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Kayako Saeki (佐伯伽椰子 Saeki Kayako), née Kawamata (川又 Kawamata) born April 8, 1966 in Tokyo, Japan. She is the main antagonist appearing in the Ju-On franchise, having been portrayed most prominently by actress Takako Fuji. Director Takashi Shimizu created and originally voiced her death rattle himself. Kyōka Takizawa played a young Kayako in The Grudge 2. Actress Anna Moon plays the character for the Tales from the Grudge short segments, and Aiko Horiuchi takes over the role from Fuji in The Grudge 3, the third installment of the western film series. Junko Bailey played Kayako in the sidequel The Grudge (2020). Tomoko Sato played the character in the comedy/parody film Scary Movie 4. Misaki Saisho portrays Kayako in the seventh Japanese installment The Beginning of the End and Ju-on: The Final Curse. Runa Endō played Kayako in Sadako vs. Kayako. The character is also featured in the video game Ju-on: The Grudge. Kayako, alongside her ghost son Toshio, have become a icon of Japanese horror, as well as the horror genre in general.

Although her background is significantly different between them, in all versions Kayako is an onryō - the furious, spiteful spirit of a Japanese housewife who was brutally murdered by her husband, Takeo, after his discovery of her secret feelings towards another man. This insane act gathered a grudge curse at the murder setting, their house, that condemns anyone who steps inside to succumb under Kayako's spreading anger.

Biography

Japanese timeline

I'm always behind you. Remember that.

Early life

As revealed in the official novel written by Kei Ohishi, both of Kayako's parents were present albeit highly neglectful, causing Kayako to often feel depressed and lonely. She spent most of her free time with her cat Kuro and was highly antisocial. Kayako attended university and was seen as "creepy" by her classmates. Extremely shy, she secretly fell in love with a fellow academic, Kobayashi. Kayako became highly jealous of his girlfriend Manami and even tried to curse her, failing and eventually giving up. After the accidental deaths of her parents which did not seem to faze her, Kayako married Takeo Saeki, the only person who understood and cared for her, and together, they had a son named Toshio. As Kobayashi became a teacher and eventually Toshio's school teacher, Kayako had her dormant feelings rekindled.

Adult life

Kayako continued to greet him always when picking her son at school, even though timidly. One night, while flipping through the pages of her diary, Takeo read about her secret feelings towards Kobayashi and in a jealous fit of rage, Takeo snapped her neck to a 90-degree angle, stabbed her to death and killed Toshio's pet cat Mar as well. Kayako's bloody corpse was wrapped in plastic and hidden in the attic, and Takeo left to continue his killing spree.

Afterlife

Her body was later found by Kobayashi himself when he visited the Saeki residence following Toshio's frequent absence from school. Kobayashi heard an exchange between Kayako and Toshio (supposedly still alive), in which Kayako assured Toshio she would always be "behind him". Kobayashi entered the room and found the boy alone and drawing. Through Kayako's diary, Kobayashi also discovered she was deeply in love and perhaps obsessed with him. Kobayashi then found her corpse placed in the attic.

Kayako, after being murdered by Takeo.

Disturbed at the house's lobby, Kobayashi witnessed as Kayako's roaring bloody dead body crawled down towards him, and attempted to leave the place, only to be caught by the ghost, as Kayako's head surprised him in the open door, calling for his name. Takeo also found his fate under the curse himself created when Kayako surprised him from inside a plastic trash bag and killed him on the asphalt.

As the Saeki residence was now home for the curse, Kayako's ghost continued to punish anyone that entered the place and became able to affect other places and people through them. She demonstrated affection towards a young boy, Nobuyuki, and saved him for last after killing his whole family. In this course, Nobuyuki's aunt Kyoko was possessed by the ghost. Nobuyuki, disturbed and tired, was pursued and cornered by several manifestations of the ghost while at school until he was taken. Kayako's ghost possessed Yoshimi, killed her husband Hiroshi and later manifested to real estate agent Tatsuya, who sold the house to the Kitada couple. The ghost, at some point, pursued a social worker named Rika and caused her to be murdered by the same way she was, through Takeo's hands. 

Rebirth

Kayako moments before or as she rebirths, attacking Keisuke.

