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An onikuma (鬼熊, literally "demon bear") is a mythological Japanese yōkai originating in the Kiso Valley in Nagano Prefecture. It is a bear-like creature that has been known to walk upright. They sneak into villages at night to carry off livestock for food. It was described in the Ehon Hyaku Monogatari, a collection of supernatural tales published in 1841.
When a bear has lived for many years, it becomes an onikuma. It rarely shows itself to humans, but late at night it comes down from the mountain to human settlements, walking upright on its hind legs, to steal horses and cattle, which it takes back to the mountain to eat.
Onikuma are extremely strong. It is said that, in the mountains, they will throw stones nine or 10 feet in diameter down into the valley at humans they see below. These stones, which 10 people together couldn't move, are called “Onikuma stones,” a name that is still used today in the Kiso Valley.
The method to kill an onikuma was to hollow out a large tree into a tube like a well lining and use it to block up the mouth of the nest of vines, then plunge poles through the hollow trunk into the nest. When the disoriented onikuma made its way to the opening, it would be attacked with spears and guns. It is said that in the Kyōhō era, when several onikuma were killed, each skin when spread out covered an area of six tatami mats (about 10 square meters) or more.
Additionally, in Hokkaido, bears that attacked humans were feared as onikuma.
In popular cultureEdit
A onikuma showed up in the book Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa