Home » Hitori Kakurenbo: Cursed Ritual of Solo Hide-and-Seek – Japanese Urban Legend/Creepypasta

Today, I will introduce Hitori Kakurenbo, a Japanese hide-and-seek that you play alone.

You are on your own at first, but you would feel something coming after you unknowingly at some point. This ritual should never be done alone lightly, otherwise…

What is Hitori Kakurenbo In Japanese urban legend?

Hitori Kakurenbo (ひとりかくれんぼ) is one of the Japanese urban legends that originated from 2chan, the Japanese message board.

Hitori Kakurenbo can be translated into English as “Hide and Seek Alone”, then you can guess what it means. It is sometimes referred to as Hitori Oni Gokko (ひとり鬼ごっこ) as well, which is translated as “Playing Tag Alone”.

Around 2007, detailed instructions on how to play Hitori Kakurenbo were posted on 2chan. After that post, several bizarre phenomena were reported by 2chan users who had actually tried to play the game alone. The series of events attracted much attention and has made Hitori Kakurenbo widely known since.

Hitori Kakurenbo Urban Legend Story (podcast)

Hitori Kakurenbo: Cursed Ritual of Solo Hide-and-Seek – Japanese Urban Legend/Creepypasta

How To play Hitori Kakurenbo


There are several steps to playing Hitori Kakurenbo. I will share a summary based on the original posts on 2chan.

necessary Items

Before starting the game, prepare the following items.

  • Stuffed animal toy with arms and legs
  • Rice (enough to stuff the stuffed toy)
  • Nail clippers (if using nails for spells)
  • Sewing needles, thread (preferably red)
  • Cutlery (knives, cutter knives, etc.)
  • A glass of saltwater

Advance Preparation

  • Give some name to the prepared stuffed animal (not the same as yours) and tear the stuffed animal to remove all the cotton and other material inside.
  • Fill the stuffed animal with rice instead of cotton and place your own fingernails cut (hair or blood may be placed instead of fingernails. In this case, the risk of bizarre phenomena increases).
  • Sew the ripped parts together with the sewing needle and the thread, and wrap a certain length of thread around the stuffed animal and tie it together.
  • Fill a bathtub in the bathroom with water.
  • Decide on a place to hide beforehand (e.g. in a wardrobe or closet) and place a glass of salt water there.

Steps to play Hitori kakurenbo

  1. At 3 am, say to the stuffed animal toy three times, “The first Oni is xxxxx (your name)”. (Oni literally means demon in Japanese, but it’s just the one to search for others in children’s games like hide-and-seek)
  2. Go to the bathroom and put the stuffed animal toy in the tub of water.
  3. Turn off all the lights in the house and leave the TV on only.
  4. Close your eyes and count to 10 seconds, then go to the bathroom again.
  5. Tell the stuffed animal toy in the bathtub that “I have found you” and stab it with the knife.
  6. Say to the stuffed animal again, “Next time, it will be your turn as Oni”, and as soon as you have finished saying this, hide yourself in the place of your choice with the salt water.

How to end the Game

It is said that you must always finish playing Hitori Kakurenbo within one to two hours after starting. So, it might be better to prepare a smartphone or watch in advance at the hiding place to time the game.

  1. Take half of the salt water prepared in the cup in your mouth and exit the hiding place with the cup (never spit the salt water out of your mouth until step 3, no matter what you see or what happens).
  2. Find the stuffed animal toy in the house.
  3. When you find the stuffed animal, pour the salt water left in the cup over it and then also spit the salt water from your mouth to the toy.
  4. Say “I win” three times to the stuffed animal toy, and then the game of Hitori Kakurenbo is over.

What you need to be careful about Hitori Kakurenbo


There are certain things to be careful about when playing Hitori Kakurenbo.

  • Make sure you are alone in the house, as other people could be harmed if they are in the house at playtime.
  • Always hide when you start.
  • Keep all the lights off.
  • Don’t give up the game in the middle of it.
  • Keep quiet and don’t make any noise when hiding.
  • Do not go outside the house when looking for a stuffed animal toy.
  • Finish within two hours after starting.
  • Burn and dispose of the used stuffed animal.

Also, there are some bizarre phenomena that can occur when playing Hitori Kakurenbo. It varies from person to person, but here are some examples.

