Rokurokubi (轆轤首, rokurokubi?) are yōkai found in Japanese folklore. They look like normal human beings by day, but at night they gain the ability to stretch their necks to great lengths. They can also change their faces to those of terrifying oni to better scare mortals. Lafcadio Hearn in his book Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things identified these creatures with the nukekubi.
In their daytime human forms, rokurokubi often live undetected and may even take mortal spouses. Many rokurokubi become so accustomed to such a life that they take great pains to keep their demonic forms secret. They are tricksters by nature, however, and the urge to frighten and spy on human beings is hard to resist. Some rokurokubi thus resort to revealing themselves only to drunkards, fools, the sleeping, or the blind in order to satisfy these urges. Other rokurokubi have no such compunctions and go about frightening mortals with abandon. A few, it is said, are not even aware of their true nature and consider themselves normal humans. This last group stretch their necks out while asleep in an involuntary action; upon waking up in the morning, they find they have weird dreams regarding seeing their surroundings in unnatural angles.
According to some tales, rokurokubi were once normal human beings but were transformed by karma for breaking various precepts of Buddhism. Often, these rokurokubi are truly sinister in nature, eating people or drinking their blood rather than merely frightening them. These demonic rokurokubi often have a favored prey, such as others who have broken Buddhist doctrine or human men.
Tanuki often imitated rokurokubi when playing practical jokes on people.
Rokurokubi in fiction
* Chuda Chiaki in Legend of the Five Rings is a rokurokubi.
* In the manga/anime Yu Yu Hakusho the right hand of Raizen whom is sent to retrieve Yusuke Urameshi, Hokushin is shown to be able to stretch his neck and body to great lengths.
* The 2005 movie Yōkai Daisensō features a rokurokubi.
* Miki Hosokawa in the manga/anime Hell Teacher Nūbē is a rokurokubi.
* Rokurokubi are in the film Pom Poko, during the "Operation Specter" scene.
* Three Rokurokubi appear in the animated film Hellboy: Sword of Storms. They appear as one of several groups of monsters trying to steal the Sword of Storms from Hellboy so that they can release the spirit of two imprisoned demons.
* The character Orochimaru in the manga/anime Naruto is shown to stretch his neck great distances while fighting three of the main characters.
* In the movie Fear(s) of the Dark, Sumako, haunted by the spirit of an ancient samurai, sees a rokurokubi.
* In the book Even More Short & Shivery by Robert D. San Souci, there is a tale from Japan called Rokuro-kubi, about a priest who was once a samurai named Kwairyo being taken in by a woodchopper and his family, however Kwairyo learns that they are all Rokuro-kubi. The description of the creatures does not fit Rokuro-kubi, but instead it fits Nukekubi creatures, because the woodchopper and his family have their heads come completely off instead of their necks streching.