Netflix’s latest horror series, Ju-On: Origins has just been released, but it turns out that the series is actually inspired by a true, terrifying story.
Ju-On, better known as The Grudge in the west, is easily one of the most infamous horror franchises in cinema history.
If you have ever watched a Grudge movie, you’ll probably never forget what Ju-On (the ghost) looks like – although you’ll probably remember her croaking voice more vividly.
The latest addition to the Japanese horror franchise, Ju-On: Origins, may have only just premiered on Netflix, but it turns out that The Grudge is actually based on three (very real) urban legends. Dare you read on?
The curse of Kayako…
It is unclear when or where the story of Kayako was first told, but this urban legend is now engrained within Japanese culture and the minds of many horror fans.
Kayako was a lonely young girl from Japan, neglected by her parents as a child and had very few friends growing up. When she met a man called Taeko Saeki, he seemed like the only person in the world who cared about her. The two quickly fell in love, married and had a son together, whom they named Toshio.
Unable to talk to men when she was a teenager, Kayako used to write in her diary about crushes on random men and fantasy stories about falling in love. Unfortunately, Taeko found this diary one day and not knowing that it was either old or fiction, believed that his wife was cheating on him.
Filled with rage, Taeko brutally attacked Kayako with a kitchen knife. During the horrific assault, Kayako had her throat cut and her neck snapped, but despite these terrible injuries, she was still alive…The only sound Kayako was able to make as she cried for help was the now-infamous and ever-haunting croak of Ju-On. Taeko then wrapped Kayako in a plastic bag, left her to die in the attic and drowned their son in the bath.
However, she came back as a vengeful ghost and strangled her husband to death with her stringy-black hair, which the authorities later believed to be suicide. The urban legend ends with Kayako haunting the place of her death, killing anyone who comes into contact with her spirit – the same as the Ju-On story.
Interestingly, it turns out the story of Kayako is itself based on a much older Japanese myth from the 8th century…Onryo.
The myth of Onryo…
The term Onryo roughly translates to ‘Vengeful spirit’ and refers to a ghost that returns to the living realm in order to seek revenge for the wrongs they experienced in their past life. There are hundreds of stories concerning an Onryo, but the most famous one, the tale of Oiwa, is also the one that inspires Kayako the most.
Oiwa was a young woman, madly in love with her husband called Tamiya Lemon and carrying his child. Unfortunately, Lemon was a dishonourable man, who would regularly cheat on her and even secretly murdered Oiwa’s father when he found out about his infidelity. Lemon would murder Oiwa, their unborn child and her servant in order to remarry a neighbour’s wealthy daughter – disposing of their bodies in a river.
However, during his marriage ceremony when he lifted up the new bride’s veil, he saw Oiwa’s rotting, disfigured face. In a moment of shock, he drew his sword and beheaded his new bride. Oiwa would continue to haunt Lemon from that day forward and even tricked him into killing the father-in-law, until he was eventually slain by her own brother.
According to the legend, the curse accompanies the story of Oiwa, and those who retell it suffer hauntings, injuries and even death. To this day, production teams telling versions of this story will regularly visit the grave of Oiwa in Tokyo and pray her blessing to tell the story once again.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is also the inspiration behind The Ring, Dark Waters and even as Cynthia Velasquez in Silent Hill.
The legend of Kuchisake-onna…
Whilst Ju-On may be based on Kayako, which is itself based on Onryo, the series also borrows from the legend of Kuchisake-onna, the slit-mouthed woman, from the 17th century.
According to the legend, the slit-mouthed woman would cover her face with a mask or other item and carry some type of sharp object, whether it be a knife, scissors or scalpel. She would ask victims if they think she is attractive and if they respond with ‘no’, then she kills them with the weapon.
However, if they respond ‘yes’, then she reveals that the corners of her mouth are cut from ear to ear – like a gorier and scarier Joker. She then asks the question again, where if the victim says that she is still attractive, she will but their mouth in such a way that they resemble her.
It’s horrific either way whatever you reply, but there are claims that if you respond by saying her ‘average-looking’, you can distract her with money or hard-candy and escape.
The Ju-On: Origins series and the entire Grudge franchise is absolutely terrifying and one of the most well-known horror franchises in the entire world. The fact that the original storyline was inspired by multiple real-life Japanese myths makes it even creepier. Yes, yes, I know that these are just tales of folklore…but urban legends have to start from somewhere…
Ju-On: Origins is available to stream right now on Netflix.