Every culture has ghost stories and scary urban legends. Scary urban legends and ghost stories can shed a lot of light on the culture of the place and the people where the story is based. This is the third in a series of articles based on Japanese Scary Stories. This is the story of Hanako of the Toilet (Toire no Hanako-san).
Unlike most of the other apparitions in this series, Hanako of the Toilet is not a story but more a challenge common among young children in Elementary schools. It is very similar to Bloody Mary or Candyman in America.
A student is challenged to walk into the third-floor girls bathroom alone. They walk to the third stall, and knock three times. You then ask, “Hanako, are you there?”
The student will then hear the reply, “I’m here.” The student can choose to go in, or leave. If they go in they will find a small young girl in a red skirt.
Now, if you read the other articles in this series you might be thinking, “Wow, this is tame. No one being cut in half.” Well, wait until you hear about some variations of this legend.
In Iwate prefecture, after you call Hanako a large white hand will come out of the stall and reach out for you.
In Kanagawa, it is the same as Iwate. Except instead of a large white hand, you will see a bloodstained hand reaching for you.
In Yamagata, it is said that if you go into the stall after you hear Hanako reply you will be eaten by a giant three-headed lizard who had mimicked her voice.
This story traces its origins back to the 1940s. Hanako is supposed to be from World War II era Japan, where Hanako was a much more common name. The challenge became very popular 20 or 30 years ago among Elementary school students.