Nozuchi (野槌)

Nozuchi is a specter that exists in Japan. Its name means 'field's spirit' ('no野' means 'field;' 'zuづ' and 'tsuつ' mean 'of;' 'chi霊' means 'spirit' or 'ghost').


It looks like a snake, having a diameter of about 15cm and a length of about 1m, and it is short for its thickness. Other than a mouth at the top of its head, there are no eyes or a nose and it looks almost like a hammer ('tsuchiつち' or 'zuchiづち') without a grip. It lives deep in the mountains and eats baby rabbits and squirrels. It was considered that it sometimes eats humans.

According to the history books compiled during the Nara Period including "Kojiki" (Records of Ancient Matters) and "Nihon Shoki" (Chronicles of Japan), Nozuchi is a nickname of Kaya no Hime (the goddess of grass) and a spirit of fields and of mountains. Although the myths recorded in "Kojiki" and in "Nihon Shoki" do not mention Kaya no Hime as a goddess with a snake's body, according to some myth her husband Oyamatsumi no Kami (the god of mountains) has a snake's body.

After Buddhism spread in Japan, Kaya no Hime began to be considered to have been the mother of the god of fog, of the god of darkness and of the god of worldly desires, therefore, Nozuchi began to be considered to be a god bearing various specters, and Nozuchi itself was gradually considered to be a specter or a govlin. It is found in Buddhist stories; according to "Shaseki-shu," a collection of Buddhist stories compiled in the Kamakura period, a priest without virtue was born again as a hammer-shaped snake living deep in the mountains, and the priest had had a glib tongue while he had not have the eyes of the wisdom nor the hands of the piety nor the legs of the commandment, so Nozuchi he became had only a mouth and did not have eyes nor hands nor legs.

According to "Wakan Sansai Zue," an encyclopedia compiled during the Edo period, Nozuchi was often seen in Natsumi-gawa River and Seimei-daki Waterfall in Yoshino-yama mountain range, and its name originated from its resemblance to a hammer ('tsuchi' or 'zuchi'). According to it, Nozuchi lives in holes of trees deep in the mountains, and a large one is 3 jaku (about 90cm) long and 5 sun (about 15cm) in diameter; on seeing a human being, it comes down the hill and bites his/her on the leg, however, since it cannot crawl up hills fast, when encountering Nozuchi, it can be dodged by running away to a higher place. Other than Nara Prefecture, in Tokushima Prefecture, in Hokuriku region and in Chubu region remain the legends of Nozuchi. It is also said that Nozuchi eats a deer in one gulp, and that a person, who was hit by Nozuchi which had been rolling off, would die, and that a person, who was even just found by Nozuchi, would contract some disease or even suffer from a bad fever and die.

In "Konjaku Gazu Zoku Hyakki" (Ancient and Modern Illustrations of Various Demons, Continued), Sekien TORIYAMA depicts Nozuchi with its entire body covered in hair and eating a rabbit; in the comment, he says 'Nozuchi is a spirit of grasses and trees', and by quoting from "Shaseki-shu" he describes its shape as 'a thing with no eyes nor nose.'

The name of Tsuchinoko (an imaginary creature of Japan, its name means 'hammer's child') originated from its resemblance to Nozuchi. Someone says that Tsuchinoko is a real living creature on which had been based, the legends of Nozuchi had been formed. Around 1965, almost all the legends of Nozuchi had been changed to the legends of Tsuchinoko.

In a kibyoshi (illustrated book of popular fiction in the Edo period) "Bakemono Shiuchi Hyobanki" (Reputations of Various Ghosts), Nozuchi is also found; however, unlike the legend and folklores, Nozuchi depicted in the book is a monster in the shape of a man with no eyes and no nose like Nopperabo (a monster), and it eats food using its big mouth on the top of its head.

[Original Japanese]