Every night on their walk home from school they would carefully watch the bottom of each telephone pole that lined the road. They would try to hurry past as fast as possible, hoping not to see a woman standing there with long black hair hanging down to her waist and wearing a surgical mask.
Surgical masks are commonly worn in Japan during the cold and flu season to help protect people from germs, but that year a woman wearing that kind of mask could mean something different –it could mean she was an angry ghost called Kuchisake Onna, the Slit-mouthed Woman.
After a while the children started to travel in groups for safety, then teachers got involved and would usher home the kids in their classes. But that didn’t work and such a panic set in that even the police got involved, they upped their patrols to keep an eye out for the woman in the surgical mask that was known to wait in the shadows at the bottom of phone poles.
DO YOU THINK I’M BEAUTIFUL?
The thing is, if you walked near Kuchisake Onna she would step out of the shadows and suddenly appear right in front of you.
“Do you think I’m beautiful?” she’d ask.
It’s an odd and unexpected question… but hey it seems innocent enough right? But how you answered the question would determine your fate.
If you answered “No” to her question she’d take out a kitchen knife and kill you right on the spot. If you said “Yes” she’d rip off her surgical mask to reveal that her mouth was slit from ear to ear and then say
“How about now?”
If you answered “No” this time you’d be cut in half, and if you answered “Yes” she’d cut your mouth from ear to ear and make it look like hers. Sooo…now you can see why the schoolkids were watching the bottom of the telephone poles so intently.
THE STORY BEHIND KUCHISAKE ONNA
But who was Kuchisake Onna exactly and where did she come from?
Legend has it that a long time ago she was the wife of a samurai. She was a very beautiful woman, so beautiful that over the years she became obsessed and turned quite vain. One day the samurai suspected her of cheating and he flew into a jealous rage, he attacked her and cut her mouth from ear to ear saying “Who will think you’re beautiful now?”
The woman died and returned as Kuchisake Onna, an angry spirit that has haunted roads and paths ever since. In the old days it was said that she wore a kimono and would hide her face with the large end of the sleeve, but nowadays she wears a brown trenchcoat and uses a surgeon’s mask to cover her mouth.
The legend of the Slit-mouthed Woman stayed in the shadows for generations until the year 1979 when Kuchisake Onna sightings started happening everywhere and it became an example of an urban legend run amok. The police feared that it was some crazy woman dressed as Kuchisake Onna and chasing children, but the source of it all seems to be the stories of Kuchisake Onna that schoolkids were telling each other.
The hysteria reached it’s peak in late 1979 and mysteriously just stopped, the scare retreating into the shadows again.
HOW TO ESCAPE THE SLIT-MOUTHED WOMAN
So is Kuchisake Onna still around? The urban legend of the Slit-mouthed Woman says that she can’t be killed so according to the story she’s still around, but there are some ways to escape her if you’re lucky. They’re really strange ways of fending her off but hey it’s worth a try right?
One rumor says that she absolutely hates Pomade (a kind of hair gel) and if you simply say “Pomade pomade pomade” it will keep her away. That one sounds dubious to me but for some weird reason it’s the most popular one.
The second most popular way to survive Kuchisake Onna is when she asks you “How about now?” to answer with “So-so”. The idea with this one is that it will confuse her and while she’s thinking about it will give you just enough time to get the heck out of there.
The best one I’ve seen though is from a movie about Kuchisake Onna called Carved: The Slit-mouthed Woman (great movie btw, I’m usually disappointed by horror flicks but this one was awesome).
In the movie a boy carries a notebook with him where he records all the rumors he can find about the Slit-mouthed Woman. If enough people say the same thing then he knows it’s probably true. For example there’s a lot of people saying that she’s taking her victims to a house with a red roof, which turns out to be right. He tries to use all the bits of information like the pieces of a puzzle that forms the true story of Kuchisake Onna and how best to survive an attack by her.
That seems like a good idea considering how the story of Kuchisake Onna has evolved so much over time and can be very different even just depending on where you are. Like in South Korea instead of the white surgeon’s mask the urban legend there has her wearing a blood red face mask.
Kuchisake Onna is the story and the more people talk about her the more powerful she becomes. She travels through time with her story seeming to sleep for years and then suddenly appearing to scare new generations of people.
This means that she will never go away unless people stop talking about her. But go ahead, I dare you not to talk about such an interesting character as Kuchisake Onna…