Japanese Mythology

The Shinto and Folk Gods of Japan...


Japanese Spirit

Also known as Heike-Gani, Heikegani

Picture of the Japanese Spirit Heike from our Japanese mythology image library. Illustration by Chas Saunders.

Samurai Crab spirits

Once upon a time in the Straits of Shimonoseki there was an epic battle between the Minomotas and the Tairas. The Taira tribe took a total pasting and were more or less wiped out or drowned in the inland sea.

The Heike crabs which abound in this area have shells indented with what look remarkably like scowling faces. These are said to be the spirits of the departed Tairas. Not surprising as they have a lot to scowl about. They lost absolutely everything including the sacred imperial sword. Now they are doomed to wander around under the waters for eternity.

Those of you into evolutionary biology may like to ponder the significance of artificial selection in the case of the Heike Crab. The theory goes that no ghost-fearing person is likely to kill and eat a crab bearing such an image, so over the years, normal crabs are more likely to get eaten while the strangely-marked ones survive to pass on their characteristics. Result: Human superstition conspires to breed a race of crabs with startlingly realistic Samurai faces.

However, there are several other crab species outside of Japan with similar markings, so perhaps the Heike warriors were inspired by the crabs instead. If only mythology could be explained so easily, we could have a day off now and then.

Heike Facts and Figures

Name: Heike
Pronunciation: Coming soon
Alternative names: Heike-Gani, Heikegani

Gender: Male
Type: Spirit
Celebration or Feast Day: Unknown at present

Role: Unknown at present

Good/Evil Rating: Unknown at present
Popularity index: 3285

Cite this article

Here's the info you need to cite this page. Just copy the text in the box below.

Article last revised on September 23, 2018 by Rowan Allen.
Editors: Peter J. Allen, Chas Saunders

References: Coming soon.

Permissions page

Oh woe. Javascript is switched off in your browser.
Some bits of this website may not work unless you switch it on.