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Yuki Onna (雪女, snow woman) is a spirit or yōkai in Japanese folklore. She is a popular figure in Japanese literature, manga, and animation.
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
Being a creature of Japanese folklore, the yuki-onna has naturally been used as a character in a wide range of Japanese fiction and pop-culture. Like many yōkai, it has been the basis for a Pokémon character and a Magic: The Gathering card, as well as often appearing as a character, in anime, such as Yukime in 'Hell Teacher Nūbē or in Ranma 1/2, even as gag appearances as in Demashita! Powerpuff Girls Z. Some series, such as Shirahime-Syo: Snow Goddess Tales' by Clamp use the yuki-onna as a main character. Yuki-onna have also appeard in live action films, such as Takashi Miike's The Great Yokai War (2005), Akira Kurosawa's film Dreams (1990) and Misaki Kobayashi's Kwaidan (1965).
Perhaps the classic film adaptation is director Tanaka Tokuzo's 1968 Kaidan Yuki Onna which was released in the US under the title Ghost Story of the Snow Witch.
- In Kwaidan, a 1964 Japanese anthology ghost film.
- Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, a 1990 American horror anthology film, features the story, Lover's Vow, which is based on Lafcadio Hearn's "Yuki-Onna" story. Instead of a Snow Woman, however, the protagonist's 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 teenage Yuki Onna described as a snow fairy.
- 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 Jigoku Sensei Nube, a beautiful character named Yukime become the main love interest of the title character 'Nube', She portrait the gentle nature of such Yokai legends. She fall in love of Nube when he rescue Yukime from a hunter in a mountain when she was a child, later Yukime find Nube in Doumori school. Time after this, they eventually get married (original manga) and move out together.
- 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 the InuYasha anime, a Yuki Onna serves as the episode antagonist of Season 5, Episode 2 (Epi#101), The Snow from Seven Years Past.
- 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 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.
- In the Pokémon franchise, Froslass is based on the Yuki-onna. The controversial Pokémon Jynx is also based, in part in Yuki-onna. Like Yuki-onna, Jynx has ice-manipulation and no feet.
- 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
- "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. http://jumpsq.shueisha.co.jp/rensai/rosario/. Retrieved 2014-02-21.
- "Rosario+Vampire, Vol. 5". Viz Media. http://www.viz.com/manga/print/rosariovampire-volume-5/7247. Retrieved March 26, 2013.
- Miller, Thomas et al. "Symphony X FAQ". Symphony X Official Website. http://www.symphonyx.com/site/faq/. Retrieved 29 September 2012.