the online database of Japanese ghosts and monsters


By on May 31, 2013, in All of Japan, faceless, The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons, yōkai


TRANSLATION: faceless monk
ALTERNATE NAMES: often referred to as mujina
HABITAT: roads, inns, shops; blends into human society
DIET: unknown, but has no mouth and thus can’t eat

APPEARANCE: Nopperabō resembles an ordinary human being in almost all ways, and blends in perfectly with human society. However, the illusion is quickly shattered when met face-to-face, as a nopperabō actually has no face at all. Its head is a blank orb with no eyes, nose, mouth, or features of any kind.

INTERACTIONS: This mysterious yokai is encountered on quiet, empty roads late at night when nobody else is around. Its main activity seems to be scaring humans, which it does remarkably well. They usually appear in the guise of a man or a woman with his or her back turned towards the observer. When approached, the yokai turns around and reveals its terrifying true form, reveling in the terror it inflicts upon its unsuspecting victim. To maximize the effect, they often appear with a face at first, and then wipe their face off dramatically with their hand at the most opportune time.

Nopperabō often work together in groups to scare one individual. As their victim runs away in a panic from the first nopperabō, he runs into another person who asks him what is wrong. When the victim explains what he saw, this person replies, “Oh, you mean like this?” and wipes his face away, just like the first nopperabō. They are even known to impersonate close relatives of their victims, and sometimes a poor man will run all the way home, having run into multiple faceless ghosts only to tell his wife what he saw and have her too reply, “Oh, you mean like this?…”

OTHER FORMS: The nopperabō is a favorite transformation of mischievous animal yokai – kitsune, tanuki, and especially mujina. In fact, so frequently are encounters with this spirit blamed on shape-shifting badgers that the nopperabō is often mistakenly referred to as a mujina.