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Unfrightening ghost

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Japanese Ghost Stories

Japan is a country with a long history of literature and within this, ghost stories play a deep and colorful role in its folklore. Japanese yurei (ghosts) and yokai (mythical spirits) appear in many forms of entertainment from books to traditional art forms. Today, they also appear in anime, manga, video games, and movies.

In this blog for Japanese learners, Japanese teacher Sayuri Itaya explains one ghost story which is not actually scary. Please read this to practice reading Japanese for the JLPT tests. Learn new grammar phrases and vocabulary and listen to the YouTube video read by Itaya sensei herself to practice Japanese pronunciation and listening. 

An unfrightening ghost - “Zashiki Warashi”


By ITAYA Sayuri


 皆さんもご存知かもしれませんが、日本にはたくさんの妖怪伝説があります。 そのほとんどは、怖い話なのですが、「座敷わらし」だけは、会いたがる人が多い のだそうです。

 「座敷わらし」の「座敷」は の部屋、「わらし」は岩手で子供のことです。 東北地方主に岩手県中心伝えられている妖怪ですが、子供には姿が見えても、 大人には見えず、いたずら好きで、夜中に座敷に現れ、ひっくり返したり、音を 立てて遊んだりするそうです。




To listen to this blog, please watch our Youtube video. 


 皆(みな)さんもご存知(ぞんじ)かもしれませんが、日本(にほん)にはたくさんの 妖怪伝説(でんせつ)があります。そのほとんどは、怖(こわ)い話なのですが、「座敷わらし」だけは、会(あ)いたがる人(ひと)が多(おお)いのだそうです。

 「座敷わらし」の「座敷」は 畳(たたみ)の部屋(へや)、「わらし」は岩手(いわてべん)で子供(こども)のことです。東北地方(とうほくちほう)主(おも)に岩手県(いわてけん)中心(ちゅうしん)伝(つた)えられている妖怪ですが、子供には姿(すがた)が見(み)えても、大人(おとな)には見えず、いたずら好(ず)きで、夜中(よなか)に座敷に現(あらわ)れ、枕(まくら)ひっくり返(かえ)したり、音(おと)を立(た)てて遊(あそ)んだりするそうです。




An unfrightening ghost - “Zashiki Warashi”

You probably all know this, but there are many legends of ghosts in Japan. Most of them are scary stories but there is one ghost that many people would actually like to meet, and that is the “Zashiki Warashi”.

The meaning of “Zashiki” in “Zashiki Warashi” is a Japanese-style tatami room, and “Warashi” means child in the Iwate prefecture dialect. And it is a ghost whose story has been told in the Tohoku region, centered mainly in Iwate prefecture, children are said to be able to see it's form, but adults cannot see it, it likes to do mischief, appears in the Japanese-style tatami room, turns pillows upside down, and makes noise as it plays.

The reason why people want to see one, is because legend has it that houses where “Zashiki Warashi” appear, are said to prosper and if it disappears, then the house's fate will decline.

Many people who have seen “Zashiki Warashi” have become successful, rich and happy. There are some Japanese-style Ryokan inns where you can still see one, and apparently it is really difficult to get a reservation at these inns. If the ghost is like this “Zashiki Warashi”, would you like to meet it?

怖い 【こわい】 scary; frightening

妖怪 【ようかい】 ghost; apparition; phantom; specter; demon; monster; goblin

座敷わらし【ざしきわらし】 protective household deity in Tōhoku, appearing as a red-faced child spirit with bobbed hair

ご存知 【ごぞんじ】 (hon) knowing

伝説 【でんせつ】 tradition; legend; folklore

座敷 【ざしき】 tatami room; tatami mat room; formal Japanese room

畳 【たたみ】 tatami mat; Japanese straw floor coverings

~たがる to want to (not used in the first person; たい with がる affixed)

~弁 【べん】 dialect; brogue; accent

東北地方 【とうほくちほう】 Tōhoku region (northernmost six prefectures of Honshu)

主に 【おもに】 mainly; primarily

岩手県 【いわてけん】 (n) Iwate prefecture (Tōhoku area)

伝える 【つたえる】 to convey; to tell

姿 【すがた】 figure; form; shape; appearance

いたずら mischief; prank; trick; practical joke

枕 【まくら】 pillow

ひっくり返す【ひっくりかえす】 to turn over; to turn upside down

音を立てる 【おとをたてる】 to make a sound

栄える 【さかえる】 to prosper; to flourish

衰退 【すいたい】 decline; degeneration; decay; waning; ebbing

出会う 【であう】 to meet (by chance); to encounter; to happen upon

出世 【しゅっせ】 success in life; successful career; climbing the corporate ladder

~とか  (at sentence end) I hear that ...; people say that...; rumour has it that ...

旅館 【りょかん】 ryokan; traditional inn; Japanese-style lodging


Hajimemashite, everyone. My name is Itaya Sayuri. I live in Sapporo, Hokkaido.
Sapporo is a really liveable city because, although we have a lot of snow in the winter, the summers are much cooler than other areas of Japan. Apart from teaching Japanese, I also hope to let everyone know about Sapporo, its beautiful nature and delicious food.
I play volleyball once or twice a week for my health and play golf on occasion. I also love watching movies.
Do you think the Japanese language is difficult? Well, come and enjoy studying with me in our online Japanese classroom?don't worry about making mistakes and just try to speak up as much as possible. I think this is the secret to success in Japanese. Ganbare!

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