The Kuckisake-Onna

In investigating or researching any paranormal phenomenon, I believe in the importance of learning about any local legends and myths. Over the years, I have studied folklore, superstitions along with modern urban legends throughout the world. Some of the most twisted and disturbed ghostly tales I ever encountered originate from Japan. With Halloween around the corner, I would like to share a few of those Japanese stories in a three part series by beginning with the Kuckisake-Onna or the Slit-Mouthed Women.

In Japanese lore, the Kuckisake-Onna is a vengeful spirit believed capable of harming and even killing the living. There has been variations of the legend over the centuries, but the one to be told is the modern tale. As the story goes, a vain woman often teased her jealous husband how her beauty could get any man she wanted. One day, her paranoid husband accused her of cheating and in a rage sliced here mouth open from ear to ear with a knife while shouting “Who will think you’re beautiful now?” The wife later dies from the injuries.

The legend tells her spirit returns to haunt the streets of Japan seeking revenge. Her ghost would appear on a foggy day or at night in the form of a beautiful woman wearing an over coat with a surgical mask covering her face. In Japan and other Asian countries, the mask is commonly worn by those not wanting to spread the cold, flu or other sickness to family and friends. In the case of Kuckisake-Onna, it’s to hide the scars from those she confronts.

The tale continues that she will appear out of nowhere, approachs you and ask “Am I pretty?”. If the answer is yes, she will tear the surgical mask off revealing the scarred mouth and ask “How about now?”. At this point, if answered no, she pulls out a sword, a knife, or an oversize pair of scissors, depending on the version of the legend, and kills you on the spot. If you say yes instead, then the ghost slashes your mouth open like hers.

One cannot escape the Kuckisake-Onna, as she is fast or can instantly teleport in front of you. However according to the myth, there are ways to survive this encounter. The first one is to say yes to the creature first time around, then when she asks “how about now?” respond with “so-so”,”about average” or even “how about me? Am I pretty?”. These replies are believed to distract the ghost long enough to escape from as it ponders on your answer. The second way is to offer the spirit amber candy which it takes in delight then disappears.

In my research, this modern version or urban legend of Kuckisake-Onna appears in Japan during the 1970s. Early accounts said the spirit would attack young men who resembled her husband. Years later the story became she targeted children. This tale has been featured within popular media forms within Japan.


Other Sources

Kyla. “Kuchisake-Onna”. Urban Legends. September 10, 2014.

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