Photo: Pakutaso

Straw dolls with Putin's photo keep getting nailed to town’s shrine trees

By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

Summer is the traditional season for scary stories in Japan, and right on cue, we’ve got a spooky tale coming out of Chiba Prefecture. It’s also a pretty bizarre situation, but we’ll start with the creepy aspects.

In Japan, there’s a kind of doll called a wara ningyo. That translates to “straw doll,” but wara ningyo are no innocuous arts and crafts projects. Instead, they’re Japan’s version of voodoo dolls, created as an effigy for someone you wish harm to befall. Instead of damaging the wara ningyo directly, though, you’re supposed to nail it to a tree inside the boundaries of a Shinto shrine between the hours of 1 and 3 a.m., in a ceremony called ushi no toki mairi, or “shrine visit during the hour of the ox” (in the old Japanese time-keeping system, the hour of the ox was designated to what we now call 1 to 3 in the morning).

▼ A wara ningyo

Photo: Pakutaso

The standard curse inflicted by wara ningyo is supposed to be death, but these days most people with murderous intent tend to opt for more direct means. Because of that, the dolls are now pretty rare outside of horror movies and anime, but since the start of last month, wara ningyo have been found nailed to trees on the grounds of seven shrines in the town of Matsudo, about 20 minutes east of downtown Tokyo. In a modern twist, each one of them also has a photograph of the same person’s face attached to the head.

So just who is the intended target of this dark magic? None other than...

… Russian president Vladimir Putin. Oh, and just in case whatever spirits are supposed to carry out the curse don’t recognize the Russian head of state by sight, at least one of the dolls, the one found at Masudo’s Kanegasaku Kuamano Shrine, also had a piece of paper folded up inside of it with Putin’s full name, current age, and date of birth, all written in Japanese, as well as the message “Praying for his death.”

Even prior to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, Putin wasn’t the most popular politician internationally, and the ongoing conflict hasn’t done anything to improve his image in Japan. That said, it’s pretty shocking to see such old-school methods employed in protest, as Japanese Twitter reactions show:

“I was actually at one of the shrines where this happened and saw the wara ningyo nailed to the tree. Couldn’t believe my eyes.”

“Having a hard time imagining Putin dropping dead because some Japanese person put a curse on him.”

“Do wara ningyo curses have the kind of range to hit people overseas?”

“Those are some really beautifully made wara ningyo.”

“Hammering a nail into a shrine’s sacred tree? That’s gonna get whoever did it some divine retribution raining down on them.”

As alluded to in the last comment, in the Shinto religion nature is held to be divine, and a shrine’s trees in particular are often considered sacred. At Kanegasaku Kuamano Shrine, for example, the doll was found nailed to its camphor tree, which is more than 200 years old and predates even the shrine itself. Priests and shrine caretakers are asking that whoever is carrying out the ushi no toki mairi cease and desist, and while the curse itself is not a chargeable offense, local police are investigating the incidents as crimes of trespassing and vandalism.

Sources: Asahi Shimbun Digital via Livedoor News via JinChiba TVFNN Prime Online, Twitter 

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Sodatete Nihon Ningyo app lets you raise your own Japanese doll! Results may vary…and terrify

-- Batman as a samurai ningyo figure is trans-Pacific time-tripping awesomeness

-- Hayao Miyazaki sketches cute characters for new signboard at the Ghibli Museum【Video】

© SoraNews24

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

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They think they are going to stop Putin with straw dolls, loooool!!

-7 ( +13 / -20 )

Tales of Old Japan A classic read, for the ages. If no other reason, than the current news:

The trees around a Shinto shrine are especially under the protection of the god to whom the altar is dedicated; and, in connection with them, there is a kind of magic still respected by the superstitious, which recalls the waxen dolls, through the medium of which sorcerers of the middle ages in Europe, and indeed those of ancient Greece, as Theocritus tells us, pretended to kill the enemies of their clients. This is called Ushi no toki mairi, or “going to worship at the hour of the ox,” and is practiced by jealous women who with to to revenged upon their faithless lovers.

When the world is at rest, at two in the morning, the hour of which the ox is the symbol, the woman rises; she dons a white robe and high sandals or clogs; her coif is a metal tripod, in which are thrust three lighted candles; around her neck she hangs a mirror, which falls upon her bosom; in her left hand she carries a small straw figure, the effigy of the lover who has abandoned her, and in her right she grasps a hammer and nails, with which she fastens the figure to one of the sacred trees that surround the shrine. There she prays for the death of the traitor, vowing that, if her petition be heard, she will herself pull out the nails which now offend the god by wounding the mystic tree. Night after night she comes to the shrine, and each night she strikes in two or more nails, believing that every nail will shorten her lover's life, for the god, to save his tree, will surely strike him dead.

The loves of Gompachi and Komurasaki. 2nd ed. 1892. By Kurimoto Maga shichi, an extract from his Tales of Old Japan, as compiled by Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford. 1910.

10 ( +13 / -3 )

My earlier post is only a portion from one of many chapters in this edition. And the book is well worth a lazy summertime read. Classic.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Freedom of expression!!? yes and no but! some are deeply effected by the war and the killings of innocent children and the rape of women and so they resort to unusual way to express their anger.

5 ( +14 / -9 )

How shall we interpret this in the 'Christian' tradition? Nailed to what clearly resembles a Cross? Interpretation is everything and President Putin being 'crucified' by his 'enemies' certainly appropriate to the Western media commentaries molding the wet clay of Western mindsets...

Skeptical: Interesting story, Thank you, and considering the adornments necessary as recounted in the story, would have been only possible by a person of some wealth in 'old' Japan and, given that the intent is to intimidate a God, would seem to demonstrate the absolute arrogance, self-centredness, and self-importance such people would have been raised in, and, in this world, still are.

