Noriko Reider takes on Mountain Witches

Written by Madelyn Neal, CAS communications intern

Suushi Yama-uba

Sawaki Suushi (佐脇嵩之, Japanese, *1707, †1772) / Public domain

Noriko Tsunoda Reider, professor of Japanese in the Department of German, Russian, Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Culture (GRAMELAC), has written a new book entitled Mountain Witches: Yamauba, which will be published at the end of 2020.  

Dr. Reider’s fourth book, published by Utah State University Press, explores supernatural and Japanese folklore, specifically the enigmatic mountain women and the stories surrounding them. Reider reveals the ambivalent characteristics of these women. 

“The yamauba is both anthropomorphous and shape shifting, but also at the same time she’s a nurturing figure, a mother, so she’s malevolent and benevolent as well,” Reider said. “The mountain witch is a great mother who will bring destruction like death, as well as wealth or fortune. She’s a very complex figure.”  

Reider’s research mainly focuses on Japanese literature from the medieval and early modern periods, but the book includes contemporary descriptions of the yamauba figure as well.  

Her research on supernatural tales started in classroom. “When I first came to Miami, I thought I would like to introduce a favorite story from Japanese literature,” she said. “However, I couldn’t find any English translation, so I thought, ‘Well, I’ll do it!’ Teaching is really an integral part of my research.” 

In fact, Mountain Witches: Yamauba is just one in the latest series of Reider’s work on the supernatural and Japanese classical literature. Providing more information on the Japanese demons, ogres, oni, and more, Reider’s work will be available later this year.