Kuchisake-onna (Japanese: 口裂け女 woman with her mouth cut off, Korean: 입 찢어진 여자 woman with her mouth broken) is a popular urban legend from Japanese and Korean folklore.
It is about a woman who was murdered and mutilated by her husband and turned into a Yōkai (demonic spirit) or Gwishin (soul in pain), returning to take revenge by asking her victims if she is beautiful, who upon answering are subsequently killed by her.
The legend goes back to events of the Heian period that became popular during the Edo period. The legend says that long ago there was a beautiful but vain woman who was the wife or concubine of a samurai.
The beautiful woman was sought after by many men and used to cheat on her husband.
The samurai knew of the infidelities of his wife or concubine, so one day, in a fit of jealousy and rage, he cut her mouth from one side to the other while shouting: Do you think you are beautiful? Other versions tell that she had married a very jealous samurai who beat her a lot.
The samurai, one day, thinking she was cheating on him, cut her mouth. The woman, tired of the mistreatment, fled into the forest and was never heard from again.
Another version tells that she was the wife of a gardener; she was too beautiful but also very vain and selfish and cheated on her husband with many men.
One day the gardener discovered her and then he got into a fit of rage and jealousy, so he attacked her with a pair of gardening scissors and cut her mouth from side to side while shouting: Do you still think you are beautiful?
And in another slightly more modern version, a decade before the 70's, a woman was found to have such a cut after a car accident caused by an argument between her and her husband.
In any case, the husband commits suicide due to remorse and she returns from the underworld as a malicious and vengeful spirit, focused on committing the same acts that caused her deformity.
Although, unlike the Llorona, the Siguanaba or a Pontianak, the Kuchisake-onna has been adapted to today's ultramodern, cutting-edge Japan.
The actual story has multiple variations, from an accident caused by an unlicensed plastic surgeon to a curse following an overuse of a family inugami's power.
The Kuchisake-onna is sometimes described as driving a red sports car, carrying a coat and umbrella, or dressing fashionably. Usually, the specter covers her mouth with the sleeve of her kimono or, in more modern accounts, with a plastic mouthpiece.
Current urban legend has it that the Kuchisake-onna appears as a woman who wanders at night and is most commonly encountered on foggy days, with her face hidden behind a mask, a common sight in Japan.
If she encounters a young man, -usually high school or university students- she asks, "Am I beautiful?" ("Watashi wa utsukushī nda?") ("私は 美しいんだ？").
If the young man answers yes, she will take off her mask and ask, "And am I beautiful now?" ("Konkai wa nan nano?") ("今度は何なの？").
The victim will most likely scream or say no. Then the woman will cut her mouth from one side to the other with a pair of scissors. If the victim again answers yes, the woman, happy for her answer, will cut off her mouth as she does.
Other versions say if the question is answered yes, the woman will follow him to the door of the home and kill him anyway, since the word kirei (きれい), meaning 'beautiful' or 'pretty' is almost like saying kiru (切る), meaning 'cut'; it is also like saying Watashi or kiru (私を切る), meaning 'cut me' or, simply, 'cut me'.
In most versions it is impossible to escape, as it can appear in front of its target no matter where it moves, and even has superhuman speed ability to catch up with its victim; one can run away but it will appear in front of it again.
In the spring and summer of 1979 and 1980, there were reports throughout Japan of encounters with the Kuchisake-onna, particularly disturbing stories in which the woman chased children after dark on dark streets.
In October 2007, a medical examiner found records from the late 1970s in which a woman was reported to have chased children on dark nights and was hit by a car shortly thereafter.
Interestingly, that woman had a scar just like the Kuchisake-onna. These were not the only reports, as there were more reports of mutilations and killings by the spirit during 1978 and 1980.
In 2000 there were those who said they saw the Kuchisake-onna again walking the streets in the middle of a foggy night.
In 2004 this legend even reached South Korea, where the Kuchisake-onna wears a mask colored red from the blood flowing from wounds;
which is why she is known as Ppalgan maseukeu yeoja (빨간 마스크 여자: Woman with the Red Mouth Covering), although she is also better known as Ppalgan Maseukeu (빨간 마스크: Red Mask).
According to history in Korea, there is a story that, sometime in the 20th century, there was a woman who had several plastic surgeries for the reason of becoming beautiful and impressing men.
At first the woman did not dare because she was not sure, for fear of dying during the operation, but, seeing women who had the surgeries and they looked good, then she was encouraged.
Seeing the results, she underwent four more surgeries. Everything was perfect on her face, but she saw that something was missing: a perfect mouth. However, when she was about to have the operation, the surgeon who was in charge of the surgeries became ill and replaced him with his apprentice.
It is then that the woman, without hesitation and in order to achieve her goal, underwent the surgery. After finishing the operation, the novice recommended that she keep her mouthpiece on for up to three days.
For her part, the woman went home excited and after the agreed days had passed, she stood in front of a mirror taking off her mask. By the time she took it off, she discovered that she did not have the mouth she was looking for, but rather that it was torn from ear to ear.
All because of the failed attempt of the apprentice, being a beginner. Due to the impact and despair, the woman committed suicide, but her body was never found.
Since then, it is said that the spirit of that woman can be seen walking the streets of South Korea with her face covered by a red mouth cover, like the one used by surgeons (which is not unusual since many Koreans use them to prevent diseases). When she meets someone-usually men or boys-she will ask, "Am I beautiful?" ("Naneun aleumdabda?") ("나는 아름답다?").
The answer can have two variables. The few who answer no (since it is hard to say this in front of a seemingly pretty young woman), usually suffer the wrath of the ghost who, not hearing the answer she wants, takes a pair of scissors and stabs them into their bodies until they die in agony.
On the contrary, if they answer her question with a resounding yes, then the woman, to know that she is telling the truth, will move her hand up to her mouth and remove the mask slowly until she shows her true face, and then she will ask again, "And now, am I beautiful?" ("Geuligo jigeum naneun kkwae yeppeuni?") ("그리고 지금 나는 꽤 예쁘니?").
If they answer no, again he will get angry and kill them with the scissors by stabbing them in the body several times until they die.
However, if they answer yes again, the woman seeing the success of their beauty, will want to give them something "nice", so she will take her scissors and open their mouths in such a way that she will leave them a smile resembling her, so that they also feel beautiful like her (or, according to other versions, she cuts their throats).
Another version says that she will cut their mouths according to their blood type. If her victims are type A, she will cut only 1 cm, or if they are type B it would be a bit longer. But if they are type O or AB, she will cut their mouths up to their ears.
Although she is not the only one, as it is said that in the same year several women have been reported to have their faces mutilated and to have scissors.
However, there are methods to avoid the fatal outcome. According to sources, bringing sweets and offering them to her may appease her; in another version it is said that if she answers with the same question (Am I beautiful?), the Kuchisake-onna will be confused and this will give her time to escape;
and finally, if when she asks she is told that one is in a hurry and must attend to a very important matter, the woman will apologize and let him go due to Japanese manners, leaving her too.
Another way is to tell her three times the word: ointment. The word works by being chanted, because she does not like ointment. In addition to the above, another way is known according to which, supposedly, the Kuchisake-onna disappears: it consists in answering her "no, you are ugly and I don't want to be like you".
It is still unknown what Kuchisake-onna does when the first question is answered with a no, as most answer with a yes. And in South Korea, an answer with which one can be saved has not yet been known, although, according to sources, it is best not to make eye contact with her.
There are several movies based on Kuchisake-onna:
In the United States, Kuchisake-onna has appeared in the following series: