. Kiyoyuki MIYOSHI successfully proposed a change of era name to the emperor based upon Shinisetsu (a periodical prediction theory, a Chinese theory explaining that extraordinary events will happen in the years of kanototori (辛酉) and kinoene (甲子)) and after that the era name was changed to Engi, it became customary to change an era name back then, based on the cyclical disaster theory to avoid disasters and uprisings.

Monjo hakase (master of literature) 900 to 910. Also Daigaku no kami (head of a university) and Ise gon no suke 901. Also Shikibu no sho 903. Shikibu no taifu and Bicchu gon no mori 905. Sangi and Kunaikyo 917. Also Harima gon no mori 918.

KAMO no Tadayuki ? - 960

The founder of the Kamo family that later became a dynasty of Onmyo artists. The father of KAMO no Yasunori. The teacher of ABE no Seimei. It is said that KAMO was a descendant of EN no Ozume, the founder of Shugendo who flourished in the Nara Period. When the Rebellion of TAIRA no Masakado and the Rebellion of FUJIWARA no Sumitomo broke out in 940, to address the situation, he presented 'Byakue kannon ho,' which even the Esoteric Buddhist high priests were said to have no knowledge of in those days, to the then person of power, FUJIWARA no Morosuke; and MIYOSHI was appointed to a responsible post. KAMO no Tadayuki was familiar with not just the art of Onmyo, but with various other subjects including the arts of astronomy, and calendar making as well as augury of renowned accuracy that legend has it that when Emperor Murakami had him perform augury on the contents of a box in which, unbeknownst to KAMO, a crystal rosary was hidden, he correctly guessed what was inside the box ('Choyagunsai' by MIYOSHI no Tameyasu). He is known to have recognized and developed the talent of his heir KAMO no Yasunori and his student ABE no Seimei early on.

KAMO no Yasunori 917 - 977

A child of KAMO no Tadayuki and, along with his father, one of the representative Onmyoji of the mid Heian Period.
The teacher of ABE no Seimei and his own son KAMO no Yoshihira and, being so highly regarded that Yasunori acclaimed that 'this Imperial Court defines the scale of Onmyo.'
He was also successful as a bureaucrat and advanced to the post of Onmyo no kami. He taught everything there was to know about the art of calendar making to his heir KAMO no Mitsuyoshi and the art of astronomy to his student ABE no Seimei, building the foundation of a succession system for the two-family heredity of the Kamo Family and the ABE Family down the road. A story in which he competed against his student ABE no Seimei in a game of augury 'senpuku' to guess hidden contents is supposed to to have been included in Konjaku Monogatari and he is supposed to have written some technical books such as '暦林'and'保憲抄'on rekido and Onmyodo, but unfortunately, none of these exist today.

KAMO no Mitsuyoshi 939 - 1015

The heir of KAMO no Yasunori.
He was a talented Onmyoji
According to 'Zoku kojidan,' since his father KAMO no Yasunori taught the art of astronomy exclusively to ABE no Seimei, he ended up only inheriting the art of calendar making, which caused him to view ABE no Seimei as his rival.
Aside from excelling in the art of calendar making, he was a talented prescient and was highly praised because 'he hit the mark as easily as turning over his hand.'
It is written in 'Midokanbakuki (FUJIWARA no Michinaga's diary)' and 'Eiga monogatari (Tale of Flowering Fortunes)' that FUJIWARA no Michinaga often summoned him along with ABE no Seimei to consult with them or have them perform divinations and many of the nobility had a high regard for KAMO no Yasunori.

