Home » Wara Ningyo: Straw Dolls to Curse Your Target

Today, I will introduce Wara Ningyo, a Japanese straw doll which is often used to curse somebody you hate.

If you see a straw doll nailed to a tree in a shrine, that could be the remains of a cursing ritual…

What is Wara Ningyo In Japan?

Wara Ningyo (藁人形) is the term for dolls made from straw. They are usually shaped by weaving straws into bundles and tying them with strings.

History & origin

In ancient times, puppets made from bundles of grass called Surei (芻霊) or Sujin (芻人) were used in China. These were used as a side object for the burial of the dead, and are thought to have had the meaning of warding off evil spirits to protect against misfortune.

The origin of Japanese Wara Ningyo is not clear, but it can be assumed that they probably came from China.

Perhaps as a remnant of this custom, there were festivals in Japan where straw dolls were used to pray for the health and well-being of the community, and customs such as walking through the fields with straw dolls to pray for the extermination of pests.

Common use in Japan

On the other hand, in Japan, these Wara Ningyo have long been used as tools to curse somebody you hate. The most famous of these is the Ushi no Toki Mairi, in which a straw doll is nailed to a tree at a shrine for seven nights (Details to follow in a later chapter).

Therefore, in modern times, Wara Ningyo is something that brings up fear or negative feelings in those who see/hear about it.


In terms of size, when used as tools for curses, such as Ushi no Toki Mairi, the straw dolls are often handy in size, perhaps because they are easy to carry. At the same time, in many parts of Japan, large scarecrow-shaped ones are also used to ward off evil spirits.

The most common shape is often the human shape. In many cases, the dolls are made entirely of straw, but sometimes cloth or paper is attached to imitate the face of the person to be cursed.

In addition to the human shape, Wara Ningyo in the shape of horses and other animals are also made.

How to Use Wara Ningyo in Ushi no Toki Mairi


Ushi no Toki Mairi (丑の時参り) is a Japanese cursing method achieved by a night shrine visit with certain manners. Alternatively, it is called Ushi no Koku Mairi (丑の刻参り) as well.

There are several steps to achieving Ushi no Toki Mairi, which can vary depending on a region or an era. But most likely, you will need a Wara Ningyo as a piece of equipment.

I will share some of the basic steps to follow to achieve Ushi no Toki Mairi here.

↓For a deeper dive into Ushi no Toki Mairi, check out this related article!


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

First, let’s get “the uniform” and “the equipment”

Ushi no Toki Mairi is not a gender-specific term, but it’s mainly performed by women. So, here, we can imagine there is a woman who has developed a grudge and decides to curse someone.

She first dresses her whole body in a white kimono and paints her face white. The rest of her equipment is varied, but the following are the most common.

  • A Wara Ningyo (a straw doll)
  • Long nail
  • Hammer
  • On her head, a three-legged iron ring with three candles on the legs.
  • On her feet, Geta (Traditional Japanese wooden flip-flop sandal).
  • A mirror hangs from the neck.

Visit a shrine at the time of the ox (Ushi no Toki)

Junishi (十二支), known as the Japanese counting system using 12 different animals, can also be used to represent time.

The hours of the Ox, which is Ushi no Toki/Ushi no Koku(丑の時/丑の刻), are around 1 to 3 am. As such, Ushi no Toki Mairi is carried out in a Japanese shrine in this time slot.

Nail Wara Ningyo to wood

She holds a Wara Ningyo and nails it to a tree called Shinboku (神木) in the shrine, where the deity’s spirit is believed to dwell.

Some explanations include that putting a part of the cursed person’s body (e.g. a hair) inside Wara Ningyo increases the effect. Also, the part of the body affected by the curse is specified by the place where the nail is pointed on Wara Ningyo.

Repeat for seven days to fulfil the curse

Ushi no Toki Mairi must be performed night after night, and on the seventh day, the ritual is to be a success and the curse fulfilled.

It is commonly believed that when the curse is fulfilled, the person of the target will die…

Do not let anyone see you Otherwise…

When performing Ushi no Toki Mairi, you must not allow anyone to see you doing it.

If somebody sees you, not only will the curse not be fulfilled, but also the curse may rebound on you somehow.

In addition, Wara Ningyo with the nail on it is also not supposed to be seen by people. So you should remove it and take it home after each night of Ushi no Toki Mairi.

Wara Ningyo in Japanese pop culture

As Wara Ningyo is widely known in Japan, they are often featured in pop culture, including films, manga and anime.

A particularly famous recent example is Basil Hawkins (バジル・ホーキンス), the pirate in One Piece. He can use Wara Ningyo to deal shoulder damage and also transform into a giant Wara Ningyo himself.

Another is Kugisaki Nobara (釘崎野薔薇), who appears in Jutsu Kaiten (呪術廻戦). He, too, can use a technique to attack opponents using Wara Ningyo.

Interestingly, what these two characters have in common is that they use nails and hammers. This would suggest that these characters are based on Ushi no Toki Mairi.

Wara Ningyo Story (podcast)

This is a story from an ex-Shinto priest.

He had a duty to stay in a shrine for a night and patrol the territory. That was the time when he discovered a suspicious woman dressed in white holding Wara Ningyo…

If found Wara Ningyo in the shrine, you better run…

Sometimes, Wara Ningyo can be a good protection against bad luck. But, if the place you find them is inside a shrine at night, you may want to flee the place immediately.

As mentioned earlier, the curse will lose its effect if Wara Ningyo is seen. That means the performer of Ushi no Toki Mairi might try to kill you and erase the fact that you have seen it…

↓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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