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To round out this month’s obakemono menagerie, I thought I’d present a horror of urban legend: kuchisake-onna, or literally: “split-mouth woman.”

I first learned about kuchisake-onna from a friend, when I lived in Japan, who told me the mysterious tale of a seemingly beautiful woman you might meet while alone, at night, on a dark city street. The woman–apparently suffering a cold, given the surgical mask she’s wearing–will ask you: “Do you think I’m pretty?” Upon hearing your reply, she’ll rip off her mask to reveal a hideously extended mouth that would put a Glasgow smile to shame, after which she’ll chase you down with something sharp. In short, she’s the Japanese Hook Man.

I was inspired to post about this ghoul by seeing a link (at Pink Tentacle) earlier this week to Matthew Meyer’s “A Yokai-a-Day” series of art blog posts, in which was included a wonderfully creepy painting of the aforementioned specter, and loads of other yokai. I had no idea the kuchisake-onna had a history before her resurgence as an urban legend, but Mr. Meyer’s write-up revealed both the split-mouth woman’s past and the gorier details of how an encounter with her can play out.

So, check out the Yokai-a-Day post, and be careful who you run into this Halloween night!

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