Creepy Tales About The Japanese Urban Legend Of The Slit-Mouthed Woman

When Kuchisake-onna, the Slit-Mouthed Woman, asks you a question, you better give her the right answer - or else. Among scary Japanese urban legends, she's one of the most frightening, said to brandish large scissors and prey on unsuspecting passersby. Kuchisake-onna stories detail her horrific appearance, with a jagged, bloody scar resembling a smile. Disfigured and murdered by a jealous husband, she is a malicious spirit returned from the dead who can appear anywhere at any time. She always wants to know one thing: Am I pretty?

Is Kuchisake-onna real? She's certainly captured the public imagination. Her ghastly figure appears in many Japanese ghost stories that date back as far as the Edo period of the 17th century. But whether you believe in the Slit-Mouthed Woman or not, there's no denying that stories about her send a shiver down the spine.

  • She Was Mutilated By Her Jealous Husband
    Photo: Hayami Shungyōsai / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    She Was Mutilated By Her Jealous Husband

    As the story goes, a beautiful woman named Kuchisake was married to a man who suspected her of being unfaithful - and he was right. Kuchisake had fallen for another man and was planning to leave her husband. Flying into a jealous rage, her husband knocked Kuchisake unconscious and tied her up. When she woke, he threatened to kill her if she left him and used a large pair of scissors to slice her face into a permanent smile.

    "Who will think you're pretty now?" he asked before slicing her head from her body. But when he was done, regret set in, and he stabbed himself to death.

  • She Hides In Plain Sight

    Looks are very important to Kuchisake-onna. Disfigured face aside, she appears as an attractive Asian woman with long, black hair, wearing a simple beige trench coat. More recently, her legend has morphed to describe her as wearing a surgical mask over her mouth. It's not an uncommon accessory in Japan, given the national level of concern about infectious diseases.

    Thanks to her innocuous appearance, the Slit-Mouthed Woman is able to blend in until she selects her prey.

  • There's No Right Answer To Her Question

    The Slit-Mouthed Woman can come for you when you least expect it. Her mouth is always covered by a mask, fan, or scarf to hide her disfigurement, and she waits in the shadows as you pass by - and before you can react, she is in front of you and blocking your path. Holding a pair of large scissors, she asks, "Am I pretty?"

    Before you can answer, she reveals her face: a mouth sliced into a hideous grin, exposing her teeth and tongue. "Am I pretty now?" she asks.

    What will you say? If you say yes or try to scream, she will mercilessly slash your face so it looks just like hers. Running is no use because Kuchisake-onna is eerily quick and might cut you in half out of anger. And if you say no to her question, she'll walk away - for now. But she will follow you home, watching your every move, and kill you in your sleep.

  • You Have To Outwit Her

    Some people claim they know how to escape the Slit-Mouthed Woman. One way to survive her is through distraction. By offering Kuchisake-onna money and candy, you might buy yourself just enough time to run.

    But evading her deadly question can also be a matter of choosing one's words carefully. The key is to stay unruffled and calm when she asks, "Am I pretty?" You could respond, "You're ok," or, "So-so." You could also flip the question and ask, "Do you think I'm pretty?" As she pauses to consider, you can slip away.

  • Her Story Has A Chilling Modern Twist
    Photo: Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman / Tartan Films

    Her Story Has A Chilling Modern Twist

    For those who believe in the more modern version of the Slit-Mouth Woman, the legend is a bit different. It tells the tale of an unstable woman who used to chase and terrify local children, eventually causing parents to complain.

    When police found her, she tried to escape by running straight into moving traffic and was instantly killed. Her extensive injuries included severe head trauma and facial lacerations that looked like a jagged, bloody smile.

  • She Terrorized Children In 1970s Nagasaki

    Kuchisake-onna was well-known in the Edo period of the 1600s, but she slowly faded into the shadows as time passed. Then, in the early 1970s, she returned to the public imagination with a vengeance. Children claimed to see her everywhere around Nagasaki, Japan.

    The police began to fear there was a killer on the loose, and panic grew with each new sighting. They bumped up night patrols and put out local warnings, but they could never seem to find her. And then, in 1979, the scares just stopped.