|Aliases:||Kayako Kawamata (maiden name)|
|Age:||28 at death (Japanese)
30 at death (American)
|Race:||Japanese (later Onryō)|
November 2001 (American)
2014 (2014 reboot)
|Family:||Takeo Saeki (husband)
Toshio Saeki (son)
Nakagawa Kawamata (mother; American versions only)
Naoko Kawamata (sister; American versions only)
|Weapon of Choice:||Curse
|Portrayed by:||Takako Fuji (Katasumi and 4444444444, Ju-on: The Curse, Ju-on: The Curse 2, Ju-on: The Grudge, Ju-on: The Grudge 2, The Grudge, The Grudge 2)
Misaki Saisho (Ju-on: Beginning of the End, Ju-on: The Final Curse)
Kyoka Takizawa (The Grudge 2)
Aiko Horiuchi (The Grudge 3)
Anna Moon (Tales From The Grudge)
Runa Endo (Sadako vs. Kayako)
Kayako Saeki (佐伯 伽椰子 Saeki Kayako?, née 川又 Kawamata) is a fictional character appearing in the Ju-on horror franchise. In all films up to The Grudge 2, she is portrayed by actress Takako Fuji. Fuji did not reprise her role after The Grudge 2, 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.
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 neckbones, 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 in various different franchises.
History and characteristics
In the Ju-on franchise, 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 high school 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 (佐伯俊雄). 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 both franchises this ultimately leads to Takeo 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 was slowly walking behind her, watching her pain. 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 her characteristic croaking noise. Takeo stares at her just sitting in a trash bag in the bedroom, then stabs her multiple times (an event that does not occur yet implied in The Grudge). 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. After that, Takeo kills Toshio (a witness to the murder) by drowning him and his pet cat Mar in the bathtub. He then runs to Kobayashi's house, killing Manami Kobayashi, Kobayashi's pregnant wife, and putting her fetus in a sack. As he flies into a fit of rage on the street, Kayako appears as an Onryō coming out 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 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 her appearance to Kobayashi during the first Ju-on movie.
Kayako is reimagined in the 2014 reboot Ju-on: The Beginning of the End, where she only serves as a secondary antagonist at most, appearing in ghost form only at the end. In the film, Kayako, who was unable to conceive a child with Takeo, had a boy in white, revealed to be Toshio Yamaga, "entering" 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 another character onscreen, as opposed to the brief offscreen conversation with Toshio in the first Ju-on.
In the final film in the series, Ju-On: The Final Curse, Kayako is still a secondary antagonist, but 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.
Kayako appears in the 2016 film Sadako vs. Kayako, with the onryo from the Ring series, Sadako Yamamura. At the end of this film, she accidentally merges with Sadako, thus creating a new ghost, Sayako.
Kayako's origin story is outlined in The Grudge 2. Kayako spends her childhood with her mother, an Itako (Japanese exorcist) who uses her daughter to "eat" the evil spirits she drives away from her patients. This marks the child 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 kill their son and his pet cat in a tub. Soon afterwards, Kayako murders her husband by hanging him with her hair. Peter Kirk, a man she was obsessively in love with, finds Kayako's body in the attic and commits suicide soon afterwards. 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 turns into a vengeful Onryō as well.
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 every bone in his body in The Grudge 3. All except him are paralyzed by fear when she arrives. It has also been speculated that Karen Davis committed suicide after being cornered by Kayako in The Grudge 2.
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 Onryo 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 has a younger sister named Naoko 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 Onryo. 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. Killed in rage when Takeo (Max) stabbed her through the back of her neck, Naoko was resurrected as a new Onryo. It is most likely up to interpretation why Naoko became an Onryo herself. To save her sister's life, 8-year-old Rose 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.