A-Yokai-A-Day: Kage-onna

Today was the first actually chilly day this fall. I was beginning to get worried because we had such a long, hot summer — I was afraid our fall would be late and warm as well. I finally noticed a little bit of color on the trees today, though, and I had to wear a light jacket today. It was wonderful, and it really made me feel like this is fall; and it really made me feel like Halloween is coming soon! And this perfect fall weather couldn’t have come at a better time, because we are now most definitely in the 3rd and final section of 2010’s A-Yokai-A-Day project: scary women! From now on until the end of the month I will bring you a different scary/evil/ghostly woman straight out of Japan’s most chilling ghost tales. Let’s take a look at today’s:


With a name like kage-onna, or “shadow woman,” this yokai is pretty self descriptive. There are a number of ancient tales of this yokai/ghost appearing in homes, but they generally follow the same theme: the shadow of a young woman appears mysteriously on the opposite side of the shoji, or rice-paper door, but when you check the other side, there is nobody there. She may be accompanied by noises as well. The stories of people haunted by kage-onna generally don’t have people running screaming out of the house… they’re eerie and creepy, but more-or-less benign. Perhaps the creepiest thing, though, is that while usually this monster takes the form of a younger, attractive woman… other days, for no apparent reason, the shadow will be that of a withered old crone with a bell hanging from her neck.

On first thought, that doesn’t seem so scary to most people… but think about it, and visualize it. It’s pretty terrifying. I know — I sleep right next to our window, and I see shadows playing on the curtains all the time… and I have to go to bed right after writing this…

One other foreboding thing about kage-onna is that she often haunts houses that are already full of other yokai or mononoke. So if you happen to see one of these at your window, perhaps you should be expecting other company very very soon!



Check my Etsy store for the most recent yokai fine art prints! And check back again later this week for when I list the final batch of yokai prints for sale!

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