Variations: Nuppefuhofu (Mizuki); Nikubito (probably); Hō (probably); Nopperabō (probably)
The word Nuppeppō is derived from nupperi or nopperi, meaning “flat-faced” and referring to a flat, dazed expression. This yokai first appears in texts from the Edo period, and resembles nothing more than a blob of flesh with arms and legs. Its folds of skin and fat give it the appearance of a face on its body. While repulsive, nuppeppōs are frequently comical and inoffensive.
Sekien’s rendition of the nuppeppō has a culinary theme, placing it under a bronze bell that calls monks to their meals. The nuppeppō itself may be edible; according to Maki Bokusen, a nuppeppō-like creature appeared in the gardens of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. This nikubito (“meat-man”) was taken away to the mountains away from the shogun’s sight. Alas, he discovered too late that it may have been the legendary Hō described in the book of the Hakutaku. One bite of the Hō’s flesh would reinvigorate a person’s constitution.
Shigeru Mizuki added further embellishments to the nuppeppō based on Sekien’s image. His “nuppefuhofu” is a “spirit of flesh” found in deserted temples. Monks that choose to sleep in those temple are unpleasantly awakened by the fleshy sound of its aimless staggering.
The Nopperabō is a later yokai probably derived from the nuppeppō. It is human in appearance except for its face – completely featureless and smooth as an egg. Unlike its older counterpart, the nopperabō is only ever a thing of terror.
Foster, M. D. (2015) The Book of Yokai. University of California Press, Berkeley.
Sekien, T.; Alt, M. and Yoda, H. eds. (2017) Japandemonium Illustrated: The Yokai Encyclopedias of Toriyama Sekien. Dover Publications, New York.