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Hototsume Kozo by Nishiyama Toshihiko

Hitotsume kozō (ひとつめこぞう) is child-like in appearance and mischievous. They are little one-eyed goblins that are well-known in all parts of Japan. They have shaved heads and wear robes, like tiny Buddhist monks. They have long red tongues and a single, enormous eye. Hitotsume kozō are relatively harmless as far as yōkai are concerned. Their most alarming trait is appearing suddenly and surprising people on dark streets. They seem to enjoy startling people; hundreds of encounters have been reported over the years, most of them very similar to each other.

Aside from their startling play, hitotsume kozō have one serious job. In East Japan, it is said that every year on the 8th of December, hitotsume kozō travel the land, recording in ledgers the families who have been bad that year (sounds like a chubby westerner in a red suit we all know). They use this information to decide each family’s fortunes for the coming year. Hitotsume kozō take their reports to the god of pestilence and bad luck, who then brings appropriate misfortune on those deserving families. However, hitotsume kozō leave their ledgers with the guardian deity of travels for safekeeping until February 8th. In a mid-January ceremony, local villagers burn down and rebuild that deity’s roadside shrines in hopes that the fires will also burn the hitotsume kozō’s ledgers before they come to pick them up—thus escaping disaster that year.

Source: Yokai.com, retrieved 08/16/2022; shared under Creative Commons and Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license.