Have you seen ‘The Ring’? or ‘The Grudge’? Don’t Japanese Urban legends seem way more horrifying than ones from anywhere else? It is possible that, due to its long history, traceable to 30,000 BC, Japan simply has had more time to garner a vast collection of such legends. Another possibility is the inherent cultural difference in the way they look at death and the supernatural, when compared to other cultures. Unlike American urban legends, the Japanese counterparts are very specific, to the extent some urban legends even have a particular method you can employ to escape! Let’s explore this further.
This legend is about a cursed poem. Yes, a cursed poem. The legend goes that if you read this poem by Yomota Inuhuiko out loud, you will die. It was first published in a book titled, The Heart is Like a Rolling Stone. The legend has variations about the nature of death, but all the variations agree that only reading the poem out loud results in death.
The Red Room
Basically, this one purports that if you close any strange popup while online, you’ll end up dead. If you close it many times, the message changes and a child’s voice rings in the background, saying, “Do you like the red room?” Everything goes blank and a list shows up on your screen with your name at the end. The next day, you commit suicide trying to paint your walls red with your own blood.
This legend has been proven to pretty much be true. In 17th century Japan, it is said that people were buried inside pillars, alive. They were meant to be sacrifices to God in an effort to make the structure stable. During some reconstruction work in buildings from the time, remains were found in the walls and also after the 1968 earthquake, only these ones were standing upright.
This one is for the guys out there. You see a beautiful woman, wearing a kimono, showing nothing but her face and hands. She flirts with guys, and lures them into isolated places. The guys think they’re going to get lucky, but when she takes her kimono off and reveals nothing but a skeleton. She is said to suck out the guys’ life and soul. Imagine that!
This one is about a young woman, cut in half by a train. Late at night, you could run into her, if you’re alone, usually around train stations. Her name comes from the sound of her hands against the ground as she moves. She will supposedly chase you and slice you in half when she catches up. Oh, and it is said she visits anyone who hears her story, inside a month. You’re welcome!
A version of this legend was told in season one of Scream Queens. This spirit, according to the legend haunts the last stall in the women’s bathroom. It is said that once in that stall a voice asks you to choose between red or blue paper. Either option will kill you. Some say asking for yellow will let you escape, while others say it will leave you in hell.
You will find this creepy-as-hell doll in Iwamizawa’s Mannenji Temple. It is said to have been a gift to a 2-year-old girl from her brother. The girl died the next year. The family prayed every day, to the doll, in remembrance of the girl. It is said the doll’s hair started to grow! They thought it was their daughter’s restless spirit, and donated it to the Mannenji Temple in 1938.
Believed to haunt the third stall in the girl’s bathroom on the third floor in every school, Hanako-san seems omnipotent. Fortunately, she only responds to summons. Apparently, you go up to her stall, knock thrice, and ask if she’s there. She will say she is. Some say she’s scary, but harmless while others say she will kill you. Girls’ bathrooms in Japan seem to be epicentres of paranormal activity
This is about a 17th century short story, titled Cow Head. It is said to be so scary that not much is known about the story itself. What is known is that everyone who reads or hears it ends up dead. This makes it impossible to find either online or offline. It is said all printed versions were burned and only small segments remain now.
Onryō – The Grudge
The oldest, best known urban legend from Japan, this one is about vengeful spirits. More specifically vengeful spirits that can kill people, cause earthquakes and fires, all in order to get their revenge. In 8th century Japan, people believed that those who died while infuriated, could influence the world of the living. This legend has spawned movies like ‘The Ring’ and ‘The Grudge’.