the online database of Japanese folklore

Azuki babā


Translation: the bean hag
Alternate names: azukitogi babā (“bean grinding hag”)
Habitat: forests and occasionally villages in Northeast Japan
Diet: humans, and probably also azuki beans

Appearance: The people of Miyagi Prefecture tell of a much more sinister member of the azuki family of yōkai. Rather than the benign and cute azuki arai known throughout the country, this northeastern variation takes the form of a fearsome old hag dressed all in white, singing in a husky, ugly voice. Azuki babā appear only at twilight—particularly on rainy or misty autumn nights. Their song is similar to the azuki arai’s, except that azuki babā follow through on the threat to catch and eat humans.

Behavior: Witnesses of azuki babā describe an eerie, white glow visible through a thick, white mist. From the mist, they hear the husky voice of an old hag singing her ghastly song and counting beans as she washes them in the river with a strainer. Those who don’t turn away at this point never make it back.

Interactions: Azuki babā are rarer than their harmless, bean-washing counterparts. Despite their ferociousness, they are mostly found only in stories used to scare children into behaving properly. Of all the variations of azuki-related yōkai, this one is the most likely to be a shape-shifted evil itachi, tanuki, or kitsune imitating the harmless azuki arai to attract a curious child to catch and eat.

Alphabetical list of yōkai