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Japanese Culture
Yuki-onna (雪女, ゆきおんな, Yuki-onna snow woman) - A spirit or yōkai found in Japanese folklore. She is a popular figure in Japanese animation, manga, and literature. Yuki-onna is sometimes confused with Yama-uba ("mountain crone"), but the two figures are not the same.

Yuki-onna appears as a tall, beautiful woman with long hair on snowy nights. Her skin is inhumanly pale or even transparent, causing her to blend into the snowy landscape (as she is most 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, hair, and pubic region 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 notable feature for many Japanese ghosts), and she can transform into a cloud of mist or snow if she is threatened.

The Yuki-onna, being associated with winter and snowstorms, is said in some legends to be the spirit of an individual who has perished in the snow and cold. She is at the same time beautiful and serene, yet ruthless in her killing of unsuspecting mortals. Until the 18th century, she was almost uniformly portrayed as evil. Today, however, stories often color her as more human, emphasizing her ghostlike nature and ephemeral beauty.

In many stories, Yuki-onna reveals herself to travelers who find themselves trapped in snowstorms and uses her icy breath to leave them as frost-coated corpses. Other legends say that 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, he or she is 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 physically invades people's homes, blowing in the door with a gust of wind, to kill them while they sleep (though some legends require her to be invited inside first).

Exactly what Yuki-onna is after varies from tale to tale. Sometimes she is simply satisfied to see her victim's death. Other times, however, she is more vampiric, draining her victims' blood or "life force". She occasionally takes on a succubus-like manner, preying on weak-willed men in order to drain or freeze them through sexual intercourse 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 due to his beauty and age. She makes him promise to never mention her again, though, and when he relates the story to his wife much later in life, his wife reveals herself to be none other than the snow woman. She reviles him for breaking his promise but spares him yet again, this time out of concern for the children she has born him (but if he dares mistreat their children, she will return with no mercy. Luckily for him, he is already a loving father). In a similar legend, Yuki-onna melts away once her husband discovers her true nature.

Information source: “Yuki-onna.” Article date: 16 Feb. 2008. Retrieved: Wikipedia. 16 Feb. 2008 <Yuki-onna>.





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