Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Japanese Kumanthong: Zashiki (座敷童子)

Do you believe that the Japanese also believe in kid spirits? Folks in Aomori-ken (青森縣), Miyagi-ken (宮城縣), Akita-ken (秋田縣) and a few Northeastern provinces believe that there is a type of kid spirit known as ‘Zashiki’ when present in a house or store, can bring good luck and wealth.


According to folk belief, a Zashiki acts like a Thai Kumanthong and that it likes to play pranks to people in the house. Common description of Zashiki is that it looks like a 5~15 year old kid. The boy spirit would wear black kimono while the girl spirit wears red kimono. At times, there may be several Zashiki spirits present. But this description is not absolute.


Believers say that Zashiki spirits are very naughty, at times they may leave small foot prints on the floor, they would also make noise such as the noise of furniture dragging on the floor or TV may be turned on for no apparent reasons. These spirits may also whisper near people’s ears. They are also being described as fond of making fun of unwary visitors at night such as jumping in the guest’s bed, pulling his/her legs or even applying pressure onto a person’s chest and causing bad dreams.


It is said that Zashiki likes to play and sing with kids. However, Zashiki spirits can only be seen by kids only; adults may only perceive their presence through their disembodied laughter or voice in the air. An interesting aspect is that Zashiki spirits are also fond of appearing in kid’s photo. It is actually a norm in Japan to find unknown translucent image of kids appeared when a group of children is taking photos.


When adults found their kids talk to thin air, or when the kids tell their parents that they have invisible play mates; then people believe that their kids were interacting with Zashiki. This is common in Japan but I think it would give any parents the creeps in the western world!


Some people believe that it is a good omen when they see white Zashiki entering their house, but it is a bad omen when red Zashiki leave their house. In case you also like to keep or attract Zashiki spirits, you may perform the following:


First, you should prepare a photo of Zashiki according to your preference: boy or girl. Then you must cook some small bean rice and offer to Zashiki every day. After a while, the small bean rice should reduce in quantity or your luck would not be too good in near future. Other folks also offer fruits and toys and they also specially prepare a small house for the spirits; interestingly, this is the same as with anyone who worships a Thai Kumanthong.


Some scholars believe the origin of Zashiki spirits are the spirits of murdered kids who were then buried under a house. It was said that in old Northwestern part of Japan, when the living was difficult, poor folks would murder excess kids to alleviate their living pressure. These killed kids would be buried under the kitchen. Some of the remains of these unfortunate kids were exposed after landslides or floods hence folks thought the kids actually emerged from the floor.


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