According To The Internet, There's Something Strange About This Japanese Kleenex Commercial

It seems unlikely that a Kleenex ad could spawn a batch of urban legends that are still in circulation decades later, but that’s exactly what happened after a Japanese Kleenex commercial was yanked off the air in 1986. Some of these legends revolve around the cast and crew (allegedly) suffering mysterious deaths, much like stories surrounding the Exorcist, Poltergeist, and other supposedly cursed movies. In fact, the commercial's tales harken back to Japanese legends in which vengeful spirits terrorize the living.

So how did a seemingly innocent tissue commercial create such unease? Since the so-called "cursed" Kleenex commercial resurfaced on YouTube in 2006, some claim that those who watch it become cursed themselves. What is it about a simple jingle, a woman in white, and a baby dressed as an ogre that brings shivers to so many?

  • The Unsettling Commercial Features A Woman, An Ogre Baby, And An Eerie Song
    Photo: Kleenex / Fair Use

    The Unsettling Commercial Features A Woman, An Ogre Baby, And An Eerie Song

    The infamous Kleenex commercial depicts a woman and baby sitting on a bed of straw with a dark red background. The woman wears a long white dress and looks perfectly normal. The baby, however, has been painted the same red as the background and wears a green wig with a horn sticking out of the top, as well as an animal-print diaper.

    The baby keeps their arms crossed and seems disinterested when the woman pulls a tissue from a box, then lets it float away on the wind. A high, breathy voice sings along to an eerie tune in the background. Nothing about the ad is overtly terrifying, but it's just unsettling enough to make the viewer contemplate the various urban legends surrounding it.

  • Viewers Complained After The Kleenex Commercial Ran In Japan

    Rumor has it that shortly after the commercial first aired in Japan, viewers complained en masse that the ad was disturbing. The Kleenex commercial was reportedly pulled off the air, but that wasn’t the end of its legacy. It resurfaced on YouTube on May 23, 2006, and has since logged over a million views.

  • Some Believe That Anyone Who Watches The Commercial Will Be Cursed

    One story surrounding the Kleenex commercial (much like the plot of the Japanese movie Ringu and its American remake The Ring) is that anyone who watches will be cursed or might even die. Some claim that people have taken their lives after watching the ad, but there don’t seem to be any verifiable reports to corroborate this. In fact, the Horror Tree's Timothy Clax reported watching the commercial many times with no ill effects.

  • Another aspect of this urban legend centers around the commercial's cast and crew dying or meeting horrible tragedy shortly after the ad ran on television, but these claims are murky and unsubstantiated at best. One claim that a cameraman died in a sauna due to equipment failure is perhaps a riff on a familiar trope in horror films.

  • Some Claim The Commercial Changes After Midnight

    A few urban legends claim that the commercial changes depending on how and when it is viewed. One urban legend is that the “red demon” baby changes into a “blue demon” if you record it and then play it back. Another purports that watching the video after midnight somehow causes viewers to lose their minds.

    One anonymous viewer uploaded a video of themselves recording the commercial before and then after midnight to the YouTube channel Shrouded Hand. The folks behind Shrouded Hand say they had a strange power outage when they first tried to play the video, reporting that “All the lights in the house went out, and our laptop that we were playing the video on switched off instantly. Normally in a power cut, it would just switch to battery power and remain on.” 

    Some commenters were quick to point out that the video looked edited and that the strange distortions, color changes, and other visuals were likely faked.

  • One Urban Legend Claims That The Lead Actress Died After Giving Birth

    Allegations over what became of the actress in the commercial, Keiko Matsuzaka, are as varied as they are bizarre. Some claim that she gave birth to a "demon baby" and died, while others say she took her own life after being institutionalized. However, Matsuzaka is very much alive and has enjoyed a successful acting career since filming the Kleenex ad.

    Perhaps the “demon baby” rumor has its roots in the “birth monsters” of Japanese mythology. Born disfigured, these demonic offspring (called sankai) are said to crawl under their mother’s house to eventually kill her. The “demon baby” trope also crops up in films like Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen.