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Surgicals Masks Offering Protection In Many Forms

By Saul Goodman

Surgical masks are most often worn by health professionals, but in many Asian countries they’re worn simply as a way of protecting oneself from the smog, a common problem in that part of the world. Asians also wear surgical masks when sick in order to not infect anyone else. Interestingly, such a basic everyday thing is involved in one of the most uncanny of popular legends in Japan.

Kuchisake Onna, or “slit-mouthed woman” in Japanese, was originally a very beautiful woman whose jealous husband cut her mouth from ear to ear, taunting, “Who will think you are beautiful now!” Ever since then, on foggy nights, she can be seen roaming around in a surgical mask. When she encounters somebody, typically youth, she will shyly inquire whether the person thinks she is beautiful.

If the response is yes, Onna will take off her surgical mask and ask, “How about now?” Different versions of the legend give different outcomes if the answer remains affirmative, all bad: she will either cut the individual from ear to ear to resemble herself or kill the person – or both – or, inexplicably, give a large blood-soaked ruby and walk away.

Different versions of this tale offer for the same general set of alternatives even if the original answer had been negative – mutilation or murder. Basically, meeting Kuchisake Onna is bad luck. However, more modern versions these days advise that responding “You’re average” or “So-so” or even asking her what she thinks of one’s own beauty will turn the tables on her and confuse her, providing an opportunity to escape.

And, in one of those only-in-Japan kind of things, there is even the tactic of simply informing her that you must be on your way, so as to embarrass her for forgetting her manners and making her excuse herself from your presence!

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Goodman, Saul "Surgicals Masks Offering Protection In Many Forms." Surgicals Masks Offering Protection In Many Forms. 21 Aug. 2010. 3 Aug 2014 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Goodman, S (2010, August 21). Surgicals Masks Offering Protection In Many Forms. Retrieved August 3, 2014, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Goodman, Saul "Surgicals Masks Offering Protection In Many Forms"

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