Byobu nozoki (屏風のぞき)

Byobu nozoki (literally, a voyeur at a folding screen) is one of Japanese yokai (specters, monsters, spirits and ghosts) drawn in Sekien TORIYAMA's yokai art collection book "Konjaku Hyakki Shui" (Supplement to The Hundred Demons from the Present and the Past).


According to a caption in the "Konjaku Hyakki Shui," the byobu nozoki is a yokai which peeps at people from behind a byobu (folding screen). It is said that byobu nozoki can peep over byobu as high as 2.10 m. According to Chinese classical literature, Shi Huangdi (meaning the first emperor) jumped over a byobu in the Xianyang Palace when he was about to be assassinated. It is said that the 2.10-meter-high byobu in Sekien's caption was the one in the Xianyang Palace. From this some people point out the possibility that Sekien created the byobu nozoki based on the Chinese classical literature. On the other hand, there is a theory that the byobu nozoki was originally a byobu in a bedroom, which had watched many sexual relations and turned into a tsukumogami (artifact spirit).

A novelist Norio YAMADA wrote a chapter under the title 'Byobu nozoki onna (woman)' in his "Tohoku Kaidan no Tabi" (literally, Trip to the ghost stories in the Tohoku region), wherein he introduced a ghost story of Akita Prefecture as follows. Seizaemon NISHIDA, a samurai in Kakunodate, Senboku County, got married. The marriage of this handsome couple became the talk of the town. At the wedding night, however, when Seizaemon was going to take his new wife in the bed, he found a skinny woman with long hair peeping at them from behind a byobu around the bed. Seizaemon asked her where she had come from, and she gave her name as 'Nozoki onna' (female voyeur). As the Nozoki onna appeared again on the night following, Seizaemon removed the byobu and stored it in a kura (storehouse), and the Nozoki onna never appeared again. It is said that this byobu was later dedicated to a temple.

[Original Japanese]