Zashiki Warashi

Translated from Mizuki Shigeru’s Yokai Daihyakka

Zashiki warashi are a yokai from the Tohoku region of Japan.  They live in the rafters of ceilings or in old storehouses.  One of the mysteries of zashiki warashi is that they always take the appearance of small children, and never of adults.

In Iwate prefecture, zashiki warashi are said to appear in many of the local Elementary schools, and play with the children.  At nine o’ clock, dressed in a white kimono, the zashiki warashi slip through cracks in the door and play around between the desks and chairs, having a great time.  Of course, only the children can see the zashiki warashi as they romp around the classroom.

Also, about a hundred years ago in Tokyo, zashiki warashi were said to live in the storehouse of a man named Umehara Sotoku.  Whenever any human went into the storehouse they would suddenly be overcome by the need to urinate and would have to flee running from the storehouse.  It was said that this was due to the presence of the zashiki warashi.    Also, sometimes at night the sound of something striking a metal pole could be heard.

One year, there was a fire near that house and the flames rapidly spread.   The family was busy bringing the furniture out of the house when a child that no one knew was seen running out of the storehouse and helped carry the furniture into the cellar for safekeeping.   Even though they tried, no one got a good look at his face.  When all of the goods and people were safely in the cellar, the door was shut tight but the small boy was no were to be seen.

That old storehouse was nothing special, the kind that could be found anywhere.  But high up on the shelf that was used to store charcoal there was a box about 15 by 16 centimeters that no one ever touched.  Most likely that was the home of the zashiki warashi.

The old storehouse did eventually burn down in a fire in the middle of the Meiji period, and from then on the zashiki warashi was never seen or heard from again.  I wonder where it went?

Further Reading:

Read more about Zashiki Warashi on

On Zashiki Warashi


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Snaedis
    Nov 28, 2012 @ 16:04:15

    I have a question about Zashiki-Warashi. I’ve been reading information about this youkai and there are someplaces that say that it’s kind of a house spirit (like house elfs in Europe or so) and the are others that say it’s a spirit of a child (meaning like kind of child-ghost).
    Is it wrong? Or there are legends about both versions?

    BTW, I love your blog. It’s really interesting. Great work!


  2. Zack Davisson
    Nov 28, 2012 @ 16:31:14

    That’s an interesting question, and one that there is no clear answer to.

    MOST versions treat the zashiki-warashi as a house spirit, exactly like European house elves. They are spirits of good fortune that inhabit a house and bring good luck, not the ghosts of dead children (which wouldn’t be very lucky). Having a zashiki-warashi in your house is a good thing, and something to protect.

    There are a few stories that treat them as the ghosts of dead children, and some darker legends that say they are specifically the ghosts of children of poor families who had to kill children they couldn’t afford to feed, then buried them under the house.

    But these types of stories are rare. The vast majority, and generally accepted version, is that zashiki-warashi are like Japan’s kami, just a form of spiritual energy given a particular form.


  3. Snaedis
    Nov 29, 2012 @ 05:18:34

    Thank you so much for you fast answer, Now I understand it^^


  4. Trackback: October Mythology Special: Zashiki Warashi | Bloom Reviews

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