Kayako finally found her chance to live once again, after an actress, Kyoko, stepped inside the house to shoot a horror-themed television show. Kyoko was pregnant and the ghosts directly caused her an abortion, assuming the baby's place afterward, as Kyoko was gradually lurked and haunted by them. Kayako was then reborn from Kyoko and was able to make one last victim in her ghostly form, Kyoko's friend Keisuke, before Kyoko woke up and, seemingly influenced by the curse, cherished "her" crying baby.

Sometime later, a still possessed Kyoko was seen walking on a bridge with a grown-up Kayako, carrying her diary and with her face hidden under her black hair. The little girl suddenly killed her mother by pushing her down the staircase. Kyoko, however, smiled at Kayako and attempted to embrace her before dying. Kayako only stared at her until she died, and walked away as Kyoko's dead body attracted the attention of some passersby.

The Beginning of the End

Toshio is my child, only. My child.

As portrayed in Beginning of the End.

In the 2014 reboot, Kayako is portrayed as a mildly mentally disordered housewife married to Takeo Saeki, a businessman. The couple moved to the "house on the hill", both unaware that a boy was murdered there many years before. Feeling lonely, Kayako decided to have the baby she had always craved and decided to have one even under Takeo's constant absence but keeping her desire in her journal. When sleeping Kayako was visited by a ghostly boy who called her "mother" and entered her body. Kayako later found herself to be pregnant as she always wanted and promised this would be a secret between her and her son, which Takeo should never discover. Toshio, however, grew up distant from Takeo which started to upset him. One day, Kayako was asked by her angered husband who was Toshio's father, to which she only mocked him by answering that the boy was only hers. Takeo then snapped her neck, killing Toshio and his cat afterward.

Afterlife

The murders eventually gathered a grudge curse in the Saeki house. Mr. Konishi, Toshio's teacher, visited them after Toshio's unexplained absence from school. He met Kayako, who behaved strangely and repetitively told him Toshio was "resting". After Konishi was taken by the curse, the substitute teacher Yui noticed Toshio's absence and visited the Saeki house as well. Kayako invited her in and Yui asked for Toshio's whereabouts. Kayako only told her "his father took him" and that he would be back soon. Yui went upstairs looking for the boy until a rattling Kayako scared her away from the house while filling her journal's pages with spirals. Yui told the school's director that something was "not right with that woman". One night, Kayako manifested to Yui and left the journal to her. At home, the ghost possessed Yui, who was later found by her boyfriend Naoto. Naoto noticed the journal and throughout its pages discovered Kayako's strong desire to be a mother. Worried about Yui, Naoto started investigating the Saeki family's past and uncovered the mystery between the two Toshios, until the ghosts of the mother and son appeared. Kayako's ghost broke his neck, with Yui finding his body afterward. Yui returned to the house and found several videos of Kayako's life with Takeo and Toshio, and had a vision of her revelation and murder. When Yui found what seemed to be Kayako's corpse up in the dark attic, the ghost then moved and pursued her downstairs.

Sadako vs. Kayako

In the crossover film with the Ringu franchise, Kayako has been re-established as the main antagonist again and the most threatening ghost. The film seems to discard the events of the reboot and even outright contradicts them. In this film, she is intentionally pitted against Sadako Yamamura in the hopes that the ghosts would obliterate each other.

Suzuka Takagi starts having dreams of the haunted Saeki house after moving in nearby with her family. She later runs into Keizo and Tamao, who states that the house beckons to Suzuka. Keizo warns her not to enter or she will be killed. After Suzuka leaves, a group of bullies arrive and force a schoolboy to enter the Saeki house. However, Kayako and Toshio violently drag all of them to their demise, including the schoolboy and the group leader who gets killed by having his head snapped off by Toshio. That night, Suzuka thinks she sees one of the kids inside the Saeki house and goes inside herself. She sees Toshio and her screams prompted her parents to rush in, but Toshio kills her father by snapping his head off and Kayako kills her mother. Keizo arrives in time to save Suzuka, although she is already cursed. Yuri and Suzuka agree to team up for Keizo's plan, where they enter the Saeki house so that Suzuka can watch the cursed videotape inside and Yuri can see Kayako, thus becoming afflicted with both curses. Keizo hopes this will make Sadako and Kayako fight over the girls and obliterate each other in the process. As the plan unfolds, Toshio appears before them, but Sadako drags him inside the TV with her hair as Toshio screams. Suddenly Sadako begins to crawl out of the TV whilst Kayako crawls downstairs, prompting them to brutally confront each other. At first both spirits seem to overpower the other but ultimately the bout ends in a stalemate. Keizo orders Yuri and Suzuka to flee, upon realizing that his plan failed horribly.

