the online database of Japanese folkore

Yaotome

八乙女
やおとめ

Translation: eight maidens
Alternate names: kosuzu no yaotome (eight handbell maidens)
Habitat: Shintō shrines

Appearance: Yaotome are tsukumogami of hand bells used in Shintō ceremonies. They resemble cranes, and wrap their bodies in a large sheet. They have hairy, bestial hands and feet, and they carry bells.

Behavior: Yaotome are not harmful yōkai. Their main activity is participating in hyakki yagyō—the night parade of one hundred demons—adding grace and beauty to the procession with their music and dancing.

Origin: Yaotome are commonly depicted in picture scrolls of the night parade of one hundred demons. The bells yaotome come from are used in Shintō religious music and dance called kagura. The name yaotome refers to the eight shrine maidens—called miko—who perform these ancient ritual dances wearing white cloth and ringing bells.

Alphabetical list of yōkai