Nebutori – The Sleeping Fatty

Mizuki_Shigeru_Nebutori

Translated and adapted from Mizuki Shigeru’s Mujyara, Ehon Hyakumonogatari, and Japanese Wikipedia

A tale as old as time; in a drunken night of revelry, you climb in bed with a beautiful girl but wake up the next day sleeping besides a giant fat woman. What happened? That hot, sexy gal must have been infected by that insidious yokai disease nebutori – the Sleeping Fatty.

What Does Nebutori Mean?

Nebutori can be written a few ways, all of which are disgusting. The most common is寝肥 which combines 寝 (ne; Sleep) + 肥 (butori; dung, night soil … you know; poop). The term is a play on words, rhyming with 寝太 , meaning寝 (ne; Sleep) + 太 (futori; to gain weight, fat).

Nebutori is a yokai disease. It only infects women, and makes them fat while they sleep–either suddenly or gradually. It is considered an infectious disease, like a bacteria. Women infected with nebutori don’t necessesarily eat more—they just get fat while they sleep. (And yes, it is just women. I have never seen a nebutori tale involving men. Sorry.)

The term has spread into modern Japanese, where it is sometimes used in context to sudden or inexplicable weight gain. Nebutori is also used to describe weight gain in elderly women, especially those on a high-calorie / low-exorcize diet.

Sad Stories of Nebutori

Nebutori originates from the Edo period Ehon Monogatari (絵本百物語; Picture Book of 100 Strange Stories). The story is short and sweet.

A man goes out for a night on the town. After a marathon drinking sessions, he meets and beds a beautiful young girl. They fall asleep next to each other, but in the middle of the night, the man is awoken by a thunderous snore—louder than a passing carriage. He opens his eyes and is shocked to find that—instead of the beautiful girl he went to bed with—he is sleeping next to an enormous mass of quivering flesh.

I found a different story while researching, but I am not sure of its literary origin. It comes from Okushu (modern day Aomori and Iwate prefectures). It doesn’t really seem to describe a case of nebutori—just a woman slowly gaining weight over time—but that is how the tale is listed.

A man and his wife lived together. When they married the wife was slim and beautiful, but she caught nebutori and ballooned in size. The couple owned ten futons, and seven were spread out for the wife to sleep on. Eventually the man became disgusted with this gigantic wife and divorced her. That’s why wives in Okushu are warned to be on the lookout for catching nebutori.

Nebutori and Tanuki Possession

This is an additional tale that is sometimes called nebutori, although in truth it is a case of tanukitsukai—tanuki possession. This story, coming from the 1828 book Shichuso (視聴草; Tales of Looking and Listening).

An elderly woman named Yachi lay on her death bed, breathing her last. To the stunned surprise of her assembled family, Yachi suddenly sprang up and declared herself healthy, but starving. The family brought forth food they had prepared for the funeral service, and the old woman ate it all. But Yachi was still ravenous. While waiting for more food to be prepared, she drank sake and sang boisterous songs. The family was pleased to have Yachi so energetic again, but perplexed. They summoned a doctor to examine her.

The doctor could find nothing wrong with Yachi. Meanwhile, her body was swelling to enormous proportions and she soon outgrew her clothes. The family dug out the winter clothes to try and drape around her, and as they took away her light summer kimono they noticed something strange—the inside was covered in the hair of some kind of beast. The family grew suspicious, and placed a paper and pen next to Yachi asking her to write down her next menu request. With this promptly done, the family knew something was wrong—Yachi could neither read nor write.

That night, the family secretly moved an image of the Amidha Buddha into Yachi’s room. With that done, they saw a shocked tanuki crawl from Yachi’s mouth and flee into the night, leaving behind the dead body it had occupied for awhile.

Translator’s Note:

Is anyone feeling like they caught a case of nebutori after Thanksgiving? Although nebutori isn’t really from overeating—it is more like the yokai equivalent of beer goggles. A drunken guy goes to bed with a hotty and wakes up with a notty. It couldn’t have been a drunken mistake, right? Best to blame it on a yokai disease!

ShunsenNebutori

Nebutori is another example that shows just how wide the definition of “yokai” can be. There is no creature here, no monster. Just a “yokai disease” that infects ordinary people.

Further Reading:

For more Thanksgiving-inspired tales of overeating yokai, check out:

Shio no Choji – Salty Choji

Suppon no Onryo – The Vengeful Ghosts of the Turtles

Suppon no Yurei – The Turtle Ghost

Oseichu – The Mimicking Roundworm

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Suppon on Onryo – The Vengeful Ghosts of the Turtles

Mizuki_Shigeru_Suppon_no_Onryo

Translated and Sourced from Mizuki Shigeru’s Mujyara and Japanese Wikipedia

You can still see turtle restaurants in Japan today offering a full-course suppon meal, including a glass of blood served with sake. But they are much rarer today than they were during the Edo period. A few strange stories come down to us from those times about ghostly goings-on in the turtle shops. This is one of them.

