Japan is a culture that loves stories of creepy monsters, scary ghouls and vengeful ghosts. These yokai are a very diverse and interesting bunch: they can be harmless pranksters, dangerous predators and everything in between. Japanese legend is full of bizarre spirits, ranging from giant feet that demand to be washed, to soul-eating sexy snake women, to one-eyed boys offering poisonous tofu.
There are so many different kinds of creatures inhabiting the misty realms of Japanese folklore that sometimes it seems that every square meter of the country must be teeming with mythical creatures.
Even buildings and cities have their own ghost stories, and that even includes restrooms!
Yes, Japan’s bathrooms are haunted by an eclectic mix of spirits, ghouls and monsters. Some are shy, some are violent, and at least one wants to lick up your tub grime. So, ranging from least to most dangerous, here are six of them that you may just end up meeting the next time nature calls.
6) Toilet Hanako
Possibly the most famous of the Japanese toilet ghosts, Hanako is actually a relatively benign spirit. Basically, she’s a scary thing Japanese kids dare each other to summon, by either knocking on the stall door or saying “Are you there, Hanako-san?” to which she will reply that she is. Occasionally she will be seen as well. While descriptions vary, generally she is described as having an old-fashioned bob haircut and wearing a red skirt. There are various origins for Hanako: some say she is the ghost of a child killed during a bomb raid in WWII, other legends variously claim she was killed by a deranged parent or stranger.
Hanako is a popular subject for Japanese pop culture. There is a series of horror movies based on a more sinister version of the legend, and she also pops up in several anime and manga. In the anime Haunted Junction, Hanako is portrayed as a sultry and busty teenager in a too small (and too tight) school uniform. The little toilet ghost fares a bit better as one of the stars in the manga Hanako and the Terror of Allegory; she’s still a young girl, but she is given incredible supernatural hacking powers and the power to teleport between any two toilets in the world.
Akaname (literally, “filth-licker”) is a Japanese monster that literally lives off the dirt, filth and grime that accumulates in dirty bathrooms. This monster is said to appear human in shape, but
Its skin is gnarled and red, like it stayed in a hot bath too long. It also has a long, pointed tongue, (presumably the better to lap at filth with). Avoiding this yokai is very simple; just clean the bathroom!
The Japanese are able to turn anything cute, even a monster like this. In the manga Neko Musume Michikusa Nikki (Cat Girl Michikusa Nikki), Akaname is cast as a cute little tan boy with blond bristle hair and a huge tongue that likes to lick filth off everything (including cat girls). Also strangely enough, Akaname takes the title role in a British-based children’s book called The Filth Licker by Cristy Burne.
The main attack of the noppera-bo (“featureless” in Japanese) is to scare the pants off people by randomly showing up in places (often ladies’ rooms) and then revealing their smooth featureless faces, although they can also appear with just a mouth or teeth. Noppera-bo is also one of the most international of yokai; many sightings have been reported in Hawaii, where it is called a mujina.
The trickster tanuki in Studio Ghibli’s Pon Poko movie use the image of noppera-bos to try to scare away some construction workers threatening their home. Faceless aliens in one of the Hetalia movies are called “nopperas.” The image of a face with only a mouth also shows up in a lot of shows, a well-known example being that of the Gate (or Truth) character in Fullmetal Alchemist.
In the Aka Manto (in English, “red mantle” or “red cape”) legend, an unsuspecting toilet user is asked by a disembodied voice if they want a Red Mantle. If they answer in the affirmative, the poor person then has the skin ripped from their back. Sightings of this ghost usually describe him as wearing a red cape and a white mask, and as being incredibly handsome and absolutely irresistible to the ladies.
In the anime Haunted Junction the character Red Mantle is based on Aka-manto, and (much like Toilet Hanako) is given a sexy makeover that inspires lust in every girl in the series save the female lead. Aka-manto also appears as a demon character in the Shin Megami Tensei videogame series.
Like the Aka-manto, Akai-kami-aoi-kami (literally Red Paper Blue Paper) also offers his victims a choice — in this case, between red paper or blue paper. Neither have good outcomes. In some legends if you answer “blue paper” you are choked to death (so your body turns blue), and in others you’re drained of all your blood. Answering “red paper” will either get your throat slit or all your skin torn off. Don’t even think of answering any other color, because that gets the victim dragged straight down into hell. Though according to some stories a victim’s best bet may be to answer “yellow paper,” since that just gets the poor sod drenched in piss.
Since they are so similar, elements of Akai-kami-Aoi-kami’s story is often mixed in with Aka-Manto, but the monster does make a rare solo appearance in an episode of the Ghost Stories anime. Basically, if anyone (or anything) asks you a question in a Japanese restroom, run like hell.
1) Reiko Kashima
Be warned: Much like Sadako from The Ring, this next monster is said to come after anyone who hears about her.
Reiko Kashima is a legless ghost, and much like others on this list, asks anyone encountering her a series of questions. Answer wrong and she twists off your legs. She is said to have once been a normal woman who was beaten and/or raped by a large group of men and left for dead. She crawled away, only to collapse on some railroad tracks, where a train came and cut off her legs. Now she wanders the bathrooms of the world, searching for her missing legs.
Since she is still rather new, Reiko hasn’t built up quite the resume the others on this list have. Still Reiko is mentioned in the Persona videogame series and is a character in its sister series, Shin Megami Tensei. There is a Japanese horror film series called Teke Teke that mixes up elements of a similar legless monster (the Teketeke, naturally) and the Reiko Kashima legend.