ABE no Seimei 921 - 1005

The founder of the subsequent Tsuchimikado family
ABE no Seimei participated in Kentoshi studying under伯道上人 in the home of Onmyo 城刑山 and after returning to Japan, he developed a unique Onmyodo that was a specialized esoteric occult art. It is said that Seimei wrote the masterpiece of Onmyodo 'Kinugyokutoshu,' but on the other hand, many argue that it was given to him by 伯道上人 who taught Onmyodo to him. It should be noted, however, that only 'Senjiryakketsu,' which was passed down from generation to generation in the Tsuchimikado family, has been confirmed to be the work of Seimei. Seimei excelled in astronomy which was said to be the most difficult of all of the arts of Onmyo and he was given an important post by the 6 successive emperors; Emperor Suzaku, Emperor Murakami, Emperor Reizei, Emperor Enyu, Emperor Kazan and Emperor Ichijo as well as FUJIWARA no Michinaga and FUJIWARA no Sanesuke thereby enjoying influential power.
After serving as Tenmon hakase, Seimei went beyond Onmyoryo, successively holding various government posts such as Kazue no gon no suke, Daizen taifu, Sakyo no gon no daifu and the magistrate of the powerful Harima Province and climbed to 'Jushiinoge (Junior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade).'
It is said that Seimei achieved his successes by devoting himself to serving the powerful persons of the hour and, nevertheless, he was full of mystery. It is said that Seimei performed phenomenal magic by using a spell called Seman (Seimei kikyo, Seimei mon and Gobosei) and using dolls to make most of Shikigami Junishinsho (Twelve Shikigami gods) such as Seiryu, Kochin, Rokugo, Suzaku, Toda, Kijin, Tengo, Daion, Genbu, Taimo, Byakko and Tenku. From a time not long after his death, there have been numerous legends about Seimei over-exaggerating his distinctiveness that 'he understood the language birds spoke,' 'his mother was a white fox named 'Kuzu no ha (Kuzu Leaf) living in the woods in Shinoda,' and 'he was an androgyny' and, in addition, Seimei has been the subject of countless literary works including Kojidan, Okagami, Uji shuin monogatari, Kokonchomonju, Konjaku monogatari shu, Taigensho, Nihongiryaku, Gonki, Heika monogatari (the Tale of the Taira clan), Oeyama ekotoba, Genko shakusho, Genpei seisuiki, Hosshinshu, Hojo kudaiki (Records of nine generations of the Hojo clan) and Shishuhyakuinnenshu, the topic for kabuki or bunraku such as Shinodazuma, Ashiya Doman ouchi kagami and Kanazoshi Abe no Seimei monogatari, the main character of the novels written by YUMEMAKURA Baku, comics created by OKANO Reiko, many movies and TV shows as well as computer games over the period from the Middle Ages to modern times and today. Although it was burnt down at one point, Seimei Jinja Shrine which was built on the grounds where Seimei's residence use to be, by Emperor Ichijo in 1007, it has been restored and still remains at 806 Horikawa-dori ichijo agaru, Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto City and, in addition, his grave marker remains at the enclave premises of Seimei Jinja Shrine at Saga Tenryu-ji Suminokura-cho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto City.

ABE no Yoshihira 954 - 1026

The heir of ABE no Seimei. As an onmyoji ranking with KAMO no Mitsuyoshi, he was given important posts by FUJIWARA no Michinaga, FUJIWARA no Sanesuke, and other powerful persons much the same as his father, and advanced from Tenmon hakase and Onmyo hakase to Onmyo no suke climbing to the Jushiinojo (Junior Fourth Rank, Upper Grade). Mitsuyoshi presided over Goryusai and Shikakusai (Nihongiryaku), removed Imperial Prince Tomohira's evil spirit that possessed FUJIWARA no Yorimichi by saying prayers with KAMO no Mitsuyoshi (Hobutsushu) and, advised FUJIWARA no Yorimichi as to the manners of coffining and how the funeral of Princess Kishi (or Yoshiko) should be carried out who had died giving birth to Imperial Prince Chikahito (Eiga monogatari). It is detailed in Kokonchomonju that he predicted an earthquake when having a banquet with the physician TANBA no Masatada.

ABE no Yoshimasa 955 - 1031

The second child of ABE no Seimei. Yoshimasa was favored by KAMO no Yasunori because of his great sensitivity and love of learning and, in 1017, was promoted to Onmyo no kami a position to which even ABE no Seimei was never appointed. He is known to have predicted a solar eclipse.

ABE no Akichika

A child of ABE no Yoshihira and the third generation descendant of ABE no Seimei. When he was assigned as Onmyo no kami in 1055, it was established that the positions of Reki hakase and Tenmon hakase were to be passed down by succession within the Kamo and the Abe clans, respectively.

