the online database of Japanese folkore

Nuppeppō

ぬっぺっぽう

Translation: a corruption of the slang for wearing too much makeup
Alternate names: nuppefuhō
Habitat: graveyards, old temples
Diet: unknown

Appearance: Nuppeppō are bizarre and creepy yōkai found in ruined temples, overgrown graveyards, and other dilapidated areas. These creatures are known for their revolting appearance and smell; they give off a strong odor of rotten meat. They look like large, flabby, roughly humanoid chunks of flesh about the size of child, with lumpy, undeveloped hands and feet, and vaguely indiscernible facial features.

Behavior: Nuppeppō appear usually only at night, and are not known to cause any particular harm or mischief—other than being disgusting. They seem to enjoy the nauseating effect their smell has on passersby. They frequently cause chaos and havoc by running around and disgusting people, and outrunning angry villagers who would try to chase them down and kill them.

Interactions: Nuppeppō are very rare yōkai. There are only a few recorded sightings, even though their grotesque form is well-known. Accounts usually describe lords sending hosts of warriors to chase the creature out of a castle or a temple, only to have it outrun the guards and escape, causing some of them to swoon and faint from its odor. Though they are passive and non-aggressive, they can move quickly and are notoriously hard to catch.

According to the records of Edo period pharmacists, its flesh imparts incredible power on those who eat it (providing they are willing and able to keep it down), and it can also be made into a powerful medicine with excellent curative properties.

Origin: Nuppeppō’s origins are mysterious. They are believed to be a distant relative of nopperabō. Some scholars suggest that nuppeppō may in fact be botched transformations of inexperienced shape-shifting yōkai, such as a mujina or tanuki. The origin of their name is equally mysterious. It is thought to be derived from slang for wearing too much makeup, painted so thickly that facial features become indiscernible—just as nuppeppō’s features are barely discernible on their fleshy, fatty faces.

Alphabetical list of yōkai