I’ve posted a number of yokai that were featured in my earlier A-Yokai-A-Day project, so their background is probably familiar to regular readers of my blog. But not all of the yokai in this book are repeats of yokai I’ve featured on my blog. Here is one that I haven’t posted about before: the Nozuchi, along with its text from the book.
The Nozuchi is one of the earliest known yokai recorded in Japan histories. It is a powerful and ancient snake-like spirit of the fields known for its bizarre shape and habits.
Nozuchi are short, fat creatures shaped like mallets, about fifteen centimeters in diameter and just over one meter long. They have no eyes, nose, or any other facial features save for a large mouth located on the top of their head, pointing towards the sky. Their bodies are covered in a bristly fur, much like a hairy caterpillar. They make their homes inside of large trees, particularly on the tops of hills. They are slow movers, and move about by rolling and tumbling down slopes, then slowly inching their way back up. Nozuchi most often feed on wildlife: rats, rabbits, squirrels, and other small animals. They are able to eat things much larger than they are; particularly in Nara prefecture they are known to feed on deer, which they can devour in a single bite, pulling the whole animal into their small, stumpy frame. They are also known to attack humans who come near their nests, rolling downhill and snapping at their feet.
Nozuchi bites are very dangerous to humans, resulting in terrible, mangled wounds which quickly lead to a high fever and death in most cases. In some cases, a person who is merely seen or touched by a tumbling Nozuchi can contract this fever and possibly die. Fortunately, Nozuchi attacks are easily avoided by sticking to high ground where they cannot tumble, or climbing a tree quickly if no other high ground is available.
Nozuchi can tranform into a humanoid shape, though they rarely are seen in this alternate form. They take the shape of a human priest, but with no eyes, nose, hair, or ears. The only feature on the head is a large gaping mouth pointing upwards towards the sky. Wicked monks who are banished from their temples to live in the wilds sometimes gradually turn into Nozuchi, and are more likely to maintain a humanoid form than a serpentine one. Care should be taken not to confuse a shape-changed Nozuchi with a Nopperabou, which has a similar appearance but poses a different threat.