Three Japanese Scary Spirits You Should Know About

You cannot travel in Japan without hearing at least a story or two about Japanese scary spirits. Are you aware that indeed, Japan is surrounded by a mythology of ancient traditions and superstitions? Each culture in the world has its own folklore about ghosts and spirits, but Japan can certainly be very proud of all the stories about creatures crawling in the dark.

Here are three Japanese scary spirits you should really know about! Beware… You may not sleep!

Kuchisake-onna (口裂け女)


One of the most frightening legends talks about a woman wearing a mask that will approach you calmly and ask you if she is pretty.

  • 私は美しいんだ?(Watashi wa utsukushii’n da?) Am I pretty?

If you answer positively (and you’d better), she will take off her mask. You will then see her face with her mouth ripped from ear to ear! She will ask again:

  • 今度は何なの?(Kondo wa nan’na no?) What about now?

You will probably scream, and then the Kuchisake-onna to attack you and leave a “very nice smile in your face”…

This tale became an urban legend and caused real panic in the late 70s as it spread throughout Japan. The Japanese police even started patrolling more frequently in order to calm the population!

Zashiki-Warashi (座敷童子)


Hey, not all the spirits have to be horrible assassins or scary ghosts! The Zashiki-Warashi is the spirit of a small child who lives inside a house and can only be seen by the family who inhabits it. The Zashiki-Warashi has to be paid attention to and cared for since he will bring peace and fortune to the family living the house!

Since the Zashiki-Warashi is a child’s spirit, it can cause harmless pranks, just as a little kid would do. However, on the other hand, if a Zashiki-Warashi departs, the house soon falls into a steep decline.

Toire no Hanako-san (トイレのはなこさん)


Meaning literally “Hanako of the Toilet,” this is a spirit of a young girl who haunts old and dirty bathrooms in Japanese schools. According to Japanese legend, Hanako-san will appear if a person shouts her name.

If you want to call her,  you have to go to the third stall in the girls’ bathroom and knock the door three times and ask if she is there:

  • ドンドンドン! (dondondon!) Knock, knock, knock!
  • はなこさん、いますか? (Hanako-san, imasu ka) Hanako-san, are you there?
  • は~い…… (haaaaii…) Yeeesss…

The legend varies from this point. Some people say that she will attack you and drag you to her world, while others say she will do that only if you are a bad student since she feels safe with smart students. This legend is incentive for students to do well in school! Since Hanako-san loves dirty bathrooms, the teachers usually recommend to the students to keep the bathrooms cleaned!

With Halloween around the corner, why don’t you think of a costume inspired by some Japanese scary spirits?

Coto Japanese Academy is a unique Japanese Language School in Iidabashi Tokyo, we offer relaxed and fun conversational lessons for all levels of Japanese learner. Coto Japanese Academy prides itself on its community atmosphere and fun lessons that focus on creation of opportunities to speak and learn Japanese. If you are interested in studying Japanese in Tokyo – please visit our contact page here.


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