Japanese horror is sometimes referred to as “J-Horror” and is known for its eerie atmosphere, supernatural references, and psychological elements that leave people begging to know what happens next.
Many Japanese scary stories have inspired some popular films and TV shows.
Let’s take a look at some of these incredibly icy tales!
1. Kuchisake-Onna (The Slit-Mouthed Woman)
The terrifying tale of Kuchisake-Onna is a story that originated in the late 1970s in Japan.
It’s about a woman who wears a surgical mask that covers a large slit in her mouth. Legend says she will approach people and ask them if they think she is beautiful. Their answer dictates what happens next.
If they answer no, she is said to kill them with a pair of scissors. If the answer is yes, she removes her mask to reveal her disfigured face. When she asks again, if the answer is no, she kills them. If they answer yes, she slits their mouth to make them look like her.
But who is this mysterious woman? Some say Kuchisake-Onna was a woman who was cruelly disfigured by her husband. Many others believe the masked murderer is a vengeful spirit. Whomever she is, she sounds terrifying!
2. Teke-Teke (The Girl Cut in Half by a Train)
The story of Teke-Teke is not for the faint-hearted. The story is about a young girl who fell onto a railway track and was cut in half by a train. This is harrowing enough, but legend says that her spirit haunts the streets at night and that she drags her upper body along the tracks, looking for her lower half.
The sound of her dragging herself makes a teke-teke sound, hence the title of our story. Many people believe that if she catches you, she cuts you in half. Chilling!
Her ghost is said to appear at night, wearing a long white dress. She carries a scythe or saw, which she uses to cut anyone who she comes across in half, just like she was. Legend states that if you hear the sound teke-teke coming towards you, you should run as fast as you can and that you can escape by climbing a tree as she cannot climb. Yikes!
3. Tomino’s Hell (The Cursed Poem)
The tale of Tomino’s Hell is a poem written by Yomota Inuhiko. Legend says if you read the poem out loud, bad things will happen to you.
This terrifying ghost story originated in 1919 when it was first written. The title of the poem, “Tomino’s Hell,” tells a story of a young boy called Tomino, who falls into a demonic landscape.
There are rumors that if you read the poem out loud in its entirety, you will be cursed and haunted by the ghost of the boy. The curse is said to cause severe illness, hellish nightmares, and even premature death.
Who knew poetry could be so scary?
4. The Hachishakusama (The Mysterious Eight-Foot Woman)
The story of The Hachishakusama is a tale about a tall woman with long arms who wears a white kimono. She appears at night to children and asks them if they have seen her daughter. If they answer yes, they are taken away.
The spirit is said to prey on children. The name “Hachishakusama” translates roughly to “eight-foot-tall woman”.
She is said to roam the small towns and villages in Japan, keeping to areas dense in fields or forests. It is said she appears as a beautiful, elegant woman with long hair and a kimono. Her impressive height is the only thing that makes her stand out.
It is said that she lures children away from their homes with a gentle, hypnotic voice and that she will pretend to be a relative or family friend to gain the child’s trust. Gulp!
Craving more chills? Dive in! 📖
5. The Tale of Hanako-San (The Restroom Spirit)
If you are still at school, beware! Our next story concerns school restrooms – a place you should feel relatively safe, right? Not so much if you go to school in Japan. Hanako-San is the story of a young girl who haunts school restrooms. I’m getting Harry Potter Moaning Myrtle vibes on this one!
Hanako-San is said to be a girl who died during World War II. The story goes that if you enter a restroom and knock on the stall three times and say “Hanako-San, are you in there?” she will answer you.
The story of Hanako-San is well-known in Japan and has been passed down through many generations. She is said to be a friendly spirit and will even grant wishes to those who call her name. She usually haunts the third stall on the third floor.
Many believe that the story of Hanako-San was made up to scare children into behaving well. They were told that if they stepped out of line, Hanako-San would come and take them away. Who knew school restrooms were such scary places to be?
6. Okiku’s Well
This is the oldest tale on our list today, believed to have originated in the Edo period. The story of Okiku’s Well is about a samurai who became obsessed with a maid who worked for him. When she rejected his advances, he accused her of stealing from him and threw her into a well.
Her ghost is said to haunt the well and can be heard counting to nine, the number of items she is said to have stolen from him.
There is another variation in the story that states the young maid threw herself into the well, so distraught to have been accused of stealing. And now I’ll avoid old wells forever more!
7. The Red Room (The Website Killing Room)
The Red Room is an incredibly creepy urban legend that originated on the internet in the early 2000s. It is a take on a classic Japanese ghost story, also known as “Akai Heya”.
The story depicts a young man who is a skeptic and does not believe in ghosts. He decides to investigate a red room in a mansion that has been abandoned for many years. The rumors say that anyone who spends the night in the room dies in mysterious circumstances.
It is believed that there is a website that contains a mysterious red room where people can enter a chat room and make a request that someone is killed. The legend states that once you enter the red room you can never leave. Sounds like something out of a movie, doesn’t it?
8. Aka Manto (The Red or Blue Paper Ghost)
Another restroom ghost! This is a scary legend about a ghost who haunts public restrooms. He is said to appear to people and ask them if they want red or blue paper. If they choose red paper, he kills them by slashing them with a sharp object until they bleed to death. If they choose blue, he strangles them until their face turns blue. Not much of a choice, hey?
“Aka Manto” is said to wear a red cloak or cape and a white mask, hiding his identity from his victims.
In other versions of the story, there is a third option, where the victim chooses to have no paper at all. The outcome is not much better though, in this version, Aka Manto will drag them down into the underworld with him.
9. The Curse of the Colonel
Scary stories and Kentucky Fried Chicken don’t usually go together but hear us out with this last tale.
Legend says, that the very first KFC restaurant to open in Japan is cursed. It is said that the original owner of the restaurant, Takeshi Okawara, was visited by the ghost of Colonel Sanders in his dream. This ghostly figure demanded he change his fried chicken recipe to something more traditional.
Okawara refused to do so, and soon after strange things began to happen, like the walls bleeding and the famous Colonel Sanders statue moving on its own.
This urban legend originated in the late 1980s and still has people terrified to this day. Makes you want to think twice about your Japanese Christmas Day KFC tradition!
Final Thoughts on Japanese Scary Stories That Will Leave You Speechless
Japanese scary stories incorporate themes that are rooted in Japanese folklore and mythology.
They tend to use more psychological elements which can create a more unsettling atmosphere, making them popular with people who like a scare!
I am now avoid restrooms, wells, railway lines and KFC – what about you?