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Spanking of Exorcism in Japanese Folklore


Spanking is not only used for punishment but also to ridicule someone. This taunt, widely employed in various contexts is straightforward, slightly crude, and cute in its own way.

In Japan, mooning without spanking is very rare case; almost always, they end up spanking their own buttocks. Why?


Hi guys!

“Spanking” is “Oshiri Pen-Pen” in Japanese. This is an onomatopoeia that signifies two slaps. So in many manga and anime, there are often scenes where characters mockingly slap their butt twice


Spanking taunt in Japanese folklore

Now, spanking taunt appears in Japanese folklore as well. The story is called “Oni no Ko Kozuna (Kozuna, ogre ‘s child) “. I remember seeing this picture book of that story at the hospital I used to go to when I was a child, and it’s still vivid in my memory.

Kozuna in “Oni no Ko Kozuna” refers to a half-human, half-ogre child born between a kidnapped girl and a ogre. This story is classified under the stoy type known as “Oni no Ko Kozuna” by the folklorist Keigo Seki (1899 – 1990) in his work “Nihon Mukashibanashi Taisei” (The Complete Japanese Folktales).


“Story type” refers to the archetype of that folktale. It means it’s the mold for that particular folktale.

While similar stories exist nationwide, compiling them reveals a general narrative structure, indicating that most stories fall into this pattern.

I’ll show you some variations.

【Variation Collected in Miyagi Prefecture】

Two sisters encounter a ogre in the mountains, and the younger sister is abducted to Ogre Island. Several years later, the elder sister visits the island and meets the child born between the ogre and her sister. The elder sister tricks the ogre into drinking alcohol until it passes out, allowing the three of them to escape the island by boat.

The ogre realizes what’s happening and tries to draw the boat back to the island by drinking seawater. At that moment, the younger sister’s child instructs the sisters to expose their buttocks and slap them towards the ogre . When they do so, the ogre laughs, spitting out the water it had drunk, and the boat manages to flee with the momentum.

【Variation Collected in Niigata Prefecture】

When an old man promises his daughter to the person who helps him with his farming, a ogre appears and offers its assistance. The daughter ends up marrying the ogre . The old man heads to the mountain where the ogre lives and, taking advantage of an opportunity, they escape together.

However, the child born between the daughter and the ogre accidentally informs the ogre of their escape. The two flee in a boat down the river, but the ogre drinks the river water to pull the boat back. At that moment, the daughter exposes her buttocks and strikes them towards the ogre . The ogre laughs, spewing out the water, and the old man and daughter manage to escape.

“おにの子こづな” (岩崎書店,1993)

I checked three picture books, but unfortunately, I couldn’t find the one with the illustration of the sisters slapping their buttocks towards the ogre that I read as a child…

Folklorists ponder the reasons behind spanking in the folktale

Folklorist Gorai Shigeru(1908-1993) focuses on the act of slapping buttocks in folktales as follows.

In a hairbreadth escape, it was a spatula or rice paddle that saved the three from being captured by the ogre while drinking water. This is because the ogre’s wife slapped her buttocks with the spatula, causing the ogre to laugh and spit out the water.

There are also variations where the ogre ‘s child, Kozuna, slaps its mother’s buttocks with a red-painted spatula, or Kozuna itself slaps its own buttocks. In any case, there is a connection to the buttocks. Therefore, the question arises as to what these spatulas or ladles represent, but so far, I have not come across any analysis of this.


So the key lies in the act of slapping the buttocks with a spatula or rice paddle?

According to Gorai’s perspective, this folktale was likely told as part of a repertoire of comedic stories at gatherings in temples.

He suggested that the act of slapping the buttocks with a bamboo spatula, which was used as a substitute for toilet paper in the past, may have added a vulgar element, given that children love such humor.


No way!
I don’t want to wipe with bamboo!

On the other hand, Gorai highlights the rice paddle’s clearer meaning as a “charm”.

Having been part of Japanese life for over 2000 years, the rice paddle has acquired folk beliefs related to auspiciousness, amulets, and dispelling evil spirits, as seen in examples such as the “Shamoji of Miyajima.”

In “Ishigami Mondou,” Kunio Yanagita (Folklorist) states that the Oshamoji-sama (the spirit of rice paddle) is represented by a rice porridge stick, and is a migic item used to strike women’s buttocks. This motif may also serve as the basis for the act of striking buttocks with a rice paddke in the story.


Folklorist Kunio Yanagita associates the word “shamoji” with the ritualistic act of spanking women’s buttocks, known as “shitajiki,” which dates back to the Heian period.

This is quite exciting. The comical scene of spanking is deeply intertwined with folk beliefs.


“Rice paddle” and “rice porridge stick” both relate to rice, don’t they? Well, rice is essential for Japanese culture after all.

