Kuchisake Onna - [Urban Legend | Yokai] - 口裂け女, "Slit-Mouthed Woman."
•About this yokai: Kuchi sake onna or the 'Slit-mouthed woman' is probably the most widely spread & well-documented modern urban legend originating from Japan. Appearing in worldwide media in everything from literature to movies, games and animations worldwide. - As such, There are multiple variants to her story, personality & details change wildly depending on where & when you might have heard about it first, she goes vicariously by hundreds of Regional names, and there are number of other ghosts & yokai that seem to derive from her legend. - Since her first, modern appearance in 1979, she is frequently mentioned as a representative of "modern yokai" in various books on the subject, blending the concepts of urban legends with folklore.
Kuchisake Onna has become pretty consistent in her modern appearances: she is said to look like a tall, slender woman in her mid 20's to early 30's with cat-like voice and fox-like eyes, She dresses in red from head to toe. (shes typically depicted wearing a blood-red trench coat with various red accessories.**) she hides her mutilated face behind a large surgical mask & long, silky but dishevelled black hair...
Kuchisake-Onna is often said to appear on cloudy or rainy evenings, targeting schoolchildren on their way home. Her method of attack makes her the epitome of a Toorima, ('Random slasher' [とおりま (通り魔)]) however, she often has ghostly, supernatural elements to her as well, thus she is often considered an Onryo, a vengeful spirit of a mutilated woman, out to take out her anger against the living!
An encounter with Kuchisake-Onna typically goes like this:
A tall woman, wearing a large facemask, asks a passerby :
"...Am I pretty?"
The passerby then answers...• Answer: "Yes!" or "You're beautiful!" - She then removes her mask, revealing a hideous bloody smile, mouth, slashed ear to ear "How about now?" , she'll then attack, pulling a weapon out of her trench coat** and mutilate the targets face cutting it to look the same as hers.• Answer: "No." or "You're ugly." (or if you try to run away) she'll easily catch up with you, attacking you in blind rage. [its said that she can run incredibly fast (or even teleport) when enraged, she's faster than any car or bike, said to be able to cover 100m in less than 20 seconds!]
So, it's a real doomed if you do, doomed if you don't situation, however, there are actually quite a few creative (& funny) ways to escape her. As said earlier, because this legend has become so widespread for over 40 years now, there are of literally hundreads of variants to her story, details change from region to region and where/when you might've heard it I've cataloged a few of the common ones (and a few of my favourite variants which I've heard over the years!) below are just a few examples!
• Methods of Escape:
• Answer: "so-so" or "you're avarage" - answers like this confuse her, giving you the chance to get away! - Additionally, some say that by ignoring her question entirely & quickly answering with an excuse like "sorry, I'm busy" or "I have an appointment!" will cause her to apologize and let you go on your way. (Polite kuchisakeonna are quite rare however, though like actual slashers, it seems that she's more likely to attack someone who is without a place to be.) -
Similarly, After she removes her mask, asking her: "Are you ok!?!" will apparently catch her off guard causing her to become flustered, As rather than the typical reaction, somebody is actually concerned about her wounds. - Saying "You are beautiful on the outside, but you are also beautiful on the inside." is said to placate her as well.
• The Number 3, Ascending to the third floor of a building (if you can make it away from her somehow) is often said to be enough to deter her. On the note of entering buildings, kuchisake onna is also said to refuse to enter Record shops, Hair salons & Candy stores. shes also said to appear more frequently in locations with "San" in the name -There are also a number of phrases you can yell at her 3 times to make her vanish:
Yelling "Pomade!" at her three to six times is said to cause her to run away in fear, wearing it is also said to work as a sort of repellant. [Pomade is a type of strong-smelling hair grease, this relates to one of her many origins.] Similarly, yelling "Garlic!" or crying out "Bald!!" seems to scare her off. (Though, notably theres no solid explaination as to why these work.) Shes also said to be afraid of dogs, so yelling that "a dog is coming!" is another quick responce. (this one likely stems from her appearance in the "hanako san ga kita" anime.)
• Saying her name. - As said earlier, Kuchisake-Onna goes vicariously by a number of names, often, her true name is "Kashima Reiko" responding with the phrase "Kamen shinin ma" -[Ka as in mask (仮面), shi as in death (死), ma as in demon (魔), rei as in ghost (霊), and ko as in accident (事故). - ”mask death demon"] is said to cause her to vanish... The problem with this response is that this same name is also shared by a number of other similar yokai from the 70's onwards. - Particularly, Teke-teke. - like her story, Its sometimes said that kuchesake onna will attack you within 3 days of learning about her story, unless you share her legend with 10 friends... [a fairly common 'chainletter/creepy-pasta' tactic.] - There are also some origin stories which mention that she attacks, along with her 2 sisters, occasionally teke teke is said to be one of them.
• Throw some hard candy at her. - Kuchisake-onna is said to adore Bekko-ame, a hard type of clear, orange, losange like candy. (Though, really any sort of hard candy is said to do the trick.) - [ Kuchisake enjoying hard candies might relate to 幽霊子育飴, Kosodate-Ame and others like it. This particular type of hard candy is associated with Kosodate-Yurei, another ghost legend which dates back to 1599. As such, The hard orange candy is well known among the superstitious and is often used as an easy ghost repellant/offering.] - (Notably: many children bought hard candy like this during the fright of '79 (see History below.)) - Another humorous 'food related way out' is to quickly shove spicy wasabi in her mouth and then make your escape!!
