The creepypasta Yamanoke was posted on 2chan in 2007 and tells the tale of a creature in the mountains that possesses a young girl. Her father is informed by a monk that if they aren’t able to help the girl within 49 days, then she will be lost to them forever. It’s a strange looking creature, described as looking like Jamila from Ultraman, and the terrifying story has since become an urban legend in its own right. But who, or what, is Yamanoke, and is there any truth to the story?
When questioned further about where the story took place, the original poster mentioned all of this happened in the mountains that border Miyazaki and Yamagata prefectures. That mountain range is none other than Tashiro Ridge, and it’s well known for strange events.
On top of the usual ghostly rumours, there is an urban legend that claims a military plane once crashed in those mountains, and that a military base exists underground as well. It’s also known for plenty of UFO sightings over the years as well. It’s a mountainous area known for a variety of oddities, so Yamanoke would no doubt feel right at home there.
But what exactly is Yamanoke, and is there any truth to the story? It’s been theorised that perhaps Yamanoke is one of the many aliens that apparently visit Tashiro Ridge on the regular, but that doesn’t fit entirely with how the story presents the creature. Although it’s definitely alien-looking, the way it behaves is more like a spirit. It’s able to possess the girl through the closed car door, and possession is generally the realm of spirits, not aliens.
Another related theory proposes that Yamanoke is not a spirit, but rather a kami. Numerous kami reside in the mountains, and not all are good. A regular spirit might not be strong enough to pull off such a curse as seen in the story, but a kami would have no problems doing it.
In the manga Spirit Medium Izuna, Yamanoke’s true form is that of a woman who was taken into the mountains and abandoned during a famine. With not enough food to feed her village, she was chosen to be sacrificed to save food for the others. The Tohoku region did indeed go through a famine during the Tenmei Era (1781-1789), so historically there is some basis to the story. The manga is just a story, however, and one attempt at explaining how Yamanoke may have come to be.
In 2015, a 2chan user claimed to have found what they believed to be the story that inspired Yamanoke in a book about Yanagita Kunio, the folklorist who brought many legends from the Tohoku region to the rest of Japan. This, ultimately, may be where the real truth lies. Many creepypastas have been shared on 2chan over the years that took real life events as their basis and further molded them to fit their own story.
It’s possible that another creature resembling Yamanoke already existed in Tohoku legends and the user who shared their story created it based off those. This gives the story a sense of cohesion, of history, of believability that other stories struggle to attain. Yamanoke is undoubtedly fiction, but it’s this attention to detail and reworking of existing legends that has made it such an enduring creepypasta all these years later.