Hannya are Japanese horned female spirits and they are dangerous. The Hannya doesn’t need an iron club like her male compatriots, the Oni. The power of a woman scorned trumps iron weapons. According to folklore, women who die while consumed with rage and jealousy transform into Hannya, vengeful, powerful spirits. Women who committed suicide because they have been spurned, insulted, rejected, or scorned by lovers are believed especially likely to become Hannya.

The Hannya lingers on Earth, a malicious, destructive ghost, her anger overriding any residual human emotions or conscience. Hannya are perceived as negative, dreadful creatures; it is a terrible fate to become a Hannya, and so the implicit message is that women must avoid, suppress, and sublimate rage, anger, jealousy, and other dangerous emotions lest they, too, become rampaging evil spirits.

The Hannya mask, maybe the best known of Japanese Noh masks, has sharp fangs and horns and bears the name of the spirit it portrays. Older Hannya masks appear more serpentine than modern ones, where the emphasis is on horns. Hannya who are sometimes described as “snake Demons” may originally have been snake spirits.




The Hannya may sprout actual horns or her hair may form horn shapes.




  • Obake
  • Oiwa
  • Okiku
  • Oni
  • Yokai


Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.

A vampiric demon from Japan, the hannya (“empty”) feeds exclusively off truly beautiful women and infants. It is described as having a large chin, long fangs and horns, GREEN scales, a snakelike forked tongue, and eyes that burn like twin flames.

Normally, the hannya lives near the sea or wells, but it never too far from humans, as it can sneak unseen into any house that has a potential victim, a sleeping woman, inside. Just before it attacks, the hannya lets loose with a horrible shriek. While the woman is in a state of being startled, the vampire possesses her, slowly driving her insane, physically altering her body into that of a hideous monster. Eventually, it drives her to attack a child, drink its blood, and eat its flesh.

There is no known potential weakness to exploit, but there is a Buddhist sutra that renders humans invisible to spirits and demons. In No drama, young men are depicted as the favourite victims of an especially vicious and vindictive hannya.




Akeru, Hannya-Shin-Kyo (“emptiness of forms”)


  • Louis-Frédéric, Japan Encyclopedia, 287­88;
  • Pollack, Reading Against Culture, 50;
  • Toki, Japanese NÉ Plays, 40


Encyclopedia of Vampire Mythology Written by Theresa Bane ©2010 Theresa Bane. All rights reserved