the online database of Japanese folkore

Oshiroi babā


Translation: face powder hag
Alternate names: oshiroi bāsan
Habitat: dark streets at night, particularly near snowy mountains
Diet: unknown

Appearance: Oshiroi babā are ghastly old hags who appear in mountainous areas near the end of the year. They are accompanied by a telltale jara jara sound, as if someone were dragging along a mirror as they hobble through the streets. Their backs are hideously twisted and bent like an old woman’s after a lifetime hard work. They carry a cane in one hand, and a sake bottle in the other, and wear a broken straw hat. Their most defining feature is their wrinkly old face caked with thick, sloppy, white face powder.

Interactions: Oshiroi babā don’t interact with humans too often. For the most part, their looks alone are awful enough that anyone who sees them quickly runs away. They occasionally accost people, demanding makeup or trying to buy sake. In this way they are somewhat similar to other old hag yōkai who wander the streets at night, such as amazake babā. However, nearly every account of oshiroi babā describes them as hideous and scary, but not dangerous.

Origin: According to some local legends, oshiroi babā are a variation of yuki onna. They descend from mountains into villages on snowy nights. Other legends say that they are more similar to yama uba, who occasionally demand makeup from travelers or appear at the bases of mountains to buy alcohol. According to Toriyama Sekien, oshiroi babā serve as the attendants of Shifun Senjō, the goddess of rouge and makeup.

Alphabetical list of yōkai