David Meskens is an intern from Belgium. He is a last-year International Business Management student from Thomas More in Belgium. He came to Japan to learn as much as possible from the Japanese culture and to get some work-ready experience. He is a big sports fan. Basketball is his favorite, and he recently became passionate about Sumo wrestling after attending an event in Japan.
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Venture with us into the shadowy realm of the supernatural, where tales of chilling legends and eerie encounters come to life. In a land steeped in ancient customs and folklore, Japan harbors a wealth of spine-tingling destinations that will leave even the bravest souls with goosebumps. From ominous forests to eerie tunnels and haunted buildings, these spine-chilling sites offer a hauntingly fascinating insight into the country’s darker side. So grab a flashlight and summon your courage as we venture into the shadows to uncover the chilling secrets of these mysterious places in Japan, but beware – once you delve into these mysterious tales, you may never see the Land of the Rising Sun in the same light again.
1. Okunoin Cemetery
Before we delve into other locations with a darker history, let’s introduce you to this magnificent site that may appear spooky to some. Okunoin is home to the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism and a revered figure in Japanese religious history. Rather than having died, Kobo Daishi is thought to remain in an endless state of meditation, awaiting Miroku Nyorai, the Buddha of the Future, while bringing release to those seeking salvation in the meantime. Okunoin is one of Japan’s most sacred places and a popular pilgrimage destination.
Many guidebooks recommend visiting Okunoin’s graveyard at night, as the nocturnal atmosphere exudes a distinct ambiance that perfectly aligns with the theme of this article. However, keep in mind that certain sections of the path may be dimly lit. Although you can walk all the way to the mausoleum at night, neither Torodo Hall nor the other offering halls are open during those hours. Exploring the cemetery during misty weather can also create a spine-chilling atmosphere, giving you the eerie sensation that you are not alone. While you immerse yourself in the experience, please remember to be respectful. Note that photography, food, and drinks are prohibited beyond the Gobyobashi Bridge.
2. Inunaki Tunnel
Welcome to Japan’s most haunted tunnel! The Old Inunaki Tunnel, hidden in the Inunaki Mountain region, is an abandoned passage based on spine-chilling legends and eerie tales. One of the most common stories involves a series of heinous incidents that occurred near the tunnel, involving murder, suicide, or possibly both. Many people believe that the tunnel is haunted by tormented spirits seeking vengeance or closure.
The legend of the Inunaki village said to be located beyond the tunnel, adds to the mystery. When a couple drove through the passage, their car mysteriously stopped working when they emerged on the other side. Desperate for help, they followed a shadowy figure through the woods, ultimately getting to the Inunanki village. A sign put at the entrance read, “the constitution and laws of Japan do not apply here,” but the couple still entered the village in search of help. However, no inhabitants were found. The couple’s car is said to still be on the other side of the tunnel, but both the couple and the enigmatic village of Inunaki have never been seen again.
Today, a concrete wall seals the tunnel’s entrance, preventing anyone from delving into the depths of this infamous location.
3. The Round Schoolhouse
The Round Schoolhouse, an abandoned school in Bibai, Hokkaido, was built in the early 1900s and operated from the 1940s until the 1970s. Today, nature has reclaimed the area, making it accessible only by foot. It is said that many visitors to the Round Schoolhouse have failed to return from their explorations.
The haunting story behind the schoolhouse dates back to 1974 when a young girl mysteriously vanished during a short break period. At the time, Hokkaido was experiencing a series of kidnappings and missing person cases. However, neither the police nor the school could comprehend how the girl could have been abducted in such a brief period of time. The school closed its doors shortly after the incident.
Since then, locals have reported hearing eerie giggles and screams emanating from the school and its surrounding woods. These unsettling sounds have attracted the curious, some of whom have never returned from their journeys, leaving their cars abandoned on nearby roads. Those who have returned are said to have been changed by the experience, as the spirits inhabiting the location have driven them insane.
If you decide to visit the Round Schoolhouse, be aware of the potential risks and consequences. Visiting abandoned properties can be dangerous, and it is often discouraged.
