the online database of Japanese folklore

Iso onna


Translation: coast woman
Habitat: coasts, particularly rocky ones; native to Kyūshū
Diet: blood

Appearance: Iso onna are dangerous vampires from the Kyūshū islands and Western Japan. They hunt for fisherman and travelers to feed upon. Despite having no serpentine features, Iso onna are closely related to nure onna. Iso onna wander rocky beaches, hunting for prey.

Individual accounts of iso onna vary when it comes to their appearance. In most cases, they appear as beautiful women who have just come out of the water, dripping wet. Their hair is long and matted, reaching almost all the way down to the sand. Their eyes are heavy with sultry, sexual energy, and their nearly transparent wet clothes stick to their skin. From the waist up, they appear like ordinary human women. But from the waist down, they are blurry and slightly transparent, betraying their otherworldly nature. In some regions they are said to be large enough to crush ships out at sea, like umi bōzu. They also have the ability to disguise themselves perfectly as large beach rocks when they don’t want to be seen.

Interactions: When iso onna appear on sandy beaches, they look like beautiful women, staring far out to sea. When somebody approaches and tries speaking to them, they turn around and let out an ear-piercing shriek. This stuns their victim. Then they lash out with their long hair and drag their prey into the sea. Once in the water, they drain their victims’ blood with their hair.

On rocky coasts without sandy beaches, iso onna appear sitting on the cliffs and calling out to passersby in an eerie voice. Their victims are mesmerized, and walk straight towards them, ignoring the dangers posed by the rocky cliffs. They walk off the cliffs and fall to their deaths, leaving the iso onna free to feed on their bodies.

Iso onna are occasionally encountered far out at sea. They act much the same as they do on land, capturing their human prey with their long hair and draining their blood.

Iso onna are most commonly encountered during the holiday seasons of Obon and New Year’s Eve, when the border between the realm of the living and the spirit world can be more easily crossed. They occasionally cooperate with ushi oni to catch their prey.

Alphabetical list of yōkai