The Japanese Folklore Behind Jujutsu Kaisen

Did you know that Jujutsu Kaisen is officially the world’s most in-demand anime series, taking the title from Attack on Titan which held it since 2020? While the series’ popularity is undeniable and we starve for more anime like it, you might have also noticed that Jujutsu Kaisen’s world is steeped in Japanese folklore.

To create its supernatural rich world, Jujutsu Kaisen borrows famous Japanese creatures, concepts, and even traditions.

1. Vengeful Spirits Become Cursed Spirits

Also known as Onryō, vengeful spirits are a recurring theme in Japanese history and folklore. In fact, the first mentions of them can be traced back to the 8th century! Vengeful Spirits are believed to be formed from powerful feelings like rage or sorrow, but they can also spawn from a violent death.

Sounds familiar?

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Jujutsu Kaisen takes this concept a step further. The anime doesn’t waste time and introduces us to the cursed spirit in the first episode. According to the anime, the cursed spirits are malevolent entities born from negative emotions that can possess objects and harm humans.

2. Sukuna’s Monstrous Inspiration

A handsome and incredibly powerful antagonist of the series, Ryomen Sukuna, draws inspiration from a real person who shares his name. He comes from a very old Japanese book called Nihon Shoki.

However, there are some key differences.

The real guy, Ryomen-sukuna, was an enemy of a powerful family but some people worshipped him as a deity. Over time, stories changed and Sukuna became more like a demon, especially after the powerful family took charge.

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The name “Ryomen” means “two-faced,” which fits Sukuna perfectly.

3. Jujutsu Sorcerers: Heirs to Ancient Traditions

You might have wondered what’s the inspiration behind our brave Jujutsu sorceres who protect humanity by constantly fighting cursed spirits. Well, there is actually a real-life indigenous religion in Japan that focuses on living in harmony with nature and spirits called Shinto.

Shintoists practice many spiritual rituals. For example, they purify themselves, make offerings, pray, and visit shrines.

Although not quite the same, it appears that the Shinto idea of spiritual impurity, known as kegare, provided a solid basis for cursed energy. This term is translated as impurity or pollution and can come from things like death, illness, or contact with something considered unclean. Of course, kegare also needs to be cleansed to maintain spiritual balance because it can disrupt harmony and bring misfortune.

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While not purely Shinto-based, Jujutsu Kaisen’s world is a blend of Shinto concepts with fictional elements.

4. Shikigami

Remember the two cute pups that our grade 2 sorcerer Megumi Fushiguro summoned? Those creatures are called Shikigami. In Jujutsu Kaisen, they are conjured by Shikigami users and serve as familiars that aid them in battles against cursed spirits. But did you know that shikigami are a part of Japanese folklore as well?

According to Japanese folklore, these powerful conjured beings come to life through an elaborate ceremony. The power of shikigami is linked to the spiritual power of the invoker. If the invoker is well-versed and experienced, their shikigami can possess and manipulate animals and people. However, if the invoker is careless, their shikigami may become uncontrollable, gaining its own will and consciousness. It may even kill its own master in revenge. Shikigami are often summoned to carry out dangerous requests for their master.

5. Night Parade of One Hundred Demons (Hyakki Yakou)

Night Parade of a Hundred Demons was a terrorist attack orchestrated by Suguru Geto, one of the series’ antagonists who despises non-sorcerers more than anything. As Suguru promised, a thousand cursed spirits were amassed in Shinjuku on December 24th.

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This tragedy had a significant impact on the Jujutsu Kaisen world. Many sorcerers were injured or killed, and the power balance shifted. It also served as a showcase for various characters’ abilities and forced them to make difficult choices.

There’s a similar event in Japanese folklore called Hyakki Yakou, which literally translates to Night Parade of One Hundred Demons. This idiom in Japanese folklore refers to a night when yokai (monsters) roam freely through the streets of Japan, sharing an identical name with the series’ chaotic event.

6. Tsukumogami Transform Into Cursed Objects

According to legend, if a household object is cherished and cared for over a very long time (usually 100 years), it can gain a soul and become a Tsukumogami. They can take many forms, depending on the original object. An old umbrella might sprout legs and walk, a worn-out sandal might transform into a hopping creature, and a chipped teacup could become a mischievous gremlin. Tsukumogami can be benevolent or malevolent.

The concept of objects gaining sentience or spiritual power after a long time has some similarities to how Cursed Objects work in Jujutsu Kaisen. These artifacts have a sinister history and contain cursed energy. Cursed Objects mainly consist of the remains of ancient sorcerers who can be incarnated into a new body if the cursed item is devoured by a suitable vessel.

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Final thoughts

It would be unfair to say that Jujutsu Kaisen simply copies and pastes folklore elements. The reality is that it takes inspiration and reimagines them in a fresh and exciting way. While the series initially attracts viewers with its action-packed, epic sequences, they stay for its rich worldbuilding, which is further enhanced by these familiar, eerie myths.

Misaka
Misaka

Hi, my name is Mia, and I am the founder of 9 Tailed Kitsune. I am a big fan of esports, games, and anime. When I was around 7 years old, Phantom Thief Jeanne sparked my fascination for anime, and it has never faded! 🌟💖

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