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Spooky Japan

Zashiki-warashi sightings

Many tales of sightings of zashiki-warashi have been told, mainly in Iwate Prefecture.


Zashiki-warashi love to cause mischief by removing the pillow from under the head of a sleeping person. They also like to surprise people by laying cold hands on their faces and climbing on top of them while they're sleeping. When people catch sight of them, it's said, they smile sweetly and run away.


The zashiki-warashi makes noises like papers rattling, bites peoples noses, makes various sounds, and thrusts its long, thin arms though openings in sliding doors, reaching out several feet. It also drops teacups and chopsticks from the ceiling.

Forms taken by zashiki-warashi

Zashiki-warashi usually appear as children, but sometimes they also take the form of a black beast about 40 centimeters tall, frolicking and crawling along the floor. It's said they also appear as points of light or silhouettes on sliding screens.


Shobuke Miya


Many old folktales are told in the northeastern part of Japan, especially in the city of Tono in Iwate Prefecture. The pastime of storytelling is handed down from parents to their children. There are many kinds of stories, some dealing with kappa, some involving gods. There's a group of storytellers in Tono who share these old stories. One member of the group is Shobuke Miya, who grew up hearing these kinds of stories from her own father, a storyteller himself, and now knows more than 200 such tales.