Hone-onna

Hone-onna

The Hone-onna (jap. 骨女; transl. "bone woman") is a Yōkai from Japanese stories.

Hone-onna's Description

In the stories, the Hone-onna appears as a beautiful but extremely thin woman in a splendid kimono who reveals herself to be a skeleton after the fact. She is said to appear mainly at night or during a storm (similar to the Yuki-onna) and ambush unsuspecting men.

She lures her victim into her home and kills them by completely draining their life energy or grabbing them by the wrist and holding them until the victim has become a skeleton themselves.

Origin of Hone-onna 

The name Hone-onna was introduced by Toriyama Sekien in the Yōkai encyclopedia Konjaku Gazu Zoku Hyakki (1779).

The text for this describes her as a character from the story Botan Dōrō (牡丹燈籠, "The Peony Lantern"), who during her lifetime sought out men with a peony-shaped lantern for sexual intercourse.

Botan Dōrō comes from Asai Ryōi's 1666 erotic story collection Otogibōko (御伽ばうこ), which in turn is a version of Qu You's magnum opus Jiandeng Xinhua (1378) stripped of Chinese influences and Buddhist moral lessons.

Legends of Hone-onna

Botan Dōrō is about a man named Ogiwara Shinnojō who one night meets a young woman named O-Tsuyu with a red peony lantern and falls head over heels in love with her. Every night now, the two meet secretly to make love.

The overly curious neighbor sneaks up to the lovers' chamber to watch them. But when he catches sight of them, he is startled to discover that Shinnojō is holding a skeleton in his arms instead of a woman.

There is an oral tradition from Akita Prefecture about a man who was caught in a snowstorm at night and in the darkness came upon a woman carrying a lantern who led him to her house.

When he went to thank her, the light from the house and the lantern fell on the woman and the man saw that her face was really just a skeletal skull.