Yama Uba

If you go exploring in Japanese forests or mountains, keep a watchful eye out for yama uba. These yokai are actually strange old witches that live alone in remote areas. They appear as kind old ladies offering travellers a place to stay, but late at night they magically transform into ugly hags and eat their guests alive. Some believe the tales arose at a time when, during food shortages, the oldest family members were abandoned in the mountains and left to die. The haunting spirits of the old women became yama uba.
 
'Mountain Witch Holding a Hachet (Yama Uba)' - Totoya Hokkei

In Japanese folklore, the popular hero Kintaro was raised in the mountains by a yama uba. Noh plays also featured yama uba as the archetypal villain and many ukiyo-e prints depict actors in these plays in the role of the mountain witch.

Katsukawa Shunsho


Katsukawa Shunsho
Tsukioka Kogyo

Kitagawa Utamaro

Katsukawa Shunsho

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