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Zashiki-Warashi (座敷童子 or ざしきわらし, Zashiki-Warashi) is a yōkai originating from Iwate Prefecture.
Zashiki warashi are house spirits, fond of mischief, loved by all, and believed to bring great fortune and riches to those whose houses it haunts. They appear as ghost-like five or six year old children with blushing red faces. They can be boys or girls, and usually wear tradition clothes; child-sized warrior costumes for boys, patterned kimonos, with short, bobbed, or long, tied back hair for girls. Rarely they appear as wild, hairy brutish figures. Often it is difficult to make out any details other than a vague child-like shape. Direct sightings of these ghosts are rare. In some instances it is said that only the houses owners, or only children, are able to see these spirits. Because of this, they are usually known only by their pranks.
Zashiki warashi love mischief. Often the first signs that ones house may be haunted by one is a trail of childrens footprints going through ashes or soap powder. Other mischief includes making phantom noises which sound like spinning wheels turning all night long, paper crinkling, childrens voices, or kagura – Shinto holy music. Most hauntings involve a single ghost, while some involve multiple spirits.
Zashiki warashi are considered guardian spirits of the house, and gods of luck. It is said that a house with a Zashiki warashi will prosper and grow rich, and a house that drives away such a spirit will fall into decline and ruin. In one account, a family witnessed a zashiki warashi leaving from their home, and soon they all succumbed to food poisoning and died. In another well-known legend from Iwate, a wealthy mans son shot a zashiki warashi with a bow and arrow, and soon after the familys fortunes collapsed.
In many homes, these spirits befriend the children of the house, teaching them songs, games, and nursery rhymes. They keep elderly or infertile couples company, and these couples often treat the zashiki warashi as if it were their own child. The desire to attract and keep these friendly yokai has led to customs like setting food out in the zashiki for them, and even laying coins in the foundation when building a new house. The Japanese take great care to maintain their zashiki, so as not to drive out any guardian spirits dwelling there.
Their common name comes from the zashiki, the formal reception room for guests in a Japanese house where they most often reside. They are known by many different names in other areas, such as kurabokko (“warehouse child”) and makuragaeshi (“pillow turner”). Countless variations of zashiki warashi exist from place to place, with minor difference in their appearance and habits.
The name breaks down to zashiki (Japanese: 座敷), a sitting room or parlor, usually with tatami flooring, and warashi (Japanese: 童子), an archaic term for a child, used particularly in the northeast of Japan.
In popular cultureEdit
- In the manga and anime xxxHolic, the zashiki warashi is represented as a character who developed feelings for the protagonist Kimihiro Watanuki.
- In the anime Mononoke, zashiki warashi were represented by small children who were killed in a brothel as a result of prostitution.
- In the manga Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan - Demon Capital/Nurarihyon no Mago (Sennen Makyou), there is a zashiki warashi named Yukari.
- In the Super Sentai series Ninja Sentai Kakuranger, Zashiki-warashi is a minor monster of the day who refuses to fight for the Youkai Army Corps and befriends a group of kids and Ninja Black. He is under an evil spell until he manages to break free only to be killed by Gashadokuro and turns into a mushroom. He appears in Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers, and Power Rangers Zeo as Bratboy who in Alien Rangers is the monster form of Farkas "Bulk" Bulkmeier and in Zeo has a cameo in Prince Gasket's Arena.
- In the anime Hetalia, a zashiki warashi appeared as a giggling spirit. When England had a sleepover at Japan's house he heard her voice and chased her, but when he told Japan what had happened, Japan replied that he lives alone.
- In the game and anime Yo-Kai Watch the Zashiki-warashi appear as helpers that involve themselves in everyday lives of humans even though they can't see them.
- In the manga and anime Hoozuki no Reitetsu, two zashiki-warashi are taken in by Hoozuki.
- In the mange and anime Kimi ni Todoke, the main character says that her nickname used to be Zashiki Warashi.
- In the videogame series Pokémon, Snorunt (Japanese: ユキワラシ, Yukiwarashi) appears to be based on these.