Takako Fuji as Kayako Saeki
|First appearance||Katasumi (1998)|
|Last appearance||The Grudge (2020)|
|Created by||Takashi Shimizu|
|Portrayed by||Takako Fuji (Katasumi, Ju-on: The Curse, Ju-on: The Curse 2, Ju-on: The Grudge, Ju-on: The Grudge 2, The Grudge, The Grudge 2)|
Misaki Saishō (Ju-on: Beginning of the End, Ju-on: The Final Curse)
Kyōka Takizawa (Young Kayako) (The Grudge 2)
Aiko Horiuchi (The Grudge 3)
Anna Moon (Tales from the Grudge)
Tomoko Satō (Scary Movie 4)
Runa Endō (Sadako vs. Kayako)
Junko Bailey (The Grudge)
|Full name||Kayako Saeki|
|Family||Mrs. Kawamata (mother; American version only)|
Naoko Kawamata (sister; American version only)
Takeo Saeki (husband)
Toshio Saeki (son)
Kayako Saeki (佐伯 伽椰子, Saeki Kayako) is a character in the Ju-on horror franchise. In all films up to The Grudge 2, she is portrayed by actress Takako Fuji. Fuji retired the role after the film and was replaced by Aiko Horiuchi in The Grudge 3, while Anna Moon took the role in the web series Tales from the Grudge. Actress Misaki Saisho played Kayako in Ju-on: Beginning of the End and its sequel Ju-on: The Final Curse, while Runa Endo played Kayako in Sadako vs. Kayako, Tomoko Sato played Kayako in Scary Movie 4.
She was created by director Takashi Shimizu. She represents a popular antagonist in Japanese culture, the vengeful ghost (Onryō). She is typically characterized by long dark hair covering her pale face, unsettling wide eyes, twisted movements with crunching neck bones, and a haunting death rattle. She first appeared in Shimizu's short movie Katasumi and spends the majority of the Ju-on series haunting a house in Nerima, Japan. She is one of the fulfillers of the Ju-on curse, which states that when someone dies in a state of intense rage, those feelings remain at the death site and kill whoever it touches.
She has proven to be a very popular character in horror cinema, having appeared in many films and other media.
History and characteristics
In the Ju-on timeline, as revealed in the official novel written by Kei Ohishi, both of her parents were present albeit highly neglectful, causing Kayako to often feel depressed and lonely.
Kayako spent most of her free time with her cat Kuro and was highly anti-social. In the first installment of the Ju-on franchise, Ju-on: The Curse, Kobayashi's wife Manami [sic] remarks that she remembers Kayako from college and that she found her "creepy". Kayako became highly jealous of Manami and even tried to curse her but failed and eventually gave up. When she attends university, she meets Shunsuke Kobayashi, with whom she falls deeply in love. After the accidental deaths of her parents which didn't seem to faze her, Kayako marries Takeo Saeki, the only person who understands and cares for her, and together, they have a son named Toshio. By now, Kobayashi is Toshio's school teacher, and she falls in love with him again.
She writes of her feelings for him in the journal she kept all her life; in most variations of the story, Takeo ends up finding and reading her diary. He becomes obsessed with the idea that Kayako is cheating on him with his son's teacher – or worse, Toshio could not be his son, but Kobayashi's. When she gets home that day, he violently attacks her upstairs, pushing her against the wall. Toshio is in his bedroom drawing and hears the noise and, coming outside, watches the violence which is occurring below through the banisters. Kayako tries to run away while Takeo chases her, but he pushes her down. She sprains her ankle, stumbles, and falls, and has to go down their house stairs by crawling. After much effort, she makes it to the front door, only to find Takeo slowly walking behind her, watching her suffer. He then snaps her neck to a 90-degree angle and crushes her throat, takes her to their bedroom and puts her in a trash bag. Kayako is still alive, but paralyzed, capable only of letting out a croaking moan. Takeo stabs her multiple times (an event that is not shown explicitly in either Ju-On: The Grudge or The Grudge, but heavily hinted at, as Takeo is shown lowering a box cutter to her face in the former, and dragging her bloody body in the latter). Then, he puts her body in the far corner of the attic, through an attic door in the ceiling of their bedroom closet.
After her death, she becomes an Onryō because of the painful and torturous nature of her death. In the novel, her spirit first claimed Toshio, possibly to save him. In the films, Toshio is drowned by his father in the bathtub with his pet cat.
Takeo runs to Kobayashi's house, killing Manami Kobayashi, Kobayashi's pregnant wife, and putting her fetus in a sack. As he beats the sack around and flies into a fit of rage on the street, Kayako's spirit emerges from the garbage dumped nearby and kills Takeo.
Some time later, Kayako's body is found in the attic; Takeo's on the nearby street (his cause of death unknown to the police, they assume he committed suicide) and Toshio's in a closet.
