According to legend, Kuchisake-onna
was a woman who was mutilated during her life, with her mouth being slit from ear to ear. In some versions of the story, Kuchisake-onna
was the adulterous wife or concubine of a samurai during her life. As punishment for her infidelity, her husband sliced the corners of her mouth from ear to ear. Other versions of the tale include that her mouth was mutilated during a medical or dental procedure, that she was mutilated by a woman who was jealous of her beauty, or that her mouth is filled with numerous sharp teeth.
After her death, the woman returned as a vengeful spirit. As a vengeful spirit, she covers her mouth with a cloth mask (often specified as a surgical mask), or in some iterations, a hand fan or handkerchief. She is said to ask potential victims if they think she is attractive, often phrased as "Watashi, kirei?
" (which translates to "Am I pretty?
" or "Am I beautiful?
"). If they answer "no
", she will kill them with her weapon, and if they answer "yes
", she will reveal her mutilated mouth. She then repeats her question (or asks "Kore demo?
", which translates to "Even with this?
" or "Even now?
") and if the individual responds with "no
" or screams in fright, she will kill them with her weapon. If they respond with "yes
", she will slice the corners of their mouth from ear to ear, resembling her own disfigurement.
An individual can survive an encounter with Kuchisake-onna
by using one of several methods. In some versions of the legend, Kuchisake-onna
will leave the potential victim alone if they answer "yes
" to both of her questions, though in other versions, she will visit the individual's residence later that night and murder them in their sleep. Other survival tactics include replying to Kuchisake-onna's
question by describing her appearance as "average
", giving the individual enough time to run away!
When rumors of alleged sightings began spreading in 1979 around the Nagasaki Prefecture, it spread throughout Japan and caused panic in many towns. There are even reports of schools allowing children to go home only in groups escorted by teachers for safety, and of police increasing their patrols. Recent sightings include many reports in South Korea in the year 2004 about a woman wearing a red mask who was frequently seen chasing children, and, in October 2007, a coroner found some old records from the late 1970s about a woman who was chasing little children. She was then hit by a car, and died shortly after. Her mouth was ripped from ear to ear.