Keizo reveals his last resort: one of the girls has to lure both ghosts into the well so they can be sealed inside. Yuri chooses to sacrifice herself, jumping into the well as Sadako and Kayako begin to rush towards her, resulting in a massive collision that instantly bisects Keizo and thus brutally kills him. His dismembered body falls into the well presumably crushing Yuri to death. Suzuka seals the well and seemingly imprisons the mass for good. This last resort does not work either, and instead backfires terribly: both Sadako and Kayako's curses have combined, and become a single entity – Sadakaya. Sadakaya, possessing Yuri's body, has the appearance of Sadako , a combined movement method of both the spirits, and emits Kayako's death rattle. Suzuka helplessly screams in Sadakaya's presence whilst Tamao's psychic powers get overwhelmed. Toshio appears behind them, taunting their fates, which are ultimately left unknown.

In a post-credits scene, the modified version of the cursed videotape is shown. At the entrance of the building, Sadakaya menacingly contorts her body, imitating the bodily movements of both Sadako and Kayako. Sadakaya suddenly teleports to the screen, emitting a final death rattle.

American timeline

I know something about Peter.

Childhood

Kayako lived in a rural, quiet Japanese village with her mother and sister. Nakagawa Kawamata was an Itako, an exorcist of the Japanese culture, and deposited the demons or evil spirits from others inside Kayako. Because of this, Kayako wrote several entries in her diary in an unknown language, apart from registering about her own life.

Adulthood and afterlife

As portrayed in The Grudge.

Kayako fell in love for an American professor, Peter Kirk, and followed him wherever he went with his friends or his girlfriend. Kayako, somehow, obtained Kirk's nail slivers and a picture of his girlfriend and him with herself in the background. She kept it all in her journal until Takeo discovered it and in a fit of rage, broke her neck with Toshio witnessing everything. Kayako was still alive and seen when Toshio was being murdered by Takeo in the bathroom. With her and his son's corpses hidden, Takeo then hanged himself in the boy's bedroom. Her body was later found by Kirk himself, who had followed her numerous letters to the address listed in the envelopes. Disturbed and feeling guilty, he committed suicide the morning after.

With the grudge curse born, Kayako made several people that entered the house her victims. Later, she showed Karen Davis, a girl who had discovered about her past what caused her death and anger through a vision. Karen, after she set the house on fire in order to stop the curse, had one last vision, of the Saeki family as if they were alive and happy after all, only to be surprised by Kayako while in the hospital, realizing that her grudge would never stop. Karen, however, kept her belief that she could detain it and resisted, until she was caught by Kayako at last.

Kayako7.png

The curse also affected Karen's younger sister Aubrey and her mother (deleted scene), and, after Aubrey asked what it really wanted, Kayako answered by causing her to be murdered exactly like she was, through Takeo's bare hands. Through Allison, an American girl that entered her house, Kayako and Toshio managed to reach an American apartment building in Chicago. With the curse affecting the whole place, only one survivor was left, a young boy named Jake. Jake resisted longer to the curse and Kayako finally killed him by brutally breaking every single one of his bones.

As Kayako kept making new victims in the building, her sister Naoko later arrived, planning to stop her death cycle, through a ritual that she learns from their mother. Somehow, Naoko obtained the diary and a sample of Kayako's blood, needed for the ceremony. However, Max, another one of the aforementioned building's residents, became possessed by Takeo, and interrupted the ritual. Rose, Max's youngest sister, drank Kayako's blood as instructed by Naoko and Kayako's spirit seemingly vanished.

While hugging Rose and promising her everything would be fine, her oldest sister Lisa was unaware that she was hugging a roaring Kayako as well, indicating that her spirit became merged to Rose's body after all. Thus indicating that both of them, or at least Lisa is still under the curse, or that the ritual, did not work as planned after all.

