the online database of Japanese folkore

Abura sumashi

油すまし
あぶらすまし

Translation: oil presser
Habitat: mountain passes; native to Kumamoto
Diet: unknown

Appearance: The abura sumashi is a rare yōkai native to Kumamoto Prefecture. It looks like a squat humanoid with a large, ugly head like a potato or a stone. It wears a straw-woven raincoat. Abura sumashi are extremely rare, only found deep in the mountains or along mountain passes in the southern parts of Japan—throughout the range where wild tea plants grow.

Behavior: Very little is known about the lifestyle and habits of this reclusive yōkai. The most well-known abura sumashi lives in the Kusazumigoe Pass in Kumamoto, but only ever appears briefly to travelers. Occasionally, an old grandmother walking the pass with her grandchildren will say, “You know, a long time ago, an abura sumashi used to live in these parts.” A mysterious voice will call out in reply, “I still do!” On rare occasions the abura sumashi will appear to the travelers, materializing out of thin air.

Origin: The name abura sumashi means “oil presser,” and comes from the act of pressing oil out of the seeds of tea plants which grow in Kumamoto. Though its origins are a mystery, it is commonly believed that abura sumashi are the ghosts of oil thieves who escaped into the woods. Oil was a difficult and expensive commodity to make. It required time and hard work to extract it from tea seeds, so its theft was a serious crime. Oil thieves who went unpunished in life reincarnated as abura sumashi—a divine punishment for their sins.

Alphabetical list of yōkai