Since that day, the ghosts of Kayako, Toshio and Takeo kill everyone who steps into the Saeki House (and anywhere the curse is transmitted). The cat, Mar, usually appears to forewarn any intruders of their impending doom. The curse typically does not manifest immediately; new residents of the house are unmolested for a time before inevitably succumbing to its effect. Visitors may leave without difficulty only to be pursued by Kayako (or Toshio) later on and there appears to be no geographic limits to its range. The curse is meant to repeat itself as an unending cycle, so the films feature Kayako crawling down the stairs, emitting her famous death rattle, cracking her neck around and covered with blood.
Although she is usually heard emitting a croaking sound, Kayako is occasionally heard making a strange, eerie moaning instead - she is even heard speaking to Toshio (off-screen) after her death, albeit briefly, and she physically appears in her human form to Kobayashi during the first Ju-on movie.
Kayako is reimagined as a cruel, mean-spirited woman in the 2014 reboot Ju-on: The Beginning of the End, where she appears in ghost form only at the end. In the film, Kayako, who was unable to conceive a child with Takeo, had a mysterious boy, revealed to be Toshio Yamaga, "enter" her womb, to be reborn as Toshio Saeki. Thus, her son was hers only, never wanting to spend time with Takeo, until Takeo found out the truth nine years later. Kayako was killed by Takeo, but unlike the previous films, she openly gloated Takeo's questionable fatherhood and even laughed maniacally as her head was snapped. Kayako becomes part of the curse afterward, but she never kills anyone in the film, being used as a sort of haunting by Toshio, who is true originator of the curse. Also, unlike the previous continuities, Kayako actually talks to other characters onscreen, as opposed to the brief offscreen conversation with Toshio in the first Ju-on.
In the final film of the Japanese series, Ju-On: The Final Curse, Kayako has a more active role in killing those who fell to the curse' influence; she is the one who kills Reo, her mother, and Sota. She also manages to corner Mai at the end of the film, implying that she too will be killed by her.
Through a rumor, it is explained that Kayako was repeatedly stabbed to death by her husband before he drowned their son, Toshio, and hung himself. Ever since, Kayako's and Toshio's spirits haunt their household, killing anyone who sets foot inside.
Suzuka Takagi moves in next door with her parents, where she already experiences supernatural visions of the foreboding house.
The psychic, Keizo Tokiwa, intended on having Kayako battle Sadako and have them destroy each another in order to free their current and future victims from their curses. At the same time, however, after spriting away four schoolboys, Suzuka believes she sees one of them in the house late at night and goes there to check on him, only to have her parents follow after her as well. After Suzuka's father was taken, Kayako appears, taking Suzuka's mother's feet before capturing her. Kayako was quickly warded off with an essence of Sadako's spirit in order for Keizo, Yuri, and Tamao to save Suzuka.
The following night, Suzuka and Yuri enter the house to inflict both curses on themselves – Yuri having previously watched the cursed video two nights prior, and Suzuka setting up a television and VCR in order to watch it in the house. With this, Kayako and Sadako emerge, and with one in the other's way, they enter a brutal conflict. Initially, Kayako dragged Sadako away, only to quickly be overcome and temporarily destroyed.
As Kayako returned, the conflict between the two spirits temporarily allowed the girls and Keizo to escape the house. They retreated to a well, where Keizo explains that one must sacrifice themselves in order to trap both Sadako and Kayako in the well, to which Yuri volunteers. Just as she jumps into the well, Kayako accidentally merges with Sadako, thus creating a new, all-powerful spirit. The cluster descended after Yuri, possessing her body before breaking out of the sealed well a moment later. With this, the new spirit became a new curse.
Kayako spends her childhood with her sister and mother, an Itako (Japanese exorcist) who uses Kayako to "eat" the evil spirits she drives away from her patients. Kayako’s sister Naoko was spared of this treatment. This marks young Kayako for the rest of her life, making her a target for gossip and cruelty. Kayako didn't seem to have a father-figure in her life in the American films. Unlike in Ju-on, Kayako didn't lead a normal childhood and her mother was highly abusive. Therefore, the primary reason for her becoming an Onryō in The Grudge is because of the malevolent spirits she was fed by her mother, and not purely because of the painful nature of her death.
After her husband snaps her neck and leaves her paralyzed, he proceeds to drown their son and his pet cat in a tub. Soon afterward, Kayako murders her husband by hanging him from the ceiling with her hair. Peter Kirk, a man she was obsessively in love with, finds Kayako's body in the attic and commits suicide soon afterward. All ghosts of the Saeki family members now haunt the house.