3 ( +9 / -6 )


If the divine power you seek help from is omnipotent and all knowing, why does it have to be told whom to kill?


They think they are going to stop Putin with straw dolls, loooool!!

Guess what? You guys are already being used to be a tool to convey the message. And the message has power. Ritual is a message.

9 ( +14 / -5 )

I approve of the non-violent sentiment for regular people. Hope no trees were harmed too much. Now if only someone near Moscow can hear the gods ...

11 ( +15 / -4 )

Don't play down this centuries-old traditional rite. It's no doubt very effective, depending on how you make up, no, attribute any subsequent outcomes. Putin already has cancer. The nailed figure must have been responsible for it.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

Karma has no boundaries...

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Your wish for Putin will come true but it won’t happen in the Ukraine war. Russia will come out stronger and more powerful after his victory in Ukraine. That is a future fact. The destruction of Gog (Putin) will be on the mountains of Israel when he leads a coalition of nations including Turkey, Iran, Sudan and Libya to invade Israel for a spOIL. That is a done fact because it is prophesied in Ezekiel 38 and 39.

-18 ( +5 / -23 )

They think they are going to stop Putin with straw dolls, loooool!!

Na, the Ukrainian army is handling that one.

6 ( +14 / -8 )

You never know, these wara ningyo may just make shaky Putin shake even more!

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

First of all, Big thanks to @Skeptical for his effort to tell us the real story and historical background.

“Do wara ningyo curses have the kind of range to hit people overseas?”

Interesting question from those Twitter reactions… I am not so much sure about this direction, but I think and there are proofs for that, into the returning direction, Putin still has the potential power and range to hit people anywhere overseas. lol

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Good idea!!! Anything to help the Ukrainians!!! Guns, munitions, rockets and now the new awesome weapon, the 'wara ningyo'!!!! YEEEESSSSS

4 ( +8 / -4 )

what a "smart people".

a smart "action".

or rather not so much?

pathetic,primitive part of dumb you know Pussy Riot?

its similar kind of rubbish.same iq level.pidarasi

-7 ( +4 / -11 )

I think what many of the commenters here are missing, is that this shows how much resentment there is in other countries against Putin for his invasion of Ukraine and creating more completely unnecessary issues affecting others across the globe. Escalating the tension by threatening to use nukes (aka starting WW3 automatically), obviously didn't win him any good intentions at all.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Excellent, I LIKE it!

3 ( +8 / -5 )

wara ningyo? More like warai ningyo

Excellent, I LIKE it!


0 ( +3 / -3 )

Stop damaging the sacred trees of the shrine !

That's a curse in of itself.

Fools !

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

"Having a hard time imagining Putin dropping dead because some Japanese person put a curse on him."

Well actually there is a germ of a very good idea here - if all similar-minded people were to take a screen-shot from the video of the wara ningyo, and had a hundred printed-off, cut them out and stuck them to every lamp-post in every town or city in the world, this would have an incredible impact, especially when the ordinary Russian people realise what is actually happening in the world. The power of the Internet can bring about change.

Just imagine, the Japanese could take all the credit for this, as a world-famous peace-loving nation - they would have succeeded where our dreadful UN and governments have failed so miserably.

I'm getting my copies run-off now and look forward to spreading the word.....

3 ( +4 / -1 )

US is losing patients with Ukraine,by them not giving them an honest opinion on what is happening on the battlefield,so they can make decisions on weapon transfer

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

US is losing patients with Ukraine,by them not giving them an honest opinion on what is happening on the battlefield,so they can make decisions on weapon transfer

The US is providing information on Russian troop movements to the Ukrainians.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

US is losing patients with Ukraine,by them not giving them an honest opinion on what is happening on the battlefield,so they can make decisions on weapon transfer

The US is barely involved with Ukraine. Europe is providing support with Poland and Germany at the top of the list.

Efforts to make the US into the opposition for Russia aren't factual. The US is providing arms, intelligence and humanitarian support to Ukraine, but Ukrainians are making all the choices for how to use that help. The US knows that Ukraine is using war propaganda just like Russia is. That's part of fighting a war, regardless of what Russian leaders want to call it. It is a war, fought on many different fronts - propaganda is 1, world views are another, humanitarian aspects are another, ground war with tanks and guns is another. Ukraine is winning on most of the war fronts. They are losing some battles, but Russia is losing far too many military people. Russia has lost more people during the last 3 months in this war than the UN/NATO did in Afghanistan over 20 yrs. All those boxes going back to Russia can't be good for moral there.

Canada is providing satellite data.

Even China is helping Ukraine with about $900K from the Chinese Red Cross, though for the world's 2nd largest economy, they certainly don't have much generosity in their culture for others. The lack of generosity for people in need seems to be an Asian culture thing. I'd like to understand that.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

3 Foreigner sentence to death in Donbas,taking part in hostility in Ukraine as part of the Ukrainlan Foreign Legion, Zelensky sanction Putin Google Ukraine Foreign Legion Death Sentence

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

rainydayJune 9  10:40 am JST

They think they are going to stop Putin with straw dolls, loooool!!

Na, the Ukrainian army is handling that one.

Putin generally has nothing directly harmful to japan. And straw voodoo dolls don't cut it. Putin thought he was going to have an easy victory in the Ukraine but they are resisting. It could turn out to be an urban guerilla war, which is one of the suckiest and messiest kinds of all. You don't even see your foes unless it's often too late. Just ask the US soldiers who served in Lebanon, Somalia, Haiti. Very dangerous, ain't no easy street and no fun.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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