Alluring, nurturing, dangerous, and vulnerable, the yamamba, or Japanese mountain witch, has intrigued audiences for centuries. What is it about the fusion of mountains with the solitary old woman that produces such an enigmatic figure? And why does she still call to us in this modern, scientific era?
Co-editors Rebecca Copeland and Linda C. Ehrlich first met the yamamba in the powerful short story “The Smile of the Mountain Witch” by acclaimed woman writer Ōba Minako. The story revealed the compelling way creative women can take charge of misogynistic tropes, invert them, and use them to tell new stories of female empowerment.
Yamamba: In Search of the Japanese Mountain Witch (Stone Bridge Press, 2021) represents the creative and surprising ways artists and scholars from North America and Japan have encountered the yamamba.
Matthew Hayes is the Japanese Studies and Asian American Studies Librarian at Duke University and a researcher in the area of early modern Japanese Buddhism. You can find him on Twitter at @_matthewhayes_.
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