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") in Ehime, yukifuri-baba ("snowfall hag") in 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, the segment "Yuki-onna" is based on Lafcadio Hearn's story.
- The Snow Woman (Kaidan yukijorou), a 1968 Japanese film, is also based on the Yuki-onna legend.
- Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, a 1990 American horror anthology film, features the story, Lover's Vow, which again is based on Lafcadio Hearn's "Yuki-onna" story. Instead of a Snow Woman, however, the protagonist's wife is secretly a gargoyle.
- 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 a Yuki-onna but never directly referenced as such, who attempts to lure him to sleep and death.
- A Yuki-onna appears in Takashi Miike's 2005 fantasy film The Great Yokai War.
- In the anime series of Card Captor Sakura (1998-2000), the Snow card is based on the Yuki-onna.
- In the Canadian TV series MythQuest (2001), a Yuki-onna is featured in Episode 4, Minokichi, which faithfully adapts Lafcadio Hearn's version of the tale.
- In the first InuYasha anime (2000-2004), a Yuki-onna serves as the episodic antagonist in Episode 101.
- In the Bleach anime (2004-2012), a Zanpakuto spirit named Sode no Shirayuki (whose sword is owned by Rukia Kuchiki) is depicted as a Yuki-onna with near total mastery of ice.
- In Powerpuff Girls Z (2006-2007), a Yuki-onna makes an appearance in Episode 9 when the Powerpuff Girls crash into her property and are kicked out; Fuzzy Lumpkins then mistook her for Ms. Bellum.
- In the 2009 anime The Girl Who Leapt Through Space, two characters mistake Itsuki Kannagi for a Yuki-onna because their space vessels frost as they pass near hers.
- In the Go Nagai manga Dororon Enma-kun (1973-1974), the character Yukiko-Hime is a Yuki-onna.
- Leiji Matsumoto's manga Galaxy Express 999 (1977-1981), features a chapter named "Yuki-onna of Andromeda", where the Snow Woman is portrayed as a cyborg made of ice who wants to regain her human body, or at least, the sensations associated with warmth and love. The same character is featured in the anime version as well.
- While clearly stated to be an alien princess, Oyuki from Rumiko Takahashi's Urusei Yatsura (1978-1987) is based on the Yuki-onna legend.
- In another Rumiko Takahashi's manga, Ranma ½ (1987-1996), a Yuki-onna is responsible for a snow blizzard and is accompanied by a Snow Monster Guardian. It's portrayed both as a child bearing a flute and as a female adult.
- In the horror manga Vampire Princess Miyu (1988-2002), the character Reiha is a Yuki-onna.
- In the manga Yu Yu Hakusho (1990-1994), the character Yukina (Hiei's younger sister) was born in a village exclusively inhabited by Snow Women.
- A Yuki-onna appears in the manga Ushio and Tora (1990-1996).
- In the shōjo manga Akazukin ChaCha (1991-2000), Teacher Oyuki, Banana class's substitute teacher, is a Yuki-onna.
- The manga Jigoku Sensei Nube (1993-1999) features a Yuki-onna named Yukime who falls in love with and eventually marries the titular character.
- In the long-running manga One Piece (started in 1997), Monet (Caesar Clown's assistant) is nicknamed Yuki-onna due to her use of the Snow Snow Fruit.
- In chapter 24 of the manga The Wallflower (2000-2015), Sunako visits a friend in Hokkaido named Yuki, who is revealed to be a descendant of a Yuki-onna.
- In the manga Rosario + Vampire (2004-2007), the character Mizore Shirayuki is a teenage Yuki Onna described as a snow fairy.
- In the manga series Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East (started in 2005), Yuki-hime is a Yuki-onna.
- In the manga Nurarihyon no Mago (2008-2012), a Yuki-onna is a type of yōkai 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 the manga Inu x Boku SS (2009-2014), Nobara Yukinokouji (Renshou Sorinozuka's secret service agent) is a Yuki-onna.
- In issue 14 of DC Comics' Zatanna (2011), a Yuki-onna possesses Zatanna's cousin Zachary.
- The 2012 manga Monster Musume features a Yuki-onna named Yukio, a minor character running an onsen resort (which causes some problem due to her having poor tolerance for heat).
- In the 2014 novel The Causal Angel by Hannu Rajaniemi, a Yuki-onna appears as a witch in the Zoku Realm, a symbol for the entity called "the Pellegrini".
- In 2004 a play titled In A Grove: Four Japanese Ghost Stories, one of the ghost stories is all about Yukionna. The story is titled Yukionna (The Snow Woman)
- Magic: The Gathering's Japanese-inspired 2005 set Saviors of Kamigawa features a card depicting the Yuki-onna.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh!, there are two cards based on the Yuki-onna: "Mischief of the Yokai" and "Yuki-onna of the Ghostrick".
- In Megami Tensei (1987), the demon called Yuki Jyorou is based on the Yuki-onna, and in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey (2009), she is referred to as "a type of Yuki-onna". Yuki-onna is also a demon in the Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Children spin-off series.
- In the Pokémon franchise (which began as a Game Boy video game in 1996), Froslass is based on the Yuki-onna. The controversial Pokémon Jynx is also based in part on the Yuki-onna. Like a Yuki-onna, Jynx has ice-manipulation and no feet.
- In Final Fantasy VII (1997), Snow, a woman living alone in Great Glacier who leaves behind Alexander Materia if defeated, is most likely based on the Yuki-onna.
- In the 7th Touhou Project game, Perfect Cherry Blossom (2003), the stage one boss Letty Whiterock is a Yuki-onna.
- In the adventure game Yume Nikki (2004), one of the effects Madotsuki can collect turns her into a Yuki-onna, and will make it start to snow.
- In BlazBlue, a popular fighting game series (2008-2015), one of the main characters is Jin Kisaragi, whose weapon of choice is a nihontō called "Yukianesa", which allows him to use ice attacks.
- In Shinobi 3D (2011), the first boss is a Yuki-onna.
- Yo-kai Watch (2013) features a Yuki-onna (named "Frostina" in the English dub) who can be befriended.
- In Sakura Clicker, a 2015 erotic idle clicker, you can meet a Yuki-onna.
- The 1998 album Twilight in Olympus by American progressive metal band Symphony X features a song entitled Lady of the Snow, based on the figure of the Yuki-onna.
- 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 Archived August 25, 2006, at the Wayback Machine. at japanese1-2-3.com Archived January 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
- 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
- "ジャンプSQ.［ロザリオとバンパイアseasonII ］池田晃久" [Jump Square Rosario + Vampire season II] (in Japanese). Jumpsq.shueisha.co.jp. Retrieved 2014-02-21.
- "Rosario+Vampire, Vol. 5". Viz Media. Retrieved March 26, 2013.
- 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.|
- Yuki Onnna – The Snow Woman at hyakumonogatari.com (English).
- An article that references Yuki Onna in the movies Japanzine By Jon Wilks