One Man Hide And Seek

Introduction

One Man Hide and Seek, also known as One-Man Tag and Hitori Kakurenbo, Is a Japanese ritual game used to contact a spirit and invite it to play a game of hide and seek with you. The goal is to persuade a spirit to possess a doll and then motivate the spirit to seek you. You must then remain hidden until you decide it is time to end the game and release the spirit from the doll.

Some people have stated that the game originated on the website 2chan in April 2006, though I haven’t been able to find this original post myself. The earliest mention I found of the game online is some instructions and a thread on a Japanese website posted April 18th 2007 Here and a thread from April 21st 2007 that was created to “Verify the art of hide and seek alone.” This thread contains many different people’s accounts of playing the game themselves and reporting back on what they experienced. I haven’t yet read the entire thread due to the vast amount of posts and the difficulty in reading through a translation app, as the website is in Japanese. You can find a link to the original Japanese website Here and the google translate version Here. I do recommend that you spend some time reading through at least some of the conversation within the thread if you have any interest in this game, because even with the translation issues there are a lot of interesting statements within those messages about individual experiences of the game.

The first appearance of an English translated version of the game appeared in September 2008 on Saya In Underworld in the post The One-Man Hide And Seek, and is the basis for most of the other English posts about this game.

This game may also have originally been intended as an exorcism ritual by drawing the spirit into a doll and then releasing from there, though I haven’t found any confirmation of the ritual ever being used in this way.

One Man Hide and Seek is widely believed by most to have either entirely originated on the internet, or the version that exists online is an adaptation of some other Japanese folklore. Many different variations of the game exist as it’s been told and retold with people adding their own interpretations and experiences. Therefore, just as any other urban legend out there, the version you hear now may not be the only one you’ll find. That being said, what follows seems to be the most consistent version of how to play the One Man Hide and Seek game.

A few warnings before you begin

Although this game is likely to have originated on the internet and therefore it seems reasonable to assume that the ritual would not work, it is true that there are hundreds of stories of people having played this game and experienced something out of the ordinary. While most of this could be due to nerves and fear, there is always a chance that some of this may hold a little truth, we can never be 100% certain about anything. Having said that, if you perform this ritual then be sure to take measures to keep yourself and others safe by following the steps precisely and in order, and heed these further warnings:

  • Keep the game under 2 hours long. If the spirit is allowed to inhabit remain for too long then it may gain too much strength for you to be able to banish it.
  • Do not leave the house until the ritual is completed. Leaving the area of play could allow the spirit to escape and no longer be bound to the rules of the game, making it more difficult, if not impossible, for you to banish it at a later date.
  • Do not attempt to stop the ritual without following the proper ending procedure, or else the spirit may remain even if you burn the doll.
  • Do not play the game if there is someone else in the house. They did not consent to the game, but they may still be hunted by the spirit. Do not play with pets in the house either for this reason.
  • Stop the game as soon as it becomes dangerous by following the steps to end the game.

In the end, you can choose to break the rules if you want, maybe you feel it’s more exciting or dangerous, but the more likely outcome is that not following the rules will simply cause the ritual to fail.

What you will need

  • One stuffed doll with limbs (Non-human doll preferred)
  • Uncooked rice (enough to fill the doll)
  • A needle and red thread
  • Nail clippers
  • A sharp tool (a knife or scissors if you’re feeling brave, or less dangerous options include pencils or pens)
  • One cup of salt water
  • A bathroom with a bathtub
  • A hiding place
  • Optional, but preferred: a TV near the chosen hiding place

Preparation (before the ritual begins)

  • Give the doll a name
  • Cut open the doll and remove all of the stuffing
  • Fill the doll back up with uncooked rice
  • Place some of your own nail clippings inside of the doll with the rice
  • Sew the doll back up with the red thread and then, without breaking the thread, wrap it several times around the doll and tie it off
  • Go to the bathroom and fill the bathtub with water
  • Place a cup of saltwater on the ground in your hiding place

You are now ready to play. Wait until 3AM before continuing with the next instructions. The goal of the next phase of the game is to summon a spirit into the doll.

