Is it just me or are Japanese urban legends so much scarier than urban legends from, like, any other country? I mean, these are the legends that have produced films like The Ring and The Grudge so these legends are about some seriously messed up shit.
Why are Japanese legends so much scarier than legends from other parts of the world? Well, basically it all comes down to their belief in spirits and how old their culture is. Since Japan can trace its culture all the way back to 30,000 BC (no, I’m serious) they’ve had, well, a lot of years to accumulate a bunch of freaky stories about people who have died. If you compare that to the fact that the US can trace its roots all the way back to 1776, you’ll understand why Japan has much scarier urban legends than baby country US.
Also, in the US, you can look up urban legends and they will mostly be about some creepy killer or the call coming from inside the house. The spirit urban legends that float around the US are very vague. In Japan, urban legends about spirits are not vague. In fact, they are very well fleshed out. They have names, back stories, ask specific questions and, in some cases, there are even right ways to answer that could keep you alive. Though, in most of these legends, you’ll almost certainly die if you run into one of these spirits. Cheery, right?
Also, what makes these urban legends even scarier yet again is that some of them are based on some sort of truth. No, like they are based on something real that happened.
For all of these reasons and more, Japan has some of the scariest urban legends around. Below are 15 of them that will almost definitely scare the sh*t out of you.
15. The Red Room
We can start off with the most modern of the urban legends on this list: The Red Room. In a nutshell, this legend states that you will receive a pop-up and if you close it, you will die.
The story goes that a boy heard about this legend at school and that evening he went home to look it up. On his computer screen, a message popped up saying, “Do you like the –?” When he closed the window, it popped up again and did so each and every time he closed the window.
The boy then noticed that the message changed and now said, “Do you like the red room?” Also, there was now a child’s voice (because kids’ voices are just that much creepier) in the background asking the same question.
At this point, I would have given up on computers and technology all together for the rest of my life but not this boy. He was still chillin’ there, looking at his computer screen when the screen went black. Then, a list of names appeared in red, with his name at the bottom of the list.
When he didn’t show up for school the next day, kids were worried and totally had reason to be. They were later told that he “committed suicide” and painted the walls red with his own blood.
14. Human Pillars
Here comes an urban legend that has pretty much been proven to be true. According to stories, Japanese pillars were built with people inside of them. Yep, people were buried alive inside pillars. It was some screwed up belief that offering these lives to the gods would make the buildings more stable or something. Hey, here’s an idea about how to make buildings stable – like, concrete and stuff. Not people screaming for their lives.
How was this urban legend proven? Well, since this was going down in the 17th century, there has obviously been some reconstruction since, and in doing so remains have been found inside the walls. Oh, and in the aftermath of an earthquake in 1968, a ton of skeletons were also found inside walls standing straight up.
13. Onryō – The Grudge
So, this urban legend has spawned many of the other urban legends on this list. An onryō is a vengeful spirit that is capable of actually harming the world of the living – in other words, a pissed off ghost who can kill you. Not only can the spirit harm people, but it is also able to cause natural disasters, like earthquakes and fires, in order to get revenge.
This legend goes all the way back to the 8th century, when people believed that souls who died while enraged were able to influence the living. So, yeah, basically pissed off ghosts can totally mess with humans. The belief in onryō is what set the stage for films like The Grudge and The Ring, which were so popular they were later adapted to American versions. Popular they may be, but these films are also creepy AF. I 100% don’t want to meet the girl from The Ring in any way, shape or form.
12. Okiku Doll
Ah, and what would an article about urban legends be without a creepy doll on the list? So, here is our creepy doll, which has been residing at the Mannenji temple in the town of Iwamizawa since 1938.
And, now on to the weird part about the doll. The doll was purchased by a 17-year-old boy for his 2-year-old little sister, which is super sweet. The little sister loved her doll and played with it all day, err day. That is, until she died of a cold the following year.
The family then took her favorite doll, placed it on an altar in their home and prayed to it every day in memory of their daughter. I’m thinking the family did, like, six or seven things wrong in that situation. The first was having an altar in their home because that’s weird. The second was praying to a doll. Nope, no way would I ever do that.
Anyways, the doll’s hair, which used to be a cropped bob, started to grow. The family took it as a sign of their restless daughter’s spirit. In 1938, they moved and handed the creepy doll to the temple, where it has been since. Apparently, the temple has even cut the doll’s hair and it grows the hell back.
11. Ibitsu – The Little Sister
This legend takes the idea of having an annoying little sister to a whole new level. She is a spirit who you will encounter while walking alone at night. Spoiler alert: a lot of these legends happen to people walking alone at night so, uh, don’t walk alone at night.
She will appear to be a young girl and ask if you have a sister, but it won’t matter if you answer yes or no. She’ll immediately want to be your litter sister after this exchange and start appearing to you daily. The legend states that you will in some way disappoint Ibitsu as her new big brother or sister. Apparently, this chick has some pretty high expectation for her older sibling. When you do disappoint her, she’ll then kill you in some twisted way, though exactly how varies on the story.
