The first place that I lived in Japan was Fuchū, Echizen, so this story is very special to me. Although I never encountered any yōkai when I lived there, it’s nice to know that I was that close to one.
The yōkai in today’s story is called a rokurokubi, however based on the description and the illustration in the original Shokoku hyakumonogatari, it is more accurate to call it a nukekubi. The main difference being that with a nukekubi the head actually detaches and flies around, while with a rokurokubi the neck stretches as far as it needs to go, but still connects the head and body—a minor difference that very likely did not exist back when this was written.
The Rokurokubi of Fuchū, Echizen Province
A man from Kita District in Echizen Province had urgent business in Kyōto. He traveled even through the night, and when he was passing through a field known as Sawaya there was a large stone pagoda. A chicken came out from behind the pagoda and blocked the road. When he took a closer look, it wasn’t a chicken, but a woman’s head.
The head looked up at the man and smiled at him. The man kept his cool, drew his sword, and slashed at the head. The head flew away southwards, and the man chased after it. The head entered the window of a certain house in Kamiichi, Fuchū.
The man was suspicious, so he stood at the front gate for a while. He peeked inside and listened what was going on. He heard the voice of a woman speaking to her husband: “Oh my, how terrifying! I just dreamed that I was passing through the field of Sawaya, and a man attacked me with a sword! I ran from him and somehow managed to make it back here.”
When the man heard this, he knocked on the door and entered the house.
“I don’t mean to be rude, but just now I came from Sawaya and encountered a creature which I chased all the way back here…”
The man told the whole story in detail.
“Is that so? I am so ashamed of my sins!” the woman exclaimed. Shortly after, she left her husband and journeyed to Kyōto, cut off her hair, and entered a hermitage in Saga to pray for her soul.
And so people say, “There really is such thing as a rokurokubi.”