In a village in Musashi Province, lived two woodcutters. Mosaku, an old man and Minokichi, his eighteen year old apprentice. Each day they travelled to a forest about five miles from their village in order to chop wood. On their route they had to cross a wide river. The current was so strong that whenever the river flooded it tore down any bridge that was erected. There was, however, a ferry.
One evening the two men were coming home when a great snow storm began. On reaching the river they saw to their horror that the ferryman had gone home leaving his boat on the opposite side of the river. The only shelter was the ferryman’s hut. The hut had no windows and nowhere to build a fire but it was better than nothing. The pair huddled up in their straw raincoats and prepared for an uncomfortable night.
Mosaku fell asleep very quickly but Minokichi lay awake listening to the strange pipeings of the wind and the creaking of the shack like an old junk at sea. Finally his lids grew heavy and his head drooped.
He awoke suddenly to the sensation of cold snow in his face. The door was swinging wide open. Looking over to his companion Minokichi was amazed to see a woman of ethereal beauty bending over his prone body. Her breath was forming a coat of hoarfrost on his face.
Minokichi tried to cry out but found he could not. He was unable even to move. The woman glided over towards him and drew so close that her face was almost touching his. Her skin was as pallid as the snow that was piling up about the shack and her long hair was so black that it stood out even against the night. Her eyes were of an unearthly beauty. She bent even closer and whispered through her pale cold lips "I intended to treat you like the other man. But I cannot help feeling some pity for you, -- because you are so young... You are a pretty boy, Minokichi; and I will not hurt you now. But, if you ever tell anybody -- even your own mother -- about what you have seen this night, I shall know it; and then I will kill you... Remember what I say!"
She then turned and slid out through the door like an icy shadow leaving no marks were her lovely feet trod upon the snow.
Minokichi’s limbs were released from the spell and he shook himself wondering if it had all been a dream. Could he have mistaken the snow whipping up in the doorway as the figure of the legendary Yuki-onna or Snow Woman, a spirit of the cold willdreness? Snow was billowing into the hut. He secured the door with several billets. Then he reached over in the dark to make sure that Mosaku was alright. His fingers fell on flesh as cold as ice. The old man was frozen solid.
When the ferryman returned in the morning he found Minokichi unconscious next to the frozen body of Mosaku. He was carried back to the village and after some days e eventually recovered. He explained how they had been overcome in the storm and how Mosaku had frozen to death. He did not mention the Yuki-onna.
When recovered Minokichi returned to his calling as a woodcutter. One fine day when walking home he met an exceptionally lovely girl with very pale skin and very dark hair, walking along the same path. They began to chat and the girl, who introduced herself as O-yuki said that her parents were dead and that she was traveling to Edo to where some of her relations would help her seek work as a servant. Minokichi was charmed by O-yuki and asked if she was betrothed. She answered that she was not. Then she asked if he were married and he told her that he was free.
By the time they reached Minokichi’s home they were much taken with each other. He asked her to stay awhile and she agreed. Minokichi’s mother was very taken with O-yuki and O-uki never went to Edo. Instead she stayed with Minokichi and his mother as a wife and daughter-in –law.
O-yuki was wonderful in both rolls and when Minokichi’s mother died five years later her last words were praise and affection for her. O-yuki bore Minokichi ten sons and daughters. All had their mothers beautiful pale skin. Even after having ten children she seemed to have edged not a day since he met her on the road to Edo all those years before.
One night after the children were in bed O-yuli sat sewing by the light of a lamp whilst her husband watched her. His memory strayed back to the hut on that cold, cold night long ago.
"To see you sewing there, with the light on your face, makes me think of a strange thing that happened when I was a lad of eighteen. I then saw somebody as beautiful and white as you are now -- indeed, she was very like you."...
O-Yuki responded asked "Tell me about her... Where did you see her?
Then Minokichi told her of the raging storm and the night in the hut. Of the icy beauty that visited them and of his old friend’s death.
"Asleep or awake, that was the only time that I saw a being as beautiful as you. Of course, she was not a human being; and I was afraid of her,-- very much afraid,-- but she was so white!... Indeed, I have never been sure whether it was a dream that I saw, or the Woman of the Snow."...
At this O-yuki dropped her sewing and began to shriek. Her voice became like the wailing of the winter winds and her hair flew wild as if tossed by some raging tempest.
It was I. And I told you then that I would kill you if you ever said one word about it!... But for those children asleep there, I would kill you this moment! And now you had better take very, very good care of them; for if ever they have reason to complain of you, I will treat you as you deserve!"...
With that her body began to dissolve into a white mist that spiralled up through the beams of the roof and vanished