There are few cultures quite so interested in ghosts as Japan. According to stories from the Iwate prefecture and Japanese lore, ghosts or Yurei are divided into categories that each hold a special place in the society and the minds of the people. And while many of the ghosts are terrifying and even dangerous, the legendary Zashiki warashi are said to be the mischievous ghosts of children who play pranks around the house and must be fed every day. Why do so many want them? They are also said to be the bringers of incredible fortune.
The Zashiki-Warashi is generally seen as a small child of about five or six years of age with a red face. Older houses, particularly if they have been kept in good repair are the general places you may find them if you are lucky. And those who live in a home with a Zashiki Warashi must maintain it by constantly feeding it and entertaining it. For when the ghost becomes bored with its new home it will soon depart. And after that the house and its occupants will soon suffer a great misfortune or generally just start to lose sight of their ability to maintain their affairs. There are guide books on the matter, movies, and even songs on how to keep a Zashiki Warashi. Sometimes special individuals were used who could see these ghosts and brought from far away to confirm the presence of one or to help maintain its presence.
Perhaps the most famous case of these interesting and unique spirits is the Ryokufuso which was destroyed in a fire in October of 2009. This famous Zashiki-Warashi has been said to be wandering now, looking for a new residence to live in and give prosperity to.
Of course the Zashiki-Warashi is only one of the many different types of ghosts seen in Japan in folklore. The most mysterious thing about the being is how it changes its mind about things like where it lives. In the west we generally think of ghosts as beings that take up residence and then are “removed” with the assistance of a psychic or other forms of communication with it. We don’t usually think of ghosts as things that must be maintained and preserved lest they lose their interest in continuing to haunt. And that doesn’t even begin to take into account the amount of mischief these entities are said to have. The ghosts are supposed to be some of the biggest tricksters ever to walk the Earth. But the cost of their pranks never seems to outweigh the benefit of the good luck and prosperity they bring to the house.
Different cultures have far different ways to deal with ghosts and other legends. From the way we look at the paranormal, it looks like sometimes the true mystery may not be where they come from or what they’re doing here, but what we will do when we meet them.