When you see people wearing a surgical face mask, do you ever wonder why they are really covering their face?
Of course, they’re probably just protecting themselves from disease. But could there be a more sinister reason?
Japanese horror stories suggest that a beautiful girl wearing a surgical mask, could in fact be the Kuchisake Onna, or the “slit-mouthed woman.”
According to Gaijinpot, she approaches people at night and asks them “Watashi, kirei?” or “Am I beautiful?”
If you answer no, she will kill you instantly. If you say yes, she removes the surgical mask and reveals her hellish, gaping mouth.
She is apparently revenging a violent husband, so this strikes me as a somewhat misogynistic tale.
Yet in Japan, both men and women seem to enjoy ghost stories in the summer, when the spirits of the deceased are said to return to earth.
This year, some ghosts are abiding by social distancing rules, according to Harumi Ozawa, who writes for the AFP news agency.
She encountered a group of ghouls known as the Kowagaranai, meaning “a squad wanting to scare” led by an entrepreneur called Kenta Iwana, 25.
Normally they frighten people in haunted houses. But banned from making close contact, they have now set up a drive-in facility and scare people sitting inside cars.
I was surprised they had any customers, given all the recent traumas in Japan.
But perhaps overcoming one’s horror of a visible – yet pretend – menace such as the Kowagarasetai squad might help one deal with deeper and more intangible fears.