the online database of Japanese folkore



Translation: entangling bride; alternatively whore spider
Habitat: cities, towns, rural areas, forests, and caves
Diet: young, virile men

Appearance: In Japan, some spiders are known to possess amazing supernatural powers. One of these is the jorōgumo, known as the golden orb-weaver in English. The jorōgumo is the most well-known of the arachnid yōkai, and found all over the Japanese archipelago except for the northern island of Hokkaidō. Their body size averages between two to three centimeters long, but they can grow much larger; some are massive enough to catch and eat small birds. Renowned for their size, their vividly beautiful colors, and the large and strong webs they weave, the beautiful jorōgumo are also famous for the cruel destruction they wreak on young men. Written with modern kanji, their name means “entangling bride.” However, these characters were added much later to cover up the original meaning of jorōgumo—”whore spider.”

Behavior: Jorōgumo live solitary lives, both as spiders and as yōkai. When a golden orb-weaver reaches 400 years of age, it develops magical powers and begins to feed on human prey instead of insects. Jorōgumo make their nests in caves, forests, or empty houses in towns. Possessing a cunning intelligence and a cold heart, they see humans as nothing more than insects to feed on. They are skillful deceivers and powerful shape-shifters, usually appearing as young, sexy, and stunningly beautiful women.

Interactions: Jorōgumo’s favorite prey are young, handsome men looking for love—or other favors. When a jorōgumo spots a man she desires, she lures him into her home with promises of affection. He is never seen again. Jorōgumo spin silk threads strong enough to ensnare a grown man so that he cannot escape. They also have powerful venom that can slowly weaken a man day by day, allowing the spider to savor her victim’s long and painful death. Jorōgumo can control other, lesser spiders, even employing fire-breathing spiders to burn down the homes of any suspicious meddlers. They are such skillful predators that a jorōgumo can operate like this for years and years, even in the middle of a busy city, piling up hundreds of desiccated skeletons of foolish young men.

Alphabetical list of yōkai