Kuchisake Onna – 口裂け女 5. September 2023

Kuchisake Onna belongs to a chilling group of vengeful spirit women who suffered mutilation during their lifetimes. So they return as Yokai to seek revenge. Unlike other Yokai, Kuchisake Onna remained a prevalent figure in Japanese folklore, inciting waves of hysteria that continued until 1979.

The Appearance

At night, Kuchisake Onna takes on the guise of a striking young woman, concealing the lower half of her face. In earlier accounts, she adorned a traditional kimono, shrouding her mouth behind a sizable fan or a theatrical mask. More recent renditions depict her in a long raincoat with a high collar. Obscuring her face behind a mask covering her mouth and nose. In more recent stories, she has a large kitchen knife, a sickle or a pair of powerful scissors.

The Behavior

She roams in and around red light districts at night, stealthily approaching her victims. Then, her mouth covered, she poses the question “Watashi, kirei?” (do you find me beautiful?) to the person before her. If they respond with yes, she violently removes her face covering and poses another chilling question, “Kore demo?” (still?). Depending on the victim’s response, her attack varies. If the victim says no or screams in fear, she promptly kills them. If they respond affirmatively, she disfigures their face to match her own twisted beauty. Female victims are transformed into Kuchisake Onna, while children are either severed in half or taken to her lair for a gruesome fate. Attempting to escape is futile, as the Kuchisake Onna moves at an incredible speed. The question remains: what should you do when encountering a Kuchisake Onna? Some reports suggest confusing her with deceptive answers for a chance to escape, while others claim that tossing sweets can deter her. However, it remains uncertain if this works due to her sweet tooth or because, like many other Yōkais, she suffers from a compulsion to count and meticulously tally each piece of candy.

The Legend

Among other things, the legend of the Kuchisake-onna could be traced back to a story from the 8th century (Heian period). A wealthy samurai was involved with an indescribably beautiful woman. But the woman was courted by many suitors because of her beauty and the samurai became quite sick with jealousy. In an argument, accusing his wife of infidelity, he cut her face and asked her, “Who will find you beautiful now?” Thereupon, the wife became envious of all the beautiful women in her area, and after her death, she became a vengeful and envious Yōkai.

Learn more about other yokai here!

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