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Yuki Onna

Japanese Winter Monsters

Many Japanese believe in good and bad fortune. Superstitious beliefs are a big part of Japan’s culture. Most Japanese folklore have roots that can be traced to local customs. The origins of their cultural beliefs can be traced all the way back to Japan’s ancient pagan philosophies, the regard for certain natural things as kami (spirits or phenomena that are worshiped in the religion of Shinto), and the animist culture.

Mythical spirits known as yokai and ghost of the deceased, called yurei, are part of local folklore for many centuries as far back as the 8th century in the Kojiki (“Records of Ancient Matters”), the earliest record of Japanese mythology that chronicles the creation of Japan.

The winter months in Japan brings heavy snow fall especially in the north. Japanese folklore tell us tales of monsters that come to haunt us during the freezing months of winter. Check out some of the winter monsters to look for.

Yuki Jiji – The Old Man of the Snow

It is said that the village of Hishiyama in Nigata prefecture, experiances an avalance at least once a year. The snow from the avalance is sure to come cascading at night with the Old Man of the Snow riding it like a wave. Yuki Jiji is said to have skin and hair white as snow, dressed in a white kimono and carrying a white staff with painted paper streamers such as the ones used in Shinto ceremonies.

Yuki Onna

Yuki Onna

Yuki Onna – The Snow Woman

In a land adjacent to Sado Island on the Japan Sea lies the northern province of Echigo. In the highlands, as much as 20 feet of snow can accumulate over the winter. It is said that there are people who have been buried there Yuki-onna is a spirit or yokai in Japanese folklore. Stories tell us, “All those who die by the snow and cold become spirits of snow, appearing when there is snow; just as the spirits of those who are drowned in the sea only appear in stormy seas.” Such is the story of Yuki Onna.

Oshiroi Baba Oshiroi Baba

Oshiroi Baba – The Face Powder Hag

Oshiroi Baba, is said to be an old woman bent with age, carrying sake, and is the servant to the Goddess of Cosmetics. She carries with her a cane made of bamboo, dressed in a worn kimono, donning a massive straw umbrella hat heavy with fallen snow. Oshiroi Baba’s face is covered with Oshiro powder, the white face powder used by geisha and maiko. Some say the yokai drags a mirror behind her making a rattling sound.



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Read all about Japanese immersion learning and studying abroad. Check out our eZasshi archives for more articles!