the online database of Japanese folkore

Betobetosan

べとべとさん

Translation: onomatopoeic; from the sound of footsteps
Alternate names: bishagatsuku
Habitat: alleys and narrow, sloped roads; only appears at night
Diet: fear

Appearance: Betobetosan are formless specters, and are recognizable only by their telltale sound—the “beto beto” clacking of wooden clogs.

Interactions: People who walk the streets alone at night might encounter these harmless, but nonetheless disturbing, yōkai. They synchronize their pace with walkers and follow them as long as they can, getting closer and closer with every step. For the victims, this can be traumatic. The haunting sound of footsteps follows them wherever they go, but when they turn around, there is nothing there.

Though betobetosan can be disconcerting, they are not dangerous. Once you realize you are being followed by a betobetosan, simply step to the side of the road and say “After you, betobetosan.” That is enough to escape from this yōkai. The footsteps will carry on ahead and soon vanish from earshot, allowing you to continue in peace.

In northern Fukui Prefecture, a betobetosan which appears during cold winter sleet storms is known as bishagatsuku. Its name comes from the “bisha bisha” sound its phantom feet make in the slush-filled streets.

Alphabetical list of yōkai