• Wearing a mask. - This ones much more recent and might sound a bit political depending on where you're reading this from, but it's no joke: I've heard recently (since the start of the pandemic.) that Kuchisake-onna is more likely to target those Not wearing masks in public places, this addittion, likely came about because pretty much everyone started wearing masks during the covid-19 pandemic. - In otherwords, fit in, you'll be fine! But if you refuse to wear a mask, kuchisake-onna will be more likely to target you! - I've also seen some comics, where instead of stabbing you to death, kuchisake-onna will force you to wear a mask. - best to mask up!
• Having Type-O blood is also said to be another natural repellant, she just doesn't seem to attack people with Type-O blood. (it seems to be a mystery on why or how she can tell.)**Kuchisake-Onna's arsenal of weapons vicariously includes: everything sharp and hand-held from machettes, knives, scalpels, scissors, razors, shears to hand ax's. Scissors are what she typically uses in more modern/urban appearances, however, The more classic descriptions say that she uses a Farmers Kama. (a type of hand sickle.) - Sometimes, (rather humorously) she's also said to carry a large red umbrella that lets her fly away from the crime scene or that she drives a bright red car. - She hides all these weapons in her large trenchcoat, which is red because "it hides blood stains better." - there are also variants that wear all white because "it shows off the blood stains better" - in tokyo, shes said to wear an old style kimono and sunglasses, other places mention that she wears a baret.
Some other variants to her attack pattern include her tapping you on the shoulder. If you carelessly turn around, you will be slashed. - If you are tapped on the right shoulder, turn to the left; if you are tapped on the left shoulder, turn to the right to avoid it! - There are also some humorous variants where in she offers you some yogurt or some other sort of treat, if you say you dont want any, you'll be eaten alive.
• History: The Modern Rumors of Kuchisake-Onna are theorized to have begun in the Showa era, specifically, Gifu Prefecture in Early December 1978, it's thought that some parents were using her a bit like a boogeyman, the classic "Don't go out at night or ___ , will get you!" trick to scare kids into behaving and staying home, (specifically, it's said that it was used in poor neighbourhoods to keep the kids away from attending expensive cram-schools.) - The problem was, that this actually scared the kids so well that rumors spread quickly and by the next year it had solidified itself as an rumor, inspiring mass fear:
The legend soon became a national phenomenon in the spring and summer of 1979 when the rumors caused a great deal of fear among elementary and junior high school students throughout Japan, leading to a state of panic. – Police cars were dispatched (in Fukushima and Kanagawa Prefecture) and schools were evacuated in masse (in Hokkaido, and Saitama Prefectures) children were made to return home in groups & warnings about the woman were included in school handouts.
This all came to a head when in June of 1979, when a 25-year-old woman in Himeji City dressed up as a slit-mouthed woman for a "prank." She wandered around with a large kitchen knife and lipstick smeared all over her face. She was quickly arrested for violating the Firearms Law (Fortunately, nobody was hurt.) -
Talk of the legend soon died down, either because of this or because school was out for summer break. (without the internet there was no way for it to circulate as easily.)
By then the legend had also spread to Taiwan and South Korea, (again, In the time before the internet, that kind of reach is quite amazing.) Over there they called her the 'red mask woman.'
The legend eventually resurfaced in the 1990s, as the topic of plastic surgery and medical malpractice became a popular topic, the story changed and began to spread yet again, her origin changing to be 'a woman who had lost her mind after a plastic surgery gone wrong, the doctor who did it wore a thick pomade in his hair.' - By the 2000's, kuchisake-onna began to make several horror movie & cartoon appearances based after the urban legend, cementing her appearance in pop culture.
Some other common origins from around this time include her being the victim of: "Dental accidents, Tragic garden accidents, to her being the victim of Domestic Violence, Jealousy or Self-mutilation."
because of her scaring school kids, shes also often included in the "Seven School mysteries" (in some stories she's actually the school nurse.) ...Similar to the likes of Hanako-san & Teke-Teke, Kuchisake-onna is widely spread among school children So, Additional information on her detailed history and personality is also quite abundant, as such, she has more 'supposed origins' than one can properly catalogue & the legend continues to be well known with new information being added to it to this very day.
• 'Pre-modern' appearances: Some folklorists often theorize that the slit mouthed, kuchisake-onna perhaps originates from a story told during the Edo period included in "Ehon Sayoshigure"  others say that it's perhaps connected to an actual person from the Meiji period, -however, it should be noted that either connection is difficult to say that there's any connection with 100% certainty. - Indeed, they both have "slit mouths" however the one from Edo was a Kitsune, and not necessarily named "Kuchisake-Onna" - So, I've decided that i will cover those parts of history with-in their own sticker, another time, please look forward to it! [I'll link here when I eventually do so!] :)
• See also: Yokai: Futakuchi-onna. Urban Legends: Kashima reiko, Teketeke, Ashiuri-baba, Hasshakusama, Aku-Sera-Sera.
Thanks for reading! - Art Sticker by @SamKalensky (thats me!) part of my night parade of 100 yokai, and urban legends sticker collections, if you enjoyed this please check my shop for many more!