In my next installment of the “It Came from Japan” series I would like to take you on a dark and deceitful journey. With Halloween right around the corner, people enjoy a good fright. We in the states have grown up with our own legends and tales: Bloody Mary, hitchhiker ghosts, the Jersey devil, and the list goes on. But what keeps kids in the land of the rising sun from sleeping when that rising sun is down? Here are 5 Japanese myths and legends that keeps the spine chilled and pimples goosed.
Kuchisake-Onna “Slit Mouthed Woman”
The first tale is one of if not "THE" most popular legends to make its way from Japan to your computer screen. Kuchisake-Onna or better known as the “slit mouthed woman” is a legend about a woman who was brutally mutilated by her husband and returned as a vengeful and malicious spirit.
The tale regained popularity in 1979 when sightings of the slit mouthed woman began to occur around the Nagasaki Prefecture. The story and sightings began to spread throughout Japan and caused such a scare that schools began sending children home in groups escorted by teachers and police increased patrols during the nightly hours for safety.
How the legend goes is children walking home alone at night will run into a young woman wearing a surgical mask (which is not uncommon in Japan). She asks them if “am I pretty?” If the child answers “no” the woman pulls out a scissors and kills them. If the child answers “yes” then the woman takes off her surgical mask showing her mouth, slashed from ear to ear. The woman then asks “What about now?” if the child answers “no” the child is then cut in half. If the child answers “yes” then the women gives the child the same smile as her, cutting their mouth ear to ear. It is also impossible to run away as the woman will suddenly show up in front of you since she is a spirit.
There are rumors that circulated in the 1970’s that there are ways to escape her wrath. One is to when asked by the woman if she is pretty you simply respond telling her that she's “average”. This will confuse the woman momentarily giving you the chance to escape. Another thing the child can do is throw pieces of fruit or candy at her in which she will attempt to pick up allowing the child to run away.
Nopperabou “No Face” Creature
Nopperabou or “faceless ghosts” are a Japanese legendary creäture that enjoy scaring people generally in the middle of nowhere. When a Nopperabou appears, they look like an ordinary person or someone the person actually knows. but Nopperabou are actually shape-shifters. When talking to a random person they met they will begin to melt their face away leaving nothing but a sheath of skin. In doing this the person is usually terrified and runs away.
The Nopperabou are known as more mischievous than malevolent and would rather terrify a person than kill them. Nopperabou have also been known to work in teams to scare a poor lonely citizen half to death. After the stranger runs away from the first Nopperabou they will run into a second disguising a random passerby. When the frightened victim attempts to tell his/her story to the “stranger” the Nopperabou will respond by asking them if the face looked like this as the strangers face begins to change in the same way as the first one.
Hanako-San “Girl in the Stall”
You can call this the eastern variation of “Bloody Mary” as the two tales hold a very similar fate. Hanako San is a Japanese urban legend about the spirit of a young World War II era girl who committed suicide due to bullying that now haunts school bathrooms.
According to the legend, a person who goes to the third stall in the girls' bathroom on the third floor and knocks three times before asking "Are you there, Hanako-san", will hear a voice answer "I'm here". If the person enters the stall there will be a small girl in a red skirt. This is usually done as an act of courage for school girls as well as a hazing ritual for new students.
Depending on the Japanese region, many reactions from Hanako San differ:In the Yamagata prefecture when Hanako San's called and the person enters the stall they're eaten by a three-headed lizard that was mimicking a girl's voice. In the Iwate prefecture it's said that after Hanako San's called, a large white hand emerges from the door. And in the Kanagawa prefecture after Hanako San's called, a blood stained hand will appear.
Kashima Reiko “No Legged Ghost”
Sticking with the bathroom legends, let's have another go round with the legend of Kashima Reiko also known as the “no legged ghost”. Legend says that Kashima Reiko a girl living in Hokkaido was attacked and abused by a group of men, after which they left her to die. She cried for help no one could hear her, as she continued to cry for help she crawled on to the Meishin expressway railroad tracks as the train was coming. Unable to stand up from the abuse she was given, the train could not see her and proceeded to run over her slicing her stomach in two. Since the incident Kashima has been wandering the world as a vengeful spirit looking for her missing legs.
Now that you read this far let me tell you that the second part of this legend. If you read her story you will then see her in a months time. Either in a school bathroom or a house's bathroom in the middle of the night. She will then begin to ask you questions, and if you are unable to answer these questions then she will rip off your legs.
If she asks you “Where are my legs?” You will tell her “On the Meishin Expressway.” She will then ask “Who told you that?” In which you respond “Kashima Reiko told me that.”But there are times where she will try to trick you asking you “What is my name?” If you respond with “Kashima” you would be wrong. Instead you would answer “Masked Death Demon” as Ka-Shi-Ma equals Ka=Kamen(Mask), Shi = Shimin(Death), and Ma(Demon), good luck.
Lets take a step back from the ghost, vengeful spirits, and shape-shifters for a second and lets talk about some poetry shall we. Tomino’s Hell was a poem written by Yomota Inuhiko in a poem book titled “The Heart is Like a Rolling Stone” written in 1919. How or who started the myth is unknown but there’s a warning with the poem that reads “If you read this poem out loud, tragic things will happen.” The curse has lived on nearing 100 years of age.
Recently an online radio DJ began reading the poem over the air. Midway through began to feel faint and needed to stop. Two days later the DJ became involved in an accident and luckily only received 7 stitches, but many aren’t as lucky. Yet to this day, the DJ doesn’t want to believe the poem was the reason for his misfortune. Below is the english translation of Yomota Inuhiko’s infamous poem: Remember not to read aloud.
Tomino's Hell Poem:
His older sister vomited blood, his younger sister vomited fire,
And the cute Tomino vomited glass beads
Tomino fell into Hell alone,
Hell is wrapped in darkness and even the flowers don’t bloom.
Is the person with the whip Tomino’s older sister,
I wonder who the whip’s shibusa is.
Hit, hit, without hitting,
Familiar Hell’s one road.
Would you lead him to the dark Hell,
To the sheep of gold, to the bush warbler.
I wonder how much he put into the leather pocket,
For the preparation of the journey in the familiar Hell.
Spring is coming even in the forest and the steam,
Even in the steam of the dark Hell.
The bush warbler in the birdcage, the sheep in the wagon,
Tears in the eyes of cute Tomino.
Cry, bush warbler, toward the raining forest
He shouts that he misses his little sister.
The crying echo reverberates throughout Hell,
The fox peony blooms.
Circling around Hell’s seven mountains and seven streams,
The lonely journey of cute Tomino.
If they’re in Hell bring them to me,
The needle of the graves.
I won’t pierce with the red needle,
In the milestones of little Tomino.