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A Kuchisake-onna in a scene from Ehon Sayoshigure by Hayami Shungyōsai, 1801

Kuchisake-onna (口裂け女, 'Slit-Mouthed Woman')[1] is a malevolent figure in Japanese urban legends and folklore. Described as the malicious spirit, or onryō, of a woman, she partially covers her face with a mask or other item and carries a pair of scissors, a knife, or some other sharp object. She is most often described as having long, straight, white hands, black hair, pale skin, and otherwise being considered beautiful (except for her scar). She has been described as a contemporary yōkai.[1][2]

According to popular legend, she asks potential victims if they think she is beautiful. If they respond with "no", she will either kill them with her long medical scissors on the spot or wait until nightfall and murder them in their sleep. If they say "yes", she will reveal that the corners of her mouth are slit from ear to ear, and she will then repeat her question. If the individual responds with "no", she will kill them with her weapon, and if they say "yes" hesitantly she will cut the corners of their mouth in such a way that resembles her own disfigurement. Methods that can be used to survive an encounter with Kuchisake-onna include answering her question by describing her appearance as "average".[3]

The Kuchisake-onna legend has been described as dating back to the 17th to 19th centuries, during Japan's Edo period.[1] The story experienced a resurgence of awareness in 1970s Japan, when several newspapers and magazines reported on the legend, and rumors surrounding it spread throughout the country, leading to young children being accompanied by groups of adults while walking home from school.[2][4]

The legend and its variations

Diagram of a possible conversation with Kuchisake-onna and its consequences, according to the legend.

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 a mistress of a samurai during her life.[5][6] She grew lonely because the samurai was always away from home fighting, and began having affairs with men around the town. When the samurai heard of this, he was outraged. As punishment for her infidelity, her husband sliced the corners of her mouth from ear to ear.[5][6] In other versions of the tale, her mouth was mutilated during a medical or dental procedure or by a woman who was jealous of her beauty; in still other versions, her mouth is filled with numerous sharp teeth.[7]

After her death, the woman returned as a vengeful spirit, or onryō. As an onryō, she covers her mouth with a cloth mask (often specified as a surgical mask), or in some iterations, a hand fan or handkerchief.[1] She carries a sharp instrument with her, which has been described as a knife, a machete, a scythe, or a large pair of scissors.[7] She is also described as having supernatural speed.[8] She is said to ask potential victims if they think she is attractive, often phrased as "Watashi, kirei?"[a] (which translates to "Am I pretty?" or "Am I beautiful?").[1] If the person answers "no", she will kill them with her weapon, and if the person answers "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 person responds with "no" or screams in fright, she will kill the person with her weapon.[1] If the response is "yes", she will slice the corners of the person's mouth from ear to ear, resembling her own disfigurement.[1][9]

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 the person while sleeping.[1][2] Another tactic is to say that the individual is running late and she will simply bow and apologize, allowing the individual to pass. Other survival tactics include replying to Kuchisake-onna's question by describing her appearance as "average", giving the individual enough time to run away;[2][7] distracting her by giving or throwing money or hard candies (particularly the kind of candy known as bekko ame [ja], made of caramelised sugar) in her direction, as she will stop to pick them up;[1][2][10] or by saying the word "pomade" three times.[2][11]



Author and folklorist Matthew Meyer has described the Kuchisake-onna legend as having roots dating back to Japan's Edo period, which spanned from the 17th to 19th centuries[1] but Japanese literature professor Iikura Yoshiyuki believes it dates from the 1970s.[3]

In print, the legend of Kuchisake-onna dates back to at least as early as 1979. The legend was reported in such publications as the Gifu Prefecture newspaper Gifu Nichi Nichi Shinbun on 26 January 1979, the weekly publication Shukan Asahi on 23 March 1979, and the weekly news magazine Shukan Shincho on 5 April 1979.[12] Rumors about Kuchisake-onna spread throughout Japan, which led to young children sometimes being accompanied by members of parent–teacher association groups while walking home from school.[2][4]

Historian and manga author Shigeru Mizuki considered Kuchisake-onna to be an example of a yōkai, a term which can refer to a variety of supernatural monsters, spirits, and demons in Japanese folklore.[13] According to Zack Davisson, a translator of many of Mizuki's works, "When Mizuki put her in one of his newest yokai encyclopedias, that's when she was officially considered a yokai."[13]


Kuchisake-onna has appeared in live-action films, as well as in manga, anime, and video games. The character appears in the 1994 animated film Pom Poko, produced by Studio Ghibli,[14] and later appears in the 1996 live-action short film Kuchisake-onna, directed by Teruyoshi Ishii.[14] She is also mentioned in the 1998 film Ring, directed by Hideo Nakata.[14] In 2007, the film Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman (also known under the titles Kuchisake-onna or A Slit-Mouthed Woman), directed by Kōji Shiraishi and featuring Miki Mizuno as Kuchisake-onna, was released.[6][15] The film was followed by Carved 2: The Scissors Massacre (also known as Kuchisake-onna 2)[16] and The Slit-Mouthed Woman 0: The Beginning (or Kuchisake-onna 0: Biginingu), both of which were released in 2008.[17] The Kuchisake-onna character later appeared in the 2012 film Kuchisake-onna Returns,[18] as well as in the webcomic Mob Psycho 100.[19] Kuchisake-onna is the female main character of the manga Even If You Slit My Mouth by Akari Kajimoto. Additionally, the character is featured in Jujutsu Kaisen.[20]

