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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Inspired by Japanese Folklore - Yuma Uba are very old and unkempt women of the Japanese mountains and forests. They often take on the form of kind old ladies in order to fool a guest or anyone that they encounter. Similar to a kijo, Yuma Uba were human at one point in their lifetime, but were transformed into monsters once they were depraved.

Yuma Uba have been portrayed in various ways in Japanese folklore. They typically appear somewhat filthy, with unkempt long white or black hair and with a mouth at the top of their head, under their hair. Yama Uba typically live lonesome in shelters by the road in forests or by the mountain. They attract their prey by offering them necessities such as food, shelter and a place to stay for those who are travelling. Once their guest is comfortable and unaware, Yuma Uba then transforms into their true form. Yuma Uba have cannibalistic tendencies, and often attempt to eat their guests.

In Toyota Hokkei's interpretation of Yuma Uba, she is depicted with long dark brown hair, and dressed in a robe made of leaves. Her outfit ties in well with the fact that she is also depicted in forest, with various mountains shown in the distance. Toyoa Hokkei seems to have portrayed her to be somewhat younger in this portrayal, as she is shown to have smooth skin and dark hair. This depiction of Yuma Uba is slightly more elegant and serene compared to other iterations, as most of her unkindly features are not emphasized in this painting.

In terms of technique, this print is made in the ukiyo-e style. There are very fine light weights seen throughout the entire piece. Many organic forms are also present in this piece, including the shape of the mountains behind Yuma Uba. There is a subtle presence of texture within this piece as well, seen in the foreground in the grass, and in the background behind the mountains. This texture is possibly created by the effect of the paint the artist chose to utilize. And finally, the colours in this piece are mostly composed of earth colours such as brown and green, giving it a natural tone and fitting well with the forest/mountain environment.