She may also go by such names as yuki-musume "snow girl", yuki-onago "snow wench", yukijorō "snow harlot", yuki anesa "snow sis'", yuki-omba "snow granny or snow nanny", yukinba "snow hag" (Ehime), yukifuri-baba(?) "snowfall hag"(Nagano).
Yuki-onna appears on snowy nights as a tall, beautiful woman with long black hair and blue lips. Her inhumanly pale or even transparent skin makes her blend into the snowy landscape (as famously described in Lafcadio Hearn's Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things). She sometimes wears a white kimono, but other legends describe her as nude, with only her face and hair standing out against the snow. Despite her inhuman beauty, her eyes can strike terror into mortals. She floats across the snow, leaving no footprints (in fact, some tales say she has no feet, a feature of many Japanese ghosts), and she can transform into a cloud of mist or snow if threatened.
Some legends say the Yuki-onna, being associated with winter and snowstorms, is the spirit of someone who perished in the snow. She is at the same time beautiful and serene, yet ruthless in killing unsuspecting mortals. Until the 18th century, she was almost uniformly portrayed as evil. Today, however, stories often color her as more human, emphasizing her ghost-like nature and ephemeral beauty.
In many stories, Yuki-onna appears to travelers trapped in snowstorms, and uses her icy breath to leave them as frost-coated corpses. Other legends say she leads them astray so they simply die of exposure. Other times, she manifests holding a child. When a well-intentioned soul takes the "child" from her, they are frozen in place. Parents searching for lost children are particularly susceptible to this tactic. Other legends make Yuki-onna much more aggressive. In these stories, she often invades homes, blowing in the door with a gust of wind to kill residents in their sleep (some legends require her to be invited inside first).
What Yuki-onna is after varies from tale to tale. Sometimes she is simply satisfied to see a victim die. Other times, she is more vampiric, draining her victims' blood or "life force." She occasionally takes on a succubus-like manner, preying on weak-willed men to drain or freeze them through sex or a kiss.
Like the snow and winter weather she represents, Yuki-onna has a softer side. She sometimes lets would-be victims go for various reasons. In one popular Yuki-onna legend, for example, she sets a young boy free because of his beauty and age. She makes him promise never to speak of her, but later in life, he tells the story to his wife who reveals herself to be the snow woman. She reviles him for breaking his promise, but spares him again, this time out of concern for their children (but if he dares mistreat their children, she will return with no mercy. Luckily for him, he is a loving father). In some versions, she chose not to kill him because he told her, which she did not treat as a broken promise (technically, Yuki-Onna herself is not a human, and thus did not count). In a similar legend, Yuki-onna melts away once her husband discovers her true nature. However, she departs to the afterlife afterward the same way.
Lafcadio Hearn's version
A long time ago, there lived two woodcutters, Minokichi and Mosaku. Minokichi was young and Mosaku was very old.
One winter day, they could not come back home because of a snowstorm. They found a hut in the mountain and decided to sleep there. On this particular evening, Mosaku woke up and found a beautiful lady with white clothes. She breathed on old Mosaku and he was frozen to death.
She then approached Minokichi to breathe on him, but stared at him for a while, and said, "I thought I was going to kill you, the same as that old man, but I will not, because you are young and beautiful. You must not tell anyone about this incident. If you tell anyone about me, I will kill you."
Several years later, Minokichi met a beautiful young lady, named Oyuki (yuki = "snow") and married her. She was a good wife. Minokichi and Oyuki had several children and lived happily for many years. Mysteriously, she did not age.
One night, after the children were asleep, Minokichi said to Oyuki: "Whenever I see you, I am reminded of a mysterious incident that happened to me. When I was young, I met a beautiful young lady like you. I do not know if it was a dream or if she was a Yuki-onna..."
After finishing his story, Oyuki suddenly stood up, and said "That woman you met was me! I told you that I would kill you if you ever told anyone about that incident. However, I can't kill you because of our children. Take care of our children... " Then she melted and disappeared. No one saw her again.
In popular culture
- In Kwaidan, a 1964 Japanese anthology ghost film.
- In Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, a 1990 American horror anthology film, it features the story, Lover's Vow, which is based on Lafcadio Hearn's Yuki Onna story. Except instead of a Snow Woman, his wife is secretly a Gargoyle.
- In The Snow Woman (Kaidan yukijorou), a 1968 Japanese film.
- In Nurarihyon no Mago, a Yuki Onna is a type of youkai who hails from the Tono region. One of the most prominent members of the main character Rikuo Nura's Hyakki Yakō is a Yuki Onna, who usually accompanies him at school undercover using the name Tsurara Oikawa.
- In a segment of Akira Kurosawa's 1990 film Dreams, a team of mountain climbers gets caught in a blizzard. After the other men lose consciousness, the last conscious man encounters a beautiful woman, possibly Yuki Onna but never directly referenced as such, who attempts to lure him to sleep and death.
- In Vampire Princess Miyu, the character Reiha is a Yuki Onna.
- In the Bleach anime, a Zanpakuto spirit named Sode no Shirayuki (the sword is owned by Rukia Kuchiki) is depicted as a Yuki Onna with near total mastery of ice.