A man named Kiroku had a successful suppon shop in Nigata city. Every day he butchered and served up hundreds of turtles. One day at work, his body suddenly felt heavy. At the same time, everything became cold and dark, and it felt like he was being submerged under water. He tried to shout, but no voice came out. He felt around with his hands, and felt something even colder. It was a turtle shell. All around him were hundreds of turtles, crawling over his body and dragging him down.

Finally, Kiroku managed to let out a cry of horror, which brought his wife running into the room. When she opened the door, all of the turtles vanished.

This happened night after night, until finally Kiroku had enough. He had learned his lesson, and swore an oath against the taking of life. The wrathful turtle ghosts never came again.

Translator’s Note:

The second story of the dangers of overindulgence of suppon and ghostly revenge for Thanksgiving. This tale comes from the Edo period kaidan-shu Hokuetsu Kidan (北越奇談; Strange Stories from Hokuetsu), where it was illustrated by the famous artist Katsushika Hokusai.

Hokusai_Suppon_no_Kaii

The original story was called Suppon no Kaii, which used the term怪異 (Kaii; strangeness). Mizuki changed it to the term onryo (怨霊), which refers specifically to a grudge-bearing spirit. The word is used almost exclusively for the yurei of human beings, so it is a bit odd seeing it used in the context of these turtles who are angry at being eaten. But it just goes to show the flexibility of folklore.

Mizuki Shigeru adds a footnote to this story, saying that living things must consume other living things in order to stay alive—that is the very nature of life. Even the turtles in this story needed to kill in order to live, so logically they object to the gluttony of so many of them being eaten, not the very fact they were eaten at all. Go ahead and eat turtles, Mizuki says, just appreciate their sacrifice and don’t eat too many!

Further Reading:

For more tales of magical turtles and over-eating yokai, check out:

Suppon no Yurei – The Turtle Ghost

The Appearance of the Spirit Turtle

Shio no Choji – Salty Choji

Oseichu – The Mimicking Roundworm

Suppon no Yurei – The Turtle Ghost

Mizuki_Shigeru_Suppon_no_Yurei

Translated and Sourced from Mizuki Shigeru’s Mujyara and Japanese Wikipedia

The big cities in the Edo period were full of shops that specialized in the soft shell turtle dishes called suppon. If the truth be told, this was because people at the time believed that suppon was an effective remedy for hemorrhoids. But this isn’t that kind of story.

There were three guys in Nagoya city who loved suppon. Every chance they got, they would go out drinking and wind up at a suppon restaurant. It wasn’t that they had hemorrhoids or anything—they just loved the taste— true gourmets for all things turtle. Or more than that. These guys just couldn’t get enough; they had a kind of suppon mania.

One day they decided to try a new suppon restaurant, but when they went in they felt like something was wrong. They couldn’t help but notice that the proprietor of the restaurant’s face looked very much like the turtles he was serving. The rest of his body had a greenish tint, and his flesh was scaly. But it wasn’t until he rose up on his impossibly long legs that they realized they were dealing with a suppon yurei, a turtle ghost.

The three men ran from the shop as fast as their legs could carry them. When they got back to their house, they hid under their blankets and shivered with fright for two, then three days until they were brave enough to show their faces to the world. None of the men ever ate suppon again.

Translator’ s Note:

Another yokai tale of overeating for Thanksgiving. The original to this story comes from the Edo period kaidan-shu Kaidan Tabi-no-Akebono (怪談旅之曙; Weird Tales of Voyages by Daybreak), where it was titled Suppon no Bakemono. Mizuki Shigeru changed the title to Suppon no Yurei, which is an interesting choice seeing as yurei is a word generally reserved for the spirits of humans. But it is not always so, as you can see.

Suppon_no_Bakemono

Suppon no Yurei s is one of the rare tales of yokai turtles. Turtles play an odd place in Japanese folklore. On the one hand they were treated as serene gods and spiritual animals, on the other hand they were considered quite capable of bloody revenge. Their ability to bite and hang on indefinitely gives them their reputation. Tales of yokai turtles always call out the turtle’s nature as ”shunenbukai” (執念深い) , meaning tenacious , spiteful, or vindictive.

