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Japan is home to many an urban legend, some of which end up being turned into popular horror films. The Slit-Mouthed Woman (Kuchisake-onna) is one such legend. Conveniently enough, it’s also one of the legends that’s had plenty of media released surrounding it, and this weekend, I finally got around to watching the 2007 horror film “Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman.”

For dramatic effect, please play this video in another tab while reading this post.

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

Photo by Hideyoshi

Picture this – you’re walking home alone at night, minding your own business, and through your daydreaming you end up down a deserted city street that you don’t quite recognize. Suddenly, you hear a strange noise coming from the shadows and you feel something moving towards you as the hair stands up on the back of your neck, giving you the chills.

You turn around slowly and see a beautiful woman standing right behind you. She has long hair, is wearing a long beige trench coat, and is carrying a large pair of shears.

She looks relatively normal, other than the fact that she’s wearing a surgical mask, but that’s not too strange here in Japan. You do, however, wonder why she’s carrying around this pair of shears with her. Interrupting your train of thought, the woman asks in a haunting voice, “Am I beautiful?”

Being a little creeped out, and honestly thinking she’s a decent looking lady, you answer her truthfully, “Yes.”

Upon hearing your answer, she rips off the surgical mask revealing her mutilated mouth, open from ear to ear. Stretching her unnaturally large mouth, she screams, “HOW ABOUT NOW!?”

Terrified, you struggle to form words in your mouth and answer her. Thinking it’s probably a bad idea to say anything negative at this point, you manage to eke out a weak, “Yes…”

The woman then proceeds to take her shears and slice your mouth from ear to ear so that you are now just as beautiful as she. Oops.

The Legend of The Slit-Mouthed Woman

“Hey Kuchisake-onna, y u so serious?”

The Slit-Mouthed Woman is a vengeful Japanese spirit, or yokai, with her defining feature being her mouth slit from ear to ear (kind of like The Joker). According to Japanese urban legends, she roams the streets at night wearing a surgical mask and asking her victims if she’s beautiful.

In 1979, there were many reports of The Slit-Mouthed Woman sightings throughout Japan, and the ghost was said to target school children in specific. The legend spread like wildfire and actually caused increased police patrols in select areas and schools sent teachers to walk students home in groups to make sure they didn’t get snatched up.

The story of The Slit-Mouthed Woman is thought to originate from the Heian period (794-1185). According to the legend, a samurai had a concubine whom he suspected of infidelity. The woman was very beautiful, but also very self absorbed and vain. In a jealous rage the samurai took his sword and cut the woman’s mouth open asking, “Who will find you beautiful now?”

The concubine became a vengeful spirit (par for the course in Japan) and began to wander the streets, wearing a surgical mask to hide her terrible scars.

Photo by DavidGaillet

In modern Japanese urban legend, The Slit-Mouthed Woman is still wandering the streets looking for victims, still asking the same question she has been for hundreds of years. Typically answered in the affirmative, she then rips off her mask, revealing her slit mouth, and repeats her question.

If you answer no or run away, The Slit-Mouthed Woman will hunt you down and kill you. According to legend, she is armed with a sharp, bladed weapon of some sort, ranging from household shears to a large scythe. In the case of a female victim, the spirit may turn her into yet another The Slit-Mouthed Woman.

Different versions of the The Slit-Mouthed Woman story offer different ways to save oneself if approached by the creature. In some tales, she will leave the victim alone if he or she still says that The Slit-Mouthed Woman is beautiful after the mask is removed. In other versions, however, this will only delay death. If you reply “no,” she’ll kill you right then and there.

Some say that the best answer is, “You look normal.” or “You look so-so.” This is said to confuse The Slit-Mouthed Woman, making her think of how to respond, giving her victim time to escape. Another way to escape is to say “Brylcreem” or “pomade” a certain amount of times. Apparently it is supposed to remind her of an old boyfriend or some nonsense.

Other stories suggest throwing something attractive, such as a piece of fruit, candy, or something shiny, away from oneself in order to distract The Slit-Mouthed Woman. As The Slit-Mouthed Woman is not a magpie, I feel that this last suggestion is kind of stupid, but hey, you never know until you try. Some even suggest turning the question around on The Slit-Mouthed Woman and asking her if she thinks you’re pretty.

As mentioned, a supposed Slit-Mouthed Woman started to steadily make appearances in the 1970s. Surprisingly enough, there actually appears to be a bit of credibility to the legend. In 2007, it was discovered that in the late 1970s there was a woman who chased children who was struck by a car and killed during such a chase. This woman did actually have a torn mouth similar to the story. Whether or not her mouth was like this before or after the crash, who can say. This woman was likely the cause of the panic in the late 1970s.

Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman Movie

The Slit-Mouthed Woman appears in a handful of modern day Japanese media, including references in both film and anime series. Over the weekend I checked out the 2007 horror movie, and I have to say, it exceeded expectations.

[yframe url='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZFTs8ujxrE']

Keep in mind though, my expectations were pretty darn low. I’d known about the movie for quite some time, I just never worked up the motivation to watch it as I didn’t think it looked all that great. While the movie was a bit slow to start, once it got going, it was actually pretty decent. You can certainly do far worse than this for a Japanese horror movie. The story was decent, and some parts were actually pretty creepy.