ABE no Yasunari

The fourth generation descendant of ABE no Seimei. According to Shimeikyo, it is said that Yasunari had faced off against yoko (fox spirit) Tamamo no mae with magic. Advanced to Onmyo no kami.

ABE no Yasuchika

A child of ABE no Yasunari and the fifth generation descendant of ABE no Seimei. Was given important posts by FUJIWARA no Yorinaga and Kanesane KUJO, advancing to Onmyo no kami in 1182.
He was a brilliant augury performer accurately predicting the downfall of the Taira family and its timing and was dubbed 'Sasu no miko.'
It is said that when lightening struck his shoulder searing his sleeve, he was miraculously unharmed.

Doma hoshi (? - ?)

A non-bureaucrat Onmyoji also known as Doma hoshi. Doma hoshi was a member of one of the civilian (illegal) onmyoji groups in Harima Province (present-day Hyogo Prefecture) excelling in magic, and legend has it that he preferred a spell called seman doman (a lattice pattern consisting of 4 vertical and 5 horizontal lines representing 9 letters), or he became known as 'Doman seman' by using ABE no Seimei's seman doman. ABE no Seimei was highly regarded by Kanpaku (chief adviser to the Emperor), FUJIWARA no Michinaga, it is considered that ASHIYA Doman was ordered to curse Michinaga by Sadaijin (minister of the left) FUJIWARA no Koremitsu, Michinaga's political adversary that was the defining moment of the eternal rivalry between Seimei and Doman. In 'Hoshoki,' the regional magazine in the Harima Province in the Muromachi Period, it is written that ASHIYA Doman was banished to Harima after being exposed by ABE no Seimei that he was asked to curse FUJIWARA no Michinaga by FUJIWARA no Koremitsu and Doman's descendants subsequently moved to the Aga-Miyake area near the Seto Island Sea to carry on their onmyoji business. In literary works including the Kabuki and Bunraku adaptation 'Ashiya Doman Ouchi Kagami,' Doman often appears as ABE no Seimei's rival having a magic showdown with him but he is invariably portrayed as a villain serving as a foil to Seimei.

Doman came to Kyoto with a proposal that the loser of a game of magic between him and Seimei performed at the Imperial Palace become the student of the winner whereby the emperor had a chest containing 16 large oranges brought out hidden from the view of the 2 competitors and said, 'Tell what is inside.'
Doman immediately guessed the contents of the chest and excitedly answered, '16 large oranges' but Seimei, after performing kaji, quietly said, '16 mice.'
Ministers and kugyo in the audience wanted Seimei who was an onmyoji belonging to the central government to win, but they were disappointed since they knew the contents were unquestionably oranges and it was clear that Seimei had lost the game. When the chest was opened, however, Seimei had changed oranges into mice using shikigami, 16 mice jumped out and ran around everywhere. There are two well-known stories concerning subsequent events: one is that Doman then became Seimei's student as had been agreed, while the other is that while Seimei was away visiting China as a member of Kentoshi and training under the guidance of 伯道上人, Doman and Seimei's wife began to have an affair and, upon Seimei's return, using a magic he had mastered by sneaking a look at a book that 伯道上人 had given to Seimei, Doman won a duel to the death with Seimei, which prompted 伯道上人to come to Japan as his instincts alerted him to Seimei's death, whereupon he resuscitated Seimei and decapitated Doman; some time later, Seimei wrote some books that were subsequently compiled into 'Kinugyokutoshu'.

Just like the legends of ABE no Seimei spread across the country, the legends of Doman ASHIYA also spread and there are numerous memorials to Doman such as 'Ashiyazuka,' 'Domanzuka,' and '道満井 (Doman wells)' that still remain in various locations in Japan today.

Chitoku hoshi (? - ?)

