Have you ever heard of the saying “a heart that’s cold as ice?” A term usually used by people to describe someone who is cold-hearted and stern towards them. Sometimes, it’s used to identify someone who expresses no emotion. This lesser known youkai, the Yuki-onna (雪女) or Snow Woman, takes that famous saying in a literal sense, making people living in high and cold places shiver in fear.
The Yuki-onna would usually appear during snowy nights. She would appear as a tall woman with otherworldly beauty, bewitching mortals with her long black hair and her piercing violet eyes, which strike terror to whoever stare at them. Her skin is described to be as white as snow, easily blending in with the environment. Her body is as cold as ice, a single touch enough to make humans feel an unshakeable chill. Most people say that she wears a white kimono, while some identify her as a nude woman with her hair and face standing out. She is said to be the personification of death, but other stories focus more on her gentler side. One of her key features is that she is able to transform into a cloud of snow or mist when she feels like she’s being threatened.
In the Niigata Prefecture, there was an elderly man who operated an inn on a mountain trail with his wife. One snowy night, a woman traveling alone visited the inn. She warms herself up by the fire and eats with the innkeeper and his wife. The woman was described to be strikingly beautiful, sweet and charming. It took the old man by surprise when the girl insisted on leaving the inn in the middle of the night despite the fierce blizzard happening outside. When the innkeeper begged for her to not go outside and took her hand, feeling that it was as cold as ice. This simple touch sucked all the warmth out of his body. As he tried to keep the woman inside the inn, her body turned into an icy mist, flying through the chimney and out into the night.
Another legend came from the Yamagata Prefecture, this being about a man who claims that he was married to the youkai. He claimed his wife to be beautiful with piercing eyes and skin similar to a marble statue. He was puzzled, however, when his wife would refuse to bathe with him at night. One particularly chilly night, he tried to convince his wife to take a long, hot bath with him or else she would freeze to death. The woman tried to fight back, but there was no other way to argue with the man, finally giving in to his request. A few minutes later, the man went to check on his wife, only to find thin, half-melted icicle fragments in the tub.
All in all, Halloween in Japan is a much different experience than other places, but still a lot of fun nonetheless. While the activities, especially the parties are oriented towards adults, there’s a lot of options for people of all ages to join in!