Several years after, a young girl named Allison transfers the curse to Chicago. Kayako starts haunting an apartment building which leads to her sister, Naoko, trying to stop her. Kayako does not attempt to attack or kill Naoko, but the spirit of her murderous husband does, and Naoko is killed in an even more violent fashion than her sister. Naoko then shockingly turns into a vengeful Onryō as well, despite her mother not feeding her evil spirits like she did Kayako, and kills her attacker.
In all portrayals, no human ever attempts to fight back against Kayako physically, except for Jake Kimble who, very briefly, attempts to resist Kayako. The young boy attempts to get out of Kayako's grasp right before she breaks almost every bone in his body in The Grudge 3. All except him are paralyzed by fear when she arrives.
Differences between versions
Her death is almost equal in both story lines, with the exception of showing or mentioning the use of the utility knife to slash her, which only appears in Ju-on due to American violence ratings. The scene of her crawling down the stairs, having her neck broken and being put in the attic are shown in the director's cut of The Grudge, and parts of it are shown in the theatrical version.
In the Japanese films, Kayako's death is similar to the film versions. However, in the novel, she is first beaten and slashed by Takeo, before he ties her to the bedpost while continuing to torture her, until she eventually dies.
In Ju-on Kobayashi is claimed by Kayako during his visit to the house. As he watches her crawl down the stairs he backs up to the door which opens from behind him. She stands there, says his name, then comes down and gives him a kiss of death. When the angle changes Kayako is gone, Kobayashi is sitting there dead, and Toshio is still standing facing forward with a phone in his hand and his mouth open. In The Grudge, Peter kills himself by throwing himself over his balcony in front of his wife.
Takeo Saeki is found dead by hanging in The Grudge, similar to a scene of the series' second respective films, where Kayako appears in the ceiling of a room and, with her hair, strangles and hangs a couple. In the Japanese version, he is killed by Kayako in a street at night, after killing Kobayashi's wife and unborn child. In the novel, he is killed when Kayako's ghost stabs him through the back with a knife.
In the Japanese, Kayako is almost covered head to toe in blood, most notably in Ju-on: The Grudge 2, and she also has curly, broad hair in Ju-on: The Grudge. But in Ju-on: The Grudge 2, she has long straight hair as well as in The Grudge. However, in the more recent vignettes of the American films, she is either pale blue-toned white or completely pure white (except for the infamous stair crawling scene at the end of The Grudge, in which she is covered in blood). After the house is burned by Karen Davis in The Grudge, Kayako seems to be permanently clean; this is perhaps to signify her change of character, because in Ju-on, she is somewhat weaker than she is in the remake. As in Ju-on, she constantly crawls downstairs and rarely attacks people as viciously as she does in The Grudge. In the American films, she seems to be a much stronger, more evil, and a more powerful Onryō because, as seen in The Grudge 3, she can kill someone by ripping their eyes out and tearing off their jaw. In fact, in the last two US films, she is never seen covered in blood at all (although in The Grudge 3, Jake mentions to Dr. Sullivan that he saw her covered in blood on one occasion).
In The Grudge 3, Kayako’s younger sister named Naoko is introduced although in Ju-on she was an only child (Ju-on novel). It is not revealed how close they were as sisters, and their mother seems to have only performed her exorcisms on Kayako. Naoko used to be terrified of her mother, but she seemed to learn how to become an Itako and she took her mother's equipment after she went into hiding. Naoko is aware of Kayako's death and knows she is an Onryō. It is unknown who sent her the news clippings of Kayako's victims' deaths, it was most likely done by her co-workers who intended to embarrass her. When Naoko sees a clipping about young Jake's death, she decides to try to stop Kayako forever. When inside the apartment, Kayako frequently watches Naoko, however never tries to attack her. Kayako does not kill Naoko, but Takeo does, while possessing Max Morrison. Killed in rage when Takeo (Max) stabbed her through the back of her neck, Naoko was resurrected as a new Onryō. It is most likely up to interpretation why Naoko became an Onryō herself. To save her sister's life, 8-year-old Rose Morrison drank Kayako's blood (which Naoko had obtained), containing Kayako inside her body.
In the Japanese films, Kayako is 28 years old at the time of her death. In the remakes, she is 30 years old.
- Ohishi, Kei (2003). Ju-on. Kadokawa Shoten. ISBN 9784043572045.
- Shiraishi, Kōji (Director) (January 2017) [First released June 18, 2016]. 貞子vs伽椰子 [Sadako VS Kayako] (Motion picture) (in Japanese). NBCUniversal Entertainment Japan.
- Shimizu, Takashi (Director) (January 2017) [First released October 22, 2004]. The Grudge (Motion picture). Columbia Pictures.
- Shimizu, Takashi (Director) (January 2017) [First released October 13, 2006]. The Grudge 2 (Motion picture). Columbia Pictures.
- Wilkins, Toby (Director) (January 2017) [First released May 12, 2009]. The Grudge 3 (Motion picture). Stage 6 Films.