Japanese mythology is filled with mysterious and enchanting yokai—spirits, monsters, deities, and unexplained phenomena. Some yokai are more dangerous than others. Despite their unintimidating name, the warai-onna, which literally translates to “laughing woman”, are among the deadliest.
Warai-onna are found in the mountains, where woodcutters and travelers supposedly hear them cackling after dark. They take the form of beautiful teenage girls. There are also male warai-onna, called warai-otoko, which take on the form of beautiful teenage boys and behave exactly the same. Their defining characteristic is their laughter, which is lethally contagious.
When someone encounters a warai-onna on the mountain paths, she will smile and laugh at them. Anyone who returns her laugh will find themselves unable to stop laughing after she leaves. According to the tales, the victim will laugh for days before succumbing to a fever and dying. Even those who manage to flee an encounter and survive will be haunted by the warai-onna’s hysterical laughter for the rest of their lives.
Reportedly, warai-onna come out on specific days of the month. Nearby villagers learn to avoid the mountains on those days to keep from being caught up in the effect. Interestingly, warai-onna do not appear to be actively malevolent. Like many other yokai, they seem to be almost incidentally dangerous to humans. The result is not dissimilar from an earthquake or a blizzard.
In Tale of Ronin, players may well encounter people who believe in the threat of warai-onna and live accordingly. With so many men forced onto the roads, avoiding locations said to be haunted by threatening yokai may not be a choice. Certain choices may even lead gamers to meet mysterious figures with wide, leering grins and laughter that’s impossible to get out of one’s head.