Hanako-san of the toilet. - (JP: “トイレのはなこさん” or “はなこ” )
•About this Yokai: The Spirit of a young girl who haunts the 3rd floors 3rd restroom stall: – A fixture of Japanese Elementary school ghosts & legends dating back to the 1980s (though her origins are sometimes theorized to go back decades: flowering from customs & cleaning rituals related to kawaya kami. (the toilet god. 厠 神)
(Not to mention that there are several other toilet terrors: yokai such as Kainade, Kurote, Kanbari Nyūdō, Akaname and even certain types of Kappa to name a handful.) - Today there's no shortage of urban legends & ghost stories that are are tied to restrooms, so it makes sense that parts of her story would have evolved from earlier folklore, classic ghost tales & other horror tropes, really, who hasnt rushed back to their bed from a midnight rondevu with their toilet?
History: Hanako-san reached the peak of her popularity during the 1980s & 90’s and is one of several modern ghosts that haunt the busy washrooms of Japans elementary schools: Hanako today is by far the “Super Mario” of School related ghost stories ( No silly, shes not a plumber—by that i mean that you’ll have a hard time finding someone who hasn’t at least heard of her!!) - its often said there are more regional variants to Hanako’s story than there are school children in japan!! - Point is, I could be drawing Hanako variants for months: (but i’d probably get bored pretty fast...) so i’ll do my best to summerize her in a nutshell through the rest of this post:
Depending who you ask or where you hear it from, Hanako has a fairly tragic origin story (Though the details vary widely depending where you are.) the earliest records say that her death was the result of a family suicide: an insane/desperate mother decided to end it all and take her family with her, she chased Hanako to the school latrine ending her life in the 3rd stall. – The more common variant of the story (which even I was told back in elementary school, in Canada!) - Was that during a game of “Hide and Seek” Hanako hid in the bathroom, just when an air raid happened, levelling the entire school with her in it. - (This version feels to be a bit more ‘child friendly?’ version of the first. hahaha. Which would you be more likely to tell your kids? -hide n seek bombs did it, or 'crazy mommy' did??? - around the time the story boomed, WWII was likely still fresh in everyones minds: so, admittedly the idea a bit scarier back then, than it is today.) – Regardless of the details of her death, Now her spirit is now bound to every public school toilet across Japan...
Knock 3 times on the stalls of any 3rd floor restroom on the 3rd stall ask: “Hanako-san, are you there?” or say “Lets play!” - as you go along, she will eventually reply with a chilling “Yes?” ...followed by the door slowly cracking open: a short red skirted girl with a bob haircut stands there and asks: “...Will you be my friend?”
Choose your Answer very carefully: As those who answer the question: will soon find themselves dragged down to the underworld, through the toilet... (it’s often better to ask her questions / distract her.)
Some people say Hanako prefers the old squat toilets, some say she only haunts particularly filthy rest rooms, others say she’ll haunt any washroom regardless of age or how clean it is, the only requirement is that it be on the 3rd floor.
Because of the way she’s summoned: Hanako is often used as a "test of courage" (and for that reason is also compared as a parallel to a particularly frightening ghost from the west, “Bloody Mary” [if you don’t recall, the widely spoken of school yard rumors: saying “Bloody Mary” 13x while staring into the mirror in the dark at midnight [on halloween] summons her...This was originally a way to see your future husband...More on that another time.] )- Truly no matter where you are in the world: the washroom is an awful place to die.
...However Unlike most toilet ghosts: Hanako also has a reputation as being friendly (and will even grant wishes, answer questions, or even appear (without being summoned) to console sad/lonely kids.) - This is largely thanks to anime, pop-culture & the media surrounding the legend: she often plays the hero, saving kids from the other more scary, dangerous ghosts and yokai. - it is perhaps because of her heroic role in these stories that she is oftentimes said to be a 'friend of children.'
—But that’s not to say that Hanako does not have a bit of a rumoured mean streak herself. [it is a ghost story after all.] as i’ve already said, shes most famously known for dragging kids down into the underworld through the toilet. Other stories say that she’ll cut you up or choke you out. - because variants of the story are so widely spread its hard to say for sure what she does.. but Hanako is also often mistaken for other washroom ghosts (or sometimes, more fancifully does a crossover during their attacks!)
• In the case of Akamanto: I've read that you ask him for “rainbow colored toilet paper” during his attack: Hanako will suddenly appear instead and drag you down! (your call if that’s better than Akamantos blood curdling alternatives.)
• Occasionally, she appears as a ghostly white/blue hand that reaches out and tickles your bum, or a hand that reaches down from above, choking you. (this is probably related to another spectre hand yokai Kainade / Kurote.)
• One of the “further out there” rumors from Yamagata prefecture says that hanako sometimes appears as a giant lizard with 3 heads, which comes out of the toilet then eats you... (Might be related to old kappa or snake stories.)
• Finally her "question answering" is a trope which spans over many yokai but is perhaps most relative to “KashimaReiko” "Kuchesakeonna" who was also popular at the time.
“So... how do you protect yourself? Most modern ghost’s have a ‘way out’ right?” - of course, of course! – Just don’t summon her, ya idjit!! - That’s the short answer: Other “ways out” that I’ve heard of usually have to do with her disliking certain colors and articles of clothing, Test papers (Apparently, Hanako wasn’t a grade A student so if you show her a perfect score, she’ll run away crying...) She also has an extreme dislike of milk & I’ve also heard that flushing 3 times or simply activating a bidet will save you in a pinch. -
It’s children’s curiosity, imagination & School rumors that makes this an enduring urban legend.
See also: Akamanto, Kainade, Kashima Reiko, Akaname, KuchisakeOnna, Teke Teke
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