the online database of Japanese folkore

Nobiagari

伸上り
のびあがり

Translation: stretching up
Alternate names: nobiagari nyūdō, mikoshi nyūdō, miage nyūdō
Habitat: bamboo forests
Diet: unknown, but includes people

Appearance: Nobiagari are dangerous shape-changing yōkai which can stretch to become extremely tall. When not stretching, they appear as shadowy or smokey, indistinct, rock-like shapes about 30 centimeters high.

Behavior: Nobiagari ordinarily spent their time close to the ground in bamboo groves. Because of their indistinct shape and small size they blend in easily with the environment.

Interactions: When a person comes face to face with a nobiagari, the nobiagari rapidly increases in height. It shoots up taller than the person, and however high they raise their head, the nobiagari always stretches higher. While the person is looking up at the nobiagari, their throat is bared. Then the nobiagari attacks.

The manner of attack varies from place to place. In Ehime, it is said that a nobiagari bites into its victim’s throat and tears it out with its sharp teeth. In Tokushima, a nobiagari wraps its elongated body around its victim’s neck and strangles them. In Kagawa, a nobiagari topples forward onto its victim and crushes them.

Escape from a nobiagari is possible if a person keeps their eyes aimed downwards and refuses to look up. Kicking in an area around 30 centimeters above the ground will cause the nobiagari to disappear.

Origin: Nobiagari come from the folklore of Shikoku, and are a considered to be a variation of the yōkai mikoshi nyūdō. They are commonly believed to be the work of shapeshifting animal yōkai such as tanuki and particularly kawauso (otters). These animals are famously said to transform into giant priest yōkai like ōnyūdō and mikoshi nyūdō. This association may be partially related to the otter’s ability to stand upright on two legs, quickly changing from a small to a very tall height.

Alphabetical list of yōkai