An illegal Onmyoji who, while being a monk in Harima Province, made a large amount of money by using magic and divination. There are some well-known stories about Chitoku hoshi in Konjaku monogatari where sympathizing with a ship owner who was attacked by pirates, Chitoku hoshi recovered the cargo by using the art of Onmyo and preening himself on having mastered Onmyodo, Chitoku hoshi decided to check on the reputed ABE no Seimei's talent thereby challenging Seimei to a game of magic bringing his shikigami with him but ABE no Seimei hid Chitoku hoshi's shikigami which Seimei returned to Chitoku hoshi after accepting Chitoku hoshi's apologies. It is generally believed that Chitoku hoshi and Doman ASHIYA may have been the same person since their characters and circumstances were very much alike.

Summary of Religious Ceremonies of Onmyodo

As Onmyodo has become diversified over the years, its rituals have varied. Taking into account their implication on the other religions, since the rituals of Onmyodo are still under investigation, it is difficult to discuss them in specific terms. It is considered that there was a strong influence of the so-called Jugondo when Onmyodo was first brought over to Japan. Ceremonies conducted by Onmyoji in the Imperial Court have been recorded in 'Onmyoryo' of "Engishiki." According to 'Onmyoryo' of "Engishiki," Oniyarai-sai (儺祭) (setsubun and oniyarai), niwabi (garden fire), Kamadogami no matsuri (Festival of the god of kitchen stove), Gohonmei-sai (御本命祭),and Sangen-sai (三元祭) are mentioned. Of these rituals, with respect to Oniyarai-sai (儺祭), it is written that Onmyoji proceeds (to the platform) and recites saibun, but the first half of this saibun is the ondoku (Chinese reading) partly consisting of Chinese (kanji characters), whereas, the latter half is the kundoku (Japanese reading) partly written in Manyogana like norito (Shinto prayer). Additionally, some of the Onmyodo ceremonies are outlined in Bunkansho written in the Middle Ages but the religious ceremonies of Onmyodo consist of large, medium and small methods that seem to be used depending on the circumstance.

With respect to the representative ceremonies of Onmyodo, one could mention Taizanfukun-sai to celebrate Taizanfukun who controls people's longevity or Tensochifusai that was performed every time a new emperor ascended to the throne, but it is recorded in Bunkansho that the other various Onmyodo ceremonies such as 五帝四海神祭, Hokkyogengusai, 三万六千神祭,七十二星鎮祭,西嶽真人祭,Taishogunsai, 河臨祭,霊気道断祭,and Shokonsai were also performed, and some saibun still remain in existence today.

Tools and Magic used by Onmyoji

Kuji (9 letters)

A type of spell considered to be used in Onmyodo. It is generally referred to 9 letters including 'rin, byo, to, sha, kai, jin, retsu, zen and gyo (Those preparing to fight in the war walk forward at the front of the lineup),' and it is accompanied by ketsuin (crossing fingers) or by a gesture of cutting the air with a hand 4 times vertically and 5 times horizontally. At present, it is considered that 'Kuji' was first mentioned in '登渉篇' of "Baopuzi" written by Katsuko (Ge-hong) but, in that book, it ended with 'zen gyo' and not 'zai zen' and only the curse '六甲秘祝' which is sung when entering mountains. It is therefore considered that kuji curse, a gesture of cutting the air 4 times vertically and 5 times horizontally and ketsuin were created separately. Additionally, while the gesture of cutting the air 4 times vertically and 5 times horizontally appear in some scriptures such as Taoist Scriptures and has existed from long ago, a gesture of ketsuin is not described in those old scriptures. It is likely that the gesture of ketsuin was added while Onmyodo was being adopted by the esoteric Buddhism or Shugen-do after it was brought over to Japan.

Additionally, as for kuji in Onmyodo, there is a version in which Onmyoji chant, 'Suzaku, Genbu, Byakko, Kochin, Teigo (?), Buno, Santai, Tamame (or Gyokujo), Seiryu' while cutting the air 4 times vertically and 5 times horizontally described in literature about the henpai manners of Onmyodo in the Kamakura Period. It can be learned from the existing literature that it was used when migatame or henpai was performed.


