I was born a Christian, but it wasn’t until 15 years ago that I fully devoted my life to Jesus Christ. However, the most remarkable thing I’ve noticed about Christians and non-Christians is the fact that the devil is the most talked about but equally shunned entity. I find this to be especially true when the devil’s role in Christianity and mythology is concerned. One culture of the world that I am fascinated with because of how it shares countless accounts of the devil is the Japanese culture, and this is seen by how the devil has many names. So, how do you say devil in Japanese?
Akuma is the Japanese word for the devil. Most Native Japanese use the word Akuma to refer to a devil to describe Western-style demons, although they may also use it to describe someone that acts like the devil. The other name for the devil is Oni, for ogre-style demons, and Youkai to refer to the funny spirits resembling common objects or animals.
I’ve since learnt that the Japanese have several other names to describe the devil, all carrying a similar meaning, albeit with some differences. Initially, I found this to be somewhat confounding, but with my knowledge of how expansive the Japanese culture is, I now understand the illusion of and the meaning behind the different names. I’ll share more about the devil’s names in Japanese in the rest of this article and more related findings. Keep reading.
What does devil mean in Japanese?
Accordingly, Akuma, Satan, the devil, or the demon refers to a malevolent fire spirit responsible for bringing suffering to humankind. They use the word devil to represent the demons believed to be characterized by fiery eyes, horns, and/or demonic-like wings. This description stems from the fact Akuma is a word made of two kanji, which translates to wickedness or evil, and the second kanji translates to the evil spirit, devil, or demon.
Oni, the other Japanese word for evil, translates to a demon, an ogre, or a troll; and is considered the most Japanese-style demon or the ogre in the West. The Oni is characterized by green, blue, or red skin, with either one or two horns, an old spiky iron club for a weapon, and sharp canines. The catch is that, unlike Akuma, which represents something evil, Oni may or may not be evil because the Japanese believe that there are friendly demons too.
On the other hand, Youkai is defined as a demon, ghost, monster, or goblin. The Japanese deem the Youkau as a supernatural spirit that could be in any of the forms mentioned above. The Youkai is believed to represent a mischievous monster with animal or plant-like features or even human form. Youkai is popular in Japanese folklore, but like the Oni, they also have a friendliness and aren’t considered demons fully.
How do you write devil in Japanese?
In Japanese, the devil, or Akuma, is written as 悪魔, which splits into two individual words, ‘aku’ and ‘ma,’ 悪, which is the kanji for the word ‘bad’ and 魔, the kanji for demon or devil. However, it could also be used in a word like ‘mahou.’ Akuma represents the demons from Western Cultures, particularly the devil, Satan. In other cases, however, Akuma is written as katakana. Akuma is also used alongside words like Akuma no utage 悪魔の宴) to mean the Witches Sabbath or the Black Sabbath.
How many names does the devil have in Japanese?
Besides the three names for the devil, Akuma, Oni, and Youki, the devil is also called Ma, Debiru, Majin, Maō, Enma, Tenma, Akujin, Ebisubito, Kijo, Jagi, Akki, Tengu, and Yamauba. These names have different origins, and some may relate to everyday objects and animals but with a negative connotation associated with them. For Christians, however, Akuma is the preferred word used to describe or refer to the devil.
They say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, right? Being raised by Christians significantly impacted my life since I started professing Christ from a young age. My passion for the Christian faith made me pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology. I am a believer and pastor dedicated to spreading the word of God. I have been in the Christian ministry for over a decade and am currently ministering in Life Christian Church. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Please check the About Us Page for more details.