Author Corinne Morier is our guest poster today. Corinne is an American currently living in Japan whilst on the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Programme, and she’s here to share what Halloween is like in Japan with us.
Japanese culture is ripe with urban legends and ghost stories. So you’d think that they’d use that to their advantage and tie it in with Halloween, right?
You’d be dead wrong. (haha, see what I did there? xD) Ghost stories in Japan are told in the summertime, not in October. Halloween is mostly a consumer holiday, a time for stores to stock up on Halloween-themed items in order to generate sales.
Sometimes these are things that have an obvious relation to Halloween, like the pumpkin snacks pictured above. Sometimes it’s questionable…
And sometimes, they have nothing at all to do with Halloween and you wonder what people were even thinking…
Living in Japan, I’m feeling very deprived of spook. So I got to researching some Japanese ghost stories and thought I’d share some of my favorites here.
I first heard of this legend after reading a writer friend’s novel that is based off this legend. She is a malicious spirit mutilated by her husband, who, after learning that she was having an affair, slit her mouth from one ear to the other in revenge.
She wears a cloth mask, or, in more modern versions of the legend, a surgical mask, and will approach you and ask “Am I pretty?” If you answer yes, she will remove her mask and ask once more. Then, another yes will earn you a slash from ear to ear to match her. And it’s not as if saying no will save you either. If you say no, she’ll walk away and leave you alone, but later that night, she’ll follow you home and brutally murder you!
How to avoid this grisly fate? It’s best to give her a confusing answer, ask her a question in return, or throw candy at her to give yourself a chance to escape.
This one is a bathroom story. The ghost Hanako-san haunts school bathrooms. Just like our “Bloody Mary” legend, if you say her name three times, you can summon her, but you must be in the third stall of the third-floor bathroom. However, Hanako-san seems to have become nothing more than a fairy tale—none of my kids mention Hanako-san unless I bring it up.
Teketeke is the vengeful spirit of a girl who was sliced in half by a train. Named after the sound she makes when she runs, “Teketeke” (onomatopoeia for “click clack”) she can’t find peace and will try to trick kids into becoming like her. Most often, she’ll go after kids who are playing at dusk, chasing on her elbows and hands after them and slicing them in half so they become like her.
This one is the creepiest because it apparently is based in reality. The exact location of the Himuro mansion is unknown, but it’s apparently somewhere just outside of Tokyo. The Himuro family took part in a grisly Shinto ritual known as the “Strangling Ritual.” In order to ward off bad spirits, they would commence a ritual once every fifty years or so.
A maiden in the family is chosen from birth to be the sacrifice. She is kept locked away so as not to develop any ties with the outside world. On the day of the ritual, she is tied up and quartered, and the ropes that bound her are soaked with her blood and placed over the portal from which the family believed bad spirits would emerge. But that’s not the end of it.
In one of these instances, the maiden fell in love with a man who tried to save her from the ritual. This created a tie to the physical world, tainting her blood and the ritual itself. Enraged, the master of the mansion killed her, the rest of the family, and then himself. It’s said that the spirits of the family still haunt the mansion, trying to repeat the ritual with anyone who dares wander inside.
After researching these stories, I’ve definitely got my fill of spook. Don’t think I’ll be able to sleep tonight…
Did I miss any? What Japanese ghost stories do you know? Leave them in the comments below!
Corinne Morier is a fantasy author with a penchant for writing stories that make readers feel. Born and raised in Oakland, California, she now lives in Japan, where she works as a TEFL teacher for her local elementary school. In her free time, she enjoys swimming, watching anime, and, of course, writing.