Straw dolls are typically used in Ushi no toki mairi.
Ushi no toki mairi (Japanese: 丑の時参り) or ushi no koku mairi (丑刻参り) lit. "ox-hour shrine-visit" refers to a prescribed method of laying a curse upon a target that is traditional to Japan, so-called because it is conducted during the hours of the Ox (between 1 and 3 AM). The practitioner—typically a scorned woman—while dressed in white and crowning herself with an iron ring set with three lit candles upright, hammers nails into a sacred tree of the Shinto shrine. In the modern-day common conception, the nails are driven through a straw effigy of the victim, impaled upon the tree behind it. The ritual must be repeated seven days running, after which the curse is believed to succeed, causing death to the target, but being witnessed in the act is thought to nullify the spell. The Kibune Shrine in Kyoto is famously associated with the ritual.
The use of dolls in the cursing ritual has been practiced since antiquity, with a reference in the Nihon shoki chronicle under the reign of Emperor Yōmei, which relates that in the year 587, Nakatomi no Katsumi no Muraji "preparede figures of the Imperial Prince Hikobito (ja),.. and [spellcast] them," but it did not work. However, this record does not clarify if the dolls were poked by sharp implements.