The Soul in Your Butt, According to Japanese Legend

Yes, you heard that correctly. This one was brought to my attention after watching a lore video about the popular game Elden Ring. This lead me down a series of twists and turns I was not anticipating, and neither will you!

Shirikodama

Keyamura Rokusuke struggling with three kappa on the bank of a river in which a fourth kappa also is swimming (Utagawa Kuniyoshi, mid-18th century)

Shirikodama (尻子玉), is literally a ball in your anus. Shiri () translates roughly to anus and Kodama (子玉), which literally means small ball, but can also roughly translate to jewel. Kappapedia speculates that the jewel might be a better translation because it infers that the jewel back there might house the soul or spirit, as upon removal, the person who has their shirikodama removed will die. In certain art portraying supernatural beings seeking the shirikodama, it appears close to the traditional representation of the Hoji (宝珠), a sacred and all-powerful gem in Buddhist lore. This could lend credence to the idea that the translation might be more akin to “jewel” instead of “ball,” but I’ll let the more professionally trained linguists among us make the final call on that one.

I won’t post any pictures depicting the shirikodama because… well, they’re grim, and always involve the extraction. Feel free to look them up yourself if you’re curious!

Kappa, Headless Demons, and Dung Eaters: Shirikodama Examples in Japanese Media

Remember the certain supernatural creatures I mentioned earlier? Those are Kappa, mischievous frog-like yokai with a cup of water on their head that, if tipped over, will cause them to die. A common way to outclass the kappa is to trick them into bowing, causing them to spill their head cup and killing them. They also can’t stand farts, so you can always try vigorously passing gas to fend them off. Or bribe them with cucumbers, which they love to eat.

So what’s the deal with these guys? Why do they want your butt ball jewel? Well, Kappa live near rivers and are said to drag their victims underwater, drowning them in the process. The connection here is a bit grim, so if you don’t want the gory details, skip the following paragraph and jump down to the text below the Sekiro image:

Drowning victims are usually found with a distended anus, or swollen anus, when they are recovered from the water. In the far-flung past of Japan, these remains and this odd change to the body needed an explanation, so it is speculated that the Shirikodama and Kappa’s insatiable desire for them was suggested as a possible explanation.

It’s odd that Kappa, who detest farts, would be so into… butts. I have no explanation for this: Sometimes, forbidden fruit tastes the sweetest?

Image from FromSoftware Sekiro Online Manual

In video games, we see two possible connections to the shirikodama. First is Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice from FromSoftware, pioneers of the Souls-like genre that exploded. in popularity thanks to their series Dark Souls. In Sekiro, you play as the titular ninja on his way to save his young master and their realm. In the game, there are some hidden enemies you can fight called the Headless. These horrors are just what you think: Hulking headless horrors with big swords hellbent on murdering you. They also have a gnarly grab attack where they pick you up by your back and… wait, is… is it pulling something out of your butt? Sure enough, this greedy gremlin is after your shirikodama, adding even more layers of horror to this already frightening foe.

Elden Ring Banner from the Official Playstation Store listing for Elden Ring

Another more recent example, again from the game maker FromSoftware, is Elden Ring. There is a character known as the Dung Eater, who has a very grim and disturbing backstory. There are a ton of gory details to back up the odes his character pays to the shirikodama, but just by his name alone, you can kind of piece together how he might be related to things up your butt. Zullie the Witch, one of the premiere sources for all things lore in the FromSoftware series, has an amazing two-minute video explaining it all here.

Grim? Yes. Interesting? Yes. So remember: Your butt does a lot more than let you sit comfortably. It also hosts a sacred gem that may link your soul to your body.

Are there any odd soul myths, legends, or folklore where you’re from? Let us know in the comments below!

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