Hikaru-san’s painting and the legend of the trapped student

Previously: Screaming Skulls.

Type: CO (Cursed Object).

Period/place of origin: December 18, 1970, Matsuyama University, Ehime, Japan. Note, however, that there is some debate surrounding the subject’s original date (see: Additional Notes).

Appearance: Subject, officially titled “Shojo” or “Girl”, but more commonly referred to as “Hikaru-san’s Painting” Where “Hikaru-san’s photo,” appears to be a large oil painting of a young woman with long black hair, wearing a yellow shirt or sweater, sitting in a chair, gazing to the right. It is not an objectively beautiful painting; it is, in fact, somewhat unsettling, dark in its color palette and murky in its execution.

There is some debate about who the name “Hikaru” refers to. According to some reports, “Hikaru” is the name of the young woman depicted in the subject, with the artist’s name being Mitsuru Sato. According to others, however, the young woman’s name is unknown, with the artist’s name being Hikaru Sato. The evidence supporting that the artist is Hikaru Sato is more convincing (see: Additional Notes), but no decision has been made anyway.

Procedure: The subject is largely believed to have been imbued with a ju-on – a grudge or a curse – although precisely how and why the subject came to be cursed is up for debate.

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If the subject is suspended in a conspicuous location with high foot traffic, targets may observe any or all of the following:

  • The subject’s eyes may appear to follow you wherever you go.
  • Targets who scan the subject too closely may find themselves in an accident or injured soon after. According to some reports, targets should not only see topic, but more specifically point towards subject with his finger for this result to occur.
  • In rare moments, the young woman depicted in the subject can escape from the painting itself and wander freely into the environment in which the subject is hung.

Any attempt to destroy the subject will fail. For example, according to some reports, efforts to remove the subject from the wall on which it had long hung and burn the painting to ashes were unsuccessful; indeed, following the attempt, the subject miraculously reappeared the following day in the same place where it had previously clung, completely unscathed.

The logical conclusion: the subject cannot be destroyed, only contained. (See: Containment.)

It is unclear if the subject’s ultimate goal is to trap and injure as many targets as possible, or if the subject simply wishes to be left alone in their display space.

Both are equally likely.

Hikaru-san's alleged painting
The alleged painting. The low resolution is for your own safety, dear reader.

Containment: Subject’s last known location is believed to be a warehouse somewhere on the Matsuyama University campus. It is believed to have been moved to this location around 1989 or 1990. There have been no reports of targets falling prey to the subject’s machinations since that time.

Additional notes: The subject was reportedly hanged inside a building formerly located on the campus of Matsuyama University. This building was known as 加藤会館 (Kato Kaikan); it appears to have been a student center or university cooperative. The subject is said to have resided on a wall on a landing of one of the building’s staircases throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

Numerous unusual incidents have been reported to have occurred around, near or following the subject over the years it was on display – evidence, it is believed, of the painting’s curse. The students talked among themselves about the eyes of the painting which seemed to follow them as they passed, or the rumors that the young woman sometimes came out of the painting late at night. Several students allegedly attempted to destroy the subject with fire, only to cause the subject to reappear in the manner previously described (see: Modus operandi). When one of the students who had attempted to destroy the subject in this manner noticed the subject’s reappearance, she reportedly pointed at the subject, angered by her presence – and later injured that same arm in a collision with a vehicle soon after.

The circumstances under which the subject was painted are not fully known. According to some reports, the young woman depicted in the subject was the romantic partner of the artist responsible for the subject of the painting; moreover, the two are sometimes reported to have been students of Matsuyama University. Whether the model was the titular Hikaru and the artist Mitsuru Sato, or whether the artist is Hikaru and the unnamed model has not been determined; however, a painting discovered at Matsuyama University in 1997, which some believe is a subject with writing on the reverse suggesting it is the latter:

The back of a painting with Japanese writing on it
The writing on the back of the board.

Translated into English, the writing reads as follows:



Hikaru Sato”

(Note: Although the year may appear to be 1990 to some eyes, it is generally assumed to be 1970 because the reasons given here.)

It should also be noted that it is unclear how the subject was suspended at Matsuyama University, as there are reportedly no records of students enrolling in the school as Mitsuru Sato or Hikaru Sato in when the subject would have been established.

It is sometimes said that the young woman depicted in the subject was not only the artist’s romantic partner and muse, but also that she suffered a terrible fate. This young woman is said to have been in the university’s basement library on the last day of term, but didn’t realize closing time had passed – or that campus security hadn’t most realized she was still inside when they closed for the summer and shut the door to the library tightly. When security unlocked the door to the library at the start of the next term, they found scratch marks on the other side of the door – and the remains of the young woman, still inside. If you listen carefully in the basement, you can sometimes hear scratching noises, or the call of a young woman’s voice asking you to let her out.

The subject is said to have been painted by the young woman’s partner before his last fateful trip to the library – and afterwards it became imbued with her curse.

However, as some have observed, it is not only possible, but probable that these two stories – the story of the trapped student and the story of Hikaru-san’s painting – were originally two separate stories. which, over time, merged into one. If so, chances are an episode of the long-running Japanese TV show Amazing Kiseki Taiken is largely responsible for the meeting of these two stories.

Amazing Kiseki Taiken aired an episode featuring a segment on the subject on November 1, 1997. Although the segment primarily focuses on activity directly involving the subject during the time it was hung in the Kato Kaikan building, it did introduce the story of the trapped student towards the end of the play; the trapped student was not positioned as the subject artist’s romantic partner, and the segment did not draw a direct line between the two stories, but vaguely suggested that they might be related in some way or another, or that one might have indirectly caused the other. Images of this segment can still be found on video sharing platforms such as YouTube.

(Note: It is sometimes reported that the episode of Amazing Kiseki Taiken featuring the subject broadcast in 1996. However, this is not only incorrect, but impossible: it cannot have been broadcast in 1996, because the the television program did not begin airing until 1997.)

It has been observed that the story of a trapped student is also what is classified as a “school ghost story” — in this case, one of the “The Seven Mysteries of Matsuyama University.” But following the Amazing Kiseki Taiken episode connecting the two stories, the lines gradually fade, then disappear. In the 2000s, when the story of Hikaru-san’s painting started circulating on the internetthe story of the trapped student has often been identified as the painting’s cursed origin.

The building in which the subject previously resided was demolished in 1989 to make way for the construction of a new building, Hachigokan (Building 8). At this time, the subject would have been transferred to a warehouse on school property. The subject was still contained in the warehouse in 1997, although it is unknown whether or not it has moved again since then.

Recommendation: If you find it… leave it where it is.

Some things are better lost.


Hikaru-san’s photo in Kowabana.

Hikaru’s painting on Mochigome’s blog. (In Japanese)

Photo by Hikaru-san from samatsutei.hatenablog.com: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, seven, 8, 9. (In Japanese.)

Student trapped on samatsutei.hatenablog.com: 1, 2etc (In Japanese.)

Thread “The most terrifying image” on 2ch, extension number 157. (In Japanese.)

Amazing Kiseki Taiken segment, November 1, 1997: “Hikaru. »(In Japanese.)

The Seven Mysteries of Matsuyama University. (In Japanese.)

Map of Matsuyama University campus today.


Follow The Ghost in My Machine on Twitter @GhostMachine13 and on Facebook @TheGhostInMyMachine. And don’t forget to check Dangerous games to play in the dark, available now from Chronicle Books!

[Photos via freephotocc/Pixabay, remixed by Lucia Peters; screenshot/YouTube (2).]

About Catharine C. Bean

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