Okiku Doll Urban Legend

The Okiku Doll is a haunted object presently stored at the Mannenji Temple and originating in Hokkaido, Japan as a possession of a daughter, Okiku, from the Suzuki family. The doll was bought for Okiku Suzuki in 1918 by her older sister, Eikichi Suzuki, and she fell in love with it, naming it after herself as Okiku. Standing at 16 inches , constructed from porcelain and dressed in a kimono with a ‘okappa head’ hairstyle, the doll was of a traditional design to resemble an artefact. Okiku named the doll after herself and was obsessed with it – she slept beside it, took it everywhere and regarded it as her closest family.

Tragedy would inflict the family in 1919, however, with an outbreak of Spanish flu and Okiku would perish at only the age of three. As the doll was her dearest possession, they situated The Okiku Doll on a shrine devoted to her life – it became a miniature representation of her. As time passed, they observed the most peculiar development – the hairline was no longer at the jawline, it had protruded to the shoulders: the doll seemed alive with actual physiological processes. Their only answer was that their daughter’s spirit had occupied the doll and it was thus an extension of her. They maintained her hair diligently and preserved her condition with care – it was all that was left of their daughter.

The Okiku Doll
The family would decide to relocate in 1938 to Sakhalin as another province, but concluded the doll had to stay in Hokkaido as the region where the supernatural ‘transference’ transpired. They escorted the doll to the Buddhist monks of the Mannenji Temple in the town of Iwamizawa and explained the special history surrounding the doll. To this day, the monks safeguard the doll as it continues reportedly grow real, actual human hair of a child. The Okiku Doll itself has become a tourist attraction and inspired countless cultural homages – it has even has a Kabuki play dramatizing the family’s circumstances

Was the doll the result of tsukumogami as a phenomenon whereby tools become active from possession by some unknown spirit? Maybe the family’s mere superstition their daughter is still around was the product of a misguided grief? Or, was Okiku’s bond so intense to the doll that not even the afterlife would separate their connection? Perhaps to the more sceptical, all a manufactured hoax as another false urban legend of no historical basis – a curiosity beneficial for local tourism?

The doll is not trusted ever to be released as with Robert the Doll in the USA who inspired Annabelle and is certainly a cultural icon with a fun, albeit creepy, mythology behind it.

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