Ryomen Sukuna, or literally “Two-Faced Sukuna”, has gained some popularity in the recent years due to a manga/anime called "Jujutsu Kaisen", and some fans have looked up to see the historical entities to see what this character is based on. Today we will delve into the mythological entities with the name “Sukuna”, as well as the occult story related to the similar being...
The First Sukuna in Ancient Records: Sukunahikona/Sukunabikona
Spelled as 少名毘古那神 (Sukunabikona-no-kami) in Kojiki and as 少彦名命 (Sukunahikona-no-mikoto) in Nihon Shoki. Said to be of tiny stature and direct descendant of Kamimusuhi-no-kami (Kojiki) or Takamimusubi-no-mikoto (Nihon Shoki). Sukunabikona is known as the deity of medicine, sake (Japanese alcoholic drinks), hot springs, creation of lands, agriculture, and forbidden art of sorcery.
It is said that he rode from the land beyond the ocean on the ship called 天乃羅摩船 (Amanokagamifune). With 羅摩 can also be read as “Rama”, leading some to theorize that he was a Hindu deity from India, and even call him as immigrant deity, He was a close friend of Ookuninushi-no-mikoto, as he arrived on the small ship on cape Miho and was found by Ookuninushi (who at time was not a deity yet). The two journeyed together on the quest to unite the lands.
There was a time that Sukunahikona fell ill and Ookuninushi dipped him into the hot spring of Dogo, and he was cured. The stone in which Sukunahikona danced on after getting healed is called Tamanoishi, still left with the tiny footprints, and can still be seen in Dogo Onsen in Ehime prefecture even now.
He is also accredited for teaching people how to brew sake, thus being worshipped as the deity of agriculture and sake. He is also said to invent sorcery to cure and ward off illness too.
At the end of his journey, it is said that he left the world by springing himself on the millet of grains and flung into the Tokoyo no Kuni. Tokoyo no Kuni is said to be the netherworld, but different from the land of the dead (Yomi no Kuni).
The Second Sukuna in Ancient Records: Ryomen Sukuna
There are conflicting records about Ryomen Sukuna. According to Nihon Shoki, the Two-Faced Sukuna is painted as a villain who terrorized the land of Hida and disobeyed the imperial court, and was expelled by force.
However, in Hida local legends, he was revered as a hero of the land, said to introduced Buddhism to Hida and became patron of many temples.
In either records, he is said to have single head and torso, but with two faces on the opposite side (front and back). Each face has its own set of arms and legs. He is larger than average Japanese at time, and said to be wise and powerful, wielding swords in one set of arms and bow and arrow on the other.
Ryomen Sukuna in Pop Culture
Many people first heard the name from anime or the manga “Jujutsu Kaisen”, but this character first appeared in the manga called “宗像教授伝奇考” or translated as “Professor Munakata’s Bizarre Thoughts”.
In that manga and anime adaption, the two Sukuna are related as the same tribesmen (probably ancestor-descendant). Sukuna is thought to be a tribe of immigrants from India coming to Japan during the era of myths, meeting with Ookuninushi and shared their knowledge and culture such as blacksmith, alcohol brewing, and even Indian Buddhism and mantras. The tribe later settled down at Hida region. But due to his appearance and perhaps being an obstacle ruling the region, the Yamato court (descendants of Ninigi who ruled the land after Ookuninushi handed over the reign) labeled him a bad guy to eliminate him.
In Jujutsu Kaisen however, Ryomen Sukuna is the “king of curses” (sorcery), appears with two sets of eyes and arms, and wields power of all the curses.
This adaptation of the Ryomen Sukuna seems to adapt some aspect of the two Sukuna, having two sets of eyes and arms (from Ryomen Sukuna) and being the king of sorcery and the underworld (from Sukunahikona).
However, since the manga/anime first appeared in 2018, those who are familiar with the Japanese occult will think that this character is also based on the other “Ryomen Sukuna”: the mummified cursed object in the dark side of Japan.
The story of Ryomen Sukuna as a cursed object first appeared in 2005 as an urban legend in the thread posted in 2Channel forums. And as a bonus, you can read the whole excerpt down below!
Ryomen Sukuna: the Urban Legend
I'm doing construction work, but the other day we had to dismantle an old temple in Iwate prefecture. It's a temple in which no one uses now.
So when I was deconstructing the temple, my colleague called me.
"Come here a bit…"
When I went there, there was a long dark wooden box at my colleague's feet.
I: "What is this?"
Colleague: "Erm, I was wondering what it is too... It was in a closed room at the back of the main hall, but I'll call the contractor who manages the project right now."
The size of the wooden box is about 2m. It looks like it's quite old, and maybe the wooden part was rotten.
