Japanese urban legends – Part 1 –
“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.
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).
***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.
– 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.
Latest posts by kara (see all)
- Basic Japanese : “Sumimasen” – “Thank you” in Japanese - June 24, 2015
- Basic Japanese : “Arigatou” – “Thank you” in Japanese - May 29, 2015
- Basic Japanese : “Go-chisou sama” – Phrase after meal - May 27, 2015
“Kitano Tenman-guu” in Kyoto to console Michizane In 942, Michizane’s spirit showed up before a girl from a poor family in Kyoto and ordered to build a shrine for him in “Ukon no baba” (“hippodrome controlled by the right guard office”), the place where he often visited during his life. Of course she didn’t have […]
There are several ways of saying “Thank you” in Japanese. In this post, I am going to explain the most common phrase for “Thank you”. Arigatou (gozai masu / mashita) The phrase was derived from “Arigatashi”, which literally means “difficult to be”. The Kanji in “ari” means “there is” or “be (there)”, and another in […]
Large numbers in Japanese : Thousand to quadrillion From thousand to quadrillion, the common units you hear in everyday life in Japan including in the news. As I wrote in the previous post, for digits over ten, “4” is always read as “yon” and “9” as “kyuu”. “7” is generally “nana”. For bigger numbers than […]
Old-fashioned / historical “I” in Japanese The following “I” pronouns are well-known and can be quite often heard / seen in historical stories especially those which are set in the Edo period. But, these are rarely used in the present time. Neutral [Temae] “Temae” literally means “before hand(s)”. The near side of someone / something. […]
Sugawara no Michizane is the person who is worshipped as god of study at the shrine, “Dazaifu Tenman-guu”. “Sugawara” is the family name and “Michizane” is the first name. He is also well-known as one of the Big Three Onryou (vengeful spirit) in Japan, along with Taira no Masakado and Emperor Sutoku. Life of Sugawara […]
The rest of “Iroha-uta”, line by line Line 3 From a Buddhism thought, “Free from living and dying(, by entering Nirvana)”. [First half] Meaning: The deep mountain called life, “Ui” is also a Buddhism word. It means “every thing and phenomenon which comes from various karma(, always lives and dies and never lasts forever)”. Some […]
Go-chisou sama (deshita) This phrase is said after meal. It expresses appreciation to people who prepared or cooked the meal. “Chisou” literally means “running around”. The Kanji character for “chi” means “run fast” or “travel fast on horseback / by car”. The “sou” character means “run”. People used to run around (or ride around on […]
“Toshi densetsu” : Japanese urban legends (3) Mary-san (Ms. Mary) A girl had an old Western doll and called it “Mary”. When her family moved to another place, she disposed it because it was old. One night, a telephone rang at her new home. The girl got it, then heard the voice saying, “Hello, I’m […]
In Japan, you can find capsule toy vending machines or gacha-gacha in Japanese (refers both to the toy and the vending machine) mostly everywhere. It’s usually located near the entrance at supermarkets, restaurants, department stores, and other places. Gacha-gacha (Capsule Toy) Specialty Store in Okayama City Recently, I have learned that there is a gacha-gacha specialty store called […]
I’m sure many of those who have been to Japan would agree that one of the places that got them spend money are 100 yen shops. These are shops that sell items that mostly cost 100 yen exclusive of tax. The items range from food to housewares to accessories, or in other words, there’s a […]