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Kuchisake-onna (口裂け女?, "Slit-Mouthed Woman") is a figure appearing in Japanese ghost stories, possibly dating back to the Edo period. She is a woman who was mutilated by her husband, and returns as a malicious spirit. 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 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.
Although some stories describe her as a former patient of a mental asylum, a more common story describes that in the Heian period, her husband found out that she was cheating on him with another samurai. He used a sword to cut her mouth from ear to ear and asked, "Who will think you are beautiful now?"
The original legend
According to the legend, she covers her mouth with a cloth mask, a fan, or a scarf.
The woman will ask a potential victim "Am I pretty?" If he answers yes, she will remove her mask and ask him again in a girly voice. If he answers no or screams, she will slash him from ear to ear so that he resembles her. If he answers yes, she will walk away, only to follow her victim home and brutally murder him that night.
To avoid this fate, several people during the Edo period claimed that they gave her confusing answers or threw money or hard candy at her, buying themselves time to run away and lose her.
The modern urban legend
According to the legend, she walks around wearing a surgical mask.
The woman will ask a potential victim "Am I pretty?" If they answer no, she will kill them with a pair of scissors, which she carries. If they answers yes, she will pull away the mask, revealing that her mouth is slit from ear to ear, and ask "How about now?" If they answer no, she will cut her victim in half. If the person answers yes, then she will slit his/her mouth like hers. It is impossible to run away from her, as she will simply reappear in front of the victim.
When the legend reappeared in the 1970s, rumors of ways to escape also emerged. Some sources say she can also be confused by the victim answering her question with ambiguous answers, such as "You are average" or "So-so". Another method is to flip her questions towards her, such as asking her "Do you think I'm pretty?" Unsure of what to do, she will give a person enough time to escape while she is lost in thought. Another escape route is to tell her one has a previous engagement; she will pardon her manners and excuse herself. In some variations of the tale, she can be distracted by fruit or candies thrown at her which she will then pick up, thus giving the victim a chance to run.
In popular culture
- Kuchisake-onna, directed by Teruyoshi Ishii (1996)
- The Slit-Mouthed Woman a.k.a. Kuchisake, Takaaki Hashiguchi (2005)
- Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman a.k.a. Kuchisake-onna, directed by Kōji Shiraishi (2007)
- Kaiki toshi-densetsu - Kuchisake-onna, directed by Toru Furukawa (2008)
- Carved 2: The Scissors Massacre a.k.a. The Slit-Mouthed Woman 2 a.k.a. Kuchisake-onna 2, directed by Kotaro Terauchi (2008)
- The Slit-Mouthed Woman 0: The Beginning a.k.a. Kuchisake-onna 0: Biginingu, directed by Kazuto Kodama (2008)
- Uwasa no Shinsō! Kuchisake-onna, directed by Kōji Shiraishi (2008)
- Kuchisake-onna Two, directed by Eiji Kamikura (2010)
- Keitai Ura Site: Kuchisake-onna, directed by Yuji Ichinose (2010)
- Hikiko-san VS Kuchisake-onna, directed by Hisashi Nagaoka (2011)
- Kuchisake-onna Returns, directed by Jun'ichi Yamamoto (2012)
- Senritsu Kaiki File Kowasugi! File-01 "Kuchisake-onna Hokaku Sakusen", directed by Kōji Shiraishi (2012)
- Slit Mouth Woman in L.A., directed by Kay Hiro and Yo Hirose (2014)
- Kuchisake-onna vs Kashima-san, directed by Naoya Asanuma (2017)
Manga and anime
- Kuchi-sake Onna
- Kuchisake Onna Densetsu
- Kanojo wa Rokurokubi (as Yotchy)
The Kuchisake-onna also makes an appearance in:
- Battle Fever J, in episode 29
- Constantine, in episode 5, "Danse Vaudou"
- Fairest, a spin-off of the comic Fables – Kuchisake-onna is called Mayumi, and acts as Tomoko's right hand
- Franken Fran – it includes a short parody of the Kuchisake-onna legend in an extra of Volume 2
- Hanako and the Terror of Allegory
- Hell Teacher Nūbē
- Horror of Kuchisake-onna by Arabella Wyatt – this features Kuchisake-onna as a central figure, using the urban legend to explore both domestic abuse and social conformity
- Mob Psycho 100
- Toshi Densetsu
- Urban Legend in Limbo as Hata no Kokoro's attributed urban legend
- Zekkyou Gakkyuu, in Chapter 21
There have also been various references and mentions of the Kuchisake-onna, and even multiple inspirations:
- The Kuchisake-onna was mentioned in an episode of Detective Conan.
- Kuchisake-onna is also mentioned in the Japanese visual novel, Rewrite.
- Perhaps not intentional, but Mortal Kombat's character, Mileena, is possibly based on the Kuchisake-onna. She even wanted to be beautiful in some of the games, just like the spirit.
- In Danganronpa, the split personality of character Touko Fukawa, the scissors-wielding serial killer Genocider Syo, was most likely inspired by Kuchisake-onna.
- Kayo Sudou's character from The Evillious Chronicles is inspired by the Kuchisake-onna.
- She is parodied in chapter 123 of "+ Tic Nee-san"
- There is an item in the MMO "The Secret World" called Kuchisake-onna's Scissors
- Bloody Mary, a similar apparition in western urban legends.
- Glasgow smile
- La Llorona
- Onryō, a malicious ghost in Japanese folklore
- Teke Teke, another malicious Japanese spirit.
- Japanese urban legends
- Vengeful ghost
- on YouTube
- "Kuchisake Onna | The Mask of Reason".
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-06-03. Retrieved 2016-06-20.
- "LiveLeak.com - The Slit-Mouthed Woman (J-Horror)". liveleak.com.