Yuki Onba and Yukinko – The Snow Mother and the Snow Child

Suuhi_Yuki-onna

Translated and Sourced from Mizuki Shigeru’s Mujyara, Miyagi-ken no Kowai Hanashi, Japanese Wikipedia, and Other Sources

Walking along a forest path at night in the dead of winter, you come upon a poor young mother. She is dressed in only a thin, white kimono, and desperately clutches her newborn baby to her chest. Seeing you, her face lights up with hope and she holds out her baby to you, begging for help. But you must harden your heart and walk away from this tragic scene—for if you take the offered baby, you will be frozen to the spot, trapped; a fresh meal for the Yuki Onba and her terrible little offspring, the Yukinko.

What Do Yuki Onba and Yukinko Mean?

Yuki Onba’s name is a little awkward to put into English. It uses the kanji 雪 (yuki; snow) + 乳母 (onba; nursing mother.) English doesn’t really have a specific word for mothers with newborns who are still nursing. In Japanese, the word onba can also mean wet-nurse, but it this case it refers specifically to a woman with a baby still young enough to be breastfeeding.

The baby in this two-person yokai combo is called a Yukinko, and uses the kanji雪 (yuki; snow) + 子 (ko; child) to make 雪ん子 – Yukinko.

Yuki Onna or Yuki Onba?

The Yuki Onna, Japan’s Snow Woman, is one of the most difficult yokai to write about. Mostly because there are innumerable different versions of her tale, and a multitude of names that she goes by. It is difficult to determine exactly what a Yuki Onna is. Like this one—is the Yuko Onba a separate yokai, or just the Yuki Onna by a different name?

I thought the two were different enough that I decided to break the Yuki Onba stories out as a separate yokai. But just as often you will hear the same stories referring to a Yuki Onna. Even then, no matter what you call her—Yuki Onba or Yuki Onna—she is just a snowy version of Japan’s famous ubume legends (See Two Tales of Ubume).

I don’t know what it is in Japanese folklore about a woman offering you a baby to hold, but there are few things more terrifying. In the snow or in the woods or on the beach, if a mysterious woman in Japan asks you to hold her baby, just say no. There are often grave consequences.

What is the Yukinko?

The little baby in this two-yokai combo doesn’t play much of a role—it is just a newborn baby asleep in swaddling clothes. There is some questions as to whether the Yukinko exists at all, or is just a creation by the Yuki Onba as a way to lay her trap. But as you will see from some of the stories, there is evidence that the Yuki Onba cares deeply for the Yukinko. This suggests it is a real child after all.

Buson_Ubume

Tale of the Yuki Onba and Yukinko #1

This story comes from Hirosaki city, in Aomori prefecture.

It is said on dark and snowy nights, travelers sometimes encounter a poor woman holding tight a child standing alone in the middle of a forest. The woman will approach the man and beg him to hold her child. If the man accepts, and holds the child, he is frozen to his spot. Unable to move, the Yuki Onba laughs as snow drifts build around him and freezes him to death. If the man refuses to hold the child, the consequences are equally deadly. The Yuki Onba pounds the man on the head in rage, and drives him into the snow like a hammer hitting a nail. Either way, the man becomes a feast for the Yuki Onba and her demon child.

One clever warrior got the better of the Yuki Onba though. Accepting the offered child, he took his short sword and held it between his teeth. As he held the child, he pulled its head closer to his dagger. Finally, when the sword was a hair’s breadth from slicing the child, the trembling mother asked the man to return her child. The warrior returned the child to its frozen mother, who wept with joy. The Yuki Onba was so grateful she showered the warrior with gold and gifted him supernatural strength.

Tale of the Yuki Onba and Yukinko #2

This story comes from Miyagi prefecture.

A group of samurai were on duty, guarding the borders of their lord’s town. They camped in the forest, and huddled around a fire at night to keep warm. As they sat around the fire they swapped tales. One samurai said these woods were terrorized by a Yuki Onba, and that she had been seen recently. His companions laughed and chided him for believing in children’s stories.

Eventually, one of the warriors excused himself and headed into the dark forest to relieve himself. As he went further into the forest, he saw the dim outline of a beautiful woman clutching a tiny baby. He approached cautiously, and saw that she was crying. The woman asked the samurai to please hold her small child and protect him from the cold. The samurai was moved to sympathy by the scene, and took the baby in his arms. To his surprise, it was colder than the snow around him, and stuck fast to his arms. He could not put it down. The child also grew immensely heavy, and the warrior fell to his knees under its weight. The last thing he saw on Earth was the woman’s tears fading and a broad smile growing across her face.

