Yesterday's Myths & Mysteries

Kuchisake-Onna, the Slit-Mouthed Woman

“Watashi kirei?” she asks. Am I pretty?

Your answer will determine your fate. Say “No,” and she will cut off your head. Say nothing, and she will cut you in half. Say “Yes,” and she will give you scar, a cut from the corners of your mouth up to your ears, something called the Glasgow grin. The same scar, in fact, that she hides behind a surgical mask.

Her name is Kuchisake-Onna, the Slit-Mouthed Woman.

The Fate of Kuchisake-Onna

Kuchisake-Onna, as you can probably tell by the name, is a Japanese urban legend. There are several variations to her story. Some say she was the victim of plastic surgery gone wrong, or a terrible accident. But the most popular myth — the most haunting myth — is this:

Kuchisake-Onna was originally a beautiful, though terribly vain, woman. “Am I beautiful?” she would ask her husband. Constantly. Her husband, on the other hand, was extraordinarily paranoid and jealous. Over time, he became convinced that she was cheating on him.

One night, blinded by rage, her husband took a knife and cut her face, slicing her mouth from ear to ear. “Who will think you are beautiful, now?” he said. She died, becoming the vengeful spectre Kuchisake-Onna, haunting the streets of Japan and hiding her horrific scars behind a common surgical mask.

She will appear from nowhere. “Am I pretty?” she will ask. If you answer “Yes,” she will tear off her mask, revealing her disfiguring scars. “Am I pretty now?” she’ll say, before she makes you look just like her.

Image: DeviantArt/KittyRika

The only way to escape the slit-mouthed woman, so they say, is to respond to her question with indifference. “So-so.” Confused, she will take a moment to ponder your answer, giving you just enough time to get away.


Modern Terrors

Image: 2007’s Carved

Kuchisake-Onna is no doubt an urban legend, but in 1979, something peculiar happened.

A panic broke out in Japan. Schools closed early, parks were abandoned. Police were put on alert. Children were told to stay indoors, or escorted home by their teachers. Apparently, a woman with a Glasgow grin had been witnessed chasing children in Nagasaki Prefecture, and the story spread rapidly.

Legend has it, she was eventually hit by a car and killed. It’s not clear who she was or why she was tormenting the children. Perhaps she was the real Kuchisake-Onna?

Since then, movies have released featuring Kuchisake-Onna, like 2007’s Carved. Here’s the trailer:

Rob Schwarz

Writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. Editor-in-chief of Stranger Dimensions.

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