Tag: yōkai

Kuchisake Onna

Kuchisake Onna

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Japan panic: the slit-mouthed woman

Stories of 口裂け女, the slit-mouthed woman, emerged from urban Japan in the late 1970s. At first they were particularly passed around between school children, then in the mass media. By the first half of 1979 Asahi Shinbun was highlighting kuchisake onna as a buzzword (hayari kotoba) of the year. In true, random Japanese style one of the others was “rabbit hutches”.

Occasionally Kuchisake onna was reported as a genuine physical threat, a criminal would-be kidnapper or murderer rather than a supernatural being. At times she was somehow both a real world abductor and a folkloric monster simultaneously. (See Hyaku-monogatari for the Edo origins of modern yōkai storytelling) Satoshi Kon’s extremely uneven but in places brilliant series 妄想代理人Mōsō Dairinin [Paranoia Agent] is obviously heavily inspired by the mass hysteria over Kuchisake onna. A woman with long hair and a white…

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Hyaku-monogatari

Hyaku-monogatari

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Edo horror stories

The hyaku-monogatari (“one hundred stories”) were told in Edo-era Japan when people came together to exchange kaidan, stories of ghosts, monsters, mysterious (fushigi) happenings, and frightening (osoroshiki) characters. This gatherings, hyaku-monogatari kaidan kai, can be conceived of as a kind of market for exchanging stories. These might be real (or claimed) personal experiences, stories people knew from elsewhere, or a story of their own devising. There may not always have been exactly one hundred stories; as in English, saying there are “a hundred” or “hundreds” of something can be deliberate hyperbole, just a way of saying there are more than you can easily count. Stories of mysterious and frightening things (mononoke) were and are indeed endless in number.

Wakan kaidan hyōrin, 1718:

“First light one hundred wicks with blue paper around them, and hide all weapons. Now, for…

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