What is Kokkuri-san?
Kokkuri-san is a type of Japanese Ouija board game. The name comes from a combination of the animal spirits that are called upon to answer the player’s questions; the kitsune (ko), dog (ku) and tanuki (ri). You need four things to play:
- A piece of paper
- A pen
- A 10 yen coin
- A table to put the paper on and sit around
How to play:
1. You begin by writing “Yes” and “No” on the piece of paper, and between them drawing a shrine gate. Beneath that you write the Japanese alphabet and numbers.
2. Two or three people gather around a table and put the 10 yen coin down on the paper. Everyone puts their index finger on the coin and calls for Kokkuri-san.
3. The players call out, “Kokkuri-san, Kokkuri-san, please come. If you’re here, please say ‘Yes,’” and the 10 yen coin will begin to move.
4. You ask the questions you’d like answered. The coin will move to spell out the answers.
5. Once a single question has been answered the players ask, “Please return to the shrine gate,” and the coin will move towards it.
6. When you are done asking questions you finish the game by asking, “Kokkuri-san, Kokkuri-san, please return now.” Once the coin moves to “Yes” and then returns to the shrine gate all the players finish by saying “Thank you,” and the game is over.
Points to note:
Never play the game alone.
Never play the game as a prank.
Try not to play if you are scared or mentally insecure.
Once you’ve placed a finger on the coin do not let go of it.
You can’t stop playing half way through.
If Kokkuri-san won’t return, keep asking until she does.
Rip up the sheet of paper into 48 smaller pieces within the same day after playing, and make sure to spend the 10 yen coin within the next three days.
It’s said that in 1884 American sailors brought “table turning” to Japan and it became very popular. Tables weren’t very common in Japan at the time so instead they stacked up three sets of round rice containers and played that way. These stacked rice containers would lean, which was described as “Kokkuri, kokkuri to katamuku” (”Leaning, they’re leaning.”) In time the kanji for the lesser spirits of the kitsune, dog and tanuki were attached to this word and the game came to be called Kokkuri-san.
In 1970 the manga Ushiro no Hyakutaro depicted characters playing Kokkuri-san and through that it had quickly spread in popularity amongst elementary and junior high school students. A lot of kids played it just for fun and as it began to take its toll on them mentally teachers and parents had to step in and warn them not to play it anymore. There were rumours of children going crazy and even being hospitalised.
In time variations of the game developed. The spirit could be a dead child, an angel or any other variation of otherworldly beings. However it was always important to follow the rules regardless, and if not followed properly it was said it could lead to the players being cursed and even in extreme cases leading to deaths and suicides.
The game is known by many different names today, such as “Cupid-san,” “Kirakira-sama,” “Angel-sama” and “Guardian Spirit.” However Kokkuri-san remains the most popular and still persists to this day.