A white piece of paper is pasted on the front, and something is written on it. I knew that the characters (letters) written on it was ancient, like those found in myths or old legends, but the paper was so tattered I could hardly tell what was written there.
I barely read a few things out of it though:
"Taisho (something) Year (something) July (something)’s sorcery to be taken, and Ryomen Sukuna to be sealed at (something)"
Something like that. the wooden box is sealed with nails and could not be opened, and the contractor said, "I'll ask the old chief monk tomorrow," so I decided to leave the wooden box in a nearby prefab that day.
Then the next day. Before arriving at the demolition work site, I got a call from the contractor
Contractor: "About that wooden box…The former chief monk said, ‘DO NOT OPEN IT!!’ he sounded very serious...
He said he will be taking it himself, so please do as he asked."
Just in case, I'll call the site director about the wooden box before reaching the site.
I: "Erm, about that wooden box yesterday"
Director: "Ah, that thing! There are two Chinese (international student) part-time workers hired by our company, right? Those guys opened it without permission!! Anyway, please come as soon as you can."
I had a bad feeling and hurried to the scene. A crowd of 5-6 people were gathering around the prefab.
Those two Chinese part-time workers were sitting in front of the prefab in an absent-minded state.
Director: "This guy seemed to have opened it for fun with his friend last night. And the problem is the contents inside though... Can you take a look?"
To put it straightforwardly, there was something that looked like a human mummy holding both hands like a boxer.
The only thing that was very strange was... it has two heads. Looked like a malformed child, Siamese twins perhaps?
I thought maybe it was a deformed person or a fake object...
Director: "After looking at this, I don't know if they were shocked or what, but these two guys won't talk at all."
No matter how much we asked, the two Chinese part-time workers were absent-minded (even though they could speak Japanese quite well).
Oh, I forgot to say that the mummy has:
"two heads on each side, two arms on each side, but just two legs like normal."
It was a strange form. I had seen pictures of various deformities on the net and 2ch, so I was surprised, but I just thought, "Perhaps it's just a deformity or some man-made faked mummy."
So, when the two Chinese people were drove to the hospital and we talked about how to contact the police, the former chief monk (over 80 years old) came with his son driving a car. The first thing he said was
Chief Monk: "Is it opened?! Is it opened you idiot?! Doomed, if it is opened we are doomed!!"
We were dumbfounded by all the sudden swearing, but next the chief monk started yelling at his son.
His Iwate accent was hard to understand so I write them here in normal language.
Chief Monk: "I told you at that time to make sure to send Ryomen Sukuna-sama to the (something, I couldn't hear it) temple in Kyoto right!! And you didn’t send it, you nincompoop! You idiot!”
It was an angry voice that I couldn't imagine coming from an old man who was over 80.
Chief Monk: "Who opened it? Hospital? I don't think they're going to make it, but I will purify you lot for the time being."
To be honest, we were scared, so we just let him do something like reading a sutra to us, and we were hit on the back and shoulders quite strongly with something like a scripture. I think it was quite long; he was doing it for about 30 minutes or so.
The chief monk loaded the wooden box into the car and said this before he left:
"Such pity, you lots can’t live a long life."
After that, one of the two Chinese part-time workers died in the hospital room due to a myocardial infarction in which the doctor also shook his head in confusion, the other was transferred to a mental hospital, then three dismantling workers fell into a deep sleep with a mysterious high fever, and I also stepped on a nail and had my foot sewed with 5 stitches.
I don't know the details at all, but I think that was a human malformation who died of discrimination, and thus left a lingering grudge that caused all unfortunate events around us.
Because it had a horrifying appearance ... I wonder if the area of the temple has something to do with the fact that there used to be a village in the past. It may be nothing at all. I want to live a long life.
I often looked into the occult forums myself, hence I'm very interested in this kind of thing, so I contacted the chief monk many times to find out the truth, but I was completely ignored.
However, since I got the contact information of his son who came with him (he is a real estate management, over 50 years old), this person is a relatively bright and flashy person, so I thought maybe I can ask something out of him? I got an appointment to go drinking tonight (although it's quite late at night).
I remember the story of Ryomen Sukuna appearing in a manga called "Professor Munakata's Bizarre Thoughts."
The Sukuna tribe, a foreigner who probably came to Japan long ago, introduced the culture to ancient Japan. It became the culture formation of the Izumo area, and the legend of the White Hare of Inaba and the story of Okuninushi-no-mikoto's nation-building would be based on this motif.
Then, the invasion of Izumo by the Yamato court occurred, and the chased Sukuna tribe arrived in the present Hida region.
According to the Nihon Shoki, there is a monster called Sukuna in Hida, and it is written that he killed people, and the court sent soldiers to exterminate him.
In other words, it was written that perhaps Sukuna are foreigners who introduced culture to Japan before the Yamato court, and probably those who worked in ancient Indian steelmaking (and probably introduced such craftsmanship to Japan).
