The Woman With a Second Mouth
When Atsuya met the mysterious woman he was happy with her beauty and wit. But what attracted him most was her self-control. Unlike those other girls, this woman did not stuff her face at the table.
This behavior pleased Atsuya for many reasons. First, he liked his women thin. No way would he have a fat wife. He demanded a dainty wife, the picture of Japanese beauty. The second reason he was thrilled by her seeming desire to eat nothing was the cost-effectiveness of her habit. The food wasn’t cheap, but he was. So he’d been hesitant to bring a wife into his home who’d raise his bills. Yet except for a small platter of meat and rice she asked to be delivered to her room each night, she had never been known to require sustenance.
Atsuya proposed, and the woman accepted. The wedding was the talk of the town. People commented on the delicacies, the clothing, and the decorations. But, most of all, they talked about the beautiful woman who ate not one bit of her wedding feast.
The villagers whispered, “I mean, we’re a tiny village. Is it weird that she just showed up? Does anyone know her?”
Some villagers agreed that it was odd, but they kept stuffing their faces. Most of them were poor and they wouldn’t get to eat like this until the next festival. Atsuya was not known for being generous.
Soon after the wedding, Atsuya was annoyed to find that his stores of food were running lower than expected. When he confronted his servants they said, “We really shouldn’t say.”
“I’ll beat you.”
“Oh, Ok then. It’s your wife. She’s sneaking into the pantry at night and helping herself to food to take back to her room. We thought we’d tell you, but we didn’t think it was important.”
Angry, Atsuya decided to catch her in the act. Later that night he hid in the hall, waiting for her to leave. When she slipped out, he quickly found another hiding place inside her room. She returned soon, her bowl stacked high with rice cakes and other treats Atsuya had explicitly kept for himself. He was about to confront her when she did something strange.
She set the bowl down on the floor and then sat on a pillow, her back toward the food. She didn’t even look at it. Atsuya was confused. Had she seen him? Was this an act of a wife asking for forgiveness for daring to want more food than she should?
Atsuya quickly learned, it was not. The truth was so much worse.
Her hair began to squirm, like a living thing. That’s because it was a living thing. Or part of one. Hairpins shook loose and tendrils of hair reached down to snatch rice cakes. Then they lifted them…to her second mouth.
For the back of his wife’s head had split open, revealing rows of razor-sharp teeth. As the cakes dropped in, one by one, the mouth made moaning sounds of pleasure and smacked its grotesque lips.
He looked at his wife’s face, the one he’d always seen. It stared blankly into the mirror, with a small peaceful smile. Then, all of a sudden, the eyes in the mirror met his own. He was caught.
The wife had turned out to be a Futakuchi-onna, one of a variety of Japanese Yokai that prey on men. Though it seems like this Japanese demon won’t harm humans (unless attacked) it will cause them to starve by eating all their food. So a bit of an indirect kill, if you will. They are technically still human, usually with a curse by blood or magic, which causes them to have that second mouth. If they don’t feed it they experience extreme pain.
Her origins are unclear. One story goes that a wife was hit in the back of the head by a husband’s ax. The cut never healed and turned into a mouth. As it would.
My favorite version of her origin is a far darker tale, reminiscent of Hansel and Gretel if the kids died. In the story, a stepmother decides to leave her stepchildren, in the forest alone while her husband works to have more food for herself and her child. Later the man finds his children dead from starvation in the woods. No candy houses in Japan it seems. The stepmother is ecstatic. More food for the rest!
However, soon her temples begin to throb with pain. She feels the back of her head split open, a mouth forms there. It speaks with the voice of her stepdaughter, who is now hungry for justice as well as food.
Most likely, this was an urban legend meant to mock women for eating little to maintain trim figures. It’s easy to see people joking around a dinner table, “What are you, a Futakuchi-onna?” Of the Japanese demons to run into, this one ranks as creepy, but certainly not the worst.