In Japanese mythology, the nure-onna (濡女 Wet woman) is a yōkai characterized by a draconic or amphibious appearance, whose main peculiarity is the body similar to a huge snake and the head of a young woman.
There are several variations of the story, depending on the place where it is told. In Tsushima, Nagasaki Prefecture, it is called nure-onago, and has the appearance of a little girl. In Kagoshima Prefecture, there is a similar yōkai called iso-onna.
Features of Nure-onna
The nure-onna mainly exploits the beauty of her face and her beautiful hair to lure unsuspecting bathers or fishermen to become her prey. It mainly roams at night along beaches or, despite its length, in small pools of water.
In order to attract its victims, it brings out only its face, leaving its long hair floating on the surface and, as told in some versions, it waves its arms, appearing in all respects to be a drowning woman.
When the unfortunate man dives to save her, the nure-onna suddenly resurfaces, grabbing him with her claws and dragging him into the depths of the water.
In another version, once he spots his prey, he emerges from the water and paralyzes his victim with his gaze. Finally, he uses his long snake-like teeth to suck the blood from the body of the unfortunate.
In a further version, it wanders around in solitude carrying what looks like a baby in swaddling clothes, which it uses to attract its prey. If a well-meaning person offers to hold the baby for her, the nure-onna spares it.
On the contrary, if someone tries to find out what the bundle is hiding, the bundle becomes very heavy preventing it from escaping, at which point it is attacked and killed.
In other tales the nure-onna is described simply as a lonely woman who spends her time washing her hair, becoming dangerous only if she is disturbed.
In Tsushima, Nagasaki Prefecture, when rain falls during the night, a yōkai similar to the nure-onna, known as nure-onago, appears. The nure-onago can appear near any waterway, be it a small pond or the ocean.
Its body appears completely wet, from the top of its head to the tips of its feet. The nure-onago is described as having an evil smile and an unholy laugh.
It is often mistaken for the laughter of an amused woman, so much so that one is infected by it, but once out in the open one is attacked mercilessly.
Most depictions of the nure-onago show her looking not unlike a normal woman, albeit completely wet. The nure-onago is a relative of the onna-hari (needle woman), characteristic of western Japan.
In Kagoshima Prefecture, in the Tajiri headland, where the famous festival of the god Ebisu takes place, there is a similar yōkai. She is called iso-onna (beach woman), and like the nure-onago she is wet from head to toe.
The iso-onna appears wherever there is sand, and not exclusively on the beach. The main difference between the nure-onna and the iso-onna is the structure of their bodies, the iso-onna is in fact described as having no lower half.