And what was in the back of the cave found somewhere Izumo is…
The statue of "Ryomen Sukuna" (両面宿儺)
It is written that the Sukuna tribe came to Japan by a Kagaminofune (羅魔船), and it was a ship that glowed black like a mirror. It was written that 羅魔 is also read as "Rama" which is the name of an ebony tree, and that box was a long dark wooden box, so maybe it was also a Rama wood...?
Then, perhaps Ryomen Sukuna was a descendant of the Sukuna tribe who escaped and came to the Iwate region.
But that is just my idea, it might not fit on the occult forum, but I feel like writing it down anyhow.
……………(after talking with the son of the chief monk)
Immediately before the appointed time, I was told something like "Maybe meeting in person and talk isn’t such a good idea...", So I told the son of the former chief monk "Then, how about on the phone ...", “I will tell you as much as I could say” that was the condition, I was able to hear the story.
We talked for about 30 minutes.
He was a very talkative old man. I will mainly write out the main points.
Son of Chief Monk: "I'm sorry. I was reminded by my father. Actually, even talking on the phone is also dangerous."
I: "Not at all, I have to apologize too for requesting this. What is that thing after all?"
Son of Chief Monk: "THAT is a malformed person who was put out as an attraction in a freak show during the Taisho era."
I: "Then, was he alive in that conjoined state at that time? Like Siamese twins?"
Son of Chief Monk: "Yes. It seems that he lived in a village in Iwate for a few years, but it seems that his parents who were in need of living money sold him to a group of human buyers. That's why he ended up in a freak show."
I: "So that how things went... but why did he turn into such a mummy-like state?"
Son of Chief Monk: "To be exact, it's self-mummified monk (即身仏)."
I: "A self-mummified monk, so it means he voluntarily became that?"
Son of Chief Monk: "... you're going to talk to someone about this, right?"
I: "To be honest... Yes, I want to talk."
Son of Chief Monk: "It’s alright though, you are honest after all (laughs) Well, I don’t plan on talking about everything though...
THAT was forced to become that. At that time, there was a group we call a ridiculous occult cult in modern days.
I apologize that I cannot give you the name of the cult. I think they are still working quietly..."
I: "If I ask anyone, will they be like ‘oh that cult', right?’"
Son of Chief Monk: "I can’t say, I don’t know (laughs) It's a top-secret organization, a true evil cult."
I: "Is that so..."
Son of Chief Monk: "This cult master was a ridiculous bastard. He only used heretical methods."
I: "Heretical methods?"
Son of Chief Monk: "Yes, to put it simply, it is ‘what you shouldn't do’. A while ago, Shingon Tachikawa-ryu was struck as an evil cult and a heretic, but it's not that kind of easily done stuffs."
I: "... then what exactly?"
Son of Chief Monk: "Well, there is no material left at that time, and he used a pseudonym, he was not the one who appeared on the front stage, and even if the cult is still alive today, he might not be related to the current cult master at all, anyhow, here is his name... Mononobe Tengoku. This is the name of the cult master."
I: "Mononobe Tengoku. It's a pseudonym, isn't it?"
Son of Chief Monk: "That’s right, a pseudonym. So, when this Tengoku went to the freak show, he bought a lot of malformed people. Including the… you say the siamese twins? Right? That as well."
I: "... and?"
Son of Chief Monk: "Do you know Kodoku (蠱毒)? It is written with kanjis of ‘insects’ and ‘poison’, and insects are a special kanji that combines three insects into one kanji."
I: "Is it a sorcery that put several poisonous insects in a jar and uses the last surviving insect?" (that was in the manga a long time ago lol)
Son of Chief Monk: "That’s it! How do you know that?? Amazing."
I: "Well, it’s nothing... and then?"
Son of Chief Monk: "Oh, right. Tengoku did that Kodoku with humans."
I: "Put humans in a closed room?? You are not lying, right?"
Son of Chief Monk: "(sounds a little sick) I also heard from my father that I don't believe in everything 100% ... Should I stop here?"
I: "I'm sorry! ... Please continue."
Son of Chief Monk: "Alrighty. So, it (Kodoku) was done with several of the malformed humans. I don't know where the cult headquarters is, but it was said he put them into a closed room in the basement. And then the Siamese twins survived."
I: "How long had he been locked down there?"
Son of Chief Monk: "I don't know the details, but you can almost imagine the period when you have to survive by eating the meat of your friends and even eating your own manure."
I: "I don't really want to imagine that..."
Son of Chief Monk: "And then, it seems that Tengoku plotted it out so that the Siamese twins would survive from the beginning. Other malformed humans were fatally injured with a knife or something, and they were thrown in a state of half-dead. Since he looked like an Ashura statue. I think the Tengoku was attracted to his divineness (bizarreness?)."
