Tale of Ronin

Yuki-Onna: Japan’s Vampiric Snow Woman

The modern vampire myth rose out of Europe, but humanoid creatures that drain the life out of others are a global phenomenon. Many Japanese yokai feed on people’s life force. Perhaps the most distinctive of these vampiric entities is the yuki-onna.

Yuki-onna literally translates to “snow woman”. This is fitting, as yuki-onna are spirits made from and able to transform into snow. Traditionally, these dangerous yokai inhabit the mountainous areas of Japan, where they prey on travelers in the winter. They wander through snowstorms, leaving no footprints.

A yuki-onna typically takes the form of a beautiful woman with dark hair and eyes, although modern portrayals may show her with white hair instead. Her skin is incredibly pale. Anyone who touches her will have the warmth drained out of them on contact. Yuki-onna do not have fangs and do not drink blood; instead, they suck the warmth and life out of people.

Most stories of yuki-onna in their natural environments—the snow-covered mountains in the depths of winter—portray them as hostile and predatory toward humans. However, there are other stories of yuki-onna knocking on people’s doors and coming in from the cold. These visits can be as short as a single night or as long as several years.

Like kitsune and other yokai, yuki-onna will sometimes marry humans. However, these unions often end unhappily. The ignorant husband will insist his wife gets into a hot bath, melting her. Or he will remarry when his wife seemingly ails and vanishes, unaware that she will return with the next year’s snow. In the worst scenario, he breaks a promise to his wife, who returns to her true form and kills him, before vanishing with any children she bore him.

Whether malevolent or benign, a yuki-onna—like the depths of winter—is always dangerous. In Tale of Ronin, players may well encounter people who believe in tales of yuki-onna and behave accordingly, especially when the snow is deep and the road is long. As ronin, players will spend most of their time in the game traveling. Certain choices could lead to a dangerous encounter in the cold mountains of Japan.