the online database of Japanese folkore

Kosode no te

小袖の手
こそでのて

Translation: kosode (a short sleeved kimono) hands

Appearance: Kosode no te appear in short sleeved kimonos formerly owned by prostitutes. This yōkai manifests as a pair of ghostly hands that emerge from the sleeves and assault welching clients—or whoever happens to be nearby.

Origin: Kosode no te can occur for a number of reasons. One common origin is when a prostitute dies in vain, after working for many years to save up the money to buy her freedom. Upon death, such women usually had their clothes donated to a temple in exchange for a funeral and prayers. However, if the woman died still owed money from some of her clients, her spirit might reanimate her old clothing and head off in revenge. The newly formed kosode no te leaves the temple to find the prostitute’s customers and scare them into to paying the money owed.

Another origin is when a dead person’s kimono is sold for cash instead of being donated to a temple, as is customary. If the deceased was unable to properly pass on to nirvana upon death, that person’s spirit may come back and haunt their former kimono.

Alphabetical list of yōkai