It was originally a set expressions meaning, 'Execute quickly as prescribed in the ritsuryo,' which was written at the end of official documents during the Han Period in China. Originally, '急' was written with the 口 (mouth) shape on the left. It is assumed that Michiie adopted 'Kyukyunyoritsuryo' as a spell which Onmyoji also used. The spell 'Kyukyunyoritsuryo' was also used in esoteric Buddhism and Shugen do.

Rikujinshikiban or Rikujinchokuban

A tool used for judging good omens or bad according to Rikujin shikisen which consists of a rectangular seat called 'yo' representing earth and a circular canopy called 'kan' representing heaven. Hakka (Ba gua) including Nijuhasshuku (Twenty-eight mansions), Jikkan (Ten celestial stems), Junishi (Twelve earthly signs) and yosumi (Four cardinal points) are described on the earth board (the seat) and Junigessho etc. are described on the heaven board (the canopy). Identical results to that from performing simple calculations can be obtained by aligning Junigessho on the heaven board with Junishi on the earth board. Shikiban is also called choku (the letter 'shiki' meaning ceremony with the wood shape). To make it correctly, jujube that has been struck by lightening is used for yo, an earth board and fujin that is a burl of liquidambar is used for kan, the heaven board.


A tool used to detect astronomical variations by observing combinations of movements of stars and positions of guiding stars. In particular, it was considered that major disasters or extraordinary phenomenon would occur if meteors, which were not supposed to exist, appeared.


Charms inscribed with various patterns and magic words that were supposed to be used by Onmyoji.
Many of them had inscriptions of graphic symbols commonly termed as 'Semandoman' or 'Domanseman.'
There were numerous other charms with magic words written in letters such as 'Chintaku shichijuni reifu,' 'X,' 'kagome,' 'uzumaki,' 'rokubosei (hexagram)' or 'Kyukyunyoritsuryo.'

It is considered that charms were originally used in China that were subsequently brought to Japan and while much of the history of charms in Japan still remains unexplained, some items such as jufu mokkan with inscription of a magic word 'kyukyunyoritsuryo' were excavated from the ruins of Fujiwara-kyo long ago, suggesting that they were already in use in the Nara Period. Virtually no old documentation remain in existence and there are so many questions as to, for example, what sort of charms were used in the Heian Period.

Taijo shinsen chintaku reifu

72 kinds of charms that are also known as 'Taijo hiho chintaku reifu' or 'Chintaku shichijunido reifu.'
At present, 'Taijo hiho chintaku reifu' in Dozo are believed to be the original form and it is considered that they were brought over in the early Middle Ages. They were universally adopted not only by Onmyodo but also by other religions such as Buddhism and Shinto. The god who controls this reifu is called Chintaku reifu shin and was considered to be Genten-jotei (Xuan-tian shang-di), one of the Taoist gods originally. Genten-jotei was the humanized divinity of Genbu and the object of the Hokuto hokushin faith. When Genten-jotei was introduced to Japan, it consequently syncretized with Myoken bosatsu and Ame no minakanushi no kami whereby having impact on Seishin worship. It seems that Onmyodo was more receptive of this reifu with that being the object of Seishin worship and bearing the inscription of Hakka.

In recent times, 'Chintakureifu' on which all of 72 kinds of charms are printed is offered in scrolls and enshrined at myoken-gu and reifusha in various locations
In addition, Tsuchimikado Shinto's currently enshrined gods (saijin) include Taizanfukun, Chintakureifujin and ABE no Seimei with Seimei being the principal god. It is considered that Masashige KUSUNOKI and Kiyomasa KATO were among the devoted followers of Chintakureifujin.

Many of the main shrines and temples dedicated to Chintaku reifu shin are located in the Kansai area.

