Today, keeping in line with our Hot Summer Horror theme, I’ve asked a guest blogger to join us. Please enjoy this terrific post about Japan and its “spooky season” – which will begin next month!
Japanese Spooky Stories and Urban Legends
From the Celtic festival of Samhain to Mexico’s Día de los Muertos, there are celebrations all over the world commemorating the thinning veil between worlds. It’s important to note that Día de los Muertos is not Mexico’s version of Halloween. In February, the Romans celebrated Feralia, which honored dead ancestors.
In Japan, summer time heralds a period of spooks, ghouls, and monsters. Granted, it’s not quite the same with the spooky novelty of Halloween. “Spooky season” in Japan is a time to welcome the spirits of the ancestors to come and visit. This usually takes place around mid-August, depending on what area of Japan you’re focusing on. Either way, Japan has a truly sacred, spiritual connection to not only the afterlife, but the world of spirit.
I believe that this is a major contributing factor to why Japanese culture has been able to give us some of the most terrifying ghost stories that humanity has ever seen. Japan knows how to tell a good ghost story that is sure to keep you awake at night. In celebration of the spooky season in Japan, here are some of the spookiest Japanese urban legends and ghost stories.
- Sukima-Onna aka The Girl in the Gap
One of my favorite Japanese urban legends is the Sukima-Onna, also known as the Girl in the Gap. This girl is a spirit who lives between the gaps of physical objects as a metaphor that she lives in between worlds. This includes furniture, slightly open doors (yes, even closet doors), basically anywhere where there is a gap. You may see her out of the corner of your eye as she moves in between things like the hinge of a door. If you lock eyes with this girl, she will ask you if you want to play hide and seek. If you see her while playing the game, she will drag you to hell.
- Kuchisake-onna (口裂け女)
This urban legend dates back to the Edo period when a samurai slit his wife’s mouth wide open after he found out about her unfaithfulness. She is an onryō (怨霊), a vengeful spirit, that is still believed to walk modern day streets. She wears a scarf or a medical mask to cover her disfigured mouth.She will stop passersby to ask them if she is pretty. If they say yes, she will remove her mask and ask again, exposing her mouth. Some variations of the legend say that if you say she, she will produce a pair of scissors and slit your mouth to look like hers. If you say no, she will either cut you in half with a scythe, or follow you home and kill you in your sleep. The only way to escape Kuchisake Onna is to tell her she looks average or “so-so”, which will confuse her, and then run!
- Teke Teke (テケテケ)
Teke Teke is another vengeful spirit who met her demise through horrifying means. She was a woman who was cut in half by a train after falling on the tracks. Teke Teke, named for the sound she makes when she moves, is the upper half of her body. Her nails are sharpened from moving around with her hands, with some variations of the legend saying her fingers were worn down to the bone. Teke Teke roams the land, seeking vengeance for her untimely demise. If you run into her, you’re surely going to die. Oh yeah, and you can’t outrun her because she’s inhumanly fast.
- Tenome (手の目)
You might recognize Tenome, as he was the inspiration for the Pale Man for “Pan’s Labyrinth.” Some of the earliest accounts of Tenome go back to Gazu Hyakki Yagyō by Toriyama Sekien. His most normal feature is that his eyes are on his hands. The urban legend variation of Tenome has him as a blind man who was beaten up by robbers. The man wishes that he would have been able to see his assailants had he had eyes on his hands. After dying from his injuries, he comes back as a ghost with a wish fulfilled; eyes on his hands. He roams the land searching for the robbers who killed him. But because he never saw their faces, he basically kills whoever he can find.
- Gashadokuro (がしゃどくろ/ 餓者髑髏)
The Gashadokuro, which translates into “starving skeleton”, are large skeletons said to be fifteen times larger than the average human. They are created from the bones of people who died from battle, starvation, or illness, and their remains were placed in mass graves. Again, with vengeance as its motivation, the skeletons roam the forest looking for victims. Once they catch their victims, they bite their heads off and consume their spraying blood. Victims are said to hear a ringing in their ears before attacking. The Gashadokuro are said to be indestructible with the power of invisibility. The only way to ward them off is with Shinto charms.
- Noppera-bō (のっぺらぼう)
Noppera-bō, also known as “No Face”, is a faceless creature in Japanese folklore. They have no eyes, nose, or mouth, and instead, have exceptionally smooth skin where their features should be. They are commonly seen around night time in deserted areas, and most people don’t even realize that they’re talking to a Noppera-bō until they make their features disappear. It seems that the only motivation of the Noppera-bō is to scare people.
- The Red Room
The Red Room Curse is probably one of the most well-known Japanese urban legends, especially by Millennials and those who remember the early days of the Internet. It all started with a pop-up that wouldn’t go away, almost like it’s frozen on the computer. The pop-up shows a door with a recorded voice that says, “Do you like the red room?” with the same sentence in black letters. Victims who watch the pop-up are said to be found dead after, with their rooms painted with their own blood. In 2004, a 12-year old Japanese school girl named Satomi Mitarai was murdered by her 11-year old classmate. Her murderer had the Red Room video bookmarked on her computer. The case is best known as the Sasebo Slashing.
- Gozu (牛頭)
This story supposedly dates back to the 17th century with a fictional story appropriately called, “Cow Head.” It is a story that is so horrifying that those who hear it start trembling violently and do so for days. Because of this, the story was broken up into fragments to lessen the horrifying impact. Another variation of the story says that those who read or listen to the story are sent into a catatonic state before they die.
- Tomino’s Hell
This is your classic internet urban legend. “Tomino’s Hell” is the title of a poem that you should never read outloud. If you read it outloud, then you die. Supposedly, there were multiple 2chan members who read the poem out loud and posted videos and photos as proof. Several members reported that nothing happened. However, there were a few users that were supposedly never heard from again.
- Aka Manto/Aoi Manto
Japanese folklore has a whole series of spirits that appear in bathrooms. Two of those spirits are known as the Aka Manto and Aoi Manto. They are a pair of toilet ghosts that haunt the last stall of your public bathroom. The Aka Manot wears a red cloak while the Aoi Manto wears a blue cloak. The bathroom user is given a choice between two colored papers; red or blue. If they choose red, they’ll get sliced in the back of their neck. If they choose blue, they will be choked to death. If you ask for another option, you’ll be sent to the netherworld. So, how do you avoid the punishment of these spirits? Decline both options, pull up your pants, and get out of there.
These are just ten of the thousands of different ghost stories and urban legends from Japan. Which one do you like the most?
Don’t forget as well that you can STILL get 20% off on our website with the code HSH2021. Browse our catalog today!