the online database of Japanese folkore



Translation: possession by a “nae”
Habitat: the sea of Japan off of Fukuoka
Diet: insatiable

Appearance: Naegatsuku is a phenomenon in which a person becomes haunted or possessed by an evil spirit and develops an insatiable hunger. It is a type of gakitsuki (possession by gaki–hungry ghosts from Buddhist cosmology).

Interactions: Naegatsuku happens to people when they see the corpse of a drowned victim. How or why it happens in unknown, but merely witnessing a drowned corpse is enough for this possession to occur.

Origin: Naegatsuku comes from the folklore of Okagaki in Fukuoka Prefecture. The origin of its name is a mystery. Nae may be a local name for a drowned spirit, so it literally means possession by a nae. Based on descriptions of the phenomenon and similarities to other yōkai, a nae sounds very similar to a gaki (preta in Sanskrit). When a person dies with lingering attachment in their heart (such as hunger), their spirit can transform into a hungry ghost called a gaki. Gaki are obsessed with food and driven solely by the desire to eat; yet they are never able to satiate their hunger. Their throats narrow so that they cannot swallow, and whatever food they do eat never satisfies their hunger. Their bellies swell distend from their bodies, their eyes become sunken and their skin becomes thin. Their entire existence is suffering. When gaki possess the living, they impart some of their traits onto their victims–an overwhelming appetite, an inability to swallow food, or physical characteristics such as a distended belly.

Legends: A young man from the village of Hatsu in Okagaki once witnessed the corpse of a person who drowned at sea. He was suddenly so overcome with hunger that he rushed home and in one sitting ate enough rice to feed five people.

Alphabetical list of yōkai