Gunma Prefecture: Daruma-ji Temple

Fukui Prefecture: Tensha Tsuchimikado Honcho

Kyoto Prefecture: Akebono-dera Temple (Kengaan), Gyogan-ji Temple (Kodo), Matsuyama Fudo-ji Temple and others

Osaka Prefecture: Hoshida myoken-gu Shrine (Komatsu Jinja), Osaka Tenmangu Shrine: Hoo-in Temple, Chintaku Reifu Jinja Shrine (Higashiosaka), Myoho-ji Temple (Imazato) and others

Nara Prefecture: Chintaku Reifu Jinja Shrine (Inyo-cho), Shigi-san (Mt. Shigi) Jofuku-in Temple and others

Hitokata, Hitogata

Also known as katashiro (or katajiro) or nademono, they were made into human form with materials such as paper, wood, grass, leaves or straw and were used to transfer one's impurity to hitokata by rubbing them against the affected area, whereby getting rid of their impurity which was the origin of the custom of nagashi bina (floating hina dolls). On the other hand, hitokata have been used in conjunction with various prayers and ceremonies, for example, to curse someone to suffer a fatal harm such as a death by accident or disease by damaging a hitokata on which the targeted person's name was written or to make a wish for fruition of love by saying prayers while putting 2 dolls representing a male and a female together. Straw dolls used for visits in the dead of night are well known.


Shikigami means god as a causative agent used by Onmyoji.
Also known as 'Shiki no kami' or 'shiki.'
Although, there are various arguments concerning interpretation of 'shikigami,' with one of them being that it is like the esoteric Buddhism Goho-doji or with another being that it is to make use of spirits, but the most compelling theory seems to be that it originated from 'Rikujinshikiban' used in Onmyodo. Being a divination tool, shikiban is one of the most familiar items to onmyoji and the heaven board and the earth board that are brought together represent the universe. At any rate, a faith in an enormous power of incantation that shikiban was believed to possess is occasionally mentioned in historical documentations relating to the esoteric Buddhism and there was a faith such as 'Tohyonyoirinho' in which it was believed that one would receive various benefits by making a tool resembling shikiban used in Onmyodo as a tool of incantation and saying prayers using that tool. There are descriptions about conjuring up 'shikigami' in some of the documentation.


An art of self defence in Onmyodo.


It refers to a method of incantation in which an onmyoji walks forward with a swaying gait while stamping the feet on the earth and chanting a charm. Basically, this method of walking zigzag assimilates a dipper-like shape of the Big Dipper but there are other versions in which walking to assimilate the alignment of 9 stars of kyukyuhakka or drawing figures on the ground by dragging a foot while walking. As the term Ufu indicates, it was named after a legend in which, after walking throughout China to control flooding, Wu started to drag his feet when walking. It aims to clear evil away, to assuage the spirits of the earth, and to bring good luck, and, as with the 9 letters of Doman, it originated from the line in "Baopuzi" in which Katsuko described the way one should walk when going into the mountains to collect medicinal herbs. In the hojutsu section (Hokimon) of Kimon tonko (Qi Men Dun Jia), it was being performed for hojutsu to succeed.


A method of incantation performed at the gate when leaving to keep harm away while traveling. This incantation was occasionally performed for oneself but it was performed as a service to the emperor or sekkanke (Regent Family) for the most part. At a henpai, first, one conjures Tamame up and states the purpose of the incantation to be performed. One walks in Uho while conjuring up Tamame. At the end of henpai, one takes 6 steps and leaves without turning around.


It was originally a Taoist religious ritual.


It was originally a Taoist spell.


It was originally a Taoist spell.


It was originally a Taoist spell.


It was originally a Taoist spell.

Works featuring Onmyoji

Based on the occult image of onmyoji in the Heian Period that turned Onmyodo into a religion and incantation, various original works exaggerating their superhuman quality and uniqueness have been created.


"Onmyoji (Novel)" (Baku YUMEMAKURA)

"Teito Monogatari" (The tale of the Imperial Capital) (Hiroshi ARAMATA)

"Onmyo no miyako" (The Onmyo Capital) (Soichiro WATARASE)

"Yokai navi Runa" (Miyoko IKEDA) - (Illustration by Aya KOTOZUKI)

"Shonen Omyoji" (Juvenile Onmyoji) (Mitsuru YUKI)

"Onna Onmyoji" (Female Onmyoji) (Atsushi KANO) - A fictitious account in which forces in the Imperial Court who were opposed to attempts to unite the Imperial Court and the Shogunate through a marriage of convenience between Princess Kazunomiya and Tokugawa Iemochi sent a female Onmyoji called Yase, who looked exactly like the princess, to take her place and so prevent the marriage.

