Have ya’ll heard of Kuchisake Onna? Or Slit-Mouthed woman, in English? It’s my favorite Japanese urban legend. I did some research on her for my thesis (which, like most thesis research, did not get used) and now she’s made a cameo in my book. I’m not sure American audiences have heard of her, though. Obviously I’m not a good example of what most people might know. Spending four years immersed in Japan/Japanese will skew your view of what a normal person knows.
Kuchisake Onna (口裂け女) as a modern urban legend started to pop up in Japan around the 1970’s. Here’s how the legend goes: Children will be walking alone, or in small groups, when they come across a woman with a face mask such as is worn by the sick in Japan. She then asks the children, “Am I pretty?” If they say no, she kills them with a pair of rusty scissors that she carries. If they say yes, she removes the mask, showing her slit open mouth. Then she asks, “Am I pretty now?” If they say yes, she might still kill them, or just slit their mouths open like hers. If no, she kills them. Basically? Like every good urban legend, this story ends with a lot of bodies.
There are a ridiculous number of variations on this story. In some, you can confuse her by asking if you are pretty. This will give you time to run away. Other ways of stopping her include throwing fruit at her feet or telling her that she is ‘average.’ My favorite variation – also the most bizarre – says that to stop her you must say “pomade!” three times. Yes, like the hair gel.
Kuchisake Onna has a number of origin stories. There is an early version of the Slit Mouthed woman from Heian Japan where a samurai, angry at his unfaithful wife, slit her mouth open with his sword. In modern times, it is said that Kuchisake Onna is the victim of a plastic surgery accident. I’ve also heard a version where her sister was killed in a horrible car accident. In her grief, she slit open her mouth with kitchen shears, thus becoming Kuchisake Onna.
What’s really interesting is that this was not taken as a joke. In fact, it was taken very seriously. During the 1979 scare curfews were put into place. Extra patrolmen were ordered, especially around schools. There were newspaper articles explaining the situation and giving advice on how to keep your children safe from the slit-mouthed woman. It was a case of mass hysteria.
I don’t know if it’s the story itself that fascinates me. I think it probably has more to do with the popular reaction to the rumors. Anywhos.
Today I found a mashup of Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane over the Sea and a bunch of hip-hop songs. I know- I was skeptical too. Aeroplane is one of my favorite albums of all time. I think we can all agree that it is an amazing, untouchable piece of art. DON’T EVEN ARGUE ‘K? But the mash up…it’s actually kind of interesting. Well, okay. A lot of the mixed album (beautifully titled In My G4 Over Da Sea) is terrible. But the first two tracks, ‘King of Ante Up, Pt. 1’ and ‘King of Jesus Walks, Pts. 2& 3’ were actually wonderful. They worked, somehow. Especially ‘Jesus Walks.’
It’s a name-your-price download (which means yes, you can get it for free). Check it out, and let me know what you think.