the online database of Japanese ghosts and monsters

Nomori

By on November 28, 2018, in animal, Chubu, curse, forest, mountain, Nagano, Patreon, sacred beast, salamander, snake, yōkai

野守
のもり

TRANSLATION: wilderness guardian
ALTERNATE NAMES: nomori mushi, yamori
HABITAT: mountain forests
DIET: carnivorous

APPEARANCE: Nomori are large, serpentine creatures which live deep in mountain forests. Their bodies are about three meters long, and are thick and round like barrels. They have six legs, and on each leg are six toes.

BEHAVIOR: Nomori live far away from human settlements, and are thus quite rare to see. They hunt by coiling around their prey and strangling it, similar to how a boa constrictor hunts.

LEGENDS: Long ago in Shinano Province (present-day Nagano Prefecture), a young man went into the mountains to gather firewood. When he was deep in the wilderness, he stepped on something in the undergrowth. It was a tail! All of a sudden, a humongous snake-like creature leaped forth and attacked him. It had six legs ending in six-toed feet and a long body over ten meters long.  It was as large as a barrel in its middle, and tapered off towards the head and tail. The serpent coiled all the way up around the young man’s neck and tried to bite his head. Fortunately, he had brought a sickle with him. He was able to cut the creature’s throat and kill it, escaping death.

Afterwards, he carved the creature up with the sickle and brought a piece of it back home to prove what had happened. When the young man told his father the story and showed him the meat, his father became angry. The creature must have been a mountain god, he said, and killing would surely bring its curse upon the family! He banished his son from his home. The son moved into a small hut nearby.

Before long the piece of meat from the creature began to give off a terrible odor. The smell was so foul that the young man fell gravely ill and was unable to leave his bed. A doctor came and gave the man medicine, and bathed him to remove the smell. Almost immediately he began to feel better. When the young man told the doctor about the giant serpent he had seen in the mountains, the doctor replied that it was not a serpent. It must have been a nomori. Just as yamori (geckos) are guardians of houses and imori (newts) are guardians of wells, nomori are guardians of the wilderness.

A few years later, the young man was caught chopping wood in a prohibited area of the mountains. He was executed for this crime. However, among the locals, his execution was rumored to have been the consequence of the nomori’s curse.