How to play

  • Begin the game in the bathroom with the doll and your sharp tool
  • At 3AM, say to the doll “(you name) is the first to be it” 3 times
  • Put the doll into the bathtub
  • Turn off all the lights in your house and turn on the TV (if you have one, static channel preferred)
  • Go to your hiding place
  • Close your eyes and count to 10
  • Return to the bathroom and say to the doll “I have found you, (Doll’s name)” 3 times
  • Take the doll out of the bathtub
  • Stab the doll with your sharp tool
  • Say “You are next to be it, (Doll’s name)” and place it on a surface in the bathroom
  • Run back to your hiding place and fill your mouth with salt water from the cup you placed there earlier, but do not swallow. You must keep this salt water in your mouth until the end of the game.
  • Stay hidden until you are ready to end the game

You are now playing the game. During the time you spend hiding, you may hear footsteps or the sound of objects moving. Pay attention to the TV, any changes in sound or picture may indicate that the spirit is near. Your goal is to stay hidden until you are ready to end the ritual. You should end the game before 2 hours have passed, or if the doll finds you then you should end the game immediately, as it will try to stab you with the weapon you used to stab it.

Ending the game

When you are ready to end the game (or if you are forced to because the doll found you) follow these steps very carefully so you do not experience any injury or lasting effects.

  • Leave your hiding place with the cup of salt water in your hand and find the doll (it may not be where you left it)
  • Throw the remaining saltwater from the cup over the doll, and then spit the saltwater in your mouth onto it too
  • Say “I win” 3 times to the doll

You have now ended the ritual, but to avoid any lasting effects you should take these following steps:

  • Cut the red thread from the doll to release the spirit
  • Dry the doll completely, remember that the rice inside will have soaked up water from the bathtub so it might take a while for the doll to dry completely
  • Burn the doll and discard the remains

The spirit should now have been released and should not linger.

The meaning of the steps

It may seem that there are a lot of steps created just to make the ritual sound more interesting, but every step has a purpose. The first steps are to make it as easy as possible for a spirit to enter the doll. The next steps motivate the demon to play the game with you. The final steps focus on fully cleansing the spirit from the doll.

The doll is the vessel for the spirit to attach to during the game, a physical form for it to take. It is not recommended you use a doll that has the shape of a human as it may make it easier for the spirit to go from possessing the doll to possessing you.

It is then filled with uncooked rice, which is said to attract spirits. The clipped nails you put into the doll binds it to you, incorporating a human element by representing a human body, making it easier for the spirit to attach. The red thread that then sews and binds the doll represents blood vessels, further increasing the resemblance to a human body to make the doll more inviting to the spirit. The thread also seals the spirit within the doll for the duration of the game.

The water in the bathtub and the saltwater that you keep with you during the game are both to cleanse the spirit and protect you from it. Saltwater keeps your energy hidden from the spirit and helps to stop it from sensing you, explaining why you should keep it in your mouth throughout the time when you are hidden.

Taking your turn first shows the spirit what the nature of the game is, and stabbing it with your sharp tool motivates the spirit to then find and stab you with the same weapon.

The “It” in hide and seek in Japan is called “oni”, meaning demon or devil. This brings new meaning to the words “You are it” when speaking to a possessed doll.

The TV is a tool to let you know when the spirit is near. If the TV starts acting strangely, making strange sounds or if the volume suddenly changes, it is recommended that you stay very still and hidden, as this means the spirit is nearby.

Pouring and spitting the saltwater onto the doll to end the game is a symbolic cleansing of the doll, and a signal to the spirit that the game is over. Saying “I win” 3 times, or as many times as necessary, is to convince the spirit to leave as you are ending the game. Leaving your hiding place without saltwater is said to result in the feeling that something is wandering around your house.

Cutting the thread from the doll releases the spirit, and burning it insures that the doll will not be possessed again.

What to expect from the game

Due to the large amount of people who have played this game and shared their experiences, there are a lot of different details about what may occur.

People have reported strange things happening to their TV while playing the game, which is to be expected if the TV is supposed to be used to detect the presence of the spirit. These events include: The TV gets suddenly louder or quieter; the image on the screen changes; the audio becomes warped and distinctly different to how it was before; the screen gets brighter or darker; there is no sound even at full volume; The TV may switch on or off apparently all by itself; one player even said that his TV was permanently broken after having played the game.

While hiding, several people have reported hearing small footsteps around the house, or the sounds of objects moving. Upon exiting their hiding place, many have said they later found objects in a different place or position from how they left them, particularly finding the doll in a different position or even a different area of the house entirely.

Players have also occasionally described bad smells that seem to have no source, and sudden, localized temperature changes, usually finding the air around them to be much colder than anywhere else in the house.

