devil, demon; spirits of the dead, ghost; "devil" radical
Kanji 1128

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The oni (鬼), the Japanese devil or demon, is elusive. It’s hard to find images of this supernatural creature at temples or elsewhere in Japan. On the other hand, devils and demons work their way into our lives much more than we might realize. In Japanese, 鬼 references are pervasive. Find out when 鬼 is a term of endearment and when it's an insult. Learn about a folktale (in which Momotaro travels to Devil's Island) and the holiday called Setsubun. Finally, see how 鬼 functions as a radical or component in several Joyo kanji.

Revision history:

Feb. 9, 2024: p. 7: Changed "devil" to "devils," as there were several in the story.

Jan. 17, 2020: 

  • p. 2: Etymology Box: Replaced the old Henshall etymology with the new one.
  • p. 11: In the Answer to the Verbal Logic Quiz, I adjusted the meaning of 鬼 in the keyword.
  • p. 11: Added a link to the Kanshudo games.

Jan. 5, 2018:

  • p. 1: Updated the Character Profile in various ways, including the definitions of the look-alikes.
  • p. 10: Updated definitions of kanji containing the radical 鬼.
  • p. 15: Slightly revised the photo caption (the part about -入り).

June 6, 2014: On page 1, I added hyphens to -展 (-てん: exhibition) to reflect that it's a suffix. On page 4, I changed the definition of 渡る (わたる) to "to pass through."

Aug. 24, 2012: Added photos to pages 16 and 17. One photo caption tells the great children's story of The Red Devil Who Cried.

June 2, 2012: Added a photo to page 15.

May 14, 2012: Changed the breakdown of 桃太郎 to peach + given name for 1st son (last 2 kanji). Also noted that 餓鬼 (ガキ: brat) is a term used only for boys, not girls.

Apr. 30, 2012: Added four photos—two of 鬼瓦 (おにがわら: ridge-end tile with the figure of a devil or gargoyle), two of oni.


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RADICAL鬼 (194: devil)