Like many other yokai—Japanese spirits, monsters, and supernatural phenomena—the jorogumo is connected to a real animal. The jorogumo spider, known as the Joro spider internationally, is a species of golden orb-weaver spider. It’s usually small and timid. Most specimens reach only a few centimeters in length. However, their bodies are colorful, their webs are strong, and a particularly large Joro spider can become large enough to trap and eat small birds.
The jorogumo yokai shares many of these traits, but turned up to the extreme. Its true form is an absolutely enormous spider, large enough to prey on humans. Like kitsune and tanuki, jorogumo are shapeshifters, and they often disguise themselves as beautiful women. Unlike these trickster spirits, jorogumo are predatory, and their beauty is a trap.
Supposedly, when a Joro spider reaches 400 years of age, it develops magical powers and begins to hunt humans instead of insects. Jorogumo, meaning either “entangling bride” or “whore spider”, lure men into their lairs with promises of affection. Once a man is alone with her, the spider traps him in her web and slowly drains the life out of him. Jorogumo are said to be highly venomous, can control other spiders, and may even be able to breathe fire.
Although most jorogumo are malicious, some stories hint that more benign or at least neutral jorogumo exist. At least one tale has a jorogumo return a woodcutter’s lost ax and only attack him when he breaks his promise not to speak of her. A second version claims the pair were in love, and the woodcutter threw himself into the waterfall the jorogumo lives behind when they were not allowed to marry. Whatever the case, jorogumo generally view humans as food, and are cunning and powerful enough to remain hidden even in crowded cities for years.
In Tale of Ronin, players may well encounter people who believe in the stories of jorogumo and live accordingly. Certain choices may even lead gamers to meet beautiful women who stir a certain fight-or-flight reflex… and there are many predators to be wary of in Edo Japan.