Today I present to you shumoku musume, or "hammer girl."
I fell in love with this yokai the first time I saw her, in one of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi's prints. Although there's no description of her in that print, I really wanted to find out more of that strange, snail-like yokai in the background:
She's actually quite a minor yokai, and is not the subject of any stories or legends. She appears in obake karuta, however, and that is her main claim to fame. While she doesn't do much except for maybe jump out and spook people, it's her unique appearance that makes her so appealing, and I'm sure that's why she was included in the obake karuta.
What's not to love about that?
Anyway, here she is:
TRANSLATION: hammer girl
HABITAT: mountain passes
APPEARANCE: Shumoku musume has a head which resembles that of a hammerhead shark or a snail. She has large eyes which extend out from the sides of her head. She wears a furisode kimono, usually worn by young, unmarried women.
ORIGIN: Shumoku musume is not a major yōkai, yet her image is fairly well known. This is because she was included in obake karuta, a yōkai-themed version of the popular card matching game karuta. Although no story accompanies her in obake karuta, her card says that she appears on the Usui Pass, which separates Gunma and Nagano Prefectures.
The word shumoku refers to the wooden hammers used to strike temple bells. It is not clear if shumoku musume is a tsukumogami of a bell hammer, or if her name merely refers to the fact that her head resembles a wooden hammer’s head.