But would I include it on my list of Top 10 Japanese Horror Films? No, probably not. It was okay, but not good enough to make the cut I’m afraid.

And luckily for everyone, if you’re interested, the entire movie is available for viewing on YouTube. Enjoy!

[yframe url='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wV3BVuozYM&feature=related']


So tell me, have you heard of The Slit-Mouthed Woman before? Seen any of the movies? What did you think of them? Think the urban legend is creepy? Let us know in the comments!

  • Paladin341

    Wow, that is scary.

  • Bekka

    I’ve seen the film before. It’s pretty creepy, for sure.

  • Helio Perroni Filho

    “The concubine became a vengeful spirit (par for the course in Japan) and began to wander the streets, wearing a surgical mask to hide her terrible scars.”

    I didn’t know they had surgical masks back in the Heian period.

  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

    For dramatic effect, please play this video in another tab while reading this post: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQ6zr6kCPj8

  • Fee_Fi_Fiona

    “Brill cream” => Brylcreem? (http://www.brylcreem.com/)

  • John

    I suppose it is spelled that way, isn’t it? Haha.

  • John

    Well she wore some kind of mask to hide them, I couldn’t find exactly what kind she was said to wear back then though, so surgical mask it is.

  • HatsuHazama

    Well, this is certainly much freakier than a demon wall…

  • http://www.facebook.com/nelemnaru Nelem Naru

    To escape, would it work to philosophize with her about how true beauty doesn’t lie in external appearances? Now that I think about it, probably not, unless you view being vain and slitting people’s mouths as a beautiful thing.

  • Pepper_the_Sgt

    “The story of The Slit-Mouthed Woman is thought to originate from the
    Heian period (794-1185). According to the legend, a samurai had a
    concubine whom he suspected of infidelity.”

    I didn’t think the samurai came around until Kamakura period (the following period).

    Also, that picture of her with her mouth open is super creepy, but it might just be because it reminds of the puppet from Interpol’s music video for “Evil.”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqfiHfDmOnw

  • http://www.myjapanesegreentea.com/ Ricardo Caicedo

    I loved the part with the joker: y u so serious?

  • John

    From what I saw, the samurai started up around the Heian-ish time. At least according to a quick Google search anyway.

  • DAVIDPD

    Oh hell…at least the orifice that was slit was her mouth, don’t even want to know about the other slit woman…

  • 世界のフーロ

    hmm brylcreem…is not Japanese invention. does this mean that, the “boyfriend” the kuchisake-onna is said to have dated is American??? (Japanese idealism of barbarianism of westerners?)

  • M

    I saw the movie! :) Thanks for the recommendation, John!

    In response to the Heian period/surgical mask comments below –> based on the older version of this legend the woman initially covered her face with her kimono. Mask existence delimma solved! :)

  • ying

    I wish I hadn’t seen any of those pictures…so glad it’s daytime right now!

  • John

    Good job!

  • Yuume

    I laughed out loud when I read the part about the magpie XD It’s so funny to envision.

    I love Japanese urban legends! Shibuya Kaidan was a cool movie. I also like the tales of Aka Manto, the Okiku Doll, The Pale Man, etc. There should be a series of articles about stuff like that haha

  • http://twitter.com/akb48vn Nguyen Le

    read it at night is not cool (#゚Д゚) meow~

  • CelestialSushi

    The movie was “not good enough to make the cut”, huh? Nice choice of words there. XD

    Still, this is just super creepy o_o Kind of regretting seeing a few of those pics, but at least the view wasn’t too long… they’re kind of fading now… thankfully…

  • A

    There is actually ANOTHER movie just titled The Slit Mouthed Woman. (And I’m about to ruin the ending, but it was a terrible movie, so I might just be saving everyone some time.) In that movie, she had an affair with a married man, and she lost the will to live, and all confidence after the man went back to his family. She drove her car into a construction site, where a support beam yet to be put up impaled her. She survived the crash, but she had to have corrective plastic surgery. Her face was fine but for one small scar next to her mouth. This drove her into a fit, and she cut her own face, and then killed herself while still in the plastic surgery hospital. Then, in order to seek vengeance on her lover, who ever had sex in the hospital room where she died would be infected with some kind of horrible STD curse, where they would pass it on to their partner, and then die.
    I don’t think it would be a very prolific curse, seeing as you would have to have sex with someone else in order to pass it on, and not everyone is down with the multiple partners, but it did seem to make people insatiably horny for some reason. That movie had a lot more to do with the “Am I Pretty?” line, but it was also terrible.

  • Blank

    I watched this movie before and it’s on netflix (For whoever wants to watch it) and yet it really is horrible. You’d be more horny than scared.

  • pascal morrell

    I wanna fuck this bitch so hard that my balls are gonna blow up before even sticking my massive cock in her.

  • pascal morrell

    and then maybe ill let her slit my mouth

  • pascal morrell

    with her vagina

  • Amy Barnes

    I was holidaying in Japan and a saw her follow a kid down an ally I thought she was his mum but she did look quite simmalar to the discription

  • Amy Barnes

    Sorry my friend was hollidaying