Kuchisake-Onna (口裂け女 or くちさけおんな, Kuchisake-Onna) is a Japanese yokai. She is a woman who was mutilated by her husband, and returns as a malicious spirit.
When rumors of alleged sightings began spreading in 1979 around the Nagasaki Prefecture, it spread throughout Japan and caused panic in many towns. There are even reports of schools allowing children to go home only in groups escorted by teachers for safety, and of police increasing their patrols. Recent sightings include many reports in South Korea in the year 2004 about a woman wearing a red mask who was frequently seen chasing children, and, in October 2007, a coroner found some old records from the late 1970s about a woman who was chasing little children. She was then hit by a car, and died shortly after. Her mouth was ripped from ear to ear.
The spirits of the dead who were killed in particularly violent manners – abused wives, tortured captives, defeated enemies – often do not rest well. One such spirit is kuchisake-onna, the ghost of a woman who was mutilated, come back to wreak vengeance on the world. Her name comes from the deep, bloody gash which runs across her face, grinning from ear to ear. She appears at night to lone travelers on the road, covering her grizzly mouth with a cloth mask, a fan, or a handkerchief.
According to the legend, children walking alone at night may encounter a woman wearing a surgical mask, which is not an unusual sight in Japan as people wear them to protect others from their colds or sickness.
The woman will stop the child and ask, "Am I pretty?" If the child answers no, the child is killed with a pair of scissors which the woman carries. If the child answers yes, the woman pulls away the mask, revealing that her mouth is slit from ear to ear, and asks "How about now?" If the child answers no, he/she will be cut in half. If the child answers yes, then she will slit his/her mouth like hers. It is impossible to run away from her, as she will simply reappear in front of the victim.
When the legend reappeared, the 1970s rumors of ways to escape also emerged. Some sources say she can also be confused by the victim answering her question with ambiguous answers, such as "You are average" or "So-so". Unsure of what to do, she will give a person enough time to escape while she is lost in thought. Another escape route is to tell her one has a previous engagement; she will pardon her manners and excuse herself. In some variations of the tale, she can be distracted by fruit or candies thrown at her which she will then pick up, thus giving the victim a chance to run. She will also be at an advantage to run toward you if she has the chance. Another way is for the child to ask her if the child is pretty; she will get confused and leave.