Kuchisake onna, or “the slit-mouthed woman”, is an evil character in Japanese urban legends and folklore. Kuchisake onna is the spirit of a woman who was mutilated and returned to take revenge on the world. Her name comes from a deep bloody wound that runs across her face, smiling from ear to ear. She appears at night to lonely travelers on the road, covering her sullen mouth with a cloth mask, fan or handkerchief.
The variations of the legend
According to legend, Kuchisake onna was a woman whose mouth had been cut from ear to ear during her lifetime. In some versions of the story, Kuchisake onna was the unfaithful wife or concubine of a samurai. To punish her for her infidelity, her husband cut off the corners of her mouth from ear to ear. Other versions say that her mouth was mutilated during a medical or dental procedure, that she was disfigured by a woman jealous of her beauty or that her mouth was filled with many sharp teeth.
After her death, the woman returns as a vengeful spirit. She covers her mouth with a cloth mask and, in some versions, with a fan or a handkerchief. She also carries a sharp instrument described as a knife, machete, scythe or large scissors.
Kuchisake onna sneaks up on her victims in the dark and asks them if they find her beautiful: “Watashi, kirei?”. When the victim answers in the affirmative, she rips off her mask to reveal a red, bleeding, grotesque mouth. He then asks in a sinister voice if they find her beautiful, “Kore Demo?”. When the victim answers “no” or screams in horror, she cuts him from ear to ear, mimicking her own mutilation. When he lies and answers “yes” a second time, she leaves, only to follow her target home and brutally stab her that same night.
A person can survive an encounter with Kuchisake onna in several ways. In some versions of the legend, Kuchisake onna leaves a potential victim alone if the victim answers “yes” to both questions, but in other versions, he goes to the person’s house later that night and kills them in their sleep. Other survival tactics involve answering Kuchisake onna’s question by describing his appearance as “normal,” which gives the person enough time to escape; distracting him by giving or throwing money or candy, especially those known as bekko ame, in his direction; or saying the word “lipstick” three times.
History of Kuchisake onna
When the Kuchisake onna legend unfold within the late 1970s, the Japanese financial system was altering as households throughout the nation acquired the fundamental parts of city cultural life: televisions, vehicles, and telephones.
The time period “urban legend” got here to Japan by way of a 1988 translation of American folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand’s 1981 e-book The Vanishing Hitchhiker. The up-and-coming Japanese researchers who carried out the interpretation are stated to have needed to overturn the thought within the tutorial world that oral literature meant solely previous tales and legends, and to open up the potential of investigating the gossip and rumors of the up to date metropolis.
Author and folklorist Matthew Meyer has described the legend of Kuchisake onna as dating back to Japan’s Edo period, which lasted from the 17th to the 19th century. In print, the legend of Kuchisake onna appeared at least as early as 1979.
The spirits of the dead killed in particularly cruel ways – beaten wives, tortured prisoners, defeated enemies – often find no rest. Kuchisake onna is considered one such woman. However, during the Edo period, a large number of Kuchisake onna attacks were attributed to kitsune who changed uniforms and played pranks on young men. In the 20th century, people began to blame ghosts, serial killers and simple mass hysteria. This led to an explosion in the number of Kuchisake onna cases throughout Japan.
Kuchisake onna: Other urban legends
Brunvand outlined the urban legend as a weird however plausible story in a city setting that’s stated to have occurred to a “good friend of a good friend.” A hitchhiker seems to be a ghost, for instance, or an escaped killer is hiding below the mattress. The motif of a phantom passenger dates again to the period of nineteenth-century hackney coaches, however tailored itself to the age of the auto, spurred on by the expansion of the mass media. Individuals associated these tales as issues they’d heard from native newspaper and radio accounts; the tales took on native colors and particulars, touring throughout the entire of America.
Different widespread tales included the concept touching the fundoshi or loincloth of the standard messenger character depicted on the time on Sagawa supply vans introduced happiness, and a couple who rode in a ship collectively on Ueno Park’s Shinobazu Pond would you’ll want to break up. Magazines assembled these sorts of tales into options on urban legends.
In the meantime, the writers for these retailers labored to develop curiosity within the tales, comparable to when the journal Popteen launched the “human-faced canine.” This creature had the face of a middle-aged man, and will communicate and chase after vehicles at speeds of over 100 kilometers an hour.