The next morning, his companions found him frozen solid, clutching a giant icicle.

After other encounters with the deadly Yuki Onba, the samurai were determined to rid the town of her and set off hunting her in the forest. One warrior came across a tiny child running freely in the snow. The man was shocked, as the child was so small he came up only half-way to his knees. As he chased after the child, something incredibly happened. With each step, the child seemed to grow larger and larger. Soon it was past the warrior’s waist, and then his shoulders, and then as tall as the warrior himself. Suddenly, the boy turned and grinned at his pursuer. And he kept growing. Right before the warrior’s eyes, he grew to the size of a house.

Steeling his nerves, the warrior drew his sword and charged at the gigantic baby, slashing with all his might. Much to his surprise, the baby shattered into a million shards with a single blow, like a hollow ice sculpture. There was nothing left.

And, for whatever reason, the Yuki Onba and her child were never seen again in that forest.

Translator’s Note:

A new snow yokai for December! I had a difficult time figuring this one out. Originally I put the Yukinko with the Snow Babies entry, but it didn’t really fit. Then I had them both in the general Yuki Onna entry (Coming soon!), but it didn’t fit there either. I finally decided the stories were unique enough to warrant their own entry.

The only problem is—there are no pictures. I wasn’t able to find a single image of a Yuki Onba (or Yuki Onna) carrying her child. Even though the stories are a large part of the folklore, it doesn’t seem to have been a popular topic for artists. Probably because the general tale is so similar to Ubume legends. (Similar being an understatement—this IS the Ubume legend, just set in the snow.)

So I cheated on the pictures. These are actually pictures of a Yuki Onna and an Ubume. You’ll have to use your imagination to put them together for a true image of a Yuki Onba and her murderous child, the Yukinko!

Further Reading:

For more Japanese snow monster tales, check out:

Yuki Warashi / Yukibo– The Snow Baby

Yukinba / Yukifuriba – The Snow Hag

Oshiroi Baba – The White Face Powder Hag

Tsurara Onna – The Icicle Woman

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Yuki Warashi / Yukinbo – The Snow Babies

Mizuki Shigeru Yukinbo

Translated and Sourced from Mizuki Shigeru’s Mujyara, Japanese Wikipedia, and Other Sources

Snow and ice have a certain magic to them. You can craft them into whatever shape you want, from snow men to snow wives to snow babies. And—legend tells us—if you wish hard enough, they just might come to life. But snow is fickle. To an elderly childless couple, it might bring joy and comfort—but only for a little while. Spring comes and snow melts and takes the beauty and magic with it. That is the lesson of the story of the Yuki Warashi.

The Yukinbo, however. tells an entirely different kind of story …

What Do Yuki Warashi and Yukinbo Mean?

Both of these snow babies’ names mean roughly the same thing, just using different kanji

  • 雪童子 – Yuki Warashi – Combines雪 (yuki; snow) + 童子 (warashi; small child). Sharp-eared readers will recognize this as using the same kanji as the good luck house spirit Zashiki Warashi.
  • 雪坊 – Yukinbo – Combines雪 (yuki; snow) + 坊 (bo; priest). Note that by itself “bo” is a slang term for young boys, like the diminutive “Bo-chan.” Of the two names, only the Yukinbo specifies a gender.

What Do They Look Like?

Images of the Yuki Warashi and Yunkinbo are exceedingly rare. When they do appear, they look like cute, red-cheeked children clad in the traditional straw-peaked snow jackets. Their jackets have a hood that comes up to a point so that the snow can’t accumulate. The hood ties under the chin, and there are armholes that give freedom of movement.

Yuki_Warashi_Childrens_Book

From the children’s book お化けの冬ごもり (Obake no Fuyu Gomori)

In some Yuki Warashi depictions their face is blank and featureless like a doll. This comes less from folklore and stories and more from folk art. Wooden sculptures of children dressed in this ancient costume are popular. In fact, people in snowy regions still dress their children in these costumes for pictures. After all, they are awfully cute. But not every child in a straw snow coat is snow baby.

Definitely not a Yukinbo, unless they are hopping on one leg …

Yuki Warashi – The Good Little Snow Child

This is a legend from Nigata prefecture.

Long ago there was an old, childless couple. They were very lonely, and wished desperately for a child. One snowy day, in order to distract themselves from their desolation, they went out into the new fallen snow and sculpted a snow child. Pleased with their creation, they went back inside.

