Hitori Kakurenbo (Hide and Seek By Yourself)

Background: My informant is a young screenwriter born and raised in California. She is a USC graduate in the screenwriting program. Currently she works on contract as a writer for several projects such as comics, television and podcasts.

Main Piece: My informant described a strange sequence of rituals that is played by presumably young people who enact a “Bloody Mary”-style ritual to play hide and seek with a demon. You must complete a series of ritualistic actions in order to play with the demon through the medium of a doll. You must play this game alone, at night, and with all lights and electronics off. First, you take a doll and name it. You fill up the bathtub with water. You say “for the first game, I’m going to be it”, drop it into the water, and then you run away. When you come back, you say “I won” and then you stab the doll three times and leave it in the bathroom.  After that you put the doll down in the bathroom, you hide and you wait. After that the urban legend has a few differences depending on the account. In one, you seek out the doll. Basically, after some time, you get up and you look for the doll. If done correctly, when you seek out the doll it will no longer be in the bathroom. When you find it, you must say “I win” three times in a row.  If you do not do the ritual correctly, supposedly the doll will find you instead and stab you three times, killing you. Another version has you instead of finding the doll, waiting in your hiding spot until sunrise, upon which then you chant “I win” three times in a row. Either way, to end it all, you are recommended to burn the doll. Many people recount that they still feel strange or feel that their home is haunted even after the ritual. There also varying accounts of use of salt in the story. The informant said that she has heard a few different usages, but the one she learned about was when you are hiding, you are supposed to put salt in your mouth. Others talk about putting salt in the tub and such other usages.

My informant thinks that it all is super creepy because they are strange in their own act because “why would someone do something like that”?

Performance Context: According to my informant, she learned the story while translating the manga version of Occultic;Nine, a Japanese manga. During the manga, they make reference to several supernatural events come to life. Wanting to know more and understand the context, she explored the story herself and has been recounting it to her friends since.

My Thoughts: I think it is interesting because it shows a certain commonality in storytelling to teach children respect and also to ward them from staying out or straying too far into the unknown through the use of mythical creatures. I think that their “curse” is quite severe, and really would be something that would scare children. I wonder if it is somehow derived from some medical fact or otherwise medical incident long ago that was explained through spirits.