The particular tale is considered to be a variation of Takenyudo (Tall Priest) legends. These legends are similar to the Nopperabo legends (see Shirime – Eyeball Butt) where an ordinary encounter suddenly turns extraordinary when someone you thought to be human exhibits supernatural characteristics. In the case of the Nopperabo, this is a lack of face. In the case of Takenyudo—and the Suppon no Yurei—it is suddenly stretching to an inhuman size.

Suppon no Yurei is ambiguous on how the turtles managed to manifest a semi-human appearance for their yokai. Are these the ghosts of the dead turtles? Or is this a classic henge shape-shifting turtle out to protect his brethren from winding up in the pot? No one really knows, and the guys in the story don’t stick around to find out. Mizuki tries to clear up this ambiguity by re-naming the story “Suppon no Yurei,” implying a spirit of a dead turtle. Based on my knowledge of Japanese folklore, I would vote for a long-lived turtle who transformed into a yokai and gained supernatural powers. But then, turtles are already long-lived so this one would have had to have been around for a long, long time.

Mizuki Shigeru does make a note that it is perfectly OK to enjoy a meal of suppon—he personally loves suppon—just don’t eat too much of it. Moderation is key if you want to enjoy your food without invoking the wrathful spirits of animals.

Further Reading:

For more Thanksgiving yokai of overeating and other turtle tales, check out:

Oseichu – The Mimicking Roundworm

The Sprit Turtle

Shio no Choji – Salty Choji

Shio no Choji – Salty Choji

Mizuki_Shigeru_Salty_Choji

Translated and Sourced from Mizuki Shigeru’s Mujyara, Ehon Hyakumonogatari, and Japanese Wikipedia

In Kaga province (modern day Ishikawa prefecture), there lived a wealthy man known as “Salty Choji” who kept 300 head of horses. Now, these horses weren’t for riding. This man had a taste for horse flesh, and would slaughter his horses like cattle then pickle them in salt or preserve them in miso paste to get them tasting just right. Every night he tucked into a pile of salty horse meat with gusto.

Such was the man’s appetite that Choji ate his way through 299 of his own horses, until all that was left was an ancient animal that wasn’t good for labor or food. One night Choji just couldn’t stand it any longer, and he shot the old beast anyways, then slathered it in salt and ate it down in a gluttonous frenzy. That night, however, the tables turned against Choji—the spirit of the old horse came to him in a dream and bit him on his neck.

From that night on, whenever the clock stuck the hour of the time when Choji had killed the old horse, its spirit appeared and entered Choji’s body. But this wasn’t your normal possession; the horse forced his way through Choji’s mouth, and crawled straight through to his stomach. The pain was intense, and Choji felt every inch of the massive horse stretching his innards and intestinal tract. As he lay in agony night after night, Choji bitterly regretted all of his evil deeds and his ravenous appetites that lead him to this fate. But his regrets did him no good. For it was too late.

Choji summoned every manner of doctor and exorcist to aid him in his suffering. They tried everything they could but without effect. No amount of medicine or prayers for reprieve could lessen his agony. Choji’s torment continued for 100 days until at last he died. It was said his corpse was broken and shattered, like an overburdened packhorse.

Translator’s Note:

Another tale of overeating for November, and the American Thanksgiving holiday. There are a few more to come in their series! This story comes from the Edo period kaidan-shu Ehon Hyakumonogatari (絵本百物語; Picture Book of 100 Stories).

ShunsenShionoChoji

The tale of Salty Choji isn’t as strange as it seems. Although rare nowadays, horse is a standard part of Japanese cuisine, mostly eaten raw and sliced as the sashimi called basashi. I have eaten it many times. It’s delicious! So the shock of the story isn’t really what Choji was eating, but how much of it. All things in moderation is the moral of the story. That and Choji forgetting an important fact of Japanese folklore—the older an animal is, the more likely it is to have developed supernatural powers. Salty Choji should have left that old horse alone, and just gone shopping for some new ones.

The story of Shio no Choji (Salty Choji) inspired a story for the anime series Kyogoku Natsuhiko Kosetsu Hyaku Monogatari (京極夏彦 巷説百物語; Natsuhiko Kyogohe ku’s Hundred Stories), most commonly known in English as Requiem From the Darkness. I say “inspired by” instead of “adapted from” because the version of Salty Choji found in the series is VERY different from the original folktale. There is cannibalism involved, and fratricide, and all sorts of things that never appear in the simple story of Shio no Choji who could couldn’t control his appetite.