That night there was a fierce blizzard. There was a knock and the door, and when they answered it the couple were shocked to see a bright, young child leap into their house. They were too overjoyed to question their good fortune, and welcomed the child into their hearts. They loved their snow baby, and vowed to raise it with affection.

The new family passed a wonderful winter together, but as spring neared the couple noticed that their child got slimmer and slimmer. They were terribly worried, and woke up one morning to find their child gone completely. Their hearts were broken, but there was nothing they could do.

Time passed, and soon it was winter again. On yet another storming snowy night, there was a knock at the door and the couple’s happy snow baby came bounding home again, fat and happy and red-cheeked. The couple realized that this was the spirit of the child they sculpted out of snow, could only stay with them through the winter.

This pattern repeated itself for many years, until one day the snow baby came no more. They never saw their child again. But the couple was content with what happiness the kami allotted them, and forever cherished the sweet memories of their snow baby.

Yukinbo – The One-Legged Snow Boy

The Yukinbo comes from Wakayama prefecture, and is essentially a personification of a natural phenomenon.

As anyone who lives in a snowy climate—or participates in winter sports—knows, the snow around trees and plants melts faster than elsewhere. We call these “tree wells” when skiing, and falling into a tree well can be a dangerous proposition. You sink into the semi-melted snow and can have a hard time tunneling back out.

Strangely, there is no real known scientific explanation for this. Oh, there are theories to be sure, most amounting to internal heat generated by the plants. But there is no absolute answer (At least not according to Susan Pell, director of science at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.)

But the people of Wakayama didn’t need science. They knew tree wells were cause by a one-legged yokai called the Yukinbo who came out in the morning and hopped circles around trees.

Translator’s Note:

More snow monsters for December! Although they aren’t really related, I decided to combine the Yuki Warashi and Yukinbo into a single entry. Mainly because they are both obscure, without much detail to their stories and descriptions. Also because of a lack of pictures. I wasn’t able to find a single picture of a Yukinbo. Neither of them appear in my volumes of Mizuki Shigeru’s Mujyara, except as footnotes to other yokai, nor do they appear in Toriyama’s catalogs of any other yokai resource. But they are cool legends, so I decided to add them to the series.

Yukinbo and Kitaro

The Yukinbo in particular gave me some trouble. As a one-legged snow monster he shares and almost identical story to the Yukinba and Yuki Nyudo. I considered sticking them all together, but eventually went with age/gender instead of number of limbs. The Yukiba went with the Yukifuriba, and the Yuki Nyudo will go with the Yukifuri Bozu (If I have time to get around the them!)

Related Stories:

For more December yokai chills, check out:

Tsurara Onna – The Icicle Woman

Yukiba/Yukifuriba – The Snow Hags

Oshiroi Baba – The Wife Face Powder Hag

Yukinba/Yukifuriba – The Snow Hags

Bakemono_Yuki-baba

Translated and Sourced from Bakemono Emaki, Japanese Wikipedia, and Other Sources

Hopping on one foot and eternally hunting for children to eat, the Yukinba is one of Japan’s most horrible snow monsters. While most snow monsters, like the Tsurara Onna and the Oshiroi Baba, bring some measure of cold comfort, the Yukinba is all bad. Yukifuriba may have a prettier name, but she is equally dangerous.

What Does Yukinba Mean?

Like most of Japan’s snow yokai, Yukinba’s name is straight forward. It combines the kanji雪 (yuki; snow) + 婆 (ba; hag). There are a few regional variations. In Yamagata prefecture she is known as the Yukinbanba (雪ばんば) with “banba” being a regional dialect for “hag.”

The related yokai, the Yukifuriba, has a much more poetic name. 雪降り(yukifuri; falling snow) + 婆 (ba; hag, old woman) makes for The Old Woman of the Falling Snow.

Names aside, the main difference is of appearance. The Yukinba looks like a nightmare; a giant, old woman’s head hopping on one leg, with sharp, biting teeth and grasping hands. The Yukifuriba looks like a regular old woman with pale, white skin and wrapped in a thin, white kimono. In fact, the Yukifuriba looks like an elderly version of the young and beautiful Yuki Onna. The Yukifuriba’s most distinguishing characteristic is the red rope she carries.

The Story of the Yukinba

Yukinba is a relatively obscure yokai, coming from town of Hirano in Ehime prefecture. She appears only in a single scroll, the Meiji period Bakemono Emaki by an unknown artist.