- In Rosario + Vampire, the character Mizore Shirayuki is a Yuki Onna in the form of a teenage girl.
- In Akazukin ChaCha, Teacher Oyuki, Banana class's substitute teacher is a Yuki Onna.
- While clearly stated to be an alien princess, Oyuki from Urusei Yatsura is based on yuki-onna.
- In Dororon Enma-kun, the character Yukiko-Hime is a Yuki Onna.
- In Shinobi 3D, the first boss is Yuki Onna.
- In MythQuest, a 1990s Canadian TV show, Yuki Onna is featured in Episode 4 "Minokichi".
- In Ranma ½, she is responsible for a snow blizzard and is accompanied by a Snow Monster Guardian. Also portrayed both as a child bearing a flute and a female adult.
- American progressive metal band Symphony X has a song entitled "Lady of the Snow", based on the character Yuki-Onna. It can be found on the album Twilight in Olympus.
- In BlazBlue, a popular fighting game, one of the main characters, Jin Kisaragi's weapon of choice is a nihontō called Yukianesa, which allows him to use ice attacks.
- In the 7th Touhou Project game, Perfect Cherry Blossom, the stage one boss Letty Whiterock is a Yuki-onna.
- In Demashita! Powerpuff Girls Z, she made an appearance in Episode 9 "Fuzzy in Love" when Fuzzy Lumpkins mistook her for Ms. Bellum.
- In Gate Keepers, Yukino Houjou, the immortal gatekeeper resembles the Yuki Onna due to mastery of snow and ice and style of clothing.
- In the Canadian show Lost Girl, which centers on the life of a rogue succubus, Yuki Onna are mentioned as one of the many 'sex chi' eaters in the Fae genetic lineage.
- In Yu Yu Hakusho, the character Yukina (Hiei's younger sister) was born in an Snow Women only-village.
- In One Piece, Monet (Caesar Clown's assistant) is nicknamed Yuki-onna by her use of the Snow Snow Fruit.
- 2012 There is a Yuki-Onna Living Dead Doll, part of Series 24.
- The artist Erutan (Kate Covington) wrote a song about Yuki Onna titled Winter Moon.
- In the Pokémon franchise, Froslass is based on the Yuki-onna. The controversial Pokemon Jynx is also based, in part in Yuki-onna. Like Yuki-onna, Jynx has ice-manipulation and no feet.
- In Cardfight!! Vanguard, the card Phantasmagoric Snowy Wind, Shirayuki is possibly based on Yuki-Onna.
- In Yume Nikki, Madotsuki can get the Yuki-Onna effect in the Snow World.
- In Final Fantasy VII, Snow - a woman living alone in Great Glacier, who leaves behind Alexander Materia if defeated, is most probably based on Yuki-Onna.
- In Inu x Boku SS, Nobara Yukinokouji (Renshou Sorinozuka's secret service agent) is a Yuki Onna.
- In The Girl Who Leapt Through Space, two characters mistake Itsuki Kannagi to be a Yuki-Onna because their space vessels frost as they pass near hers.
- In Nura:rise of the Yokai Clan, Yuki-Onna is herself
- In Yu-Gi-Oh!, there are two cards based on a Yuki-Onna; "Mischief of the Yokai" and "Yuki-onna of the Ghostrick".
- Konno 1981, cited by Hirakawa, Sukehiro (平川祐弘) (1992), 小泉八雲: 回想と研究 (Koizumi Yakumo: kaisō to kenkyū) (snippet), Kodansha, p. 227, quote:"雪女の名称は雪娘、雪女郎、雪婆、雪降婆、シッケンケンなど.."
- Furuhashi 1992
- Yuki-onna at japanese1-2-3.com
- Seki, Seigo Seki (1963), Folktales of Japan, p. 81, University of Chicago, ISBN 0-226-74614-3
- Smith, Richard Gordon, "The Snow Ghost" Chapter XLIX of Ancient Tales and Folk-lore of Japan at sacred-texts.com
- Kwaidan - Yuki-onna (Snow Woman) at www.sarudama.com
- Rosario + Vampire manga, Volume 5
- Miller, Thomas et al. "Symphony X FAQ". Symphony X Official Website. Retrieved 29 September 2012.
- Furuhashi, Nobutaka (古橋信孝) (1992), "雪女伝説", in Isamu Yoshinari(吉成勇)ed., Nihon 'Shinwa Densetsu' Sōran (日本「神話・伝説」総覧), 歴史読本特別増刊・事典シリーズ, Shinjinbutsu Orai sha (新人物往来社), pp. 276–277, ISBN 978-4-404-02011-6
- Konno, Ensuke(今野円輔) (1981), 日本怪談集 妖怪篇(Nihon kaidanshū yōkai hen), Gendai Kyoiku bunko, Shakai Shisho sha, pp. 4–, ASIN B000J98U1S, ISBN 978-4-390-11055-6
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Yuki-onna.|
- The Obakemono Project: Yuki-onna
- An article that references Yuki Onna in the movies Japanzine By Jon Wilks