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Top 6 Creepy Women in Japanese Folk Lore

Updated on June 19, 2017
Jeremy Gill profile image

Jeremy explores many topics as he juggles his passion for writing with his career as a chemical analyst and campus manager.

Folk Monsters

Caution, there's some pretty spooky stuff ahead.

Folklore across the globe has procured some amazing and terrible tales. Demons, monsters, and supernatural beings can all be found in the stories we've invented. Japanese legends are no exception, and have crafted a a fine assortment of interesting and often horrifying creatures. A surprising number of these malicious entities are female in nature. Are you ready to explore the six scariest women in Japanese folk lore?


6. Futakuchi-onna

Translation: "Two-mouthed woman"

Futakuchi-onna may harbor tragic pasts, but they commit repulsive actions. According to the tales, a regular woman who eats little may sometimes be cursed with a second mouth to help her find nourishment. Sometimes, it's not even the woman's fault she hardly eats - many of the tales feature a wife of a miser (someone who refuses to spend money on necessities like food).

The cursed lady will sprout a mouth on the back of her head. This new opening is capable of speech, and will screech obscenities and cause pain if its hunger isn't satisfied. A futakuchi-onna probably won't kill you if you encounter one, but she herself would likely endure a lifetime of despair.


5. Oiwa

Translation: None; Oiwa is simply the name of a woman.

Guys, we need to treat our ladies well. First, it's the right thing to do. Second, when we don't, they sometimes return from the grave as vengeful spirits to haunt and murder us. The sorrowful tale of Oiwa features a beautiful and devoted woman who is betrayed and disfigured by her greedy husband. She loses her life, and returns as a spirit to seek brutal vengeance.

Oiwa is noted to have a white dress, long hair, and sometimes an eyeball that is drooping out of its socket (the result of poison that was fed to her). Any enraged Japanese ghost can be classified as an onryō; Oiwa may be the most violent of the bunch. Good luck defending yourself when this she-witch crosses your path.

Yuki-onna | Source

4. Yuki-onna

Translation: "Snow Woman"

Next, the enchanting Yuki-onna. She's the spirit of a beautiful woman who passed away in a snowstorm, and now haunts the land, perhaps jealous of others who are allowed to live their lives.

Yuki has been traditionally portrayed as malevolent, though a few more contemporary stories depict her more sympathetically. Regardless, she will brutally murder passerby, sometimes luring men in with a kiss. She is alluring, graceful, and said to float rather than walk. If you ever encounter her, your best chance is probably to run like the dickens, and ignore whatever enticing words she speaks to you.

Nure-onna | Source

3. Nure-onna

Translation: "Wet Woman"

Don't read too deeply into that translation; "wet" has certain connotations in English absent in the original name. This loathsome creature is a female serpent with vaguely human features. Usually, she simply has a lady's head and hair, but her appearance fluctuates across her several legends.

Nure-onna doesn't use her own looks to draw men in (I highly doubt she could pull that off), but she will utilize a bundle of blankets that appears to carry a child. Any well-intentioned person (male or female) who approaches the bundle and picks it up will suddenly find the bundle turns heavy, trapping them to the ground. Nure-onna will then suck the blood from the hapless victim's body. If that's not enough to scare you, consider that some tales feature her as spanning 300 meters in length. Yikes.

Jorōgumo | Source

2. Jorōgumo

Translation: "Binding Bride"

Mankind suffers from arachnophobia more than nearly every other fear; imagine how common the phobia would be if we encountered Jorōgumo. Legends state that when a spider lives to the age of 400, it gains magical powers. Disguising itself as a radiant woman, the arachnid lures a male into a secluded area, and begins to play a soothing song on a biwa, a Japanese lute. Relaxed and distracted, the man fails to notice as the Jorōgumo binds them with silk threads.

By the time he figures out what's happening, he'll be trapped, and she'll enjoy an easy course for her next meal. Men, what have we learned from Jorōgumo and Yuki-onna? Beware of random hot chicks.

Kuchisake-onna with and without mask.
Kuchisake-onna with and without mask.

1. Kuchisake-onna

Translation: "Slit-mouthed woman"

Yikes. This horrific legend was once a simple wife, but her husband mutilated her face and killed her; she now haunts mankind as a vengeful spirit.

I realize she had an awful spouse, but Kuchisake-onna is not someone you want to encounter. Typically acting at night, she'll target a victim, often a child, and ask them "Am I pretty?". A response of "No" will result in her murdering the victim; a "Yes" leads to her mutilating their face to look like hers. Plus, she's said to be impossible to run away from; no matter how fast you go, she'll beat you to your destination.

The best defense to her questions? Ask her something that'll throw her off guard or distract her and make her think, like "You look average". Additionally, one can tell her that they have prior engagement they really must head off to, and she'll pardon herself. Let no one say this vengeful spirit doesn't have manners.

Still, the scariest thing about her might be the many reported sightings of her in real life. In 2004, a woman in South Korea wearing a red mask chased children; reports from the 1970's also feature a lady pursuing kids. Remember to stay on guard when moving through the night, and always have your children under supervision.. Lest the haunting Kuchisake-onna find her next target.

Your Vote

Which monster most terrifies you?

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Other Legends

Hopefully you've enjoyed examining some ominous Japanese legends. Let me know which creature spooks you the most, and I'll see you at our next folk lore examination!

If you'd like to explore more creepy Japanese she-monsters, check out the rain-bringing Ameonna, the fanged Amanozako, and the neck-extending Rukurokobi.


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    • Tristan Shaw profile image

      Tristan Shaw 

      4 years ago

      Even if she doesn't kill people, I thought the futakuchi-onna was the creepiest monster here.


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