Supon No Yurei. 鼈の幽霊 - [Yokai]
• About this yokai: The vengeful spirit (onryo) of Chinese Soft-shelled turtles. which are known for never letting go when they bite, so, their persistence is thought to linger long after death. They haunt restaurants that serve their meat, farmers that sell them or customers who eat too many of their kind. Often appearing as giant monks with long limbs and puckered lips, or possessing the person that ate them causing them or their offspring to take on the appearance of a turtle. - Supon themselves are occasionally considered a type of kappa, said to drown their victims luring them to the waters edge.
• History: Soft-Shell turtles have been a long-standing delicacy in the east, (believed to have been popularized as a gourmet cuisine by ancient Chinese emperors since about 4,000 years ago.) its served in a wide variety of meals including hotpots and soups. Its an fairly expensive meal, known for a rich, smooth sweet taste, high in calcium, the meat is high in vitamins and as such is often considered a health food ingredient.
[I've heard the soup is especially good, and would love to try it someday!]
In some parts of Japan, Soft-shell turtles have been classified as an invasive species, they are also farmed. (so there's no issue with eating them.) -
These turtles have been long believed to have restorative and invigorating powers, so, occasionally you can find Supon also listed as an ingredient in Hemorrhoid medicines and its even used in some kinds of vitality energy drinks!
To say that someone is "like a Supon" is to call them "Pesky, Vindictive and Persistent." like the turtle, they never let go of a grudge.
• Legends: Despite being a beloved health food, There are a surprising number of ghost stories and legends about vengeful Supon, are most focused around customers or restaurant owners who served, farmed or ate too many:
The earliest recorded story of a soft shell turtle haunting, appears to be 1796's “Kaidan-tabino-akebono” [怪談旅之曙] – In this story, a farmer who sold soft-shelled turtles to make his living. - One evening the turtles grudge came upon the farmer: its ghost appeared as an approximately 30ft tall gigantic man right in front of him, causing him to faint in fear. - He survived, but it was quite obvious that he had been cursed; the farmer’s son was soon after born, looking just like a turtle, with two big googly eyes and a tiny pointed mouth, it was said that he had to eat worms...
- "Supon no Bakemono" as it appears in a 1977 reprint of “Kaidan-tabino-akebono."
Similarly there also various old legends about farmers who accidentally drop their knives into water or down wells & so they send a suppon with a rope tied to it retrieve the tool, they promise the turtles that if they "Come back with the knife, I will spare your life!" but of course, upon returning The Suppon immediately get their heads chopped off by the farmers, who promptly cook them enjoying their meal with sake, The turtles ghosts cause the farmers to choke to death or haunt them for some instant karmatic revenge.
Another popular legend about turtle hauntings is from 1812's [北越奇談] Hokuetsu Kidan (with an illustration by Hokusai.) - The story details a restaurant owner from Niigata who would buy thousands of turtles in bulk from miles around to serve at his diner. One night whilst in bed with his wife, he suffered from a cold sleep paralysis, he couldn't move at all but he felt around and gripped something hard and bumpy, like a turtle shell, he opened his eyes and found himself surrounded by hundreds of turtles that where slowly climbing up from his toes to the nape of his neck... This continued every night until the man decided he was going to close his restaurant & become a monk...
Another (even more modern) story, passed down in Tottori Prefecture and popularly recounted by shigeru mizuki goes a little like this: Three men, who were absolute gourmet maniacs (Ie; foodies.) were interested in trying out a new Supon restaurant that had just opened in Nagoya city. – They went in, but immediately they felt that something was wrong, there was a bizzare coldness to the restaurant... They just couldn't help but notice that the owner had a face that looked just like the very turtles which he was serving, when the owner got up to greet them, the men noticed a green tint & scaley skin and long limbs, just like the turtles.. The frightened foodies ran home and hid under their blankets for 3 days and decided never to eat Supon again... All things in moderation, i suppose!
Sticker Art by @Samkalensky, part of my night parade of 100 yokai sticker collection, check my shop for many more! thank you for reading! :)