I: "I see..."
Son of Chief Monk: "So, although lucky enough to survive, but since he was just a tool for Tengoku, he was immediately locked in another room by himself and starved to death… Then embalmed, thus the completion of Ryomen Sukuna, the name of the mummy my father called the other day"
I: "What is Ryomen Sukuna?"
*He said that the Siamese twins malformed human was named after the legend that there was a monster with two faces and four hands called Ryomen Sukuna long ago, which was close to the mythical era. That’s what he said.
I; "Is that so..."
Son of Chief Monk: "That Ryomen Sukuna, Tengoku made the mummy the cult's main worshipping image. As a curse Buddha statue. You can curse others to dead, and if you are not good at it, you may be able to curse and kill so many people. He made a ridiculously dangerous curse Buddha At least that is what Tengoku believed"
I: "What is the target of the curse?"
Son of Chief Monk: "... my old man said, the nation itself."
I: "The whole of Japan itself? That Tengoku, he was not right in the head right?"
Son of Chief Monk: "Perhaps he sasn’t right in the head. But that's not the only effect of the curse. He also put something in Ryomen Sukuna's belly..."
I: "What is it?"
Son of Chief Monk: "It's the bones of ancient human. It's the (vagrant people) who were destroyed by the Yamato court, the so-called Rebels in the eye of the court. He put the powder of the bones of these ancient mans in the stomach of that thing..."
I: "Where did he get such a thing...!?"
Son of Chief Monk: "Have you seen it on TV or in newspapers? When ancient ruins and tombs were excavated, there were people doing excavation work. At that time, it seems that the guards around that area were careless... It seems that he stole mainly from such a place."
I: "It's a hard to believe story..."
Son of Chief Monk: "Right? I thought so too. But, there are so many disasters that happened mainly in the Taisho era."
1914 (Taisho 3): Large eruption of Sakurajima (9600 injured)
1914 (Taisho 3): Akita earthquake (94 dead)
1914 (Taisho 3): Explosion of Hojo coal mine (687 dead)
1916 (Taisho 5): Great fire in Hakodate
1917 (Taisho 6): Great flood in eastern Japan (1300 dead)
1917 (Taisho 6): Explosion of Kirino coal mine (361 dead)
1922 (Taisho 11): Train accident in Oyashirazu Nadare (130 dead)
Then, on September 1, 1923 (Taisho 12), the Great Kanto Earthquake, dead and missing 142,800 people.
I: "What are those for?"
Son of Chief Monk: "It seems that all these were the areas where Ryomen Sukuna was moved."
I: "No way! Was there even a cult branch in every of those places? It's just a mere coincidence (laughed)"
Son of Chief Monk: "I think it's a stupid story as well. And on the day of the Great Kanto Earthquake, the worst and greatest disaster of the Taisho era. On that day, Tengoku died just before the earthquake hit."
I; "He died?"
Son of Chief Monk: "I heard that he committed suicide. There are rumors that he was not a pure Japanese person..."
I: "How did he die?"
Son of Chief Monk: "Slash his throat with a Japanese sword. Right in front of Ryomen Sukuna. And there is a suicide note written with blood letters..."
I; "What did he write?"
JAPAN SHALL EXTINCT
I: "... that was just before the Great Kanto Earthquake, right?"
Son of Chief Monk: "That's right."
I: "... it's just a coincidence, right?"
Son of Chief Monk: "...maybe it's a coincidence."
I: "Where were Ryomen Sukuna and Tengoku at that time...?"
Son of Chief Monk: "It seems that they were near the coast of Sagami Bay. near the epicenter."
I: "... After that, what kind of route did Ryomen Sukuna went to end up in that temple in Iwate?"
Son of Chief Monk: "That was the only part my old man didn't tell me."
I: "At that time, the chief monk told you something like (Why didn't you transport it to a temple in Kyoto!), What about that?"
Son of Chief Monk: "Oh, so you heard it... that was about 30 years ago, I was planning to succeed my father and become a chief monk. At that time, it was my negligence or mistake...
After that, that temple was left unattended for a long time... that's all I can talk about."
I: "Well... where is Ryomen Sukuna now?"
Son of Chief Monk: "I don't know about that, I mean, I haven't been able to contact my father for the past few days...
Since he brought it home, it seems like it was retrofitted to a strange car."
I: "Is that so... but I was told you wouldn't talk about everything. Why did you tell me so much in detail?"
Son of Chief Monk: "The old man old you at that time right? Such pity, you lots can't live a long life, something like that."
Son of Chief Monk: "Then let’s finish here. And don't call me anymore."
I: "... Thank you"
That's all we talked about on the phone ... I don't believe everything, frankly.
I am feeling sick, so I'm going to hit the sack today. Sorry for the long and continuous sentences.