[You can watch this rakugo story at the bottom of this post. Please let me know what you think of it!!!]
In my personal opinion, this is one of the uniquest rakugo stories of all.
This is not because it is a pure ghost story with very little laughter but mainly because it was inspired by a story written by Lafcadio Hearn or better known in Japan as Koizumi Yakumo (小泉 八雲 1850-1904).
The story of Nopperabo had already existed as folktales before his writing, but it was him who made it famous.
In 1850, Patrick Lafcadio Hearn was born in Greece to a Greek mother and an Irish father. Due to family complications, he moved to Dublin and then to the United States where he worked as a newspaper reporter.
As a correspondent, he was sent to French West Indies for 2 years, and then finally ended up in Japan where he spent the rest of his life.
He got married with a Japanese woman and became a Japanese citizen himself.
He is the reason why I am so attached to this story.
Someone from overseas bothered enough to learn, live, and love the Japanese way, and he shared his learning with the west and ended his life as a Japanese citizen.
I feel so closely to this man perhaps because I am in a little similar situation myself as someone who has spent more than half of his life overseas and married to a non-Japanese woman.
Whenever I perform this story, I think of him, and I feel immensely honoured to carry on with his story.
Going back to the story itself, it had already existed as I mentioned earlier.
There is a mention about Nopperabo in Sorori Monogatari (曽呂利物語 そろりものがたり) in 1663.
The fascinating thing about this particular Nopperabo is that he was over 2m tall!!!
In general, people believed that animals such as foxes, racoon dogs, or mujina (Japanese badgers) turned into Nopperabo and tricked humans.
In Koizumi’s version, the culprit was a mujina.
You can read the original story here on The Project Gutenberg website. As you can see, the term “Nopperabo” is somehow not used in his story.
Now you can watch Nopperabo below and see how the original evolved into a rakugo story.