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In Japanese Buddhism, Zaou Gongen is an avatar of the Japanese bodhisattva Kongou Zaou. Kongou Zaou developed in Southern Japan around the 11th century from the Indian Buddhist deity Vajrapani, who was known in Japan as Shukongoushin. From these origins the idea of Zaou Gongen spread across Japan, though he competed in popularity with the god Fudoumyouou.
Zaou Gongen, along with figures Shakyamuni (Gautama Buddha) and Maitreya, is credited with helping Shugendou sect founder En no Ozunu ward off demons and establish the sect. In another version, En no Ozunu was sitting on a mandala meditating while gods such as Benzaiten appeared before him. After 21 days, Zaou Gongen manifested to En no Ozunu as a syncretic image of the buddhas Dainichi, Shakyamuni, and Amida.
In Shin Megami Tensei
Zaou Gongen's depiction in Shin Megami Tensei is accurate to traditional source material. He has dark-bluish skin, wears a grimaced face and a three-pronged crown, holds the vajra (thunderbolt) in his right hand and assumes a sword-gripping position with his left. One foot is usually set on the earth as the other is raised in the air.