  • Disappearance of the stuffed animal toy.
  • Poltergeist or rapping noises.
  • Machinery malfunctioning
  • Physical problems (feeling sick, ringing in the ears, or some pain without injury).
  • Supernatural experiences (hearing voices or seeing ghosts/spirits).

What could be the Origin/purpose of Hitori Kakurenbo


Ritual to invoke the spirits of the dead

This is the theory that Hitori Kakurenbo is necromancy. The first post on 2chan also mentioned this way, so this could be its strong origin.

As such, the following interpretations exist regarding the items used and the steps to perform.

  • Stuffed Animal Toy
    • Considered to be a substitute for the body (Yorishiro/依り代) for the ghost to possess.
    • Rice is a substitute for the flesh, and acts such as stuffing the doll with rice, putting parts of the performer’s own body into it, or giving it names… All have the meaning of bringing the stuffed toy closer to human beings so that it can be more easily possessed.
    • The red thread represents blood vessels, which is why it is wrapped around the stuffed animal toy after it has been stitched.
  • Ritual Procedure
    • The doll is sunk in water to make the ritual more efficient, as it is said that ghosts become active through the medium of water.
    • Some people believe that turning on the TV, which is a gateway to the spirit world, acts as a sensor so that they can see when a spirit is coming.
    • Salt water is used because salt is believed to have the power to ward off evil spirits. So It is used for the performer’s protection when taken into the mouth while hiding, and to drive spirits away from the doll by spitting it on the doll.
    • Finally, the burning of the doll is to make the ghosts go by firing to eliminate their dependents.

Method for Cursing Yourself: Modern Evolution of Ushi no Toki Mairi

This theory was also already being discussed on 2chan in the early stage. The main reason for this is that the use of the doll is similar to that of Ushi no Toki Mairi.

Ushi no Toki Mairi is a ritual in which people go to a shrine in the middle of the night and curse somebody by nailing Wara Ningyo (a straw doll) to a tree.

The doll used in cursing rituals is called “Mitate (見立て)”, which means the alter ego of the cursed object. This theory suggests that the doll used in Hitori Hitori Kakurenbo is a ritual to curse the performer as the performer himself.

As with the previous theory, let’s look at interpretations of the items used and the steps involved based on this theory.

  • Stuffed Animal Toy
    • Considered to be a look-alike (alter ego) of the one attempting to carry out the curse.
    • Placing a part of the performer’s body inside the doll clarifies the object of the curse and increases its reality as more of an appearance.
    • Stabbing with a knife may be one process to curse the object by damaging its regard.
  • Ritual Procedure
    • The “No housemates when playing” rule is basically because the spell loses its effect if somebody sees you performing the curse. (The same applies to Ushi no Toki Mairi).
    • The burning of the doll at the end is said to dispose of the medium of the curse, thereby making it more difficult to break the curse later.

↓Check out this related article for a deep dive into Ushi no Toki Mairi


Ushi no Toki Mairi (Ushi no Koku Mairi): Japanese Curse Ritual by Shrine Visit

Psychological hallucination

The previous theories suggest that something frightening actually happens in Hitori Kakurenbo. But this theory suggests that it is all in the mind or one’s imagination.

The first possible cause of this theory is group hysteria. This refers to the event of one person’s panic infecting the group.

In 2chan, several people sometimes played Hitori Kakurenbo at the same time while online. When one of them said that he had experienced a strange phenomenon, the other participants also panicked as well.

The second is preconceived notions and mental fatigue.

People who saw the posts on 2chan could be given the preconceived notion that a real bizarre phenomenon might occur. So when they actually carried it out, the feeling made an ordinary thing seem like a bizarre phenomenon.

Plus, the game’s players are placed in a mentally exhausting environment where they have to hide in a small, dark place for two hours. This environment makes small noises and light from outside more pronounced, which they don’t even usually care about.

Run away from the fear of Hitori Kakurenbo…

Just Imagine that. Alone at home in the middle of the night, performing some kind of cursing ritual with a doll and other items. Personally, I feel like this act alone is already terrifying.

But maybe that fear is more than just the imagination.

If you play Hitori Kakurenbo, take precautions seriously. Otherwise, you might not be able to finish the game, and… we don’t know what the worst is coming…

↓Check out these related articles as well to find out more about Japanese urban legends/creepypastas!


My Top 10 Japanese Urban Legends/Creepypastas of the Scariest


Toshi Densetsu – Japanese Urban Legend/Creepypasta Archives

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