It is said that if the doll finds you then it will try to stab you with the same object you had previously stabbed the doll with. A small handful of players have sworn that they have seen the doll actually approach and try to attack them with that weapon. Others have reported the feeling of being touched or pulled on by some unseen force.

As well as experiences during the game, several people have said that even after the game has ended they had some unusual experiences. The first is difficulties in burning the doll. People have stated that even after attempting to burn the doll after the game, as the instructions advise, the dolls remained untouched or only lightly charred. Theories about this suggest that the spirit was not properly released from the doll and lingers within it, making the vessel more difficult to destroy, although this could also be due to not drying the doll effectively enough or attempting to burn it too soon after completing the ritual while the rice is still damp.

Another example of unusual activity people have found is that any recordings they made during the game may have captured audio that they did not hear themselves, but instead discovered upon reviewing the recordings. Some say they heard a scream or a growl that should have been loud enough for them to hear at the time.

The final effects people have stated may be the most disturbing. A few players have claimed that after the game they have gotten into accidents, fallen ill, or felt a presence around them. Some say they have seen the doll that they used in their game following them around, catching glimpses of them in the corner of their eyes. This could be a result of a lingering spirit and may only be remedied by intervention of another person, a priest or spiritualist may be required to do a cleansing or exorcism if the player cannot banish the spirit themselves.

Despite these notable experiences though, the majority of people who have played this game reported no unusual or unexplained experiences. Perhaps the ritual was unsuccessful due to not following the rules correctly, or a spirit not being drawn into the doll, or maybe those who claim to have seen or experienced things during or after the game were simple letting their imaginations get the better of them.

Variations on the ritual

Because this ritual likely originated online and became a popular phenomena in certain parts of the internet very quickly, there have been several versions of the same ritual copied, altered, and passed on from page to page and person to person. So many people have conducted this ritual and done things slightly differently each time that there now exists several variation of the same ritual. While some of these differences seem minor, it may explain why the ritual fails for many people and works for a few others. The previous section of instructions contains the most consistent version of steps and is therefore likely to be the most reliable, but it’s not definitive. These are the main differences between the most common versions:

  • The thread used to sew and bind the doll may not have to be a single piece and can be broken between sewing and binding the doll
  • Using a bathroom without a bathtub may work if you use a sink or container large enough to submerge the doll in water
  • It is sometimes suggested that you should use saltwater in the bathtub too, instead of regular water
  • The cup of saltwater may be substituted for Japanese sake and used in the same way, though it is suggested that this could be less effective
  • After stabbing the doll, some sources say you should return the doll to the water instead of leaving it on a surface
  • Placing a drop of blood inside of the doll instead of clipped nails may make the spirit stronger or more likely to be drawn into the doll. Any symbol of your body should work within the doll, including blood and saliva
  • The ritual may place a curse upon you as your body is symbolically placed into a doll intended for possession. The accounts of injury and illness after playing the game seem to support this theory
  • The ritual could be twisted into a curse on someone else if their clipped nails or other body parts are places within the doll instead of yours, although this may just make the ritual not work
  • The TV in your hiding place may only work if it is tuned to static
  • Looking directly at the TV during the ritual may cause the ritual to fail, though what it means if the ritual fails while you are hiding is uncertain
  • The name you give the doll can not be your own name, a family members name, the name of someone you know, or the name of someone you dislike. The reasons for this are unclear, but some suggest it may cause a personal connection with you that could make it easier for the spirit to possess you instead of the doll
  • Some sources suggest that you lock all the doors and windows in your house before starting the game to prevent the spirit from escaping. Others suggest you leave all the doors and windows unlocked in case you need to escape if the game becomes too dangerous. Since it is dangerous to leave the game halfway through anyway, I would suggest not running away and ending the ritual properly instead, but have a mobile phone handy or a friend on standby nearby in case you somehow injure yourself or get into trouble
  • When hiding, using anything that emits light, such as a flashlight or mobile phone, makes it more likely that you will be found by the spirit. The same goes for making any noise
  • Although the instructions, and the name of the game itself, state that the game should be played alone, several people have played the game with other people asleep in the house and have “closed off” their rooms with salt lines outside of their doorways, attempting to seal the room off from the area of play
  • Some sources suggest that you should start preparing the doll at 3AM, whereas others say that the game should begin and you should take your turn at 3AM. Further sources say any time between 1AM and 4AM is fine, but that spirits will be at their most active at 3AM
  • Most sites will suggest keeping the game under 2 hours long to prevent the spirit from gaining too much strength and being too difficult to expel from the doll, preferably keeping the play time under 1 hour in total, though a minority will state that the goal is to remain hidden until sunrise

Several people suggest cleansing the home after playing the game. While this may not be a variation on the game since it would take place after the ritual, it may just be a sensible idea.

