TRANSLATION: slit-mouthed woman
HABITAT: dimly-lit streets and alleys
DIET: none; though enjoys hard candy
The spirits of the dead who were killed in particularly violent manners – abused wives, tortured captives, defeated enemies – often do not rest well. One such spirit is kuchisake onna, the ghost of a woman who was mutilated, come back to wreak vengeance on the world. Her name comes from the deep, bloody gash which runs across her face, grinning from ear to ear. She appears at night to lone travelers on the road, covering her grizzly mouth with a cloth mask, a fan, or a handkerchief.
Kuchisake onna sneaks up on her victims in the dark and then asks them if they think she is beautiful: “Watashi, kirei?” If the victim answers yes, she pulls off her mask, revealing a red, blood-dripping, grotesque mouth. Then she asks in a grisly voice if they still think she is: “Kore demo?” If her victim answers no or screams in terror, she slashes him from ear to ear so that he resembles her. If he lies and answers yes a second time, she walks away, only to follow her target to his home and slaughter him brutally that night.
During the Edo period, a large number of kuchisake onna attacks were blamed on shape-changed kitsune playing pranks on young men. During the 20th century, the blame began to be placed on ghosts, serial killers, and simple mass hysteria, resulting in many kuchisake onna sightings over Japan. A number of clever young people claim to have outsmarted them by delivering quick, confusing answers, or by throwing money or hard candy at her, buying themselves enough time to escape from her wrath and lose her in the darkness.