Ubagabi (the mysterious fire of an old woman) (姥ヶ火)

Ubagabi' refers to mysterious fiery apparitions handed down from generation to generation in Kawachi no kuni (present-day Osaka Prefecture) and Tanba no kuni (present-day the northern part of Kyoto prefecture). They are described in old books such as "Gazu Hyakki Yako' (supernatural bestiaries, collections of ghosts, spirits, spooks and monsters) of Sekien TORIYAMA, "Shokoku Rijin Dan", a magazine published in the era of the Kanpo, "Kokon Hyaku Monogatari Hyoban", a collection of ghost stories in the Edo period, "Saikaku Shokoku Banashi", miscelleneous stories of Saikaku IHARA, and "Kawachi Kagami Meishoki".


According to "Shokoku Rijin Dan", it appeared as an about 30 centimeters mysterious fiery apparition in Hiraoka Shrine on a rainy night. It is said that all people who saw the fiery apparition flying around were completely stunned. It is said that the object was believed to be the soul of a dead old woman. Her soul turned to be a fiery apparition because she was cursed for stealing kerosene from Hiraoka Shrine during her lifetime.

When a man living in Kawachi Province walking along the street at night, he was hit in the face by ubagabi coming flying from nowhere. Then, he carefully looked at it, he found it has a shape of bird like a chicken. Before long, as it flew away, it returned to its former state, a fiery apparition, from the shape of bird. From this, Shigeru MIZUKI, a yokai (apparitions, spirits, ghosts, spooks and monsters) cartoonist, suggests that the real figure of this ubagabi was possibly a bird.

The story that the old woman turned to be ubagabi was also described in "Saikaku Shokoku Banashi"(stories in various places written by Saikaku) as a story of 'Miosute aburatsubo' (a story of an old woman who stole oil for a lamp from a shrine because she was miserably poor). According to the story, ubagabi flew away for about four kilometers in a flash and people whose shoulders the ubagabi went past died within three years. However, it is said that when people said, 'Aburasashi' (an oilcan), the ubagabi disappeared.

There is an oral tradition in Tanba Province (present-day, the northern part of Kyoto Prefecture) that ubagabi appeared in Katsuragawa-river (a part of Yodogawa-river). According to 'Kokon Hyaku Monogartari Hyoban', there used to be an old woman living near Kameyama Province (present-day, Kameoka City, Kyoto Prefecture) who received money from parents whose children supposed to be adopted through the coordination of the old woman, but she threw these children into Hozugawa-river. Soon, she received divine punishment and died in a flood. Since then, a fiery apparition appeared in Hozugawa-river and people called this ubagabi.

A face of an old woman floating in a mysterious fiery apparitions with the title of 'ubagabi' is drawn in "Gazu Hyakki Yako'. It has an explanation that it was said to be in Kawachi Province, therefore, it is considered to be a description of an oral tradition of Kawachi.