"Fusatsuki" (Kei SHIMOJIMA)

"Rental Magica" (Makoto SANDA)

Comics/Animated films

"Onmyoji (Comics)" (Reiko OKANO) - Adapted to comics from the novel of the same title by Baku YUMEMAKURA.




"Sharman King" (Hiroyuki TAKEI)

"Yoiyamigentososhi" (Tatsunosuke YATSUFUSA)

"Onmyo Taisenki" (The Chronicles of the Great Onmyo Battle" (Written by Wiz)

"Abenobashi maho shotengai" (Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi) (Written by GINAX)

"MUSASHI GUNDOH" (Written by Monkey Punch)

"Otoayakashikitan" (Yoko IWASAKI)

"Shonen Omyoji" (Juvenile Onmyoji) (Written by Mitsuru YUKI)

"Mahotsukai no museum" (The daughter of the wizard) (Yukie NASU)

"Rental Magica" (Written by Makoto SANDA)

"Yamikami Ko ~ Kurayami ni dokkiri!~" (Kimiya KAJI)

Movies/Original Videos

"Onmyoji (Movie)" "Onmyoji II" (Directed by Yojiro TAKITA) - Adapted for the movies from novels by Baku YUMEMAKURA).

"Teito Monogatari" (The tale of the Imperial Capital) - Adapted to the movie from the novel of the same title by Hiroshi ARAMATA.

"Onmyoji Yomatobatsuhime" - Performed by Nozomi ANDO. The story is set in the present time in the play.

"Onna Onmyoji Series" (Produced by Kuki (Adult Videos)) - including some 'R' rated videos.

TV Dramas

"Onmyoji " (NHK Drama D Mode) - Adapted as a TV drama from the novel of the same title by Baku YUMEMAKURA.

"Onmyoji Abe no Seimei ~Oto Ayakashikitan~" (Fuji Television Network) - Adapted to the TV drama from the comics by Yoko IWASAKI.


"Kuon no kizuna" (Eternal bond) (Fog)

"Harukanaru jiku no nakade series" (Koei)

"Goketsu Ichizoku" (Atlas (game company)) - Used in part as the background of the stage. The title of the background music used for that stage is "Let's go! Onmyoji."

"Tokyo Majingakuen denki series" (Shout! Design Works)

"Shonen Omyoji The Game"


"Cr Fever Onmyoji" (Sankyo (Pachinko)) - Pachinko machine designed based on "Onmyoji Abe no Seimei."


Although today 'onmyoji' is generally pronounced with the stress on the opening 'on', it is said that it used commonly to be pronounced with the stress on the second syllable 'myo.'

Taking advantage of the recent onmyoji boom, a self-proclaimed onmyoji by the name of Chihiro ISHIDA has appeared on television shows and the like but his style indisputably conforms to Koshinto and one can hardly say that it is based on Onmyodo. Additionally, the art that a person, known as a Harima onmyoji (or Kanbarashu) Karindo OBATA, teaches is influenced by martial arts that are said to have originated from the samurai class. It is considered that the influence of martial arts stemmed from the faith of Harima onmyoji (or Kanbarashu) in the trinity, including religious ceremonies, incantation and martial arts.

Onmyo-za is a heavy-metal rock band that performs songs about stories such as demon tales in various regions and the legend of MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune featuring innovative, heavy metal musical compositions, lyrics loaded with the Heian Period language and the musicians wearing long black hair with costumes from the Heian Period and it is the first rock band ever to hold a concert at a Noh theater in Japan. Onmyo-za calls itself a "Fantasy Heavy Metal Band" and the bandleader, Kuroneko (also one of the vocalists, her name means black cat), incorporated the 'Onmyo' part of Kyutei Onmyodo (literally, Onmyodo of the Imperial Court), which symbolized the occult image that prevailed at the end of the Heian Period, in the name of her band. Fans of Onmyo-za are called "Junitensho" after the symbolism which various Onmyoji including ABE no Seimei in the mid to late Heian Period are considered to have used and the fan club of that band is known as the "Shikigami Club."

[Original Japanese]