The Noppera-bō (のっぺらぼう Noppera-bō), or faceless ghost, is a Japanese yōkai (legendary creature) that looks like a human but has no face. They are sometimes mistakenly referred to as a mujina, an old Japanese word for a badger or raccoon dog.Although the mujina can assume the form of the other, noppera-bō are usually disguised as humans. Such creatures were thought to sometimes transform themselves into noppera-bō in order to frighten humans. Lafcadio Hearn used the animals' name as the title of his story about faceless monsters, probably resulting in the misused terminology.
Noppera-bō are known primarily for frightening humans, but are usually otherwise harmless. They appear at first as ordinary human beings, sometimes impersonating someone familiar to the victim, before causing their features to disappear, leaving a blank, smooth sheet of skin where their face should be.
TRANSLATION: faceless ghost
ALTERNATE NAMES: often referred to as mujina
HABITAT: roads, inns, shops; blends into human society
DIET: unknown, but has no mouth and thus can’t eat
APPEARANCE: Nopperabō resembles an ordinary human being in almost all ways, and blends in perfectly with human society. However, the illusion is quickly shattered when met face-to-face, as a nopperabō actually has no face at all. Its head is a blank orb with no eyes, nose, mouth, or features of any kind.
INTERACTIONS: This mysterious yokai is encountered on quiet, empty roads late at night when nobody else is around. Its main activity seems to be scaring humans, which it does remarkably well. They usually appear in the guise of a man or a woman with his or her back turned towards the observer. When approached, the yokai turns around and reveals its terrifying true form, reveling in the terror it inflicts upon its unsuspecting victim. To maximize the effect, they often appear with a face at first, and then wipe their face off dramatically with their hand at the most opportune time.
Nopperabō often work together in groups to scare one individual. As their victim runs away in a panic from the first nopperabō, he runs into another person who asks him what is wrong. When the victim explains what he saw, this person replies, “Oh, you mean like this?” and wipes his face away, just like the first nopperabō. They are even known to impersonate close relatives of their victims, and sometimes a poor man will run all the way home, having run into multiple faceless ghosts only to tell his wife what he saw and have her too reply, “Oh, you mean like this?…”
OTHER FORMS: The nopperabō is a favorite transformation of mischievous animal yokai – kitsune, tanuki, and especially mujina. In fact, so frequently are encounters with this spirit blamed on shape-shifting badgers that the nopperabō is often mistakenly referred to as a mujina.
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