Who is Kuchisake-Onna? The Slit-Mouthed Woman in Japanese Folklore

There are some seriously creepy creatures in Japanese folklore, such as Jorōgumo and Tsuchigumo, but the one creature that seems to scare deeper than the rest is kuchisake-onna. 

If you haven’t come across this dread-inducing entity before, then you may wish you had never seeked her out, Kuchisake-Onna is renowned within Japanese folklore for haunting peoples dreams, and it’s easy to see why. 

Who is Kuchisake-Onna?

Kuchisake Onna - Hayami Shungyosai (1801)
Kuchisake Onna – Hayami Shungyosai (1801)

Kuchisake-onna is an evil entity that frequents Japanese folk tales and urban legends. She is the maleficent manifestation of a woman who was disfigured during mortal life by her husband. The Japanese translation of Kuchisake-onna (口裂け女) literally means “slit-mouthed woman”.

The most commonly cited reason for her mutilation is that she was unfaithful to her husband, who punished her by cutting her mouth from ear to ear with a pair of scissors. Other stories suggest that her disfiguration was the result of a dental procedure gone wrong. 

Whatever the reason for her ear-to-ear slit, Kuchisake-onna seeks vengeance for it in the afterlife, and is said to kill those she encounters. 

Kuchisake-Onna Appearance

Kuchisake-onna is said to be beautiful with the exception of the scar on her face, and it is because her immense beauty was stolen from her that she is so vengeful. 

She has pale skin and pretty facial features framed by long black hair. Oftentimes, kuchisake-onna is depicted wearing a cloth mask to hide the hideous scar across her face. Her height varies between stories, with some accounts placing her at over 2 metres tall. 

Kuchisake-onna has engaging eyes and an alluring voice, helping her to entice unsuspecting victims towards her. She will often be shown wearing red clothing, so as to mask the blood of her victims after mortally wounding them. 

What did Kuchisake-Onna do?

Kuchisake-onna carries an ear to ear slit across her face
Kuchisake-onna carries an ear to ear slit across her face

What kuchisake-onna did during her mortal life is up for debate, with most iterations of the folktale intimating that she was adulterous and betrayed her husband. In the afterlife, the spirit carries out malevolent deeds and seeks to placate her misery by bringing hurt to others. 

Kuchisake-onna is believed to haunt the night and dwells among alleyways and dimly-lit streets in search of her next victim. Upon finding her prey, she will ask them; 

“Do you think I am pretty?”

If they answer no, the evil entity will immediately cut them to death. If they answer yes, kuchisake-onna will remove the cloth mask guarding her face to reveal the grotesque wound that brandishes her face through her mouth from ear to ear. She then follows up with the question;

“Do you still think I’m pretty?”

If the victim answers no, the evil spirit will cut them to their death instantly, but if they answer yes, she will scar their mouth in a fashion consistent with theirs, and spare the victim’s life. Either way, it is unlikely that you will walk away unscathed from an encounter with kuchisake-onna. 

Kuchisake-Onna in Popular Culture

Kuchisake-onna game (2018)
Kuchisake-onna game (2018)

Kuchisake-onna has appeared abundantly in popular culture throughout the years, and get mentioned in the popular Japanese films Pom Poko (1994) and Ring (1998). Perhaps most famously, though, is the appearance in the eponymously titled 2007 Japanese horror film Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman, which also produced a sequel. 

A Japanese horror game called Kuchisake Onna was also released in 2018 by game developer George Constantinou. 

Get in Touch

Have you heard of Kuchisake-Onna before? Perhaps you have something to add that we missed in this article. If so, please leave a comment below!

For another haunting entity from Asian mythology, check out our article about the Gwisin in Korean folklore.

To learn more about kuchisake-onna, check out the YouTube video below by Snarled.

For any enquiries, contact me at richard@mythologyplanet.com

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