Shinigami (死神?, "death spirit") is the personification of death that evolved in Japan, having been imported to Japan from Europe during the Meiji period. This image of death was quickly adopted and featured in such works as the rakugo play Shinigami and in Shunsen Takehara's Ehon Hyaku Monogatari (One-hundred Story Picture-Book).
Perhaps the first appearance of shinigami in Japan was in a rakugo play titled Shinigami. It is thought that this play was based on the Italian opera Crispino e la Comare, which was in turn based on Der Gevatter Tod, a German fairy tale recorded by the Brothers Grimm.
Today, the use of shinigami for any number of supernatural beings associated with death in Japanese manga and anime is common. For example, the series Bleach, Death Note, and Soul Eater use shinigami as a major plot device.
The following are Japanese death deities but are usually not referred to as shinigami:
- Enma (-ō, -daiō)