10. Fatal Fare
This one is especially scary for cab drivers and maybe Uber X drivers too. In this story, a driver will be making his way down a road at night and a person will appear as if out of nowhere, which is never a good sign. If someone appears as if out of nowhere, they are almost always a ghost.
The person will ask to be taken to a place that the driver has never heard of, so the passenger will then give the driver directions, taking him down scary dark roads. After driving along and seeing no end in sight, the driver will turn around to ask the passenger a question and no one will be there. Spooky.
9. Hanako-san, The Bathroom Queen
Hanako-san is an urban legend about the girls bathroom in every elementary school in Japan, because kids don’t have enough to be worried about in the world.
Hanako-san is an omnipresent ghost who is believed to possess the third bathroom stall on the third floor in every girls bathroom in Japan. Like, every single one. She is supposedly the spirit of a girl who committed suicide due to being excessively bullied.
While Hanako-san can sometimes be spotted at random, she usually comes when summoned, which is a nice change from many of the urban legends on this list who just show up whenever the hell they want. You are supposed to knock on her bathroom stall three times then ask her if she’s there. She’ll reply that she is there. At this point, I would personally run the hell out of the bathroom faster than I’ve ever run out of a bathroom before. For those who are braver than me, you can push open the stall door and see Hanako-san for yourself.
Most of the stories say that she is just frightening and not actually harmful but a few others say that she will pull you in the stall and kill you in the toilet, which is not a good way to go at all.
8. Tomino’s Hell
The legend of “Tomino’s Hell” goes that you should never read the poem aloud, you will die.
Apparently, you can read it with your mind but if you utter the words of the poem, tragic things are said to happen to you. Yes, it’s a cursed poem and I know that is probably less scary than some of the other items on this list, but I still totally wouldn’t read it out loud. What exactly happens to you varies from illness to misfortune and always ends in death.
7. Cow Head
This legend is about a short story so scary that very little is actually known about the story itself. It is said to kill everyone who reads the story.
Cow Head is the name of the scary short story that can be traced back to the 17th century, though the origin remains a mystery. It is said that anyone who reads or hears the story will tremble in fear for a few days before finally dying.
One of the more famous stories about the Cow Head legend is that a teacher started telling it to students on a bus. The students were so afraid that they begged the teacher to stop but he was in a trance and couldn’t stop telling the story. When he finished, he fainted, the students were foaming at the mouth and the bus driver was trembling so much that he had difficulty driving.
Since everyone who hears the story dies, thus making it difficult for the story to be shared, the story cannot be found online. It is said that almost all written versions of the story were burned years ago and those that remained were cut up so only segments of the story can be found. Considering the fact that the story kills you, it’s probably best that it isn’t on the internet.
6. Shirokiya Department Store Deaths
This one will probably not keep you up at night but it’s very odd and worth noting.
In December 1932, a fire broke out in the Shirokiya departmental store in Japan. Employees were able to get to the roof of the building so that firefighters could save them via safety ropes. When the women were in the middle of the rope, a strong gust of wind blew and threatened to blow up their kimonos, traditionally under which no underwear was worn. In order to protect their modesty, the women let go of the ropes to hold their kimonos down and died. This story prompted a wide change in fashion, as Japanese women started wearing underwear under their kimonos.
Despite the fact that this is a popular story, there are many questionable facts. For starters, kimonos are strongly secured and would not be easily blown open, so there’s that. Also, at this time, Japanese men and women would participate in nude spring baths often so this willingness to die in order to protect their privates from being seen doesn’t necessarily line up.
Either way, this story actually shows up in Japanese firefighting textbooks and manuals. Despite the fact that some of the information doesn’t add up, it’s still a widely believed story, which is very strange.
5. Aka Manto
If you’re a fan of Scream Queens, you may have heard this legend, as a version of it was told during season one.
Aka Manto haunts the women’s bathroom, which makes me seriously question ever using a bathroom in Japan, as this is the second friggin’ spirit lurking around in a women’s bathroom.
This spirit usually haunts the very last stall in the bathroom so don’t use that one, even though I’d really just suggest never using the women’s bathroom in Japan. When you’re in the stall, a voice will ask if you want the red paper or blue paper but, uh, neither is a good choice. If you go with the red paper, the dude in the above photo will open the door and slice away at your body until you clothes are drenched in your blood, making them look like red paper. If you go with blue, he’ll strangle you to death until your face looks like blue paper.
There’s a rumor that asking for yellow paper will free you, but there’s also a rumor that asking for any other color besides blue or red will result in him dragging you straight to hell, so I guess you can go with yellow at your own risk. You could also try to refuse anything he offers. That’s another way that people claim you can survive, but again, I would just stay out of women’s bathrooms all together.
