Written by Geraldine Laetitia
The story of a haunted doll takes many forms, but the most popular in Japan is that of ‘Okiku’, a doll which resides at Mannenji Temple in Hokkaido.
Like all good legends, the story has many different versions which mix and match details to try and get the biggest reaction from the reader, but generally the spooky tale goes like this.
The doll was bought in Hokkaido in 1918 by a seventeen year old boy, Eikichi Suzuki, for his three year old sister called Kikuko (also called Kiyoko in other tellings). It is said she loved her new doll so much that she would take it everywhere with her, even sleeping with it in her bed.
The doll had an ‘okappa’ hair style, common in traditional Japanese dolls. The hair is cropped at around jawline length and has a short fringe over the forehead.
Tragically, Kikuko died a sudden death the following year after catching a cold. The family kept the doll at the household shrine for remembrance and prayed to it. They called the doll ‘Okiku’ after the child they lost. Slowly they started to notice something strange.
Okiku’s classic okappa haircut was slowly but surely growing. This was taken as sign that the doll was possessed by the girl’s restless spirit.
Years later in 1938, Kikuko’s father gave the Okiku doll to Mannenji temple to be looked after, since he and his family had to move to the mainland for work. Even today, you can go to the temple in Hokkaido to see Okiku for yourself, but photography is not allowed.
It is said that even a scientific examination of Okiku confirmed that the hair was that of a human child. Now the doll displayed at the temple has hair down to its knees and it supposedly continues to grow even after periodical trims. Who would be brave enough to give Okiku a hair cut? Apparently a priest of the temple had a dream conveying that this was the doll’s wish, and generally what haunted dolls want, haunted dolls get.
Another frightening claim is that the mouth of Okiku is slowly opening, and that if you dare to look inside you may be able to glimpse something like teeth growing…
Geraldine Laetitia is SC's resident researcher and content writer. She spends her day dealing with medical research studies and protocols, crunching numbers and closing business contracts, and by night she documents haunting histories, legends and lore for this section of Supernatural Confessions.