the online database of Japanese ghosts and monsters


By on May 31, 2013, in Chūgoku, hairy, Kyūshū, Saga, The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons, yōkai


TRANSLATION: onomatopoeic; written with characters connoting warfare
ALTERNATE NAMES: hyōsue, hyōsubo, hyōsunbo, hyōsunbe
HABITAT: rivers and streams; found primarily on Kyushu and in West Japan
DIET: omnivorous; prefers eggplants

APPEARANCE: Hyōsube are squat, hairy humanoids found mostly in the southern and western parts of Japan. They are cousins of kappa and garappa, but much more savage and belligerent. They are short, with bald scalps, sharp claws, and a mouth full of sharp teeth which are prominently visible due to the malicious smile they wear. They are covered with a pelt of thick, greasy hair which gathers dust, oil, and dirt, and constantly sheds wherever they go. Their name is said to come from the “hyo- hyo-” call that they make; however, when written in kanji, the characters used have a martial connotation.

BEHAVIOR: Hyōsube live near rivers, where they enjoy catching wild fish and generally keep away from humans. Their favorite food is the eggplant, and they are capable of devouring whole patches very quickly. They share a love of mischief and a hatred of horses with their cousins the kappa, though they are generally more violent and malicious. Also like their cousins, hyōsube retain a strong sense of honor despite their love of mischief and violence.

INTERACTIONS: Hyōsube are capricious, insolent, and extremely dangerous. A person who simply looks at a hyōsube may be struck with a terrible and highly contagious fever, which can quickly spread and turn into an epidemic. Hyōsube cackle with an evil laughter which is also quite contagious; an unlucky person who hears a hyōsube laugh, and who laughs himself, will be struck with a sudden fever and die within hours.

A hyōsube’s thick hair builds up a lot of dirt and grime, and they love nothing more than to sneak into houses at night and slip into the bathtub. When a hyōsube finds a bathtub it likes, it will often return every night, leaving a thick scum of greasy body hair and a horrible stench to be found in the morning. Once, the unlucky owner of such a house emptied the bathwater and threw out the hair and grease. This angered the hyōsube so much that it slaughtered the owner’s horse the next night. In another story, some hyōsube hairs dumped from a bathtub landed on a nearby horse, and the animal promptly dropped dead. In yet another tale, a woman spied on a hyōsube ravaging her eggplant garden; the next morning her entire body had turned purple, and she died soon after that.

Hyōsube are occasionally honored at local Shinto shrines, usually as gods of war, for some form of military service they performed for villagers in the past. Farmers living in areas inhabited by hyōsube often leave offerings of the first eggplants harvested in hopes that the hyōsube will spare their fields for the remainder of the year. Those who do not leave offerings occasionally find their fields trampled in anger.