Toshidensetsu:

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Japanese
Age: 23
Occupation:
Residence: Inglewood, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 2nd, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Japanese

Context:

The informant is a 23 year old Japanese male. He was born in Nagoya, Japan where he spent the first half of his life. When he was 13, he came to the United States to attend high school and has been living in California ever since. The informant currently resides in Inglewood, CA and works in animation.

Toshi means city and densetsu means legends. These are very specific to cities. Basically there are scary stories that people pass on. There are a few famous ones. There is Toire no Hanako which is Hanako of the bathroom. This is a ghost that lives in the bathroom. There was a popular myth or something where it’s either from the left or the right, the third bathroom stall over is where she lives. These are just stories to obviously scare people a bit when they go to the bathroom. There has been a lot of interesting Japanese folklore that is attached to bathrooms. I believe Hanako is a ghost, and I could be wrong, but she asked for either red paper or blue paper, and if you answer red paper, your body is drained from all it’s blood and if you ask for blue paper, you are suffocated and your body turns blue. 

Analysis:This is an example of urban folklore. It has a more recognizable terminus post quem, meaning that this piece of folklore could only have originated after public bathroom stalls became widespread in Japan, so likely no more than one or two centuries ago. It is an interesting location to place such a piece of folklore in, possibly because when we are using a bathroom, we are quite vulnerable, and expect it to be a place of privacy – even if it is a public toilet, the stalls give the illusion of privacy. It is therefore that much more terrifying when we fear that a ghost may appear while we are using the restroom intending to cause us great harm.