Japanese Horror: Spend a Night with Bone Woman

  • Let’s Get into Japanese Horror…

    If you are not the type to get a fright easily, you might like this scary ghost story. Basically, we are telling you now to be aware of who you might meet in the darkest of nights…

    This is the story of The Bone Woman (Hone-Onna).

    The Legend


    One night, a young man named Ogiwara Shinnojō was wandering around when he saw a beautiful woman carrying a red lantern in the shape of a peony flower. Drawn by her beauty, he approached her and asked for her name. “O-Tsuyu ,” she replied with the hint of a smile.
    O-Tsuyu was a stunning beauty dressed in a gorgeous kimono, which covered all of her slim body but the wrists, neck, and face. From the moment he laid eyes on her, Shinnojō had fallen deeply in love with her. He didn’t need much convincing to show her to his house, where they made love to each other. Not being able to bear the thought of this being their last encounter he asked, “Please, dear O-Tsuyu, may I see you again?”

    “Yes,” she replied, and Shinnojōs cheeks flushed with excitement.
    They next night O-Tsuyu went to Shinnojōs house again, where they made love again. The night after that, the same thing happened, and before they knew it, their pleasures had become a nightly habit.
    It wasn’t before long that the overly curious neighbor noticed the comings and goings of the beautiful woman. “I wonder what they are doing over there,” he wondered to himself. Eventually, his curiosity got the best of him, and so he decided to secretly sneak into the couple’s bedroom to see what they were doing.

    He slid open the door, careful not to wake them. At first, he couldn’t make out much, but when his eyes finally grew accustomed to the darkness and the little light in the bedroom fell onto the couple, the man started to scream in horror, “Wha..what is this?!”

    He nearly died of shock as he realized that the sleeping Shinnojō was sharing his bed with a living skeleton.


    The bone woman appears for the first time in a story named Botan Dōrō (“The Peony Lantern”), which was published in an encyclopedia about Japanese monsters called Konjaku Gazu Zoku Hyakki, written by Toriyama Sekien in 1779.

    Alternative Versions of the Story

    In an orally traditioned version from Akita prefecture, a nameless young man becomes lost during a heavy snow storm, when he sees a nameless young woman with a red peony lantern. The woman waves at the man and leads him to her house. The man is about to thank her for rescuing him, when light falls onto her face, and the man recognizes it as a skeleton skull.

    In many other versions, a nameless young woman uses her beauty to allure lonely young men wandering alone in the dark. Her beauty, however, is nothing but a disguise. When she succeeds in leading her victim to a quiet place, she convinces him to undress her. This is when she reveals her true body, which consists of nothing but blank bones. As soon as the shocked man realizes that he had been in the company of a monster, she embraces him and sucks away his life and soul.