the online database of Japanese folkore

Nure onago


Translation: wet girl
Alternate names: nure hanayome (“wet bride”)
Habitat: watersides, wetlands, fishing villages; anywhere near water
Diet: attention

Appearance: Nure onago appear as disheveled-looking young girls with matted, wet hair. As the name implies, they are soaked with water from head to toe. Often, nure onago are covered with dead leaves and things stuck to their dripping bodies. They wander about dripping and sopping wet, and are encountered on roads near swamps, rivers, and coasts, or during nights of heavy rain.

Interactions: Travelers along the coasts and rivers of the islands of Shikoku and Kyūshū occasionally encounter young girls, lost and soaked to the bone. Most people who witness such a pathetic sight rush over to help the poor girls. When a human draws close to a nure onago, she looks up into their eyes and smiles. If the smile is returned, she will follow the helpful stranger human, sticking by him forever. This isn’t as nice as it seems; nure onago continually drip water and stink of mildew and swamp water. Although she causes no particular harm, her constant presence is often enough to ruin the rest of a person’s life.

Ignoring a nure onago and refusing to return her smile is the only way to avoid this yōkai. Unfortunately, by the time her true nature is discovered it is often too late.

Origin: Nure onago are born from the strong feelings of loss and sadness shared by widows of drowning victims—particular widows of sailors lost at sea. These feelings build up and materialize into a nure onago, whose desire for attention is the amplified desire of heartbroken widows to see their husbands again.

Nure onago behave similarly to hari onago, although in a less violent form. The two are sometimes grouped together as waraionago, smiling girls. Both are also found on the island of Shikoku, suggesting a possible relation between them. They should not, however, be confused with the similarly named nure onna, a much larger and more dangerous yōkai.

Alphabetical list of yōkai