In Japanese mythology an inugami (犬神, lit. "dog god") is a familiar spirit originated from a dog.
Inugami are known for carrying out vengeance or acting as guardians on behalf of the inugami-mochi, or "inugami owner". Inugami are extremely powerful and capable of existing independently, as well as turning on their "owners" and even possessing humans.
The general belief is that an inugami is created by tying a dog and placing a bowl of food just out of its reach. It would take days for the dog to die, and during this time the dog's master would tell it that its pain is nothing compared to his own. The onmyouji then follow some secret black magic rituals. When the dog dies, it become an inugami; since its dying wish would have been to eat, the food placed around the corpse would act as a placatory offering, and thus make the spirit obedient. The ghost-dog is then used as weapon to scare to death the enemies of the dog's master. Inugami are, by any account, terrible and wrathful, fearful and powerful. Only an experienced and prepared onmyouji may ever attempt to control one successfully.
A more specific legend states that an old woman who desired revenge against an enemy buried her treasured dog in the ground with only its head sticking out, and said "If you have a soul, do my will and I will worship you as a god." She then sawed the dog's head off with a bamboo saw (which would have been extremely painful), releasing the dog's spirit as an inugami. The spirit did as she wished, but in return for its painful death it haunted the old woman.
In the Oki Islands, the inugami takes on the function that the kitsune (fox) holds in many other regions of Japan. It is believed that an inugami-mochi will be blessed with great fortune and success, and that favors granted by them will be returned with interest. However, in exchange the inugami-mochi are shunned by other people, and find it hard to get married; they must also be careful not to offend their inugami lest they receive its wrath, as unlike the kitsune, an inugami does not merely follow its master's wishes, but also acts on its own impulses.
An inugami's original body stays behind when it leaves to follow its masters wishes; the buried corpse slowly withers and rots, and if the inugami returns after the body is no longer habitable, it may take control of its master's body, making it even more powerful. Possession by an inugami is said to cure sickness, or ill health; however, it also results in the possessed behaving like a dog. Only a powerful sorceror or witch doctor can cure the unfortunate bystanders from the dog-ghost's possession.
- InuYasha, Sesshomaru, Sesshomaru's Mother, and Inu no Taishou in the anime InuYasha
- An inugami created for revenge appears in the OVA version of Tokyo Babylon
- Inuki from the manga X acts as a guardian to Nekoi Yuzuriha
- The PS2 RPG Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne features inugami as a recruitable demon.
- Inugami is a Japanese clan that possesses Harmonixer blood in the PS2 RPG "Shadow Hearts: Covenant". One member of the Inugami clan, "Kurando Inugami", is a playable character.
- An inugami is the main character in the PS2 action game Ikusagami (war god).
- Kotaro Inugami from the manga and anime series Negima.
- Inugami is also the name of a manga written by Masaya Hokazono
- Yoko in the anime Inukami! is referred to as an inugami until it is known that she is a Kitsune or Fox spirit.
- Sadaharu from the anime series Gintama
- Inugami Circus-dan is the name of a Japanese rock band.
- the manga Her Majesty's Dog by Mick Takeuchi is about a psychic and her "demon dog" guardian who takes a human form to better watch over her. adding to the shojo quality of the manga, he gets his energy from her kiss, complicating their master-dog relationship
- Manga/TV anime Inu-Yasha - Inu-Yasha may be at least in part based on the concept of inugami.
- Manga/Anime Tokyo Babylon - The anime OVAs are preferred to the manga version. In the first OVA, the trio of onmyouji are drawn into a terrifying situation in which a woman's dear brother has met his end by the actions of a particularly unsavory and unscrupulous businessman. To exact her vengeance, she summons an inugami and is unprepared for the backlash, which Subaru and Hokuto must deal with.
- Manga/TV anime Kishin Douji Zenki/Zenki - One of the major villains is actually an inugami.
- Pluto from the Black Butler anime series is an Inugami who can take human form.
- Madarao and Hakubi from the anime/manga Kekkaishi are Inugamis.