Requiem_From_The_Darkness_cover

Further Reading:

For more tales of hungry yokai and yokai food, check out:

Oseichu – The Mimicking Roundworm

Jinmenju – The Human Face Tree

Oseichu – The Mimicking Roundworm

Mizuki_Shigeru_Oseichu

Translated and Sourced from Mizuki Shigeru’s Mujyara, Japanese Wikipedia, and Kaii Yokai Densho Database

It starts with a high fever and some stomach pains, and ends with a giant mouth poking out of your own stomach, speaking in your own voice demanding food and drink. It’s bad enough getting sick, but you don’t want to catch a yokai disease. Especially you don’t want to get infected by an oseichu, a mimicking roundworm.

What Does Oseichu Mean?

Oseichu is made up of three kanji – 応 (O; affirmative, agreements ) + 声 (sei; voice) + 虫 (chu; worm, bug). The three kanji translate roughly into “Voice Mimicking Bug,” all though the word “bug” refers more to the infectious disease type than the insect type.

The term osei (応声) is really only used in relation to this yokai. In fact, sometimes the “chu” is dropped altogether and it is just called an osei.

The Oseichu of Chusaburo

This is a story from the 16th year of Genroku (1703 CE). The laborer Shichizaemon lived with his family in Tokyo. One day, his son Chusaburo was struck down with a terrible fever and pain in his stomach. The illness continued, and after a few days they could see a boil growing form the son’s belly. The boil kept growing larger and spreading until it resembled a massive, human mouth. Everyone in the family was shocked when the boil finally opened its mouth, and began speaking in Chusaburo’s own voice. The voice began demanding food, and anything shoved into the giant mouth soon disappeared. The mouth was never satisfied and demanded more and more food, while Natsaburo was slowly starving to death, deprived of sustenance.

Shichizaemon tried every medicine he could find, and summoned exorcists and sorcerers of all type to help the misfortune of his child, but to no avail.

At his wit’s end on how to help his son, Shichizaemon sent for the famous doctor Kan Gensai. The renowned physician took one look at Chusaburo and declared that he was infected with an Oseichu. Dr. Gensai whipped up a special blend of six medicines, and fed them directly into the extra mouth protruding from Chusaburo’s belly. After the first day, the mouth ceased to speak and the boil reduced in size. By the second day, Chusaburo expelled a giant worm from his anus—33 centimeters long. The worm looked like a lizard, with an arrow shaped head and long body. It tried to run away, but everyone in the room immediately set upon it and beat it to death.

With the Oseichu expunged, Chusaburo made a complete recovery.

Yokai Diseases and Mysterious Bugs

The oseichu is thought to have come to Japan from China, where there are similar stories based off of real-life parasitic worms like roundworms. Oseichu is a good example of how yokai can be many things, from giant, one-eyed monsters down to strange, infectious diseases. Oseichu are not a type of monster, but are considered a type of kibyo (奇病; Strange Illness) brought on by kaichu (怪虫; Mysterious Bugs). It is easy to see how roundworms can become yokai. A sudden fever and feeling of hunger, finishing with a large worm being expelled from the anus—that must have been terrifying to those who weren’t aware of what was happening.

The oseichu is found in three Edo period collections; the Shin Chomonju (新著聞集; New Collection of Famous Tales), the Shiojiri (塩尻; Salt’s End), and the Kanden jihitsu (閑田次筆; Continued Tales of a Fallow Field).

Both the Shin Chomonju and Shiojiri tell tales similar to The Oseichu of Chusaburo, with only slight variation. Shin Chomonju sets the story in Tokyo, while Shiojiri says the mysterious illness occurred in the Abura no Koji district of Kyoto. Shiojiri also says the medicine took 10 days instead of 2.

The Kanden Jihitsu tells a similar, but different story. In the 3rd year of Genbun (1738) , a side show manager running a Misemono (Seeing Things) show in Tamba province (modern day Kyoto) heard a rumor about a woman infected by an oseichu. He immediately went to her house to attempt to recruit her for the show, and was stunned to find an authentic case of the disease. An unmistakable voice came from the woman’s belly. The woman’s husband was ashamed of her condition, however, and would not allow her to be displayed. The disappointed side show manager went home empty handed.

Translator’s Note:

It’s November, and that means Thanksgiving Day in the US! And Thanksgiving Day means eating so much your stomach hurts afterwards, and that got me thinking about Oseichu.

Oseichu is an odd yokai. It doesn’t appear very often in yokai collections. I would like to that’s because it is gross, but yokai have never let being gross bother them! This one is clearly a supernatural version of a natural disease/parasite – the roundworm. Something I hope I never have to experience in real life!

Further Reading:

For more bizarre yokai, check out:

Jinmenju – The Human Faced Tree

Inen – The Possessing Ghost

Kejoro – The Hair Hooker

 

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