Kayako Saeki (佐伯 伽椰子 Saeki Kayako, née Kawamata) is a main character/antagonist appearing in the Ju-on and The Grudge franchises, having been portrayed most prominently by actress Takako Fuji. Creator Takashi Shimizu originally created and voiced her death roarings himself. Actress Anna Moon plays the character for the Tales from the Grudge short segments, and Aiko Horiuchi replaces Fuji in The Grudge 3, the third installment of the western film series. Misaki Saisho portrays Kayako in the seventh Ju-on installment Beginning of the End. The character is also featured in the horror saga's game Ju-on: The Grudge. Kayako, alongside her ghost son Toshio, have became a icon of Japanese horror, as well as the horror genre in general.
Although her background is significantly different between them, in both franchises Kayako is an Onryo - 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. His insane act created a grudge curse on the murder setting, their house, that condemns anyone who steps inside to succumb under Kayako's spreading anger.
I'm always behind you. Remember that.
As revealed in the official novel written by Kei Ohishi, both of her parents were present albeit highly neglectful, causing Kayako to often feel depressed and lonely. Kayako spent most of her free time with her cat Kuro and was highly anti-social. Kayako attended university and was seen as "creepy" by her colleagues. Heavily shy, she secretly felt in love for a fellow academic, Kobayashi. Kayako became highly jealous of Manami and even tried to curse her but failed and eventually gave up. After the accidental deaths of her parents which didn't 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 (佐伯俊雄). As Kobayashi became a teacher and eventually Toshio's school teacher, she fell in love with him once again.
Kayako continued to greet him always when picking her son at school, even though timidly. One night, while flipping the pages of her diary, Takeo read about her secret feelings towards Kobayashi and became insane, stabbing her to death and killing 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 course.
Her body was later found by Kobayashi himself, when he visited the Saeki residence following Toshio's frequent absence from school. Kobayashi had heard an exchange between Kayako and Toshio (supposedly still alive) moments before, and also discovered he was the pivot of her murder. 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 pursued him fore a longer period while killing his whole family. Nobuyuki, disturbed and tired, was then taken by Kayako while at school. The ghost, at some point, pursued a social worker named Rika and made her to be murdered by the same way she did, through Takeo's hands.
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 to have an abbortion, assuming the baby's place afterwards, as Kyoko was gradually lurked and haunted by them. Kayako was then reborn from Kyoko and still made one last victim in her ghostly form, Kyoko's husband Masashi, before Kyoko woke up and, seemingly influenced by the curse, cherished "her" crying baby.
Sometime later, a still possessed Kyoko is seen walking on a bridge with a grown-up Kayako, hilding her diary and with her face hidden by her black hair. The little girl inexplicably kills her mother, by pushing her down the staircase. Kyoko, however, smiles to Kayako and attempts to embrace her before dying, and Kayako just stares as tipically. The little girl then walks away, as Kyoko's lying body calls the attention of some passersby.
The Grudge franchise
I know something about Peter.
Kayako lived in a rural, quiet japanese village with her mother and sister. Mrs. Kawamata was an Itako, an exorcist of the japanese culture, and deposited the demons from other inside Kayako. Because of it, Kayako wrote several entries in her diary in an unknown language, apart from registering about her own life.
Adulthood and afterlife
Kayako felt 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 at the background. She kept it all in her journal, until Takeo discovered and, insane, broke her neck with Toshio witnessing everything. Kayako was still alive and saw when Toshio was being mudered 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 letter's adress. Disturbed and guilty, he commited suicide the morning after.
With grudge curse born, Kayako made several people that entered the house her victims. To one girl that had discovered about her past, Karen Davis, she showed 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.
The curse also affected Karen's sister Aubrey 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 appartment 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 of his bones.
As Kayako kept making new victims in the building, her sister Naoko later arrived, planning to stop her death cicle, through a ritual learn from their mother. Somehow, Naoko obtained the diary and a sample of Kayako's blood, needful for the ceremony. She seemed to, as Max, the building's syndic and a resident, 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 promissing 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, that them both or at least Lisa is still under the curse, or that the ritual, after all, did not work as planned.
Notes and trivia
- In the novel, Kayako reveals the origin of her name - it came from a Korean harp named Kaya-geum.
- 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".
- 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". Fuji-san eventually passed on the role to Aiko Horiuchi in The Grudge 3, and Misaki Saisho portrayed the ghost in Beginning of the End.
- For the western series, her ghost make-up took two hours to complete.
- In the Ju-on film series, very few of Kayako's face from when she was alive is seen. In the Grudge franchise, 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.
- It can be assumed that, in the Ju-on franchise, Kayako was the one that made Toshio a ghost. Takeo wanted the boy to live and satisfied himself by murdering Kobayashi's unborn son 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 franchises. Alive, she is shown to have bangs in Ju-on, but never does so in The Grudge.
- Kayako is reported to have 28 years when she was murdered in the Ju-on film series. She is a 30 at her death in the western franchise.