the online database of Japanese folklore

Taka onna


Translation: tall woman
Alternate names: takajo
Habitat: red light districts
Diet: as a normal person

Appearance: Taka onna appear as ordinary, homely human women most of the time. But they have the power to elongate their bodies and grow to several meters in height. Like other brothel yōkai, they are rarely seen outside of the red light districts, but are fairly common yōkai nonetheless. Sightings of these yōkai peaked during the Edo period and continued up to the post-war period—the time when brothels and yūkaku (“pleasure districts”) were at their height in Japan.

Behavior: Taka onna are frequently spotted peering into the second-story windows of brothels and homes where romantic liaisons are taking place. Their activities are generally limited to peeping into windows. Though they rarely attack humans physically, taka onna do enjoy scaring and harassing both men and women who frequent the pleasure districts, jealous of the physical pleasure they were never able to know in life.

Origin: Taka onna were originally ordinary women who were too unattractive to marry (or to find work in the red light districts which they haunt). Through jealousy, they became twisted and corrupted, and transformed into ugly, malicious monsters that prey on others’ sexual energy.

Legends: Taka onna encounters were often the subject of bawdy anecdotes, as they generally revolve around trips to the pleasure districts. In one account, though, a woodcutter describes how he discovered that his own wife was a taka onna. His child mysteriously disappeared one day, and over a short period his servants also began to disappear one by one. Unable to figure out what was happening, the woodcutter began to suspect his wife. One night while pretending to sleep in bed, he witnessed his wife jump into a well. She then elongated her body and climbed back out. The woodcutter fled into the mountains, and never returned to his home.

Alphabetical list of yōkai