Since Halloween is coming up, it seems like as good a time as any to explore some of Japan’s curses and urban legends. From slit-mouthed women to Colonel Sanders, let’s see what spooky things have appeared in Japanese media!
This one has a few different names: Aka Manto/Ao Manto (“Red Cloak/Blue Cloak”), Aka Hanten Ao Hanten (roughly translated to “Red Cape Blue Cape”), and Aka Kami Ao Kami (“Red Paper Blue Paper). Depending on his name, the details of the story change.
Generally, all three start off as follows: the ghost haunts women’s bathrooms, and when a woman or girl enters the last stall, he asks her a question. Aka/Ao Manto asks “Which do you prefer: a red cloak or a blue cloak?” If you ask for a red one, he chops off your head and the blood from your body pours down your back, giving you the appearance of wearing a red cloak. If you ask for a blue one, he suffocates you until you turn blue and die.
Asking for a color other than those two will result in his hands reaching up at you from the floor and whisking you away to hell. Aka Hanten Ao Hanten asks “Would you like a red cape?” Saying yes will get the skin ripped off of your back. Finally, Aka Kami Ao Kami asks “Do you want red paper or blue paper?” Answering “red” gets you skinned alive, while answering “blue” drains your body of blood.
This legend leaves me wondering: is the “toilet hand” in The Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask a reference to this character? With how creative the Zelda team typically is, I’m inclined to say yes.
Red Room Curse
Much like Aka Manto, this curse involves being asked a question. This curse involves a pop-up window appearing on your computer screen. It simply asks 「あなたは好きですか？」(“Do you like__?”), both in the pop-up and aloud in a cute yet strange voice. Closing the window only makes it reappear, until eventually the question becomes “Do you like the red room?”
Victims are supposedly found dead, the walls of the room they were in covered with blood. This legend began with a flash animation depicting a boy encountering the curse, but there’s a creepier story involving this animation. In 2004, a twelve-year-old girl named Satomi Mitarai was murdered by a classmate, supposedly because of slanderous messages Satomi had left regarding the girl. On the girl’s computer, the flash animation of the red room was bookmarked. Definitely a chilling tale.
Teke-Teke is a legend about a young girl who fell onto a train track and was cut in half by an oncoming train. She suffered such a gruesome, agonizing death, that now her ghost roams Japan, dragging the top half of her body around with her claw-like hands.
The story goes that a young boy left school and saw a beautiful girl sitting at a window. He found it odd to see her, being he went to an all-boys school. When she saw him looking at her, she smiled and put her hands on her elbows. Suddenly, she leaped from the window and landed on the ground. It was then that the boy noticed with horror that the girl was missing the lower half of her body. He was frozen in place as she ran at him on her elbows, making the sound teke-teke-teke as she darted toward him (hence her name). It took the dismembered girl mere seconds to be upon him.
As she reached him, she drew a scythe and cut him in half, making him like look just like her. She is said to chase children at dusk, seeking to cut them in half to make them into her own image, or so the legend goes.
Curse of the Colonel
This is one of the more unusual ones on our list. In 1985 the Hanshin Tigers, a Japanese baseball team, had won the Japanese Championship Series. Fans were so excited over this win that things got a little crazy: so crazy, in fact, that some fans took a statue of Colonel Sanders and threw it in the Dotonburi River. (They took the statue because the Colonel resembled one of the players on the Tigers, Randy Bass.) The statue was recovered in 2009, but the team still has yet to win another championship. So, for now, the Curse of the Colonel lives on.
One of the most famous of Japanese urban legends has to be Kuchisake-onna, or the “Slit-Mouthed Woman.” The legend generally goes like this: a woman appears before you wearing a surgical mask and asks “Am I beautiful?” If you answer “yes,” she then removes her mask, revealing slits cut across her face, essentially creating a wider mouth. She then asks “Am I beautiful now?” If you answer “no” or scream upon seeing her mouth, she will kill you on the spot. If you answer “yes,” she will cut your face, giving you the same smile that she has. Acting indifferently towards her is supposedly your best method of escape: it will confuse her, giving you enough time to run away from her.
While this legend has existed for a number of years, there apparently was a bit of a scare in the 1970s, with rumors of her chasing children in the streets buzzing around. Apparently, a coroner found records concerning a woman who had been hit by a car and killed while chasing children. Her mouth had a rip that extended from ear to ear. Whether or not this is true is hard to say, but it certainly is an eery tale. It’s a popular one, though; so popular, that there have been movies made about Kuchisake-onna, and she’s been referenced in several other forms of media, such as the video game Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc.
Are any of these urban legends and curses ones you’ve hear about before? Does your town or country have its own urban legends? Share them with us in the comments below!