Kayako has a cameo in The Grudge (2020), the sidequel which happens alongside the events of the first two films. Her scene, set a few days before Karen is to arrive at the Saeki home, involves her stalking and haunting Fiona Landers, the previous caretaker, who leaves Yoko the house keys after having been unnerved by what she saw in the house and promptly returns to America, unintentionally taking the curse with her.

Trivia

Fuji-san with Eiji Ôki filming The Grudge.[1]

  • Kayako's story is loosely reminiscent of the myth of Oiwa, a traditional Japanese onryō legend.[2]
    • In this tale, the ghost of Oiwa, a woman disfigured and murdered by her unfaithful husband, returns seeking revenge, pursuing him. According to the legend, a curse accompanies her story, and that those who retell it will suffer injuries and even death. To this day, producers, actors, and their crews continue to visit the grave of Oiwa in Tokyo before productions or adaptations of Yotsuya Kaidan, praying for her soul and asking for her blessing to tell her story once again.[3]
  • In the novel, Kayako reveals the origin of her name - which came from a Korean harp named Kaya-geum.[4]

Shimizu's early draft of Kayako's ghost.

  • Takashi Shimizu did not intend Kayako to have a backup story when creating the character. Studio executives insisted on the idea of a twin sister for Kayako as part of her backup story for The Grudge 2, which Shimizu-san rejected. [5] This idea likely resulted in Naoko's character in The Grudge 3.
  • According to Takako Fuji, she initially expressed only anger until Takashi Shimizu asked her to release different emotions, which depics Kayako as a very sad spirit crying out for help, making her look more like a human being. "Her spirit is not at rest yet, that's why she's a ghost. (...) She wants to be heard, she wants to be understood".[6]
  • Takashi Shimizu saw Fuji at the theater and, according to him, he knew she was "perfect" for his ghost, "as soon as she walked out on stage".[7]
  • Takako Fuji stated in an interview while filming The Grudge 2 (the sixth time she played the character) that, at that time, she already felt "difficult sometimes to keep up the motivation, because I've played her so many times".[8]
  • For the western series, her ghost make-up took two hours to complete.[10][11]
  • In the Ju-on film series, very few of Kayako's face from when she was alive is seen.
    • In the Grudge films, however, she is always clearly seen from the flashback of the Saeki murders. Also, only brief glimpses from the murder are shown in the Ju-on films, but never the murder itself.

The make-up process for a promo of the Korean release of Beginning of the End.

  • It can be assumed that, in the Ju-on series, Kayako was the one that made Toshio a ghost.
    • Takeo wanted the boy to live and satisfied himself by murdering Kobayashi's unborn daughter instead.
  • Although it is never clearly seen, it's implied that Kayako was stabbed to death in the Ju-on films. This was changed to her broken neck which caused the roaring/death rattle her ghost makes.
  • Kayako's look changes gradually throughout the Ju-on films and between the two versions. Alive, she is shown to have bangs in Ju-on, but never does so in The Grudge.
  • Kayako is reported to have been 28 years old when she was murdered in the Ju-on series.
    • She is 30 at the time of her death in the The Grudge.
  • Featuring a strikingly similar resemblance, Kayako makes a "cameo" appearance in an episode of Ghost Whisperer ("Horror Show") in which the the infamous scene where the ghost appears under Hitomi/Susan's sheets is recreated.
  • The character is spoofed in a 2013 episode of Saturday Night Live in which Kristen Wiig portrays a mother who is drowned to death and becomes a "Korean water ghost".[12]
  • The Supernatural episode "Party On, Garth" also references the ghost in the Shōjo.
  • In The Grudge series, her supernatural abilities comes from ghosts and demons inside her. In Ju-on, origin of her powers is unknown.
  • Kayako seems to stalk her sister Naoko in The Grudge 3 in the Chicago Apartment but never tries to attack her. This implies that, even in death, Kayako still cares for her sister and that she might have some semblance of her former humanity left in her.
  • Given the nature of the curse, Kayako (and by extension Toshio) does not discriminate when it comes to cursed victims, even claiming children. Jake Kimble, a pre-teen, was eventually killed by Kayako in The Grudge 3 and likely would have killed Rose if she hadn’t sealed her in her own body, and in Sadako vs. Kayako, she and Toshio mercilessly kills the group of boys that foolishly entered the home to prank their friend.

Refrerences

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