Yuki-Onna : Lady of the Snows; Snow Woman; The Snow Princess

Travellers caught in snowstorms in Japan, especially in the mountains, describe encountering a ghostly woman: Yuki-Onna, the Snow Princess. She’s tall and beautiful with very pale skin and breath like ice. She looks serene and doesn’t appear to be freezing, unlike the poor traveller. Sometimes she wears a white kimono, which should be a tip-off to her supernatural identity. Not only is it too cold to be walking around wearing nothing but a kimono but in traditional Japanese culture, white is associated with death, not brides. Sometimes Yuki-Onna appears stark naked in sub-zero weather, which should be an even greater tip-off.

Few survive encounters with Yuki-Onna, although some do or we would not have these stories. Encounters with Yuki-Onna are not invariably fatal. Every once in a while she helps travellers in the snow. Occasionally she engages in sacred marriage.

That said, Yuki-Onna is a death goddess. She is the essence of the killing power of snow. Her methods vary:

• She may breathe on someone and fatally freeze them.

• She may deliver the coup de grâce with a kiss.

• She may lead travelers astray on snowy nights. Hopelessly lost, they die in the snow.

• Sometimes she has sex with men before they die.

• Sometimes she kills people in their sleep. They fall asleep in the snow, never to wake.

• Sometimes she carries a baby and will ask someone to please hold her child. Those who do instantly freeze to death.

Nothing indicates that refusing to hold her child will save you. If you’re caught in a snowstorm alone with Yuki-Onna in the middle of nowhere, it’s possible that the only thing that can save you is her mercy.

Frequently classified as a vampiric spirit, Yuki-Onna fatally sucks the breath from her victims, albeit gently and maybe even sweetly. As she’s an erotic spirit, frequently engaging in sex with her victims, she’s sometimes classified as a succubus. Alternatively, Yuki-Onna may be considered a goddess of mercy. She appears to those who are doomed or already dying and blesses them with a peaceful, quiet, even happy death rather than a prolonged, fearful, agonized one. As angels of death go, there are far worse.

Yuki-Onna most typically reveals herself to those who are stuck in snowstorms, but she doesn’t have to stay outside. She can invade a home in the form of a gust of wind. She can transform into a frosty white mist or vapor that enters buildings through cracks or keyholes. Some legends say that snowflakes are her teardrops. More malevolent legends suggest that Yuki-Onna doesn’t just appear when it snows; she actually creates blizzards, actively entrapping people within them.

Although Yuki-Onna’s appearance during a snowstorm may be the indication that all hope is gone, she will occasionally help people. If really desperately lost in the snow, a last-ditch invocation of Yuki-Onna may be worthwhile.

Yuki-Onna makes frequent appearances in literature, movies, manga, and anime:

• Her myth is most famously retold in Lafcadio Hearn’s 1904 Kwaidan: Ghost Stories and Strange Tales of Old Japan.

• A filmed version is included in director Masaki Kobayashi’s 1965 classic, Kwaidan.

• Yuki-Onna is the inspiration for the CLAMP manga Shirahime Syo (“Tales of the Snow Princess”).


A tall, serene, cold woman with long black hair. She may lack feet. Yuki-Onna can also appear as vapor, cold wind, or snow. Alternatively, Yuki-Onna is snow that sometimes takes the form of a woman.


Yuki-Onna rides a great white wolf, although she can also glide through the air.




  • Cihuacoatl
  • Ghost
  • Vampire
  • White Lady (1)
  • Yokai
  • The Snow Bride


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.

Yuki Ona (OO- key OWN- ah)
Variation: Yuki Onna, Yuki- Onne
In Japanese lore there is a type of vampiric spirit known as a yuki ona (“snow woman”). It levitates rather than walks and appears to its victims as a tall and beautiful woman with impossibly long HAIR and inhumanly pale skin. Sometimes a yuki ona will show itself wearing a pure white kimono, but other times it will appear in the nude. On occasion, it will be holding a child in its arms. A yuki ona is perfectly camouflaged against a snowy backdrop, and combined with its ability to shape- shift into a cloud of mist or falling snow, it can be impossible to find.

The yuki ona is only active in the winter months as its hunting methods require. It will lead travelers astray, assuring they die from exposure or by breathing on them with its icy breath to make sure they meet the same death, but more quickly. It will appear before parents who are looking for their child; the yuki ona will seem to be holding it, beckoning for them to come and claim it. As soon as they do, taking it into their arms, the yuki ona turns them into ice. It has also been known to be aggressive, and although under normal circumstance it must be invited into a home, it will burst into a person’s home by sending a gust of icy wind, freezing the occupants, especially the sleeping ones, to death. Not afraid to uses it beauty as a lure, it will tempt men into having sexual intercourse with it, and all the while the yuki ona will drain them of their life-energy, pleasuring them until they die (see ENERGY VAMPIRE). When it wishes it, one look into its eyes will cause a person to go insane. With each death it causes, it absorbs the life- energy of its victims.

It is only on the very rare occasion that a yuki ona will allow a potential victim to live, but he must beg for his life and be so moving and convincing when promising that he will never tell anyone about the encounter that even the icy heart of the yuki ona is moved

  • Davis, Myths and Legends of Japan, 149–53,391;
  • Mack, Field Guide to Demons, 64;
  • Perez, Beings, 35;
  • Smith, Ancient Tales and Folklore of Japan, 307–11


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