The story goes like this:

A man was talking a walk through the mountain where the pine trees grow, enjoying a fresh February snowfall. He heard the voice of a kindly old woman calling for help, and he dashed off to find her. Instead of an old woman, however, he saw a monstrosity hopping on one leg. That man ran away as fast as his feet could carry him

Old Lady Child Eaters

Both the Yukinba and the Yukifuriba are notorious child eaters. They hide in the mountains and call out to children in an old woman’s voice, preying on the trusting nature of children. They lure they children in close them capture and eat them. Parents in the frozen countries, and especially Echigo province (modern day Nigata prefecture), are warned not to let their children outside to play on nights when the Yukinba and Yukifuriba are hunting.

Child eating is a trait they share in common with the Yamauba mountain witch. In fact, the Yukifuriba is considered to be a “snow version” of the Yamauba in the same way that the yeti can be considered a snow version of sasquatch.

Why One Foot?

The Yukinba belongs to a wide class of one-footed yokai grouped under the general name of Ippon Datara. Most of these are snow monsters, like the Yuki Nyudo and the Yukibo. The legend comes from an uneven patter of snow melting. When snow melts in pockets, it looks like something with a single, large leg has been hopping around the forest. In the case of the Yukibo, this happens in tree wells. Ancient Japanese people saw these markings, and imagined a one-legged snow monster to account for them.

Why a Red Rope?

The exact reason behind the red rope of the Yukifuriba is lost to time. But there are two compelling reasons. The first, and most simple, is that she uses it to tie children up and eat them. The second, and most compelling, is that in ancient Japanese funerals corpses were bound up before being buried. This job was usually done by an outcast of some sort, as handling corpses was considered taboo and unclean. Old women with no other means of support sometimes took on these kind of jobs to survive. So the image of the Yukifuriba carrying her red rope might be an image of a poor old woman coming to bind up a corpse—certainly a frightening thing to think about.

Translator’s Notes:

Another snow monster for December! These ones are actual monsters, although rather obscure ones. Accounts of the Yukinba are rare, and there is only this single historical picture that I was able to find. I couldn’t find any pictures of the Yukifuriba. They didn’t even rate an entry in Mizuki Shigeru’s Mujyara, at least not in volumes I have. It is possible they appears in later volumes.

I wasn’t quite sure how to handle Yukinba and Yukifuriba, but finally decided to combine them into a single entry. They are similar enough, except for appearance. And I only had the one picture …

Further Reading:

For more snow yokai from Japan, check out:

Tsurara Onna – The Icicle Woman

Oshiroi Baba – The White Face Powder Hag

Tsurara Onna – The Icicle Woman

Mizuki_Shigeru_Tsurara_Onnna

Translated and Sourced from Mizuki Shigeru’s Mujyara, Kaii Yokai Densho Database, Japanese Wikipedia, and Other Sources

Is Japan’s Icicle Woman naughty or nice? Loving or lethal? If the stories are to be believed, Japan’s answer to Pygmalion can swing both ways. So a warning to men—if you fashion a woman out of an icicle, even when you pour your entire heart into it, don’t be surprised if she turns out cold-blooded.

What Does Tsurara Onna Mean?

Another yokai with a straight-forward name, tsurara onna’s name is written asつらら (tsurara; icicle) + 女 (onna; woman). Strangely enough, she almost never uses the kanji for tsurara (氷柱), always using the hiragana instead. The only reason I can think of for this is that kanji was once considered masculine for names, and hiragana feminine. It’s a possibility, but that’s all it is.

There are two regional variations on Tsurara Onna, using local dialect for the word “icicle.” One is Shigama Nyobo (シガマ女房; Icicle Wife) from Western Aomori prefecture, and the other is Kanekori Musume  (カネコリ娘; Icicle Daughter) from Gifu prefecture.

What are Tsurara Onna?

All Tsurara Onna stories start out the same—a lonely man gazes out of his window in winter, and marvels at the beauty of an icicle hanging from his eaves. As he stares deeply into its crystal structure, he wishes he could meet a woman as beautiful as the icicle to ease the pains of his loneliness. Like magic (for it is indeed magic) a woman fitting that description shows up the very next day.

The woman appears at the man’s door, seeking refuge from a massive, sudden snow storm. The man lets the beautiful woman in, and they fall in love. The woman decides never to leave, and the two become husband and wife. (In old Japan, no ceremony was necessary for this; as soon as a couple decided they were married, then they were married).

