Emma is the king of hell in Japanese lore. In the few stories I read with him in it, people who die are brought before him for judgment. He sometimes sends them back, either for a chance to atone for their sins, or to carry out unfinished business (after which they will again immediately die). Overall, he seems to be quite a reasonable and not at all unpleasant fellow.


Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Source: Tyler, Royall, Japanese Tales, Pantheon Books, 2002.

Supernatural AtoZ


  1. How interesting. Emma might be the only master of hell in culture to be so easy going.

  2. A King of Hell who is reasonable and not a trickster is not someone we’re used to in European tradition. But then I like the interpretation of hell and heaven where hell is a huge banqueting table, around which everyone is sitting. The table is laden, there is food galore, but everyone is starving, because they have each been give a long spoon with which they have to eat, and the spoon is too long for them to reach their mouths, so can only look at the food. Heaven is the same, a banquet, with long spoons, only, in heaven everyone is feeding everyone else, so by helping others, every one is happy.

  3. wow, i totally need to bone up on my japanese mythology! i learned something awesome today!

    i’m going to say something silly now, but in dragon ball z, they have a version of this. only it’s run more like a business office! goku (the mc) dies and goes before (they don’t call him emma and i can’t remember the name) him and is judged.

    great post.

    • Sara C. Snider

      King Yemma, maybe? (That’s what Google tells me.) His name does vary: Emma, Enma, Yemma, Yama, etc. Glad you liked the story! 🙂

      • Djinnia

        That’s it! I guess the coffee hadn’t kicked in enough to realize I could google it! Oops!

  4. I’m sure one shouldn’t point out he has a girls name…I’m sure that’s one way to get on his bad side.

    What is Japanese hell like?

    • Sara C. Snider

      I recall it being very estate-like. You know with a gate and guards and a courtyard. Seemed very normal. That’s how I remember it, anyway. But I do have a tendency to sometimes imagine things completely different than how they were described.

  5. Emma is a male and rules hell? I like it. I like it a lot.

  6. All of your posts have been really fascinating and unique. Love that you’re featuring lesser-known lore. I’ll never look at a person named Emma the same again 😉

  7. Didn’t know this, he sounds a little like Osiris, the ancient Egyptian god of the underworld.

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