Harikikigaki, the book of pathogenic insects

Harikikigaki, the book of pathogenic insects



The strange bug above is a Kanshaku , an insect with an angry head that rises from the liver to the rib cage. People infected with Kanshaku tend to scream with rage. They should prefer acidic foods, and avoid eating fatty foods.

It's part of the Harikikigaki inventory, a medical book written in 1568 by an Osaka resident. The manuscript describes sixty-three of these bizarre insects, believed to be the cause of disease, and how to combat them with medicinal herbs and acupuncture. Until the end of the 19th century, the Japanese people believed that disease was spread by gods called yakubyogami . At first, these gods took on human form, but later, influenced by texts from China, some people came to believe that they must be small beasts, small enough to enter the body.

Hizo-no-kesshaku, Kanmushi

Hizo-no-kesshaku causes problems with the spleen, but it can be cured by ingesting shazenji (plantago seed).

Kanmushi is a harmful parasite that embeds itself in the spine, causing it to curve backward. Infected people also develop an appetite for spicy food. The herbs mokko (Saussureae radix) and byakujutsu (Atractylodes macrocephala Koidz) are effective in fighting off Kanmushi.

Gyochu, Haimushi

Gyochu, a deadly critter responsible for leprosy, acts as a messenger to the underworld. On the night of Koshin-no-hi (an important date occurring every 60 days on the Chinese calendar), Gyochu leaves the body to visit Enma-daio (Lord of the Underworld) and tell him of your misdeeds. Enma-daio is known to punish people for bad behavior by reducing their remaining time on earth.

Haimushi, a creature with an appetite for rice, causes problems with the lungs. If the Haimushi exits the lungs and cannot find its way back, it turns into a fiery will-o'-wisp (hitodama) and the person dies. The herb byakujutsu is effective in warding off Haimushi.


Male and female versions of the Kagemushi appear during sexual intercourse. When the two bugs come together, their wiry legs get tangled up, the female bug spits up red fluid, and the male spits up white.

Hizo-no-kasamushi, Akuchu

Hizo-no-kasamushi, a worm found in the spleen, causes its host to gain or lose weight based on the amount of food it eats. The herbs agi (giant fennel) and gajutsu (purple turmeric) are effective in controlling Hizo-no-kasamushi.

Akuchu, also found in the spleen, consumes rice eaten by the host. Drinking mokko is an effective antidote.

Haishaku, Kakuran-no-mushi

Haishaku, a critter found in the upper lungs, has a nose that opens directly into its chest. People infected with Haishaku hate pleasant smells and foul smells, but are fond of strong, fishy smells. Other symptoms include extreme sadness and a craving for spicy food. Gentle, shallow acupuncture is an effective treatment.

Kakuran-no-mushi, a worm with a black head and red body, invades the stomach and causes vomiting and diarrhea. It is known to come up into the host's mouth and poke its head out. Try to grab it, and you choke for air, but let go and it returns peacefully to the stomach. The herbs goshuyu (Euodia rutaecarpa), shazenshi and mokko are useful in fighting Kakuran-no-mushi.


Umakan, a beastie that causes heart problems, infects people outdoors in the scorching sun or in the vicinity of fire. Acupuncture is an effective treatment.


Koseu (Kosho), a snake-like critter with a scruffy white beard, wears a hat that protects it from medicine. It likes to drink sweet sake and it can speak.


Kameshaku eats rice and wears an umbrella-like hat that blocks medicine. It can be destroyed by eating wild beans.


Koshi-no-mushi flies into a host's body and makes its way to the lower back area, where it causes diarrhea, sweating and chest pains. The herbs mokko and kanzo (licorice root) are an effective treatment.

Chishaku, Hizo-no-mushi

Chishaku (Taibyo-no-kesshaku) appears in the stomach after a severe illness. It can be controlled by applying shukusha (wild siamese cardamom).

Hizo-no-mushi is found in the spleen. It causes dizziness and hot flashes when it grabs the host's muscles with its long arms and claws. It can be stopped by ingesting mokko and daio (rhubarb).

Kiukan and Kishaku

Kiukan (Gyukan) lives in the chest and acts up at meal time. This critter is difficult to get rid of, but acupuncture is an effective treatment.

Kishaku is a dark red beastie that causes its host to develop an unhealthy appetite for oily food. It can be stopped by eating tiger stomach.


Jinshaku (Honton) resembles a tiny boar that runs wild through the body. Those infected with Jinshaku develop a weak pulse, a dark complexion, a craving for salty food, and bad breath. Acupuncture is an effective treatment.

Hishaku, Hinosha

Hishaku is found in the spleen, most often in females. Symptoms include an overpowering appetite for sweets, a yellowish complexion, and a tendency to hum. It can be stopped with acupuncture around the navel.

Hinoshu, also found in the spleen, looks like a rock and remains dormant inside the body until the host visits a crowded sightseeing area, at which time Hinoshu causes dizziness by thrashing about and creating the sensation of rocks crashing against each other. Acupuncture is an effective treatment.


In collaboration with our friend Village of Strange 

Learn more :

Kyushu National Museum

Wallango Japanese Art Print Collection 
Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.