Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)


Asian Studies

First Advisor's Name

Steven Heine

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

Amy Bliss Marshall

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Matthew Marr

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member


Folklore, Maternity, Japan, Religion, Ghosts, Literature

Date of Defense



The ubume is a ghost of Japanese folklore, once a living woman, who died during either pregnancy or childbirth. This thesis explores how the religious and secular developments of the ubume and related figures create a dichotomy of ideologies that both condemn and liberate women in their roles as mothers. Examples of literary and visual narratives of the ubume as well as the religious practices that were employed for maternity-related concerns are explored within their historical contexts in order to best understand what meaning they held for people at a given time and if that meaning has changed. These meanings and the actions taken to avoid becoming an ubume and to avoid interacting with one create a metanarrative that contributes to our understanding of the historical experience of women.





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