You are walking alone, late at night. You see a pretty girl from behind. But when she turns, the girl has no face. Only a smile filled with blackened teeth. This is the frightening yokai called Ohaguro Bettari.
Tradition of Blackened Teeth
The name “Ohaguro” refers to the practice of dyeing one’s teeth black, which was popular in Japan during the Edo period (1603-1868). The process of dyeing teeth black involved applying a special mixture of vinegar, iron filings, and other ingredients to the teeth. The mixture would turn the teeth black over time, and the process needed to be repeated every few days to maintain the color.
The custom was also associated with the idea of “mibae,” which means “to show one’s maturity.” Married women who did not dye their teeth black were considered immature and not yet ready for marriage.
Suddenly a Smile
The tradition of “Ohaguro” explains the black teeth and “Bettari” means “appearing suddenly” or “appearing out of nowhere.” This yokai will be drawn to anyone walking alone at night.
The creature takes the form of a beautiful young woman wearing a kimono. She hides her face and asks the person if she looks beautiful. If the person says no, she will disappear. If the person says yes, she will follow them for the rest of the night.
A closer look reveals a shocking creature. The Ohaguro Bettari has no facial features, save its smile — a mouth filled with black teeth. She will laugh at your fear and surprise (and this is perhaps the reason for the yokai’s trickery).
The lesson here: stay clear of pretty woman late at night.