Hanako-san, or Toire no Hanako-san (トイレのはなこさん, “Hanako of the Toilet”), is a Japanese spirit that reportedly haunts school bathrooms. Starting as a schoolyard legend, Hanako-San reportedly haunts bathrooms within schools, more specifically, the girls rooms, or bathrooms on the third floor of schools. To summon her is relatively easy. You must knock three times, on the third stall and ask “Hanakosan, shusseki shimasu ka?/Hanakosan, soko ni imasu ka?” (Hanako-san, are you present? Hanako-san, are you there?)
Starting as a Bloody Mary-esque game, students would go alone into bathroom stalls, and attempt to summon her, through various questions or even minor rituals. These tests of courage are most commonly found in Primary, Elementary, or Middle schools of Japan. Depending on the legend from location to location, Hanako-San may be asked questions, to which she may even reply. It is rumored that you can see her bloody handprints, see her for yourself within the stalls, see her in mirrors or even swirling in the toilet. There are very few rewards when dealing with this particular yūrei.
It is rumored that she may pull you into toilets to drown you, slash you, cut you, drag you to hell, or she may even manifest as a three-headed lizard and attack you.
Hanako-san changes according to city or district, but some similarities always remain. The color associated with Hanako-san is red. Red hair bows, Red dresses, Red school uniforms, Red shoes or even red eyes. She is typically accounted as having dark, shorter hair in a bowl cut, or in a plain fashion. Rumors and stories of Hanako-san date to the 1950’s.
As with any popular urban legend, again, the origin story for this spirit varies greatly, with stories of Hanako-san being killed in bomb raids during wars while hiding in bathrooms, being followed and killed by a stranger in a bathroom, or just a simply unlucky girl who drowned in the bathroom.
Hanako-san seems to exist as a social construct of anxiety in public restrooms. It’s a familiar place, that typically in your own home is one of the safest, but where that safety is gone in public spaces, and this story continues to thrive because of these anxieties. Hanako-san has appeared in many video games, countless anime/manga, and even has her own movies in Japan. Recognized as a popular culture icon, and sometimes used for comic relief, she continues to haunt the every toilets and stalls of Japan’s schools to this day.
Check out the pop Idol known as 14th Generation Toilet Hanako-san over at Homicidols!