It’s time for the next Japanese monster. Today I’m going to introduce the Futakuchi onna, a woman with two mouths – a normal one located on her face and second one on the back of the head beneath the hair. There, the woman’s skull can split apart and form lips, teeth and a tongue, creating a monstrous second mouth. Futakuchi onna (二口女) means two-mouthed woman and like the Kappa and the Bakeneko it’s a Japanese Yōkai (妖怪)- an otherworldly and weird appearance.
The appearance of a second mouth is most often linked to how little a woman eats. If a woman becomes the wife of a miser and rarely gets to eat, a second mouth will form on the back of her head, demanding food. If the mouth is not fed, the woman’s hair begins to move like a pair of serpents, allowing the mouth to help itself to the woman’s meals.
In Japanese mythology and folklore, the Futakuchi onna belongs to the same class as the Rokurokubi (women that have the ability to stretch their necks to great lengths) and the Kuchisake onna (Slit-Mouth Woman), women afflicted with a curse or supernatural disease that transforms them into yōkai. The supernatural nature of the women is usually concealed until the last minute, when the true self is revealed.
The most famous story of a futakuchi-onna goes something like this:
In a small village there lived a stingy miser who, because he could not bear the expense of paying for food for a wife, lived entirely by himself.
One day he met a beautiful woman who did not eat anything, whom he immediately took for his wife. Because she never ate a thing, and was still a hard worker, the old miser was extraordinarily thrilled with her, but on the other hand he began to wonder why his stores of rice were steadily decreasing.
One day the man pretended to leave for work, but instead stayed behind to spy on his wife. To his horror, he saw his wife’s hair part on the back of her head, her skull split wide revealing a gaping mouth. She unbound her hair, which reached out like tentacles to grasp the rice and shovel it into the hungry mouth. source
There are different stories about what causes a woman to become a Futakuchi onna. Sometimes it’s a woman who lets her stepchild die of starvation while keeping her own offspring well fed. The spirit of the neglected child then, lodges itself in its stepmother’s body to take revenge. Other stories tell that the extra mouth is formed when the stepmother gets hit in the head by her husband’s axe while he is chopping wood. The wound never really heals and becomes a monstrous, devouring mouth.