the online database of Japanese folkore

Ohaguro bettari

お歯黒べったり
おはぐろべったり

Translation: nothing but blackened teeth
Alternate names: often referred to as a kind of nopperabō
Habitat: dark streets near shrines
Diet: unknown

Appearance: Late at night, a disturbing yōkai dressed in beautiful wedding clothes can be seen loitering near temples and shrines. She calls single young men over to her, and they are seldom able to resist her charms. Until of course, they get too close….

From behind, an ohaguro bettari looks like a beautiful woman wearing a kimono—often looking like a newlywed in her bridal gown. She appears at twilight outside of a temple, or inside a man’s own house, disguised as his wife. At first, she conceals her head, or turns away from any viewers. Any man who comes closer to get a better look is surprised when she turns to reveal her face: an ugly, white, featureless dome slathered in thick makeup, containing nothing but a huge, gaping mouth full of blackened teeth. She follows up this initial shock with a horrible cackle, sending the man running away and screaming in terror.

Origin: Ohaguro bettari are similar to a yōkai called nopperabō in appearance and demeanor. Like nopperabō they are often blamed on shape-shifting pranksters like kitsune, tanuki, or mujina looking to have a laugh at the expense of an unwitting human. It has also been suggested that they are the ghosts of ugly women who were unable to marry. Accurate eye-witness reports are hard to come by due to the embarrassment of the victims at having fallen for such an obvious gag. However as no deaths or injuries (other than to pride) have been attributed to ohaguro bettari, and because sightings are rare, a mischievous shape-shifting animal yōkai seems to be a plausible explanation.

Alphabetical list of yōkai