Eye-Eating Demon of Inari Kio - Atlas Obscura

Eye-Eating Demon of Inari Kio

Only recently added to the shrine, this googly-eyed snail demon of unknown origin is said to have eye-healing powers. 

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Located in the heart of the Shinjuku-Kabukicho district, Inari-Kio Shrine appears to be a wooded oasis detached from the sleepless nightlife that surrounds it. Originally founded in 1653, it is a peculiar shrine dedicated to the elusive Demon King, alongside the popular fox god Inari and Ebisu, the fisher-god of fortune.

As visitors enter the shrine from its back entrance, there is a strange sculpture to the left, a recent addition to Inari-Kio’s unique pantheon. Presumed to be named Gankyū Shokuki, or the Eye-Eating Demon, it takes the form of a snail with Muppet-like googly eyes and a caterpillar track for some unclear reason. Its face resembles that of the Hannya, a demonic mask used in traditional noh plays, but with comical googly eyes in its sockets.

The plaque in front of the sculpture reads “He cleanses, heals, and saves one’s eyes,” suggesting that the demon does not really eat human eyes. Or does he? No one seems to know. Actually, there is little to no record or even hearsay about the creature, which suddenly appeared in the early 2020s, and there is no folkloristic background about it.

The information on the demon is so scarce, in fact, that there is no fixed transliteration of its name. While the given kanji likely should read Gankyū Shokuki, there is a possibility that it is supposed to read Medama Shokuki, or Shokki. There are so many mysteries about it, yet so few visitors have even noticed that it is there.

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March 22, 2023

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