It is safe to say that every culture has its own scary monsters. The stories and legends revolving around these beings can tell you a lot about the culture and the people of the place where the story is based. The list of scary monsters from Japanese folklore – so-called “yōkai” – is long and filled with fascinating creatures and their legends.
Instead of putting many different yōkai into one article, I want to introduce you in depth to a variety of intriguing monsters over a series of articles. This is the legend of The Snow Woman (Yuki-Onna).
The Snow Woman appears as a ravishing beauty with long black hair, blue lips, and eyes of a deep violet color. Her ageless skin is cold as ice and inhumanly white, which helps her blend into the snowy landscapes in which she usually appears. The mere touch of her body is enough to give people deep, unshakable chills and her piercing eyes can strike terror into humans. In most legends, she wears a white kimono, but sometimes she is depicted as nude.
The Snow Woman preys on travelers trapped in heavy snowstorms. She floats across the snow without leaving footprints, and, when threatened, can transform herself into a cloud of mist or snow. She feeds on human life force by sucking it from their mouths, often turning her victims to frost-coated corpses with her icy breath in the process.
However, there are many stories about the Snow Woman. In some of them she simply leads the lost travelers astray, so they would die of exposure. Other times, she specifically targets parents searching for their lost children, appearing in front of them with a child in her arms.
Other legends tell the tale of a much more aggressive Snow Woman, who would invade homes during the night only to flash-freeze the sleeping residents.
In some cases, however, the Snow Woman will fall in love with her intended victim, and let him go free.
It is said that the Snow Woman is the vengeful spirit of someone who perished in the snow. Until the 18th century, she was depicted as evil in most stories. Today, she is often given a more human character, emphasizing her ghost-like nature and mesmerizing beauty.