by Virginia Carraway Stark
There are few places as frightening as a washroom in Japan.
Japan has some of the scariest urban legends, ghost stories and monsters but some of the worst of them are the ones that start off in the bathroom: particularly the girls washroom in elementary schools. Hanaka-san, also known as ‘Hanaka of the Toilet’ is the story of a ghost girl who reputedly lives in either the third stall from the end or in the washroom on the third floor. The origins of the story are murky at best but twenty years ago Hanaka-san fever swept Japan and everyone you talked to had a story of seeing the girl or at the very least of knowing someone who had seen it.
She is reportedly a cute little girl with bobbed black hair and she wears a little red schoolgirl skirt. She usually has to be invited and it is a common hazing to force to students to go to the third door and have them knock three times. It doesn’t happen every time but sometimes Hanaka will answer and ask the person to come in. If they open the door they may see Hanaka-san standing by the toilet.
Some people claim to have seen her but say that she vanished before she said or did anything else, other people say they witnessed her grabbing the querent, dragging them into the toilet and killing them in a violent and bloody manner.
She is a common feature in cartoons and movies even though nobody seems to know the story of the little girl who was killed or died to become this vengeful ghost. Hanaka-san was a common name for girls in the 1950s in Japan, where the legend seems to have originated from. Sometimes she isn’t’ happy to wait for someone to come to her and she will instead run through the bathroom opening doors, invading privacy and slamming doors shut.
She has different guises or perhaps different spirits impersonate her MO because of her notoriety and fame. In Yamagata Prefecture they claim that there is no little girl there if you open the door, instead you will find a vicious, three headed lizard who will bite you and drag you down the toilet. In Iwate there is only a white hand that comes out of the toilet and in Kanagana the hand is stained with blood.
In other places there is another ghost, or perhaps it is Hanaka-san in another guise, she goes by the name of Kashima Reiko. Kashima Reiko translates roughly as: Dead person demon mask. A terrifying name for a terrifying apparition who has no legs. She drags herself through the washroom leaving a bloody trail behind her and calling out plaintively, “Where are my legs?”
If this isn’t enough to terrify even the most brave out of ever wanting to go to the washroom there is yet another ghost as well. This ghost is a boy and he lives in the last stall in the girls bathroom (there aren’t many stalls left for the living!). If you are unfortunate enough to open the door and see him standing there he will offer you toilet paper, but you must pick a color: Red or Blue.
Either way he has no intention of letting you live. If you choose red he will cut the hapless victim with a blade on their back and neck to give them an appearance of wearing a red cape. If you choose blue he will strangle or hang you to death.
People report mixed results of telling him ‘neither’ or ‘both’. Some say it angers him further and he does still worse things to his victims. Others say that finding the correct clever thing to say flummoxed him just long enough to give them time to escape… and to tell their story.