The buttock spanking with the “rice porridge stick” involves touching a bit lower down again

On the other hand, Noriko Furukawa, a professor at Toyo Eiwa Women’s University, offers a different perspective on the spanking depicted in “Oni no Ko Kozuna.

In many similar tales, the expression “exposing the buttocks” is used, but in the case of Fukushima Prefecture, it is explicitly stated as “female genitalia,” indicating that originally, it may have involved exposing the female genitalia.

When the path to escape from the world of the ogre seemed to be closed off, exposing the female genitalia to make the ogre laugh opened the way to the world of the living. It seems that the female genitalia and laughter are believed to exert an important power for human survival.

“昔話の謎 あの世とこの世の神話学”(古川のり子、角川ソフィア文庫、2016)

Wait, buttocks served as substitutes forwomen’s secret spot?

Ah, but I know of similar “substitution” rituals besides that one

That’s called “The spanking of the bride.”

Spanking is a symbol of both “sexuality” and “life.”

This ritual “The spanking of the bride” is, a fertility prayer where women’s buttocks are struck with a stick, is recorded in “The Pillow Book,” a thousand-year-old collection of essays by a court lady.


In ancient times, for spanking they used the “rice porridge stick” that I mentioned earlier.

The emperor spanked my buttocks,
so I spanked his right back.


What’s the significance of spanking women’s buttocks with a stick? Well, maybe you can imagine…

  • The stick is a symbol of the penis
  • The buttocks are a substitute for genitalia
  • The spanking is a pseudo-act of sex

With these practices, Japanese people have been praying for fertility since ancient times.


Even the clay figurines from prehistoric times have that plump form. It’s evident that buttocks were considered important for childbirth and the prosperity of descendants.

Kunio Yanagita collected information on this “spanking” ritual from all over Japan, from Miyagi Prefecture to Nagasaki Prefecture. In other words, this “spanking” exhibits a certain universality across the entire country of Japan.

When dividing the world into life and death, yin and yang, giving birth to a child embodies the positive force of life. Spanking buttocks mimics sex, transforming the power of sexuality into the power of life, imbuing it with protective qualities.

Here, spanking takes on the meaning of a special anti-demon magic.


I see… spanking is the power of life…

Wait a moment, though.

In the story “Oni no Ko Kozuna,” isn’t it more about causing the orges to burst into laughter rather than inflicting damage on them with spanking?

That’s right. The second characteristic of spanking emerges there: laughter.

Nudity brings laughter to both demons and gods

Laughter, indeed, carries the bright force of life. It’s hardly ever negative. There’s no argument about that. And there are instances where the combination of female nudity and laughter brings forth a clear energy of life.


There’s a very famous naked dance scene in Japanese mythology

That is “Amano-uzume’s Naked Dance” in Japanese mythology.

Let’s see the story of the so-called ‘Ama-no-Iwato’ (The Cave of the Sun Goddess), which appears in “the Kojiki” and “Nihon Shoki.”

Enraged by Susano-o (the god of the sea and storms)’s repeated violence, Amaterasu, the Goddess of the Sun, retreats into the Ama-no-Iwato (Cave of the Sun). The world of gods, where the Sun Goddess resides, becomes shrouded in darkness and turns into the land of death.

In desperation, the myriad gods and goddesses gather outside the cave to perform a ritual—or rather, a festival—to coax Amaterasu out. The deity of entertainment, Ama-no-uzume, performs a strip dance, eliciting uproarious laughter from the gathered gods.

As Amaterasu grows curious about the commotion and opens the cave, she is immediately seized and pulled out by the muscular deity named Ame-no-tajikarao-no-kami (The God with the Strength of Many Men).

Thus, light returns to the world of gods, and the land is restored from the realm of death to the realm of life.


Someone! Illustration of the sulking and trouble-causing Amaterasu being punished by Ame-no-tajikarao, please!


Who draws!

Now, here too, nudity brings forth the power of life.

Nudity → Laughter → Power of Life (Power to dispel darkness)

Stuffy individuals may condemn by saying things like ‘Nudity is vulgar.

But this is intrinsic to human nature. It’s not just in Japan. In Greek mythology, the woman Baubo cheers up a depressed goddess by showing her genitals and making her laugh.

In times when melancholic mental states were attributed to evil spirits rather than medical conditions, eroticism served as a source to revive human vitality.

Conclusion: Spanking Opens the Door to Spring

With all that said, the world of spanking exudes an enjoyable, entertaining, and healthy eroticism. As mentioned above, Professor Noriko Furukawa expresses the following:

Mothers who spank to make demons laugh, brides spanked on the New Year, and Ama-no-uzume who exposes her genitals to make others laugh are deeply intertwined in this way.

Their actions loosen the grip of winter and open the path to a bountiful spring.

“昔話の謎 あの世とこの世の神話学”(古川のり子、角川ソフィア文庫、2016)

Now, let’s enjoy spanking moderately again tomorrow and drive away the evil spirits!