Previously: The Bunk Shaker.
Type: SV (Spiritual Vessel).
Period/location of origin: 1918 to 1919, Sapporo, Japan.
Appearance: Subject, known as the Okiku doll, appears to be a traditional Japanese doll — likely an ichimatsu or ichimanigyo (市松人形) doll — designed to resemble a human girl. Dressed in a purple and pink kimono, subject stands roughly 40 centimeters (15.7 inches) tall, and features delicate facial characteristics and dark eyes. However, subject’s most notable feature is its hair: It is long now — but it has not always been as such. (See: Modus operandi.)
Modus operandi: Subject is generally benign, content simply to sit where it has been placed (see: Containment) and carry on with its existence. Subject is, however, notable for the fact that its hair — despite being attached to an otherwise inanimate object — is said to grow all on its own when left to its own devices.
[Like what you read? Check out Dangerous Games To Play In The Dark, available from Chronicle Books now!]
The mechanism by which the hair grows remains something of a mystery, although one proposed theory posits that subject contains the soul of its previous owner. Per this theory, subject’s status as an SV may therefore be responsible for its ever-growing locks.
The hair may be trimmed without either subject nor stylist suffering any untoward side effects. Indeed, subject may actually prefer for its hair to be trimmed from time to time, so as to prevent it from becoming overwhelmed by the persistent growth.
Some reports note that subject’s facial expression may occasionally change, as well, although these reports are somewhat in the minority. Most witnesses to subject’s activity focus primarily on its hair.
Containment: Subject is currently housed at the Mannenji temple in Kurisawa-cho in the central Hokkaido city of Iwamizawa. It is kept in a display box in one of the temple’s shrines. As subject is not known to be malevolent, no further containment is necessary.
Additional notes: Subject’s history is usually reported as follows, although it should be noted that sources conflict on a number of details:
During the summer of 1919 — or, perhaps, 1918; sources disagree — teenager Eikichi Suzuki traveled to Sapporo to see the Semi-Centennial Exhibition (sometimes described only as an unnamed maritime exhibition). Eikichi’s younger sister, Kikuko, was just three years old at the time — or two years old, depending on the report — and therefore too young to accompany him; excellent big brother that he was, though, he stopped at Sapporo’s most notable shopping street, Tanuki-koji, before he went home and purchased a doll as a souvenir for his little sister. The doll was dressed in an ornate kimono, and wore an okappa hairstyle — a bowl cut named for a particular variety of yokai.
Kikuko adored the doll, and quickly took to bringing it with her wherever she went. However, there was tragedy looming on the horizon: The Spanish Flu epidemic had already been raging worldwide for almost a year, and that winter, Kikuko was one of the thousands of Japanese residents who would fall ill to the disease. She died on Jan. 24, 1920. In Japan alone, the flu would claim a quarter million lives.
(Note: Sometimes, Kikuko does not die by Spanish Flu, but by what is described simply as “a cold.”)
Kikuko’s ashes were placed in an urn on the family’s Buddhist altar, and her beloved doll found a home right next to it. Soon, though, the family noticed something odd: The doll’s hair seemed to be… growing.
They were not alarmed by this fact, however; rather, they reasoned that Kikuko’s spirit must have taken up residence inside her favorite doll, thus explaining the doll’s sudden new abilities. They continued to care for the doll — for subject — until 1938, at which point Eikichi, who had been drafted into the Imperial Army during what would soon become the Second World War, transferred the keeping of both Kikuko’s ashes and subject itself to the Buddhist temple known as Mannenji, where the two artifacts have remained ever since.
Over time, subject became known by a name not dissimilar from that of the small child who had once loved and cared for it: Okiku. The doll’s hair, it is said, has continued to grow.
However, several alternate versions of subject’s history also exist. The Aug. 6, 1962 issue of the weekly magazine Josei Jishin (女性自身), or Women’s Own, for instance, contained a story recounting subject’s history — but in this version, the child’s name is Kiyoko, rather than Kikuko; subject is left at the temple not in 1938, but in 1958; and the family member who transfers subject to the temple is identified as Kiyoko’s father, Sukechi, rather than her brother.
The July 15, 1968 issue of Young Lady magazine (ヤングレディ) contained yet another version of the story. In it, Sukechi is a coal miner; he leaves subject with the temple in 1938 not to go to war, but to move to a different area for work. Subject is packed away, but in 1955, a priest or monk at the temple unearths the doll while cleaning and discovers its newly-grown hair. The child’s name has been restored to Kikuko, and subject’s to Okiku.
It is unknown which version of subject’s history is true — or if any of them are true. However, the official line is the version initially described above.
At least one attempt has been made to explain subject’s hair growth in non-supernatural terms: During the period in which subject originated, dolls frequently sported heads of human hair. One method used to install the hair involved folding the strands in half and attaching them to the doll’s head at the point of the fold. Over time, however, the threads fastening the hair would deteriorate, resulting in the strands slipping out — that is, seemingly growing longer. However, this explanation accounts neither for the continuous nature of subject’s hair growth, nor the sheer volume of the growth.
Ichimatsu dolls are named after Kabuki actor Sanogawa Ichimatsu (1722 – 1762). Initially, the dolls bearing the actor’s name were representative of adults, the term has been used to refer to dolls designed to look like children since the late 19th century. The dolls are decorative in nature, rather than toys or playthings.
It should also be noted that subject is not connected in any way to previous Encyclopaedia subject Okiku’s Well. “Okiku” is simply a Japanese name popularly in use prior to the Second World War. It translates to “chrysanthemum” in English.
Recommendation: Subject may be safely visited at the Mannenji temple in Hokkaido. Visitors are not permitted to take photographs of subject, however.
Subject does not like cameras.
And although subject is generally benign…
…It’s best not to do anything that might anger her.
Mannenji Okiku Doll. (In Japanese.)
Okiku Doll: Showa Ghost Case. (In Japanese.)
Okiku Doll: Fear Of Hair Growth. (In Japanese.)
Mannenji Okiku Doll. (In Japanese.)
Okiku Doll With Growing Hair. (In Japanese.)
[Photo via tegawi/Pixabay]
[Photo via Stewart/Flickr, available under a CC BY 2.0 Creative Commons license.]