TRANSLATION: hair cutter
HABITAT: urban areas, dark alleys, toilets, bedrooms
DIET: human hair

APPEARANCE: Kamikiri are a kind of magical arthropod, with a scissor-like beak and hands like razors. They are small, and capable of sneaking quietly through open windows and doors without alerting their victims.

BEHAVIOR: A kamikiri’s modus operandi is simple: sneaking about at night and cutting a person’s hair off suddenly and unexpectedly. They hide under roof tiles and wait for unsuspecting prey to pass by. They are indiscriminate in their attacks, going after men and women, servants and aristocrats alike. They strike in urban areas, particularly in alleys, or bathrooms, or other out-of-the-way places. In many cases, the incident goes completely unnoticed until much later, when the victim is spotted by a friend or family, or when a mop of cut hair is noticed lying in the street. Often the victim is asleep in bed when it happens. In the days when long hair was the only fashion in Japan, the kamikiri was a terrifying apparition indeed – particularly in high-class, urban areas. These days, such spirits are no longer feared as they once were.

Kamikiri attacks are sometimes a sign that the victim is about to unknowingly marry a ghost or a yokai. While these couplings are uncommon, there are a number of stories of kitsune and other shape-changers tricking unsuspecting men into marrying them. Because these improper marriages often end in catastrophe, kamikiri interfere in hopes that the wedding will be called off.

LEGENDS: One account of a kamikiri attack was printed in a newspaper as follows: On May 20th, 1874, in a neighborhood of Tokyo, at about 9 pm, a servant girl named Gin left her master’s mansion to use the outhouse. She suddenly felt a ghostly chill, and a moment later her hair fell disheveled about her face as her long ponytail was lopped off at the base. Gin panicked, and rushed to a neighbor’s house where she promptly fainted. The neighbors investigated the outhouse, and discovered Gin’s severed hair strewn about the floor. Afterwards, Gin became sick from stress and returned to live with her family in the countryside. Nobody ever used that outhouse again.