the online database of Japanese folkore

Fudakaeshi

札返し
ふだかえし

Translation: fuda (charm) returner
Alternate names: fudahegashi (“charm ripper”)
Habitat: homes, temples, and areas protected by charms
Diet: none

Appearance: Fudakaeshi are spirits which remove the magical charms protecting places from evil spirits. Their appearance resembles the classic image of a yūrei—a kimono-clad, long-haired, semi-translucent human whose image fades away towards the feet.

Behavior: Fuda are protection charms popular throughout Japan. They are usually made of a strip of paper containing holy images or calligraphy, such as the name of a god, a sutra, or a buddha. They are used to ward an area from evil forces. Yōkai are not able to enter buildings or cross boundaries protected by these talismans. A fudakaeshi’s goal is to remove these protections so that it and other yōkai can pass freely.

Interactions: Being spirits themselves, fudagaeshi cannot touch fuda to remove them. Therefore, they must convince humans to remove the fuda instead. They do this by threatening, bribing, or promising something to tempt the hearts of the greedy and foolish. Unsurprisingly, those who are willing to help an evil spirit in this way do not actually receive their reward, but instead soon meet with calamity.

Origin: Fudakaeshi were first described as a yōkai in the Kyōka hyakumonogatari, a collection of comical yōkai-themed poems from the late Edo Period. However, the concept of spirits attempting to remove protection charms goes back much further than that.

Legends: An example of a fudakaeshi appears in the famous ghost story Botan dōrō (“The Tale of the Peony Lantern”). A ghost which has fallen in love with a living man is unable to enter his house because of the protective charms placed on it. She begs the man to remove the fuda so that she can enter and spend the night with him. Eventually, her pleading moves his heart, and he removes the talismans. The ghost is then able to enter his home and sleep with the man, but in doing so she drains his life away and he dies.

Alphabetical list of yōkai