An ubume (産女), lit. "woman who bore a child" is a yōkai of Japanese folklore that appears in folk stories or literature as an old woman with a child in her arms, imploring passersby to hold the child only to promptly disappear.
According to the legend, the child's weight gradually increases until the bewitched "child" turns out to be nothing more than a huge boulder or rock.
The first version of this kind of tale is reported by Urabe Suetake, servant of Raiko.
Originally the name of a species of small sea fish3 in Japanese folklore, the term is now applied to the ghost of a woman who died in childbirth or "ghost of a woman giving birth ".
Typically, the ubume asks a passerby to hold her child for a while and disappears when its victim takes the swaddled baby.
The baby then becomes heavier and heavier until it is impossible to carry. It is then revealed to be not a human child at all but a rock or stone image of Jizō.
Many scholars have associated the ubum with the legend of the hitobashira where a sacrificial mother and child "are buried under one of the pillars of a new bridge. "
According to these researchers, the Shoshin'in is the place where women from the surrounding area come to pray to conceive a child or have a successful pregnancy.
According to Stone and Walter (2008), the origin of the legend of the temple, located in the mid-sixteenth century, relates to
...a modern statue of ubum, displayed once a year in July. During this festival, sweets that have been offered to the image are distributed and women pray for safe deliverance and abundant milk. The statue, which is dressed in white robes, has only a head, a torso and arms; it has no lower part.
Ubume stories have been told in Japan since at least the eleventh century.
The early seventeenth-century collection of tales Konjaku hyaku monogatari hyoban says of the ubume:
When a woman loses her life in childbirth, her spiritual attachment (shūjaku) itself becomes this ghost. In form, it bathes in blood from the waist down and walks around shouting "Nais! Nais!"(obareu, obareu).
Natsuhiko Kyōgoku's best-selling crime novel Ubume no natsu, which uses the legend of ubume as its main theme, created a phenomenon of "ubume madness " at the time of its publication in 1994 and was adapted into a film in 2005.
Artists of the Edo period produced many images of ubum, usually depicted "naked from the waist down, wearing a red skirt and carrying a small baby.
Toriyama Sekien's Gazu hyakki yagyō, a ghost encyclopedia published in the late eighteenth century, contains other illustrations of ubum, goblins, and ghouls.