An Introduction To Japanese Yōkai: Tsurara onna

Amongst the numerous hobbies that I enjoy, is the study of Japanese history and culture. Nestled deep in Japan’s long history are countless tales and records involving the supernatural and extraordinary. The most striking are those that surround the Yōkai. Yōkai are spirits, demons, or otherwise supernatural entities. And they are numerous, popping up all over Japanese recorded history. Even powerful leaders like Toyotomi Hideyoshi have pondered their existence and meaning. Many Yōkai are perceived to be friendly or benign. Many are seen to be a bane to the people they come in contact with, often causing mischief and problems wherever they appear. Some are even seen as holy, and tied directly to the various gods in the Shinto religion. This series is an introduction into the very deep world of the Japanese supernatural.

Tsurara onna


Tsurara onna [pronounced: T’soo* rah rah Oh’n na] directly translates as: Icicle Woman. These Yōkai are very similar to the Yuki onna, in that they are found in the frozen/snowy regions of Japan. However, unlike the Yuki onna, the Tsurara onna are not necessarily only out for vengeance. These Yōkai are said to be very beautiful, with beautiful voices to match. In a poetic sense, they embody a similar beauty that a long frozen icicle has.

*the T’soo sound is very similar to the English word ‘Two’

Often appearing in regional folklore, Tsurara onna are said to come into being by the wishes of lonely men. During the long, frigid, and depressive days/nights of winter, a lonesome yet romantic man would regularly peer from his window and admire the frozen wilds around his home. Looking at the hanging icicles that have formed from the overhang of his home, and noting how beautiful they are. From these ponderings, the Tsurara onna is born. The man and the Tsurara onna would then meet by “coincidence” , with the Yōkai regularly taking the guise of a woman seeking shelter from the cold or storm. The man would invite her in to his home, and eventually they would fall in love.

Much like the Yuki onna, Tsurara onna are Yōkai of the winter. But unlike the Yuki onna when spring comes, and the snow and ice begin to melt, the Tsurara onna too vanishes. Leaving behind a rather worried, confused, and hurt lover.

Tales of the Tsurara onna

One of the most widely known folktales involving the Tsurara onna was from the Echigo area of Japan. Which is now called Niigata Prefecture. The legend centers around a young man that was gazing from his window on a stormy winter night. As he was admiring the icicles that had formed from his roof he remarked, “I hope some day I can find a wife as beautiful as these icicles”. Later in the night came a knock at his door and a voice asking for help. The voice was young and beautiful. When the man opened his door, standing in front of him was a beautiful young woman that perfectly matched the voice he had heard. She asked for shelter from the storm, something the man could not say no too on this harsh evening.

As the storm came and went, one night of shelter turned into two nights, and 1 week turned into two weeks. And so on. After some time, the woman still remained in the mans home, and the pair had fallen in love. Eventually they got married. The lonesome man was at last happy.

One day, as it happens year after year, the weather began to change, and the days got longer. Spring was coming, and the snow and ice began to melt under the warming suns rays. The mans wife said that she was going to step out for a bit to do some shopping in town, but she never returned by nightfall. He waited, and waited, but she never came home. Even as he searched and asked if anyone had seen her, she had just up and vanished. Throughout the spring and summer he was saddened And hurt by her disappearance. But he would eventually meet another young woman, and they would get married later in the year.

By the end of the year, as winter approached, the man and his new wife were living happily together. But he still occasionally wondered what became of his lost ex-wife. Then one winter night came a knock at his door. It was none other than his missing ex-wife. The man stood there bewildered. He questioned her as to why she disappeared, to which she gave him vague answers. She spun the questioning back in his direction, asking him why he remarried. Reminding him that he had told her he would love her forever. Then with a sad face, she turned and started away.

The man followed her into the yard. After some time there was a loud noise. The mans new wife emerged from the home to see what was going on only to encounter a horrible sight. Her husband was laying on the ground. A large and strong icicle that had been hanging from their roof had crashed down on his head and impaled him. He was dead.

And the Tsurara onna was once again gone. The man’s new wife was left alone in the winter.

There are some tales that are quite similar to that of the Yuki onna. In these tales a woman comes to a home in a winter storm and the inhabitants insist that the woman warms up in the hot bath. To which, she will eventually reluctantly agree. After some time passes and the woman had not emerged from the bath, the owners would enter the room to find there is no woman there. Only small icicles remain, either floating in the cooled water, or hanging from the wall or ceiling.

For further information about Yōkai, I highly suggest A website run by Matthew Meyer. He has studied Yōkai and Japanese folklore intensively, and has also released a series of books that he wrote, designed, and illustrated. All devoted to the subject. His books and website were a major source of information for this series, and I regularly reference them. They are:

[This post was originally published at Otherverse Games & Hobbies]

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Robert is: a Hobbyist, a Music Lover, an RPG Gamer, a Mustard Lover, Chaotic Neutral, a Japanese Speaker, a Veteran, an Otaku, a Table Tennis Player, an Anime Fan, an Aviation Professional, a New York Rangers Fan, a Chaos Lover With Loyalist Tendencies.

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