The story of the Okiku is a tale of tragedy and sadness that has lived on into the legend of the haunted doll of Japan.
The story begins in 1918, when a young man bought the doll that would later-on claim the name of Okiku, he purchased the doll for his two-year-old sister as a gift.
This was the era that Japan was extremely strong on it's beliefs about mythology and fables, a land where ghosts, vampires and demons were believed to roam free. On February 3rd every year, the Japanese people would drive evil spirits away by going to shrines and carrying out rituals, these were known as Setsubun events.
At this time in Japan, and even to this day, many dolls are seen as powerful instruments of magic, it is said in Japan that you do not mess or interfere with dolls.
Eikichi Suzuki, who was 17-years-old at the time, purchased the doll in Sapporo in 1918, for his 2-year-old sister, Okiku. Suzuki was in the region for a maritime exhibition that was currently underway, he was instantly drawn to the doll as soon as he set eyes on it. The pretty doll was sat in a shop window just enticing him into buy it. Knowing that his little sister would love it, Suzuki didn't hesitate in buying the doll, apparently using the last of the money he had to make the purchase.
Standing at approximately 40cm tall and dressed in a traditional kimono, the doll was beautiful. It's hair was raven black and shoulder length, in what is a traditional 'okappa' hairstyle. It is said that her eyes were like piercing coals that appeared to swallow up everything in their gaze, taking your breath away as you looked at it.
Suzuki returned back to his home and gifted the doll to his litter sister, who instantly fell in love with it. Straight away the doll turned into Okiku's favourite toy, she took the doll everywhere with her, played with it everyday and treated the doll as though it was her little sister.
She would constantly be talking to doll, she would sleep with it and even pretend to feed it, she decided to name the doll 'Okiku', a exact duplicate of herself, the doll never left Okiku's sight.
It was a year later, in 1919, when tragedy struck, Yellow Fever had spread across the land and unfortunately resulted in the death of Okiku.
When Okiku died it was said that she was in pain, gasping for air and petrified whilst clinging onto her doll. Tragically the family lost their 3-year-old daughter under such horrific circumstances. The family wanted to bury the doll with Okiku, they felt that this is what their daughter would have wanted and would have liked her to have been laid to rest with her best friend, the doll. Unfortunately due to circumstances outside of the families control this never happened and the doll was never buried with Okiku.
The doll, now referred to as Okiku, was placed at the family's altar, this is common practice in Japanese households to commemorate the dead. The small shrine within the family home celebrated the life of their daughter and marked her passing into the afterlife.
This is when strange occurrences started to happen.
The family first started to notice that the doll's hair was growing, the hair was usually shoulder-length with neat ends, however, it had started to turn into a mess of split-ends that went down below her waist, it started to look scruffy and was said to "feel different".
The family reported that at night they started to dream of Okiku, often awakening to find the doll was by their side.
The chilling activity quickly intensified and before long the family were experiencing what was described as acts of spiritual infestation, lights would come on and off, noises and strange voices were often heard and loud bangs would happen out of nowhere within the house. These experiences intensified around key dates, particularly around the time close to what would have been Okiku's birthday.
The family had already made the assumption that their daughter's soul was now trapped within the body of the doll, local spiritual leaders and shaman's also agreed with the families beliefs about this.
By 1938, the family decided to move to a different district. The family had by now got used to the doll and had even grown fond of their daughter's restless spirit, they saw it as a magical opportunity to interact with the dead and maintain a form of relationship with their deceased daughter.
The family decided not to take Okiku with them when they moved, they believed that the soul within the doll was fuelled by how close it was to their daughter's burial site, instead the family asked their local temple if they would take care of Okiku for them.
The local Temple was familiar with the stories of this paranormal doll, the haunted doll whose hair was said to grow every year. The priests were fascinated with the thought of the doll and immediately agreed to take care of her. Over time, the priests confirmed many of the strange phenomena surrounding the doll that had been reported by the family, particularly confirming that the hair does indeed grow as stated.
The priests even went as far as sending some samples of the dolls cut hair to scientists for analysis, astonishingly the scientists that ran the tests concurred that the hair was indeed human, and appeared to be that of a young girl.
As the years passed so did the fame of the Okiku. It is said that today her powers are stronger and she invades the dreams of the priests and of those who come to visit her. It is claimed that her hair now grows even faster.
Tourists from all over Japan now flock to see the haunted doll, especially since the claims that if you peer inside her mouth you can now start to see what appear to be baby teeth sprouting from the porcelain gums.
You can still visit the Okiku doll in the Mannenji Temple in the town of Iwamizawa, Hokkaido, Japan.
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