TRANSLATION: hundred hundred (i.e. really old) geezer
HABITAT: dark roads and mountain passes
APPEARANCE: A momonjii is born from a long-lived nobusuma, a yokai which was originally born from a long-lived bat. It is a mysterious yokai which takes the form of a hairy, bestial, old man who wanders the wilds and assaults passersby, particularly crying or misbehaving children. Momonjii appear late at night on the road, when the wind blows strongly, and those who meet them suddenly become very sick.
ORIGIN: The name momonjii was created by a very complicated combination of Japanese puns and wordplay. It is formed from the words momonga and gagoji. Momonga is the Japanese word for a small flying squirrel, but long ago the momonga and musasabi (the Japanese giant flying squirrel) were thought to be the same animal, so their names were used interchangeably. The yokai nobusuma (from which momonjii are created) very closely resembles a musasabi, and so the interchangeable name momonga was often used to refer to the nobusuma. Gagoji is a regional word that refers to a bogeyman-like monster who assaults children. The word comes from the legend of Gagoze, the demon of Gangō-ji; being a regional variation of the demon’s name. Thus, momonga and gagoji were combined to form momonjii, referring to a scary child-assaulting monster which is related to the nobusuma.
During the Edo period, there was a strict prohibition on eating meat from certain animals such as deer and boar. These forbidden animals were collectively referred to as momonjii. To get around this prohibition, shops began selling animal meat as “medicine” instead of food. These “medicine” shops were called momonji-ya, and the meat sold there was believed to ward off disease. The fact that this yokai resembles a wild animal and also brings disease is an ironic reference to momonjii and momonji-ya.
The “medicine” sold at momonji-ya was given nicknames in order to disguise its true contents. For instance, deer meat was called momiji, or maple leaves, and boar meat was referred to as botan, or peony. This secret imagery persists in things like hanafuda playing cards, where deer and maple leaves, and boar and peonies, are depicted together. When Toriyama Sekien, who was very aware of the imagery in hanafuda cards, first illustrated the momonjii, he drew him hiding in a pile of maple leaves — creating yet another connected between this yokai and the prohibition of animal meat.
TRANSLATION: none; just the name for this monster
ALTERNATE NAMES: yamajiji, satorikai
HABITAT: deep in secluded mountains
DIET: life force (in the form of the breath of sleeping humans)
APPEARANCE: Yamachichi live in northeastern Japan and originally come from bats. A long-lived bat transforms into a nobusuma, which then, after many more years, transforms into a yamachichi. These yokai resemble monkeys with pointed mouths and sucking lips.
BEHAVIOR: Yamachichi live deep in the mountains and pay visit to houses late at night. They steal the breath from their sleeping human victims, sucking it out of their mouths with their pointed lips. After sucking away all of their victim’s sleeping breath, the yamachichi taps its victim on the chest, and then flees into the night. A human who has had his or breath stolen this way will die the next day. However, if a yamachichi should be caught in the act of stealing someone’s breath (either by the victim or by another witness), it will flee, and their victim will actually have their life span greatly increased instead.
ORIGIN: The name yamachichi only appears in Ehon Hyakumonogatari, an Edo period yokai bestiary, and thus very little is known about them. The characters used to write the name literally mean “mountainous region” and “breast” or “milk,” but these are most likely ateji — characters assigned phonetically without regard to the original meaning of the word. The original meaning of the name is mysterious and the only explanation given is that they are called yamachichi because they live hidden away in the mountains.
Because they are very similar in shape to satori, yamachichi are often confused with this yokai, and have picked up the alternative name satorikai.
TRANSLATION: wild quilt
ALTERNATE NAMES: tobikura (flying warehouse)
HABITAT: forests and mountains
DIET: primarily blood; also fire, nuts, fruit and berries
APPEARANCE: A bat which lives to a very old age develops magical powers and changes into a yokai known as a nobusuma. They look almost identical to musasabi, or Japanese giant flying squirrels, although they are much more dangerous.
BEHAVIOR: Nobusuma eat nuts, fruit, and berries, but also feed on fire, and by sucking blood from humans and small animals (such as cats). They attack travelers walking the roads at night. They swoop down from the trees onto the faces of their unsuspecting victims, latch on, and begin sucking blood. When they do not need to feed, they simply swoop down and blow out lanterns and torches, flying back up into the night sky with a creepy cry that goes, “gaa gaa!”
ORIGIN: While nobusuma are born from long-lived bats, the transformation does not stop there. Once a nobusuma reaches a very old age, it transforms again, either into a yamachichi or a momonjii.
This yokai should not be confused with the nobusuma (野襖) from Kochi prefecture, whose name is pronounced the same but is actually a variety of a different yokai called nurikabe.
TRANSLATION: wild gun
HABITAT: mountains and forests
APPEARANCE: The nodeppō is an animal yokai which lives in northern Japan, deep in forested mountain valleys. Nodeppō resemble flying squirrels, but are actually born from an animal called a mami, which resembles a badger. When a mami reaches a very old age, it transforms into a nodeppō.
BEHAVIOR: Nodeppō very closely resembles nobusuma in appearance and behavior. They swoop down from trees at night, extinguishing flames. They latch on to humans’ faces, smothering them and sucking out their blood, and in many places they are considered to be the same creature.
While both nodeppō and nobusuma like to smother people’s faces and blind them with their webbed arms and legs, the feature which most distinguishes the nodeppō from the nobusuma is also its namesake: the ability to shoot bats out of its mouth, like bullets from a gun. The nodeppō is able to spit a stream of bats out of its mouth towards the faces of its victims, blinding them in a cloud of angry bats.