Dark and Curious Things
Kuchisake Onna

The legend of Kuchisake Onna

A man gets startled by a voice asking him, “Do you think I am beautfiul?”. The man turns around and notices a woman behind him. He collects himself and asks her what she is doing in his house. The woman asks again, “Do you think I am beautiful?”. The man studies the woman for a moment and notices she has long black hair, pale skin and what appears to be an attractive face. He delightfully answers the woman, “Yes, I think you’re beautiful”. The woman’s eyes squint as from a smile. She removes her mask and reveals a mutilated face, her mouth slit from ear to ear. She asks the man, “What about now?”. The man notices the woman is brandishing a knife and now in full panic tells her “Yes… YES! I think you are beautiful!”. The woman closes the distance in a split second and cuts the man’s mouth from ear to ear, leaving him mutilated on the floor with a smile now resembling hers.

What is Kuchisake Onna?

Kuchisake Onna is an onryou, a japanese vengeful spirit, and her name means “slit-mouthed woman”. She partially covers her face with mask and carries a sharp object. She is often described as having long black hair and pale skin. She is considered beautiful until she removes her mask and reveals her mouth has been slit from ear to ear.

According to legend she asks her potential victim if they think she is beautiful. If the answer is no, she will kill them on the spot. If the answer is yes, she removes her mask and asks them if they still think she is beautiful. If the answer is no, she will kill them; if the answer is yes, she will slit their mouth from ear to ear to resemble her own mutilated face.

The Story of Kuchisake Onna

So who is Kuchisake Onna? If legend is to be believed she was the wife of a samurai that grew lonely because her husband was always away from home fighting. She began having affairs with men around the town and as rumors grew her husband found out about this. He was furious and sliced the corners of her mouth from ear to ear as punishment and in hope that no man would ever want anything to do with her again. After her death, the woman returned as a vengeful spirit, an onryou.

Variations of the Legend

In some versions of the legend, her mouth was mutilated during a medical or dental procedure or by another woman who was jealous of her beauty. The way she covers her mouth also vary, from a hand fan or handkerchief to a cloth mask or surgical mask. Her mouth may or may not be filled with sharp teeth. She always carry a sharp instrument with her that ranges from a pair of scissors to a knife, machete or even a scythe.

How to Survive an Encounter with Kuchisake Onna

In some variations of the legend, the kuchisake onna will leave the victim alone if the answer yes to both her questions, while in other versions she will return later that night and kill them while they sleep. Another tactic includes telling her that she looks average rather than beautiful and this gives the person enough time to run away. Other variations to distract her that may or may not work includes giving or throwing money or hard candy at her or by saying the word “pomade” three times.

History of the Legend

Some people say that the kuchisake onna legend has roots in Japan’s Edo period (17th to 19th century) while others believe it only dates back as 1979. During 1979 the legend was reported many times in newspapers and news magazines. The rumor of the kuchisake onna spread through Japan which even led members of parent-teacher association groups to accompany young children home from school.

The historian and manga author Shigeru Mizuki considered kuchisake onna to be an example of a youkai and included the legend in one of his newest youkai encyclopedias.

Pop Culture References

  • The character appeared in the Studio Ghibli movie Pom Poko.
  • There is a 1996 live-action short film called kuchisake onna, directed by Teruyoshi Ishii.
  • Kuchisake onna is mentioned in the japanese version of the movie The Ring.
  • In 2007 a movie called “Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman” was released. It was followed by a sequel called “Carved 2: The Scissors Massacre” and a prequel called “The Slith-mouthed Woman 0: The Beginning”. Both released in 2008.
  • In 2012 a movie called “Kuchisake Onna Returns” was released.
  • The character appears in the webcomic Mob Psycho 100.
  • The story of kuchisake onna was the basis for the American Rapper Sellasouls’ mixtape “Am III Pretty?” released in 2021.
  • Kuchisake onna was also the basis for a character that appears in the episode Danse Vaudou in the show Constantine.
  • She appears in the manga and anime Jujutsu Kaisen.