Japanese Mythology and Folklore – Yuki Onna

Continuing with the series of articles on Japanese mythology and folklore, this time I will talk about Yuki Onna. This character is the spirit of a woman who dresses in white and appears in the snow (for this reason it is called yuki onna, 雪女 “snow woman”).


As stated earlier in the article on yōkai, many spirits in human form originated from the tragic death of a person. In the case of yuki onna It is a pregnant woman who died in the snow, or at other times he is portrayed as a woman carrying in her arms child.

yuki onna 2

Yuki onna sometimes it is considered the very spirit of the snow. Another version of the yuki-jōro says it is a Princess of the moon. Tired of her life in heaven, the lunar maiden descended in a snowfall to explore the earth, but soon found that she could not return to heaven.

One of the first descriptions of the yuki onna appeared in the Sōgi Shokoku Monogatari (宗 祇 諸国 物語), where the author describes his encounter with a woman near a bamboo forest, approximately twenty years old, wearing a white kimono and with skin so white that it would appear transparent.

yuki onna 3

Whatever the origin of this woman, her nature is considered to be evil. In many stories it is said that he abducts children. In the prefecture of Niigata it is said to cause the death of many travelers by frostbite, or to tear out the liver of children. In Iwate and Miyagi it is said that he steals the almbas, and in Ibaraki it is said that she pushes men who ignore her into ravines. In Aomori receives the name of Ubume, and is said to commission a traveler to carry his baby, which is so heavy that the man cannot move and freezes to death.

The most popular story of yuki onna found in the book Kwaidan, from Lafcadio Hearn. It tells of two lumberjacks who traveled in the snow, and took refuge in the cabin of a boatman. While they slept, a beautiful woman dressed completely in white came in and blew on the older man, who was frozen to death. The younger lumberjack prepares to die, but the woman spares his life for his good looks. Later, the young woodcutter meets a very beautiful woman and marries her. They have many children together, and one night, while it was snowing, he tells the story of his meeting with yuki onna. His wife gets angry, reveals to him that she had been that woman and leaves home, fleeing in the form of snow.

yuki onna in popular culture

Another story written by Richard Gordon Smith account that yuki onna he found an old man preparing to sleep. The man heard someone knock on the door, a voice from outside asked him to let her in. The man refuses, arguing that he has neither food nor a bed to house the outsider. The voice insists that it is only looking for a roof. The man however refuses again. As he goes to his bed, he finds a young woman inside, barefoot. The woman reveals that she is looking for the village where her living husband is, who abandoned the woman’s parents after their death. The man visits the village and meets the man who married this woman, and says that he has been persecuted in his dreams by her, so he decides to return to the home of his in-laws and help them.