Life is good—for a while. The man’s new wife is attentive and loving and everything he hoped for. But then things go wrong, because there is rarely a Happily Ever After in Japanese folklore, and never when you are dealing with snow monsters.

Tsurara Onna tales fork at this point, into one of two endings. The ending you get depends largely on the region of Japan you live in.

Story #1 – The Sweet Woman Undone by Her Husband’s Love

The man is overjoyed at his new wife, but worried too. He cannot help but notice that his bride never uses the bath, even on the most chilly of nights. The poor man is worried about his wife’s health—surely she will take sick if she does not warm herself in the bath? Not to mention cleanliness. Time after time, he entreats her to use the bath. They are married now, he assures her, and she shouldn’t feel shy or ashamed.

The woman demurs, but eventually she can no longer refuse her husband. After he prepares a warming bath for her, the man busies himself about the house so she can enjoy her soak. Hours pass, and the man becomes worried about her. Perhaps she has fallen asleep? He goes into the back to check on her, and finds the tub empty, with only frozen shards of shattered icicles laying around the perimeter of the bath. These too slowly melt away …

This version of the tale is most often found in the Tohoku region, including Aomori and Nigata prefectures. There are some further variations:

Yamagata Prefecture – The woman does not go to the bath, but into the kitchen to heat up some hot sake for her husband. After a long wait, he goes to the kitchen to find the shattered icicle shards.

Akita Prefecture – This version has a husband and wife taking care of a young woman traveler instead of a new bride; but the results are the same. Against her wishes, into the bath the young traveler goes.

Story #2 – The Frozen Dagger of Hate

Her, the husband does not coax his wife into the bath, or ask her to retrieve hot sake for him. Instead they pass the winter in bliss. But as spring comes and the temperature warms, the man notices his wife getting anxious. One day he wakes up to find her gone, the door of their house standing open and the last of the winter winds blowing through.

The man is heartbroken, but assumes his wife has left him after using him for shelter though the winter. He moves on with his life, and meets a new woman and falls in love. Come summer, he moves his new wife into his house. They pass the months happily until winter comes again.

When the world again freezes over, the man notices a particularly large icicle forming from the eaves of his house. Fascinated by it, he goes outside for a better look. There he sees his former wife, livid that she has been replaced.

Inside the house, the new wife hears her husband shriek in agony. She rushes outside and finds him dead, a large icicle piercing his head through his eyeball.

This angrier version of the Tsurara Onna tale is found mostly in Nigata prefecture.

Translator’s Note:

The second in a series on snow monsters for December, the Tsurara Onna is a type of story found all over the world. A man bringing a woman to life from an inanimate object is a typical folklore story, the archetype of which is the Greek story of Pygmalion. With the second version of Tsurara Onna, I also can’t help but think of a sexier, angrier version of Frosty the Snowman—especially how she has to leave in the spring and return in the winter.

The Tsurara Onna also falls into the “magical wife” category so often found in Japanese folklore. These come in a myriad of variety, but always with the same simple plot. An unmarried man suddenly meets a wonderful woman, and they are married. They can stay happy forever so long as the husband obeys a single rule (for example, “Don’t look in a box,” or “Don’t tell anyone your story,” or “Don’t make me take a bath.”). The rule is inevitably broken, the wife leaves—with or without vengeance—and the man is left alone again, knowing that he could have had a happy life if he just would have obeyed the stupid rule.

Further Reading:

For more tales of snow monsters and magical wives, check out:

Oshiroi Baba – The White Face Powder Hag

Kitsune no Yomeiri – The Fox Wedding

The Yurei Child

Oshiroi Baba – The Face Powder Hag

Mizuki_Shigeru_Oshiroibaba

Translated and Sourced from Mizuki Shigeru’s Mujyara, Konjyaku Hyakki Shui, and Japanese Wikipedia

Weather-beaten, sake-bearing snow lady or servant to the Goddess of Cosmetics? It all depends on who ask when you are dealing with Oshiroi Baba – The Face Powder Hag.

What Does Oshiroi Baba Mean?

Oshiroi Baba uses the kanji 白粉 (oshiroi; white face powder) + 婆 (baba; old woman, hag). The word oshiroi specifically refers to the white face powder used by geisha and maiko.

Her name is pretty straight forward, and leans towards the Goddess of Cosmetics definition of this yokai.

What Does Oshiroi Baba Look Like?

No matter which definition of Oshiroi Baba you prefer, she always looks the same. An ancient woman with a back severely bent by age, she leans on a bamboo cane. She wears a ragged kimono and a massive, straw umbrella hat covered in heavy snow. In her hand is a bottle of sake, usually a classic ceramic tokkuri. Her face is covered in oshiroi powder, often slathered on without delicacy or care.

