Nopperabō

Hear about the Nopperabo on Episode 10 of our Podcast, the Japan Archives.

Nopperabō
Nopperabō by Asai Ryōi.

Nopperabō

The Nopperabō (のっぺらぼう) , also known as Zunberabo and Nupperiho are a type of Yōkai known to have a face completely devoid of features. However, there are other tales which states they merely lack eyes and a nose. There name is a pun on the Japanese word ‘nopperi,’ which means ‘featureless.’ They normal appear late at night.

At times they are considered a type of Kitsune or Tanuki and are in fact shapeshifters which take this human, yet featureless appearance. There are said to dwell close to water, such as riverbanks and canals and so there are other who believe they may in fact be shapeshifting otters.

Several stories about this creature can find their origins in Kyoto. In one such tales, the creature is seen tugging on the sleeves of a merchant who, upon seeing the creature runs away in fear. Later noticing coarse hairs stuck to his sleeve where he was grabbed.

Other tales state they can for a time hold normal facial features to allow them to get close to people, before reverting to their featureless form to installed fear into people.

There modern popularity is due to Lafcadio Hearn‘s book Kwaidan, in which he tells the story of ‘Mujina‘ which was inspired by the Nopperabo. Though Mujina are a type of badger, their oconography became integrated with that of the Nopperabo due to Hearn’s stories.

These creatures have also been seen abroad, in Hawaii, where a pair of faceless women were noticed combing their hair in a movie theatres restroom.1

Footnotes

1. Yoda, H & Alt, M. (2008) “Yokai Attack: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide” Tokyo: Kodansha International Ltd.

List of Supernatural Creatures

Abura akago * Aka Manto * Akaname * Akashita * Amefuri Kozo * Amikiri * Aōbozu * Aonyobo * Aosagi no hi * Buruburu * Chochin bi * Funa Yurei * Furaribi * Furutsubaki no rei * Gaikotsu * Ganbari Nyudo * Gagoze * Gensuke * Haka no hi * Hannya * Hashi-Hime * Hiderigami * Hikeshi baba * Hitodama * Hitotsume Kozō * Hiyoribo * Hone Onna * Hyōsube * Ikiryō * Inugami * Jorōgumo * Kamaitachi * Kamikiri * Kappa * Kasha * Katawa Guruma * Kawa Akago * Kawauso * Kitsunebi * Kejoro * Kodama * Kosenjo no hi * Kurozuka * Makurageishi * Mikoshi * Nekomata * Noderabō * Nopperabo * Nuppeppō * Nurarihyon * Nureonna * Nuribotoke * Nyūnai Suzume * Obariyon * Okiku * Ōmagatoki * Oni * Onmoraki * Osakabe * Otoroshi * Ouni * Rokurokubi * Sakabashira * Samebito * Sansei * Sarakozoe * Satori * Seta * Shirachigo * Shiranui * Shōkera * Shuten-dōji * Sōgenbi * Suiko * Takaonna * Tamamo-no-mae * Tanuki * Tenasobi * Tenjō-Kudari * Tengu * Tenome * Teratsutsuki * Tesso * Tōfu Kozō * Tsurubebi * Ubagabi * Ubume * Umibozū * Umizatō * Ushinotoki-mairi * Ushioni * Uwan * Waira * Wani * Wanyudo * Yamabiko * Yamauba * Yamawarawa * Yanari * Yukionna * Zenki and Goki

Kojidan