How Do I Translate “Oni”?

In Japanese, a rough concept of “ogre”, “demon”, “devil”, and “Satan” are all combined into a single word; oni(ÚČ╝).

An oni is a large, horned orge that lives in the underworld and eats pickled beets. It often carries a club, or a stone axe. The first oni to be photographed was by the then-emporer Meiji’s court photographer in the year 1871, although this was later determined to be the court entertainer who had dressed himself in a goat hide.

Due to the confusing amalgam of concepts surrounding oni, many students have a difficult time distinguishing between devils, demons, and orges. To combat this confusion, bring a dictionary into the classroom and have the student copy down the meanings of all of the words. Next, have the student define an oni in Japanese, then translate the definition. With all of the definitions now in English, have the student highlight all of the common words which are shared amongst the definitions, and then finally cut the words out and glue them onto a seperate piece of paper. This new paper now contains the correct definition of “oni”.

This activity can also be performed for other mythical creatures such as tengu, kappa, sentagai, kusobaba, and kusojiijii.

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