Playing the game with more than one person

Although the point of the game is to play alone with a spirit, there does exist an alternative set of instructions for a multi-player version, which can can be found on Saya In Underworld.

Personally, I wouldn’t think that a multi-person version of One Man Hide and Seek would actually work properly, since it is so important to follow the steps in the original ritual very precisely and in the correct order, so any adjustment to that seems likely to just not function correctly.

However, if I had to imagine a version with more than one player that would work (and I am no expert) it would look a little darker in my mind.

What follows is just my understanding of the game, and should not in any way be taken as instructions or advice. Do not do this.

Since the point of taking your turn first seems to be to demonstrate to the spirit how to play, it would set up the rules of the game as follows:

  • We assign who is “it”
  • That person counts to 10 out of sight and then proceeds to seek the hiding player
  • Upon locating the hidden player, the “it” stabs the player. This is why the doll will try to stab you if it finds you while you are hiding

Therefore, according to those rules, a multi-player version of the game would have you playing hide and seek with all the participants and the “it” would have to find and stab each player (humans and dolls alike) before the next person took their turn and did the same, right up until it was the turn of the doll, who would then seek you out and stab you and any other players it found.

I do not recommend playing that. In fact, I’ll firmly go out on a limb here and say definitely do not do that. Stabbing people is dangerous and not very nice, even if you have their permission. And again, I’m not an expert and that is not an actual version of the game.

But it seems to me that that would make the most sense, following the logic of the original version.

One Man Hide and Seek in the media

Due to it’s popularity in Japan and the online world, several films featuring the One Man Hide and Seek ritual have been made over the years, such as:

  • Hitori Kakurenbo (Hide and Go Kill) in 2008, Directed by Tomoya Kainuma
  • Hitori Kakurenbo: Gekijô-ban (Hide and Go Kill 2) in 2009, Directed by Masafumi Yamada
  • Hitori Kakurenbo shin gekijouban in 2010, directed by Masafumi Yamada
  • Hitori Kakurenbo: Gekijô ban – Shin toshi densetsu in 2012, Directed by Yasutake Torii
  • Hitori Kakurenbo: Hide-and-Seek in 2014, a short film Directed by Jerry Washington
  • One-Man Hide and Seek in 2018, Season 3 Episode 5 of “The Creepypasta Episodes”, Directed by Jacob Rohrbach

There are probably more films that take inspiration from the ritual, and there are several songs that incorporate some aspects of the ritual in their lyrics too, all demonstrating the popularity of the One Man hide and Seek game.

Conclusion

The One Man Hide and Seek/Hitori Kakurenbo Ritual is very popular because it can be played easily and by anyone seeking contact with a spirit, a rush of adrenaline, or simply to prove that it doesn’t work and they never believed in it anyway. The instructions spread far and wide over the internet and many people were and still are eager to try it themselves and share their experiences with others equally eager to listen to them. YouTube is filled with videos of people playing the game and there are still frequent uploads now, proving the popularity of the game that continues to intrigue the internet.

There have been many hundreds of reports over time of people having strange and unnerving things happen to them or around them while playing the game, which appears to suggest there is some truth to it. However, the ritual by nature takes place in a dark, quiet place, in the middle of the night, when you are all alone and listening out for sounds of anything spooky, all of which combines to set you on high alert, adrenaline pumping and ears straining for any little sound. In this state, the smallest incident would seem much more significant to you, especially with a TV tuned to static nearby making strange sounds as it is.

Personally, I don’t know exactly what I believe, but I know I’ll never try this ritual. Even if I was fairly certain that nothing would happen if I did play this game, there is still no reward. If there is no reward, then any slight chance of negative effects makes the whole thing not feel worth it. I wont gain anything by playing, but I could lose something, so why would I play? And why would you?

Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences with this game in the comments, and if anyone can find a link to the original 2chan post then I would very much like to see it.

Featured photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash