Yamamba (山むば) is a Japanese yōkai also known as yamauba (山うば), onibaba (鬼婆), yama-onna (山女), yama-hime (山姫), and kijo (鬼女). Yamamba are female yōkai that live alone in mountain huts. They occasionally offer a place to sleep for the night to travelers in the form of an old woman or beautiful young woman. After their guests fall asleep, they transform into their true form and eat their guests. Stories of yamamba encounters have been spread through those lucky enough to escape. Stories of yamamba are often bedtime stories for children warning them to not go near the mountains. In classic folklore, yamamba typically preys on travelers and merchants such as ox-drivers, horse drivers, and coopers, who often travel between villages and walk through the mountains. They are thought to have widely spread the tales of yamamba. Yamamba are typically portrayed in two ways. There are tales in which yamamba is a fearful monster that attacks and eats travelers, and tales in which yamamba is a benevolent yōkai that gives good fortune to people who were kind to her. –Lindsey Takeuchi

Yōkai in Context