Kuchisake-onna was also the basis for a character that appears in "Danse Vaudou", an episode of the American television series Constantine.[21][22]

An enemy called Scissor Woman, inspired by Kuchisake-onna appears in the video game World of Horror. [23]

Kuchisake-onna also appears as a moderately strong enemy in the game Ghostwire: Tokyo. She has two different forms: in the first one she has a long white coat, a large white hat and is wearing a surgical mask.[24] In her second form, her coat turns to red and she drops both the hat and the mask, revealing her slit mouth.[25] In both forms she uses a long pair of scissors to attack the player.

See also

  • Bloody Mary, an urban legend about a demonic apparition who appears in mirrors
  • Glasgow smile
  • Japanese urban legends, enduring modern Japanese folktales
  • La Llorona, the ghost of a woman in Latin American folklore
  • Madam Koi Koi, an African urban legend about the ghost of a dead teacher
  • Ouni, a Japanese yōkai with a face like that of a demon woman (kijo) torn from mouth to ear
  • Teke Teke, a Japanese urban legend about the spirit of a girl with no legs


  1. ^ The word "kirei" is a homophone for "kire", meaning "cut".


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Meyer, Matthew (31 May 2013). "Kuchisake onna". Yokai.com. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Philbrook, Scott (co-host); Burgess, Forrest (co-host); Meyer, Matthew (guest) (14 October 2018). "Ep 121: Yokai Horrors of Japan" (Podcast). Astonishing Legends. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  3. ^ a b Yoshiyuki, Iikura (27 December 2019). "Japanese Urban Legends from the "Slit-Mouthed Woman" to "Kisaragi Station"". Nippon.com. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  4. ^ a b Alverson, Brigid (16 June 2016). "A Short Course in Yokai with Translator Zack Davisson". Barnes & Noble. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  5. ^ a b Matchar, Emily (31 October 2013). "Global Ghosts: 7 Tales of Specters From Around the World". The Atlantic. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  6. ^ a b c Fordy, Tom (8 March 2019). "Sadako lives: the true stories behind five Japanese horror movies". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  7. ^ a b c Yoda & Alt 2013, p. 204–206.
  8. ^ Yoda & Alt 2013.
  9. ^ Harden, Blaine (31 October 2008). "Monsters: Japan has thousands of 'yokai'". The Santa Fe New Mexican. p. A001. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  10. ^ Yoda & Alt 2013, p. 206.
  11. ^ Yoda & Alt 2013, p. 206–207.
  12. ^ Dylan Foster 2008, p. 252.
  13. ^ a b Lombardi, Linda (7 January 2019). "Shigeru Mizuki, the legendary manga creator and 'Yokai Professor,' finally gets his due". Syfy. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  14. ^ a b c Dylan Foster 2008, p. 185.
  15. ^ Squires, John (10 August 2016). "Sadako vs. Kayako Coming Exclusively to Streaming Service Shudder; New Images!". Dread Central. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  16. ^ Martin, Todd (13 July 2017). "Film Review: Carved 2: The Scissors Massacre". HorrorNews.net. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  17. ^ Murguía 2016, p. 176–178.
  18. ^ Komatsu, Mikikazu (27 June 2012). "VIDEO: Japanese Horror Movie "Kuchisake-onna Returns" Trailer". Crunchyroll. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  19. ^ Ogawa, Noelle (26 January 2019). "Urban Legend Spooks: Mob Psycho 100 II's Peek Into Horror". Crunchyroll. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  20. ^ Ahmad, Suzail (2023-08-31). "Jujutsu Kaisen: Every Special Grade Curse, Ranked". Game Rant. Retrieved 2024-02-21.
  21. ^ Peters, Kylie (24 November 2014). "Constantine episode 5 review: Danse Voudou". Den of Geek. Retrieved 18 October 2020.
  22. ^ Pollard, Andrew (13 December 2014). "Constantine Season 1, Episode 5 'Danse Vaudou'". Starburst Magazine. Retrieved 18 October 2020.
  23. ^ Watts, Rachel (21 February 2020). "World of Horror is a gruesome adventure game inspired by the work of Junji Ito". PC Gamer. Retrieved 7 May 2024.
  24. ^ "Get to Know Ghostwire: Tokyo's Visitors & Yokai".
  25. ^ https://twitter.com/playGhostwire/status/1532739281197969409



Further reading

  • よくわかる「世界の妖怪」事典―河童、孫悟空から、ドラキュラ、口裂け女まで [A Well-Understood "World Monster" Encyclopedia - from Kappa and Son Goku to Dracula and the Slit-Mouth Woman] (in Japanese). Kosaido Publishing. 2007. ISBN 978-4331654170.