Aokigahara, known by many as the “suicide forest,” has a sinister reputation that belies its natural beauty. This haunting notoriety can be traced back to ancient times when, during periods of famine and hardship, families would perform a horrible practice called ubasute. Elderly or frail family members would be led deep into the woods and left to perish, and their spirits remain forever bound to Aokigahara.
It is said that these restless spirits seek vengeance by trapping anyone who shares a similar fate, causing locals to avoid entering the forest. The forest’s chilling reputation has been further solidified by its depiction in various novels as an ideal place to die.
Despite its dark past, Aokigahara is an undeniably captivating and beautiful forest. However, don’t be lured into exploring it carelessly, as the magnetic iron in the soil can cause compasses and phones to malfunction, leading to disorientation and potentially tragic consequences. So, while the forest is a breathtaking sight to behold, it’s essential to remember the chilling secrets that lie beneath its captivating exterior.
5. Oiran Buchi
The Saiko Waterfall, situated along an old road previously part of National Highway 411, presents an idyllic scene, complete with lush vegetation, a canyon, and a stunning waterfall. However, this picturesque site hides a dark past that might make you think twice before exploring further. The beautiful landscape was once the setting of a horrific event, where fifty-five women met a tragic end.
The story dates back to the time of the powerful Takeda clan, one of the wealthiest and most influential families of their era. The clan’s strength and prosperity were largely due to their gold mines, the location of which was known only to a select few high-ranking individuals and the miners working there.
After a hard day’s work, the miners would often visit prostitutes, specifically “yuri” lower-class sex workers. Although the women in our story are referred to as “oiran”, the higher class of courtesan, it is unlikely that the miners would have had access to such exclusive company. Concerned that the miners might divulge sensitive information about the mines’ location, the Takeda family devised a plan to silence the women permanently.
The clan invited the fifty-five women to a bridge high above the Yanagisawa River, asking them to perform a dance as part of a farewell party. As the women began dancing, soldiers severed the bridge’s supporting vines, causing the women to drop to their deaths. Those who survived the fall were soon swept away and drowned in the river.
Today, the area is considered one of Japan’s most haunted places, with claims of ghostly screams and cries emanating from Oiran Buchi. Visitors are advised to explore the area during daylight hours, as the risk of falling from the edge remains a very real danger. Furthermore, it is believed that the vengeful spirits may seek retribution against male visitors, pushing them over the edge to suffer the same fate.
A monument and sign near the bridge serve as a reminder of the tragic event that took place there. However, be cautious when reading the sign, as it is said to curse those who read it in its entirety. You have been warned.
6. Okiku’s well (Himeji Castle)
Himeji Castle is one of Japan’s most beautiful and famous castles, visited every year by many tourists. However, not many people know that in the castle’s domain lies Okiku’s well. The story behind this well served as inspiration for creating the famous horror movie “The Ring” which you probably know of.
The haunting legend tells the tale of Okiku, a servant girl working under the samurai Aoyama Tessan. Aoyama hatches a scheme to overthrow his ruler, but his plan crumbles when Okiku alerts her lover, a loyal warrior, of Aoyama’s treachery. Subjugated by Okiku’s beauty, Aoyama desires her as his lover. Despite his advances, Okiku resolutely rejects him. In a twisted act of revenge, Aoyama falsely accuses Okiku of stealing one of ten priceless heirloom plates belonging to their lord. He gives her an ultimatum: become his lover and join his revolt, or face the consequences. Defiant, Okiku refuses once more.
Humiliated and furious, Aoyama captures Okiku and suspends her above the well. He subjects her to merciless torture, offering her a final chance to join him. The courageous Okiku refuses again, and in his rage, Aoyama casts her into the well, blaming her so-called theft for her death.
Yet Okiku’s restless spirit refuses to fade away. Every night, her ghost rises from the well, counting the plates from one to nine before releasing afflicted screams and cries. Tormented by the daily apparitions, Aoyama gradually descends into madness.
To this day, each night, it is said that Okiku’s chilling screams can still be heard echoing from Okiku’s well.
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