Home » Kokkuri-san: Forbidden Board Game to Summon Evil Spirits

Today, I will introduce Kokkuri-san, a Japanese board game to possibly call out evil spirits.

A coin placed on a piece of paper, and fingers that move on their own. Don’t quit halfway, though. Otherwise, the thing that you’ve summoned will take you away…

What is Kokkuri-san?

Kokkuri-san (こっくりさん) is a type of board game performed by several people using paper, pen and coins. There are multiple variations on the game’s name, some of which are also known as “Cupid-sama (キューピッドさま)”, “Angel-sama (エンジェルさま)” or “Kirakira-sama(キラキラさま)”.

What is common, however, is the general steps of the game, which include invoking a spirit and asking questions to be answered.

In Japan, it is believed that Kokkuri-san started being played around the end of the 19th century. More recently, it became very popular among schoolchildren 1970s, which made the game widely known in the nation.

Since then, many stories have been told of people experiencing supernatural phenomena and physical illness while playing the game, and even today, it has become an urban legend as a dangerous game that should not be played.

Possible Origin

Spiritualism movements were widely spread around the 19th century, and some methods in which participants attempted to communicate with spirits became popular, such as the Ouija board in the USA and Table-turning in Europe.

It is believed that this movement also spread to Japan and later evolved into the current Kokkuri-san.

What is the meaning of Kokkuri in Japanese?

Kokkuri, as a word itself, means “to creak” in Japanese. It is a type of Japanese onomatopoeia to describe the movement of an object creaking.

When the Ouija board was introduced to Japan, the Japanese also tried to play the game. However, since tables were not common at home in Japan at the time, so they used the lid of the rice container instead of the table.

The lid was so unstable that it creaked whenever fingers were moved while playing the game. This is considered to be why the game is called Kokkuri-san in the first place.

Also, Kokkuri can be written in Kanji (one form of Japanese character) as 狐狗狸, which literally means fox, dog, and raccoon (tanuki).

It is said that these kanji characters were applied to the sound of Kokkuri because it was believed that animal spirits were invoked by the ritual and that some animals (especially foxes and raccoons) had spiritual powers.

Kokkuri-san Story (podcast)

Kokkuri-san: Forbidden Board Game to Summon Evil Spirits

How to play the Kokkuri-san Game


Necessary Items

  • White paper
  • Pen
  • Coins
  • Table or other base
    • It should be large enough to hold the paper and to be surrounded by several participants.

Advance Preparation

Draw a torii gate in the top middle of a white piece of paper and write the words はい (yes) and いいえ (no) across the gate. Underneath, fill in the syllabary chart of Hiragana (one form of Japanese character) and the numbers from 0 to 9.

At the end, place the coin on the torii gate.

↓The completed paper should be something similar to this!


Steps to Play Kokkuri-san

  1. Place the prepared white paper on a table or other base, and all participants surround it.
  2. When the coin is placed at the position of the torii gate, all participants place their index fingers on the coin.
  3. All participants say, “Kokkuri-san, Kokkuri-san, please come. If you come, please proceed to ‘Yes’.”
    • If the seance is successful, the coin will move to ‘Yes’ by itself. If it does not move, get back to step 3 and repeat the sentence again and again.
  4. Participants take turns one by one to ask a question to Kokkuri-san. It will answer it by moving the coin to yes/no, or the places of letters to create a sentence.
  5. After each question is answered, say, “Please return to the torii gate.”
    • Make sure that the coin has returned to the torii gate before asking the next question.
  6. To end the session, say, “Kokkuri-san, Kokkuri-san, please go away”, and the coin will move to the ‘yes position and return to the torii gate. Once it has been confirmed that the coin has returned to the position of the torii gate, chant “Kokkuri-san, Kokkuri-san, thank you very much.” and the play is over.

Things to be careful of while playing

  • Do not perform Kokkuri-san alone.
  • If the coin does not move after the first few attempts to call out, give up and move it to another time.
  • Once Kokkuri-san has been called out, do not take your finger off the coin until the end, no matter what happens.
    • Even if the coin does not try to return to the torii after each question, ask it to return patiently.
    • The same applies when you ask Kokkuri-san to go away at the end of the session.
  • Do not ask questions about Kokkuri-san’s identity, such as “Who are you?”.
  • After the session, tear the used paper into small pieces and throw them away. The used coin should also be expensed within three days so that it leaves the performers.

What could be the cause/Meaning of Kokkuri-san?


Theory 1: Summoned spirits (Yokai?) do the trick

The first theory is that Kokkuri-san is actually the summoned spirit moving the coin to answer questions.

As Table-turning and Ouija board, which are said to be the origin of Kokkuri-san, claimed to be a séance, it is thought that this theory also spread widely to the public.

In addition, it has long been a common belief in Japan that if something strange happens, it is due to a Yokai (Japanese folklore creature). Among them, foxes and tanuki are famous as yokai that deceive people, and it is said that these animal spirits are summoned in Kokkuri-san to try to do so.

Theory 2: Unconscious Body Reactions

The second theory is that Kokkuri-san is caused by unconscious reactions of the human body.

When humans hold the same posture for a certain period of time, muscles become fatigued, and the body may move unintentionally. Also, people often subconsciously anticipate the answer to a question before they utter it.

The theory suggests Kokkuri-san is caused by a combination of these two human natures.
In other words, the muscles become fatigued from holding the finger on the coin for so long that they subconsciously move the coin to answer a question.

Theory 3: Just one of you is messing around

You can actually see that when you play the game, the conversation during play is, “You’re moving the coins, aren’t you?”, something like that.

Some of your friends might pretend not to be moving the coin when they are just messing with you for fun.

Modern Appearance of Kokkuri-san in Japanese pop culture

Kokkuri-san has been featured in Japanese films and TV programmes, and films have also been released in South Korea and elsewhere.

In recent years, a manga titled “Gugure! Kokkuri-san (繰繰れ! コックリさん)” was released in 2011 and was adapted into an anime in Japan in 2014.

By the way, Kokkuri-san is often portrayed in films as a death-cursing character. But in the case of “Gugure! Kokkuri-san”, it is a handsome fox monster with a calm and comedy atmosphere, so you can enjoy this gap as well if you are interested!

Do not take Kokkuri-san lightly, otherwise…

As one theory presented in this article suggests, Kokkuri-san may just be a physical reaction. On the other hand, however, many reports of frightening experiences from people who have actually carried out the play go beyond some natural phenomenon as a fact.

I wouldn’t recommend playing Kokkuri-san for fun. What if some evil spirit is summoned, and moreover, what if it doesn’t come back easily…

↓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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