the online database of Japanese ghosts and monsters

Usutsuki warashi

By on May 31, 2013, in child, curse, onryō, The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons, yōkai


TRANSLATION: mortar-pounding child
HABITAT: warehouses, storage sheds, under floorboards
DIET: none

APPEARANCE: One particularly unpleasant variation of the zashiki warashi is the usutsuki warashi, named for the eerie thumping noise that this low-ranking house spirit makes.

BEHAVIOR: Unlike its more bright and cheerful cousins, this ghost crawls out from the dirt underneath the floorboards and roams about the house at night. It makes creepy noises, creaking and thumping, and tracks dirty footprints throughout the house. It does not cause any actual harm, though it spreads uneasiness and discomfort in houses that it haunts. Usutsuki warashi do not bring any particular good fortune to their home, either. However, a house which drives this spirit away due to its creepiness will still fall into ruin, just like a house that drives away the more pleasant zashiki warashi.

ORIGIN: This ghosts origins are similar to that of the yamauba. It comes from the old and terrible practice of kuchiberashi, or “reducing the mouths to feed” by thinning out families during times when food was scarce. Some houses with too many mouths to feed had no other choice but to sacrifice the newly born in order that the rest might eat. The cost of a funeral also being too high, these children were buried underneath the house, or in a storage shed. Instead of a tombstone, often an usu, a large mortar, was placed as a grave marker.