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Japanese urban legends – Part 1 –

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/20 Others , , ,

“Toshi densetsu” : Japanese urban legends (1)

Summer in Japan is ridiculously hot and humid except in some northern areas.
So, people enjoy horror stories especially in summer to feel shivering cold.

There are many old and new ghost / horror stories in Japan, and I feel it would be nice to introduce some.
(It’s already getting cool though.)

This time, I’ll write about supposed-to-be scary Japanese urban legends.
You may find them rather funny though, as many of them are quite nonsense.


Kuchisake-onna (Slit-Mouthed Woman)

A young woman comes to a child who is going home from school.
She has a long, black hair, wears a surgical mask and holds a sickle in her hand.
She asks the child, “Am I beautiful?”

If the child answers “Yes”, she takes the mask off.
Her mouth is ripped from ear to ear.
She asks again, “How about now?”

If the child says “No”, she kills him / her with the sickle.

– Note –
In Japan, wearing a surgical mask is not unusual.
We wear it to prevent catching or spreading a cold / flu, or to avoid pollens / dust which cause allergy.
I myself wear it almost everyday because of allergy and sore throat.

A girl wearing a mask

- A girl wearing a mask -
Photo from Photo AC

This “Kuchisake-onna” story terrified school children, and it caused a sort of panic.
Children hated to be alone outside, and some were too afraid to go out from their home.
I was an elementary school kid back then, and I remember the frightened looks from other children who were in a group when I went home on my own.

The version in my vague memory was:
If you say “Yes (you are beautiful)” to her second question, she swiftly slits your mouth from ear to ear so that you’ll have the same “beautiful” face like her.
If you say “No”, of course you’ll be killed with her sickle.

Other things I think I heard were:

  • She was a victim of a very clumsy cosmetic surgery.
  • She could run very fast (less than 10 seconds for 100 meters – enough to be able to win the olympic easily), so it was impossible to run away from her.
  • If you answer “So-so”, she doesn’t know what to do, and you have time to escape from her.


Jinmen-inu (A dog with a human face)

A man came to see a rubbish bin at the back of a restaurant where he works.
Stray dogs quite often scavenged food from the bin and made a mess, so he sometimes checked it during his work.

One day, he found a dog at the bin and tried to get rid of it as usual.
He was astonished to see a human face with a dog body.
It looked and said to him, “Leave me alone.”


– Note –
“Jinmen-inu” reminds me of a manga, “Berserk”.

I’ve never heard it does any harm to people, but according to several websites, there is one case:
It runs in the highway, and cars, which get past by it, will cause accidents.
Actually, it’s not the dog’s fault.
Drivers just get into a panic and that leads to accidents.

“Jinmen-inu” is not a new story.
There are descriptions, which were written in the Edo era, “Jinmen-inu” was put on show.

Similar one to “Jinmen-inu”, there is a famous monster called “Kudan”.
It’s a cow with a human face.
Born from a cow, and after foretelling the (usually bad) future like disasters and diseases, soon it will die.
There are some mangas, novels and games that “Kudan” appears, a Nintendo game “Youkai Watch 2″ for example.

This “Kudan” is also mentioned in the Edo era like “Jinmen-inu”.



A woman was hit by a train, and was cut from the waist in Muroran, Hokkaido.
It was winter, so the cold air caused blood vessels to narrow and it prevented from bleeding.
She couldn’t die immediately and had been suffering with tremendous pain for a few minutes.

A woman will appear to people who heard this story within three days.
The woman doesn’t have a lower part of the body, and move around with her elbows (or hands) at high speed.

– Note –
I assume this one is rather new.
At least I’ve never heard of the story when I was a child.

“Teke-teke” is onomatopoeia.
The sound of her “elbow (or hand)”-steps.

I heard even in Muroran in winter, this narrowed blood vessels thing cannot be happened because the lowest temperature is around -4 Celsius (about 25 Fahrenheit).


- Hakuchou Oohashi (Great swan bridge) in Muroran -
Photo from Flickr (by Christophe Richard)


***The next one is a sort of joke legend.***

A foreign tourist in a sushi-bar

1. A foreign tourist visited a sushi bar in Japan.

Hi, I'm Guy Jean! I'm in a Sushi-bar in Japan now.


Umm... Good! Excellent!! Brilliant!!!


Oh, I’m stuffed! I’m gonna ask "How much?" in Japanese...   "Ikura?"


Yes, "Ikura"!




Well... My pronunciation was bad, perhaps.  I should've asked in English...


"How much?"


Yes, "Hamachi"!




– Note –
You can eat sushi with chopsticks or a bare hand.
Either will do.

“Ikura” is a salmon caviar in Japanese.
Also, it means “how much?” depending on the situation.
If you want to avoid this kind of confusion at a sushi-bar, you’d better say “Oikura (desuka)?” for “how much?”

“Hamachi” is a yellowtail.

Illustrations of hamachi and ikura sushi are from free illustrations for members of Photo AC.



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A Japanese living in Okayama. A proud "Otaku"! Loves animals, snacks, manga, games (PC, iPad, Nintendo DS, PSP), foreign TV dramas, traveling and football (soccer).

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