Basic Information

Titles: The Serpent God, [1] The White Serpent God [10]
Type/Species: Eastern Dragon, Sea Serpent
Slayer: Tokoyo
Origin: Japanese Mythology

About Yofune-Nushi

Yofune-Nushi was the Serpent God [1] who lived at the bottom of the sea under the Oki Islands. [5] The people inhabited one of these islands suffered his curse; [5] unless they met his annual sacrifice, Yofune-Nushi would become angry and cause terrible storms, [1] which drown many fisherman and other locals. [6]

Yofune-Nushi's demanded a young girl, [1] just under fifteen years old, [5] be sacrificed in a ceremony. [6] The ceremony took place on June 13, the Day of the Dog, between eight and nine o'clock at night. [5] For seven years, the local priest complied with this demand to spare as many lives as they could. [6]

According to some sources, this annual demand came with the Curse of Hojo Takatoki, [10] who had long suffered an illness that no doctor could cure. [3] In some versions, the curse was upon the Emperor; [10] in others, it was a Hojo chieftain. [2] Someone had carved a wooden figure [7] of the individual, cursed it, and dropped it into the sea, [10] where the fearsome Serpent God guarded it in his underwater cavern. [2]

However, in the eighth year, a young woman named Tokoyo interrupted the ceremony. [5] Tokoyo was the beautiful daughter of Oribe Shima, a samurai banished to the Oki Islands. [4] As many women of her position and country, she knew fencing and jujitsu. She was a perfect swimmer and could also dive into the depths, for she had learned from local women who collected pearls. [7] When Tokoyo went searching for her exiled father, she took shelter at a Buddhist shrine for the night. The sobbing of a young maiden woke her; the girl was the intended sacrifice for that year. [5] After hearing about Yofune-Nushi, Tokoyo asked to take the girl's place. [6]

The Battle with Yofune-nushi

Yofune-Nushi waited for his annual tribute.

Tokoyo dressed in the ceremonial gown and placed a small dagger between her teeth before diving into the sea. [2,6] She reached the monster's underwater cavern and discovered the statue of the Emperor. [2,7] When Yofune-Nushi saw her, he thought certainly this woman was his due. [8]

Thus, he approached, but when he got within six feet of her, she shifted sideways and plugged out his right eye with her knife. [2,8] The strike disoriented Yofune-Nushi, and as blood leaked into his left eye from his right, he was nearly blind in the water. [8] He lurched away, trying to find safety, [2] but Tokoyo had no injuries to slow her down. Thus, she closed in on the Serpent God and thrust her blade into his heart. [2,8] He did not get far before he fell dead on the floor of his cavern. [2]

Tokoyo decided to take both the waterlogged statue and Yofune-Nushi's body to the surface, [9] though some accounts maintained that she decapitated the serpent and only took his head with her. [2]

His Final Repose

When Tokoyo returned to the surface with the remains of Yofune-Nushi and the statue of the Emperor, the priest assisted her. [9] He took the Serpent God's body and secured it to shore, [2] by casting his girdle around it. [9]

His body was buried at a nearby Buddhist shrine, and another shrine was built in commemoration: the Tomb of the Sea Serpent. [10] Since Yofune-Nushi was slain, the islanders feared no future storms, and the Emperor's mysterious illness lifted. [10]

Physical Description

Yofune-Nushi was shaped like a serpent [8] with eyes that gleamed with anger [2] and fire. [8] Sometimes he was regarded as fish-like in shape. [2] He was twenty-eight shaku (26 ft. or 7.9 m) in length with scales along his back. He had legs. [8]

He was white in color [2] with luminescence or phosphorescence [7] that enabled him to shimmer and glow under the deepest of water.

Quick Facts

  • Yofune-Nushi was white with a luminescent quality. [2,7]
  • He was an enormous serpent with legs and scales. [8]
  • He demanded an annual sacrifice on the thirteenth of June, the Day of the Dog. [5]
  • When the islanders failed to sacrifice to him, his wrath would create horrific storms, [1] which incurred many deaths. [6]
  • The Curse of Hojo Takatoki was attributed to a statue that Yofune-Nushi guarded underwater. [10]
  • Tokoyo slew him with a knife, [2,8] and his remains were buried under a Buddhist shrine. [10]
  • The Tomb of the Sea Serpent was later built in commemoration. [10]

Related Articles


  1. Davis 334
  2. Davis 335
  3. Davis 336
  4. Smith [Japan] 102
  5. Smith [Japan] 104
  6. Smith [Japan] 105
  7. Smith [Japan] 106
  8. Smith [Japan] 107
  9. Smith [Japan] 108
  10. Smith [Japan] 109

For more information on footnotes and references, please see the bibliography.