The Monster With Black Teeth

Japanese monsters, as you’ve probably learned by now, are not a particularly dangerous lot. They can be annoying, cheeky, even scary, but few are actually lethal. Most seem content to simply steal from, trick, bamboozle, or just scare the bejeezus out of the people around them.

In fact, if Japan was actually populated by the monsters of its folklore, every dark corner and dusty nook would be crammed with monsters whose sole purpose would be to make you pee your pants. Some, like the haunted umbrellas and pillow-stealing monsters, wouldn’t do too well. They might get a light trickle out of you. But other monsters, though not actually dangerous, would fill your pants with bricks. Monsters like today’s Monster of the Unarticulated Time Period:

お歯黒べったり Ohaguro Bettari, the Black-Toothed Monster

The Ohaguro Bettari is a pretty simple monster. She is a woman dressed in a traditional Japanese bridal kimono. She has no facial features except a big mouth filled with black teeth. She hides in dark rooms and corners and, when you draw close, turns around, revealing her horrific visage, and scares the crap out of you. And that’s pretty much it.

The origins of the Ohaguro Bettari are unclear. She seems to be a kind of Noppero-bo, another famous Japanese monster that appears as a faceless person and specializes in frightening random passers-by. The difference is those big black teeth.

Black teeth seem scary on the surface, but what’s interesting about the Ohaguro is how one of her most monstrous aspects would actually once have been not monstrous at all. In olden times, Japanese women often dyed their teeth black, particularly when they got married. Given the monster’s bridal wear costume, the Ohaguro then is, really, cold feet made manifest in the form of a faceless ghoul. Perhaps it’s the groom’s fear of his wife turning out to be a monster (a common theme in Japanese monsterdom), or perhaps it’s the bride’s fear of losing her identity, losing her face. Perhaps both.

Either way, it seems clear that in old Japan marriage could be a terrifying proposition.


One Comment

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  1. Austin,
    Are you afraid of Ohaguro Bettari? 😉

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