The term "Ittan-momen" refers to a folkloric ghost that is said to haunt Takayama-cho (the present Kimotsuki-cho), Kimotsuki-gun, Kagoshima Prefecture.
Ittan-momen is a ghost of white cloth, having the size of around ittan (about 10.6 meters in length and about 0.3 meter in width), and it flies in the night sky and will attack a person, they say. It is said to coil around a person's neck, or to cover the face - in some cases, causing death. Spinning like a roll of cloth, it comes flying, rolls a person into itself, and flies away in the sky, they also say. Shigeru MIZUKI, a comic artist of ghosts, says Ittan-momen is a kind of Tsukumo-gami (god of a variety of things).
A man was hurrying home one night and a piece of white cloth came flying and coiled around his neck, so the man slashed it with his short sword, and then it disappeared leaving blood on the man's hand, according to an old folktale.
In areas where this ghost was said to haunt, a child playing outside until dark was customarily warned, 'You will be haunted by Ittan-momen if you do not go home.'
Ittan-momen was not illustrated in classical picture scrolls of ghosts and other works, so it was relatively an unknown ghost in the past, but after Shigeru MIZUKI picked it up in his comic book of "Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro," it suddenly became well known. In the comic book, Ittan-momen talks with an accent peculiar to the Kyushu region and has a familiar character, so at present, it is well-known and is quite popular, in spite of its original nature depicted in folklore as attacking people. In the first popularity vote on ghosts held by the tourist association of Sakaiminato City (Mizuki's hometown), Tottori Prefecture, Ittan-momen won first place; for details about its character in the comic book, please refer to the article of "Ittan-momen" (Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro).
In Mizuki's paintings of ghosts, Ittan-momen is portrayed as a creature having two eyes and two arms, as well as other characteristics in "Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro," but this is only Mizuki's imagination, so in real folklore and from descriptions by witnesses below, Ittan-momen is said to be just a cloth-like flying object, having neither eyes nor arms.
In "Hyakki Yagyo Emaki," which is a classical picture scroll of a variety of ghosts, a cloth-like ghost having two arms and two legs was illustrated, and folklorist Kazuhiko KOMATSU put forward the hypothesis that this ghost was the origin of Ittan-momen.
Descriptions by witnesses of Ittan-momen in recent years
According to a survey conducted by Bintaro YAMAGUCHI, a ghost researcher, many people have seen cloth-like flying objects - supposedly Ittan-momen - even in recent years.
In Kagoshima Prefecture, the ghost's hometown, an object like a white piece of cloth was seen flying low. In Fukuoka Prefecture within the same Kyushu region, a passenger on the Shinkansen (the bullet train) saw Ittan-momen flying alongside the train at full speed.
In addition to the Kyushu region, Ittan-momen was also seen at Higashi-Koenji Station and in Ogikubo (Suginami Ward), both in the Tokyo Metropolis. At Higashi-Koenji Station, a woman walking her dog saw a piece of cloth flying, so she went after it for a while, she said.
In Shizuoka Prefecture, an elementary schoolchild saw a transparent sheet-like object floating in the air, and the object's shape was mostly rectangle as a whole, but it was narrowed at one end like a tail, the child said.
In 2004, a circle of UFO video shot in Hyogo Prefecture showed an unidentified cloth-like flying object over Mt. Rokko, and the object had the amazing size of thirty meters, they said.
The actor Shiro SANO saw Ittan-momen floating in the sky over a studio where the drama based on the novel of 'Kai' (Mystery) in the series of "Kosetsu Hyaku Monogatari" (A Hundred Street-corner Gossips) by Kyogoku NATSUHIKO was being shot, and it was a cloth-like long and white object, he said.
Fusuma (originally one of Japanese bedcovers)
"Fusuma" is a kind of Ittan-momen, which is said to have haunted Sadoga-shima Island frequently during the Edo period. This ghost had a shape like big furoshiki (a cloth wrapper), and came flying from somewhere to the streets at night, and abruptly covered the heads of pedestrians. People could not rip the ghost even with the sharpest sword, but they could do so with their teeth, if their teeth were - or had been once - made Ohaguro (black painted teeth). So in Sadoga-shima Island, even men - as well as women - customarily painted their teeth black, they say.
"Futon-kabuse" is said to appear in Saku-shima Island, Aichi Prefecture. Much remains mysterious about this ghost, because there scarcely exists any folklore, but the folklorist Kunio YANAGIDA says, '(Futon-kabuse) comes floating and abruptly covers a human's face until death,' in his book. And some people explain - about what Yanagida means - that something like a futon (the general term of Japanese bedcovers) comes floating and abruptly covers a human's face until death.