Kanibōzu Claw Marks - Atlas Obscura

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Kanibōzu Claw Marks

Yamanashi, Japan

A giant man-eating crab monster allegedly left its claw marks on this unassuming boulder. 


Chōgen-ji Temple in Manriki, Yamanashi, is home to a bizarre legend of a man-eating crab monster and the marks of its claws to prove it.

One evening in the early 18th century, the temple was visited by a 10-foot-tall pilgrim, who gave its head priest a riddle: “I am eight-legged, able to sidle at will, and heavenward-eyed; what am I?” When the head priest failed to guess correctly, the monk struck him dead and ate him, and continued this game until there were no priests left and the temple fell into ruin.

Years later, a traveling monk named Hōin caught wind of a rumor about a murderous giant haunting the ruins of Chōgen-ji and decided to stay there for a night. As expected, the monster appeared and gave him the riddle, but Hōin was ready with the answer: a crab.

Now in its true form, the yōkai creature attempted to flee the scene. Hōin hauled his vajra club like a javelin, however, striking smack in the middle of the crab’s shell and killing it. Some variations of the legend claim that out of its carcass rose a varicolored cloud, through which the monk saw a vision of Senju-Kannon, the goddess of mercy with a thousand arms.

The legend of Kanibōzu, the “crab-monk,” later spread across the country, recognized as a fascinating yōkai tale and further popularized by Shigeru Mizuki in his manga series GeGeGe no Kitarō.

Today, there is little in the grounds of Chōgen-ji Temple that gives away its involvement in the legend, except for an unassuming boulder with a few visible clefts, reputedly left by the monstrous claws of Kanibōzu—though unmarked by a descriptive plaque or anything of the sort. It is also in possession of a painting depicting Senju-Kannon rising from the crab’s corpse, and reportedly once had its shell enshrined, which has since been lost.

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October 19, 2023

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