Sōjōbō (“high Buddhist priest”) is the mythical king of the tengu, minor deities who inhabit the mountains and forests of Japan. Sōjōbō is an ancient yamabushi (mountain hermit) tengu with long, white hair and an unnaturally long nose. He carries a fan made from seven feathers as a sign of his position at the top of tengu society. He is extremely powerful, and one legend says he has the strength of 1,000 normal tengu. Sōjōbō lives on Mount Kurama (north of Kyoto).
Sōjōbō is perhaps best known for teaching the warrior Minamoto no Yoshitsune (then known by his childhood name Ushiwaka-maru or Shanao) the arts of swordsmanship, tactics, and magic in the 12th century. In fact, the name “Sōjōbō” originates from Sōjōgatani, the valley at Mount Kurama near Kibune Shrine associated with the Shugenja. It is in this valley that Ushiwaka trained with Sōjōbō in legend. This relationship serves as the basis of many Japanese woodblock prints, including one by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi. Also in some Japanese villages, parents spread the myth that he eats little boys to stop them going into the forests at night.