Japan is a weird, weird place. Anyone who is casually acquainted with Japanese pop culture knows that. But things get even stranger when you delve into the world of their folklore and urban legends. Japanese legend features a stable of ghosts, goblins, monsters, and various other bugaboos that puts the Pokemon roster to shame. Among the strangest that I’ve come across are Japan’s bathroom ghosts. So far as I can see there are six of them, and they are as follows:
We’ll start the list with one of the strangest ghosts I’ve ever come across, not to mention among the grossest. As Japanese ghosts go, the Akaname isn’t very threatening. It can be found in dirty bathrooms, licking up the filth that accumulates between cleanings. It’s said to be monstrous in appearance, with red skin and a pointed tongue, but other than giving you a good scare should you stumble across one, the Akaname is harmless.
With the Noppera-Bo we move from the Akaname’s strangeness to outright creepiness. The Noppera-Bo looks like a person, with one notable exception–its face is completely smooth, with the exception in some cases of of a mouth and teeth. This ghost appears at random in restrooms, often ladies restrooms, with the sole goal of scaring the crap out of any occupants unfortunate enough to be doing business at that moment. Other than giving you a good scare though, the Noppera-Bo is as harmless as the Akaname is, if not as disgusting and a whole lot creepier.
The legend of Hanako reads almost like a Japanese version of Bloody Mary, minus all the eye clawing. Japanese school children sometimes dare one another to knock on an empty stall door and say “Are you there, Hanako-son?” to which the ghost is said to reply affirmatively. Whenever she is sighted, she’s said to wear an old-fashioned bob haircut and a red skirt. The story goes that she was killed during a bomb raid in WWII, although how that led her to spooking around random elementary school bathrooms is beyond me. Like the previous two entries, Hanako does little more than scare random bathroom goers. The next few entries are not quite so benign. Let’s ramp up the horror with…
Imagine sitting in the stall, doing your business, when a disembodied voice asks you if you want a red mantle. Confused, thinking maybe there is a guy in the stall next to you playing a prank, you answer yes just to see what happens. Suddenly your back erupts in pain as an invisible force peels the skin from your back. You’ve just had an encounter with the Aka-Manto, the red mantle, a spirit described as a tall, handsome man dressed in a red cloak and wearing a red mask. This spirit is said to be irresistible to the ladies. As to why he hangs out in bathrooms and rips people’s skin off, I have not the slightest. Everyone needs a hobby I suppose, even lady-killing malevolent spirits.
This ghost is more recent than the others on the list, and in many ways her story is more tragic. It goes that she was brutally attacked and raped (presumably in a bathroom) by a large group of men who left her for dead. She tried to crawl away, only to fall unconcious across a set of rail tracks. When the next train came by, it sheared her legs off. Now she wanders Japan’s public bathrooms in search of her lost legs. When she comes across people, she will ask them a series of questions. If you answer wrong, she twists your legs off. Oh and apparently just knowing about her is enough to solicit a visit from Reiko Kashima. So, it might be a good idea to avoid public bathrooms in Japan after reading this article. You know, just in case.
This one reminds me of The Matrix, when Morpheus asks Neo to chose between the red pill and the blue pill. Except with the Akai-Kami-Aoi-Kami (literally red paper, blue paper) there are no good choices. If you answer red paper, you’ll find yourself flayed alive, while if you answer blue paper you’ll be strangled to death (thus turning the skin blue from lack of air…no one says ghosts aren’t creative). But let’s say you’re a smart ass and you answer any other color. The legends vary a bit on the outcome, but many say that if you answer anything but red or blue you’ll be dragged off to hell. Some say if you answer yellow, you’ll wind up having urine dumped over your head. Unsavory as it is, I think I’d take the latter.