Matara-jin (摩多羅神) is a Buddhist god from the Tendai school of Japanese Buddhism. Through history he was closely associated with the Mt. Hiei temple complex. He was commonly worshiped in an area called ushirodo (後戸; “backdoor”) in Tendai temples.
Suzuki Masataka and Bernard Faure consider Matara-jin a typical example of the so-called shukujin. Faure considers the primary role of this category of deities to be that of an “astral god (…) controlling human destiny.”
Many researchers consider Matara-jin a god of perfroming arts. Hattori Yukio, following Zeami‘s Fushikaden (風姿花傳), concluded that Matara-jin was connected to the origin of sarugaku and noh. Omote Akira proposed that the okina mask, representing an enigmatic “auspicious old man” character in performances, was viewed as a representation of Matara-jin.
Additionally in 1617 Tendai priest Tenkai established Matara-jin as one of the divine protectors of the Tokugawa shogunate.
According to William M. Bodifordd, Matara-jin has his origin in the introduction and subsequent confusion of two separate deities to Japan: Taizan Fukun, the Taoist afterlife judge and god of Mount Tai (incorporated into Mahayana Buddhism as one of the kings of hell), and the Hindu wrathful protector deity Mahakala.
Konparu Zenchiku in his work Meishuku shū (明宿集)envisioned a complex network of connections between various shukujin figures, regarding all of them as manifestations of a single Okina deity. Zenchiku’s shukujin network also incorporated the legendary figure of Hata no Kawakatsu.