By some accounts she drags a mirror behind her, which clangs and rattles in her wake. The mirror, however, is almost always heard but not seen. Few depictions of the Oshiroi Baba include this detail.

Servant to The Goddess of Cosmetics

SekienOshiroi-baba

Oshiroi Baba appears in Toriyama Sekien’s Konjyaku Hyakki Shui (今昔百鬼拾遺; Supplement to The Hundred Demons from the Present and the Past). Toriyama wrote:

“Legend tells of a Goddess of Crimson Cosmetics named Shifun Senjo (脂粉仙娘). Her servant is the possibly Oshiroi Baba, who comes on moonlit nights in the twelfth month as she has since long ago.”

The source for Toriyama’s picture and story are not known. In fact, even this so-called “Goddess of Crimson Cosmetics” Shifun Senjo appears nowhere other than Toriyama’s prescription. Draw what conclusions from that as you may.

The Sake-Bearing Snow Hag

Another legend of the Oshiroi Baba supposedly comes from the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa prefecture. The story tells of an old yokai woman who comes out during heavy snow storms bringing hot sake to those in need—like some alcohol-bearing Santa Claus.

This story comes from folklorist Fujiwara Morihiko’s book Zusetsu Minzokugaku Zensho(図説民俗学全集; Complete Illustrated Work of Folklore). Fujiwara describes the Oshiroi Baba as analogous to the Yuki Onna. However, there is no supporting evidence to Fujiwara’s claims, and subsequent folklorists have been unable to find any such legends from the Noto Peninsula or elsewhere.

The Oshiroi Baba of Hasedera Temple

Oshiroi Baba HyakumonogatariOshiroi Baba from the film Yokai Hyakumonogatari. Image found on this site.

A further story of the Oshiroi Baba comes from Hasedera Temple in Nara prefecture. It has been sourced back to the Muromachi period, and has little in common with other legends.

In the 6th year of Tembun (1537), Abbot Koshin of Hasedera Temple had an idea to help the war-torn state of the nation. He would assemble artistic monks from across the country to paint an image of the Goddess Kannon—an image on a sheet of paper as large as the Hondo main temple itself.

Unfortunately, the army of the Ashikaga shogunate came into town at the same time, and requisitioned all of the provisions that were supposed to go to feeding the artist-monks. With the food all going to the soldiers, the monks were starving and were unable to complete their painting. They pleaded and prayed to Kannon to give them the means to finish their great work.

The next day, a young monk spotted an unknown young woman washing rice down at the local well. She pulled rice from her bucket, washed and ground it on a stone, then set it into a plate to dry. The strange thing was, her bucket never seemed to empty. So long as she left a single grain behind, the bucket would magically refill with rice. Soon there was enough rice to feed the entire Temple.

The young monk was amazed, and felt this woman must be an emissary of Kannon, if not Kannon herself. But as she was bent over her work, he could not see her face. And the young monk desperately wanted to see her face. He came up with a plan and lobbed a small stone at her back. As she looked up, he saw her face glowed with a holy light. Her skin was snow white, and looked as if she were made of oshiroi powder. And in spite of the young appearance of her body, her face was deeply lined as if she felt all of the worries of the monks of the world.

Fortified by this miracle, the artist monks were able to finish their portrait. In gratitude, they enshrined the Oishiroi Baba and built a temple in her honor. This temple can still be seen on the grounds of Hasedera Temple today.

Translator’s Note:

My theme for December is snow monsters, so of course the first one I pick isn’t really a snow monster! Well, I suppose it all depends on which legend you prefer. There is very little background on this yokai, and most agree that it was invented by Toriyama Sekein and that others have attempted to fill in the blanks ever since. Why he would draw an old woman in the snow, then make her the servant of some mysterious Goddess of Cosmetics, is a mystery. Not to mention the fact that she is clearly carrying a sake bottle and not some sort of cosmetics palette … ah well, no one every accused Toriyama of making sense.

Personally, I like the sake-bearing snow yokai who bounds up like some sort of magical St. Bernard dog or Santa Claus and pours hot sake down the throats of those in need. I think it suits the image best.  But then I also love the story of Hasedera Temple, as that was a temple I spent quite a bit of time at when I was a JET in Nara prefecture. I heard the story of the rice when I was there, but never connected it with the Oshiroi Baba until now.

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