Kuchisake-onna looks horrifying and the story about her is also horrifying. Like in many of these legends, you may bump into her if you are walking alone late at night so use the buddy system, you guys! She will appear as a woman wearing a surgical mask, which is actually common in Japan, where they are worn to keep safe from illnesses.
The woman will stop you and ask if she is beautiful and there is literally no correct way to answer. If you say no, she’ll kill you with a pair of scissors she carries. If you say yes, she’ll take off her surgical mask, reveal that her mouth has been slit from ear to ear and just like the Joker, she’ll ask, “Do you want to hear how I got these scars?” Okay, I’m kidding about the Joker part, but she for real has her mouth cut open.
She’ll then be like, “Do you still think I’m hot?” You’re screwed at this point. If you say no, you’re cut in half. If you say yes, she cuts your face just like hers.
According to stories, there are ways to escape her and they are kind of hilarious. You can apparently tell her that she’s average looking, which will confuse her and give you time to run. You can also use that tactic for a Tinder gone wrong.
You can also ask her if you are pretty, which will again confuse her and give you time to run. She’s a scary ghost but apparently very easily confused. Oh, you can also tell her that you have to meet up with your wife/husband and she’ll leave you alone because she only kills single people.
Hone-onna is like the Japanese version of a sea siren or succubus, so she’s more scary to horny dudes rather than women but still scary nonetheless.
In this legend, a gorgeous woman will be wearing a kimono, which will cover all but her wrists and beautiful face. She flirts with a horny dude then lures said horny dude into a desolate place, usually an alleyway. Unfortunately for the dude, it is not going to end with him getting lucky. Hone-onna will then take off her kimono, exposing that there is no skin under her kimono. She’s a bit of a skeleton/zombie and her beauty was just a ploy. She then grabs the guy and sucks away his life and soul. Hone-onna usually just preys on young men who think they are going to get laid in an alleyway.
2. Hitori Kakurenbo – Hide And Go Seek Alone
For the record, I find this to be the most horrifying of all the Japanese urban legends and it’s apparently a game that kids play. What the actual F?
In this “game”, which must be played at 3 am, you are to get a stuffed animal (let’s say a teddy bear) then you cut the teddy bear open and take out all the stuffing. You then replace the teddy bear’s insides with rice and your nail clippings. You then sew the teddy bear back up with red thread because it’s supposed to represent veins or something, but really it’s probably just to make the teddy bear look scary as hell.
For there, you draw the teddy bear a bath. No, seriously. Then you tell the teddy bear that you are going to be it. You leave the bathroom, turn off the lights, set the television to a static station (nope, not down with that static station shit) and count to ten. You then return to the teddy bear with a knife and stab the teddy declaring that you’ve found him.
All of that is really weird but here’s where the whole thing takes a sharp turn. You then declare that the teddy bear is it and run like the wind to hide from the spirit you have conjured, who is coming to friggin’ find you. In most of the stories online, people have hidden in their closets. You’re also supposed to have saltwater with you because it keeps spirits away.
While hiding in the closet, it’s reported that temperatures will change, footsteps will be heard, items will be moved, and the television will be switched to different channels. In many stories, the spirit will communicate through the television by channel surfing in order to get across messages like “where are you” and “I’ll find you.”
In order to end the game, you can either wait until sunrise or approach the bathroom with a mouthful of saltwater, as it will keep the spirit from harming you. You then find the teddy bear, spit your saltwater on him, declare you’ve won three times then set the teddy on fire. Hopefully, the teddy is in the bathroom though, because some have reported the stuffed animal they used was in a different spot or completely friggin’ missing.
If you Goggle, you’ll be able to find several accounts of the game going really, really wrong and even some video footage of what people heard/saw while hiding in the closet. This one Reddit story is my personal favorite and the reason I’ll never play this game. Ever. Nope, not ever, ever playing this game.
1. Teke Teke
This may be the creepiest of all Japanese urban legends. Teke Teke is the ghost of a young woman (in some stories a school girl) who was cut in half by a train. Lovely, right? Well, she doesn’t let the whole not having legs thing stop her. She gets around on her hands or sometimes her elbows, dragging her torso.
Apparently, if you’re walking around late at night all by yourself, you could run into Teke Teke. It is mostly said that she is seen at a train station. Oh, and even better, it is said that within a month of hearing her story, she’ll appear to you, so you’re welcome, reader.
Upon running into Teke Teke, she’ll chase you and the sound of her hands slapping against the ground will make a ‘teke-teke’ sound, which is how she got her name. If a woman who is missing half her body starts walking towards you with her hands, you better be running. If she eventually catches up to you (which she always does in the stories), she’ll slice you in half.
Some legends say that she’ll ask you where her legs are and the correct answer is, “Meishin Railway.” After that, she’ll ask who told you and the correct answer to that is, “Kashima Reiko.” Supposedly if you get both of those questions correct, she’ll spare you – but again, in some of the other stories, she doesn’t ask anything and just slices and dices your bod.
So, uh, good luck sleeping tonight, I guess.
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