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TRANSLATION: a corruption of the slang for wearing too much makeup
HABITAT: graveyards, old temples
DIET: unknown

APPEARANCE: The nuppeppō is a bizarre and creepy yokai found in ruined temples, overgrown graveyards, and other dilapidated or run-down areas. This creature is known for its revolting appearance and smell; it gives off a very strong odor of rotten meat. It looks like a large, flabby, roughly humanoid chunk of flesh about the size of child, with lumpy, undeveloped hands and feet, and vaguely indiscernible facial features.

BEHAVIOR: Nuppeppō appear usually only at night, and are not known to cause any particular harm or mischief, other than generally being disgusting. They seem to enjoy the nauseating effect their smell has on passersby. They frequently cause chaos and havoc by running around and disgusting people, and outrunning angry villagers who would try to chase them down and kill them.

INTERACTIONS: Nuppeppō are very rare yokai, and there are only a few records of sightings, though their grotesque form is well-known. Accounts usually describe lords sending hosts of warriors to chase the creature out of a castle or a temple, only to have it outrun the guards and escape, causing some of them to swoon and faint from its odor. Though it is passive and non-aggressive, it can move very quickly and is notoriously hard to catch.

According to the records of Edo period pharmacists, its flesh imparts incredible power on those who eat it (providing they are willing and able to keep it down), and it can also be made into a powerful medicine with excellent curative properties.

ORIGIN: Though nuppeppō’s origin is mysterious, it is believed to be a distant relative of the nopperabō. Some scholars suggest that nuppeppō may in fact be a botched transformation of an inexperienced shape-shifting yokai, such as a mujina or tanuki. The origin of its name is mysterious, though it is thought to be derived from slang for wearing too much makeup, painted so thickly that facial features become indiscernible – just as this creatures features are barely discernible on its fleshy, fatty face.



TRANSLATION: muddy rice field monk
HABITAT: unused, overgrown fields
DIET: none; survives on vengeance alone

APPEARANCE: Dorotabō are the transformed ghosts of old men who toiled so hard on their rice fields, only to see them lie in waste by a neglectful owner after their death. They appears as one-eyed, three-fingered humanoid figures rising out of the mud at night. It is said that the five fingers of the human hand represent three vices and two virtues: anger, greed, ignorance, wisdom, and compassion. The ghostly dorotabō appears with only the three fingers representing the vices, because he is a spirit of vengeance and rage, angry at the vices which now shame his life’s work.

BEHAVIOR: Dorotabō roam the overgrown fields, calling out in a mournful voice, “Give me back my rice field!” They haunt their fields night after night, preventing sleep and otherwise causing feelings of unease to the new inhabitants of their lands. They continue haunting until the wasteful owners changes their ways or give up and flee, selling the field to someone who will take proper care of it.

ORIGIN: Most of Japan’s land is bound up in inhospitable mountain ranges where farming is impossible, so the land that is usable by humans is extremely valuable. Families can save for a life time just to buy a small plot of precious farmland in hopes to leave it to their offspring after they die. Of course, children do not always follow their parents’ wishes, and a prodigal son who forsakes his father’s hard-earned fields in favor of vices like gambling and drinking is usually the cause of this eerie specter.

Hone onna


TRANSLATION: bone woman
HABITAT: dark streets, alleys, graveyards
DIET: none; though has a large sexual appetite

APPEARANCE: Not all who die turn into vengeful beings of grudge and jealousy. Hone onna retain an undying love that persists long after their flesh has rotted away, allowing them to continue to be with the object of their affection despite having died. These ghosts appear as they did in life – young, beautiful women in their prime. Only those unclouded by love or with strong religious faith are able to see through their disguise to their true form: rotting, fetid skeletal corpses returned from the grave.

INTERACTIONS: At night, a hone onna arises from the grave and wanders to the house of her former lover. Her appearance is a great shock to those who had believed her to be dead. This shock quickly turns into such joy that it blinds them to any clues that something might be wrong. Even the hone onna herself does not know of her condition, as she is driven only by love; she exists as a ghost only to continue the love she had in life. She spends the night and leaves in the morning, and this unholy coupling can continue for days or even weeks without being noticed. Each night she drains some of her lover’s life force, and he grows ever sicker and weaker. Without intervention, he will eventually die, joining his lover forever in death’s embrace.

In most cases, a friend or a servant of her lover will see through her illusion and alert someone to her true identity. Though her human lover may be repulsed by her when the truth is revealed to him, the ghost never realizes her condition and continues to visit every night. A home can be warded with prayers and magic charms against entry by ghosts, but they only work as long as the master of the house wills them to. As her body decays further, her enchanting allure only increases, and eventually most men succumb and let her into their homes one last time, sacrificing their own lives to the ghost of the woman they loved.

LEGENDS: Perhaps the most famous hone onna story is the of Otsuyu from Botan Dōrō, the Tale of the Peony Lantern. It has been adapted into puppet shows, kabuki plays, rakugo, and film, and remains a famous and influential ghost story today.