Even Urban Legends are Scarier in Japan 2!

Every year I do an Even X is Scarier in Japan post during October:

These are fun little posts in which I explore creepy Japanese fiction in all forms and share it with you. Because it’s less scary if we’re in it together.

Out of these, I have to say the Urban Legends one was my favourite to last. It was the most whimsical and in my opinion the scariest. As such, I figure it might be good to revisit it. It’s not like I covered every single Urban Legend in the first post and it has been a couple of years, there might be some new legends that have gained popularity.

And so for your reading pleasure, I bring you more scary stories to share this spooky season. Some of them may be a curse and will doom you just by reading them. I figure it’s worth it…

The Curse of the Colonel

Soiled pants rating: 1/5

If there are two American imports that are unexplainedly popular in Japan, it has got to be Baseball and Kentucky Friend Chicken! Oh and Disney…but that doesn’t have anything to do with our present story. OooOOOOoooohh

The Hanshin Tigers are one of Japan’s major league teams. They actually managed to win the Japan series and for some reason, their fans decided to celebrate by having look-alikes of the players jump into the Dōtonbori Canal. I guess this is not that different from dumping Gatorade on the players.

However, the Tigers had an American player (Randy Bass) at the time and they couldn’t find anyone that looked like him so instead, they dumped a life-size statue of Colonel Sanders in the canal. Which is a little hilarious.

Unlike everyone else, the Colonel was left in the water and as the years started to pile up without another significant win for the Tigers, they started to suspect that the wrath of Colonel Sanders had cursed them. Obviously, they wouldn’t be able to win until the good colonel was rescued!

Even though most of the statue was finally recovered in 2009 (24 years later!), the Tigers still haven’t won another series. But they did get a couple of other wins.

So having a professional baseball theme go on a prolonged losing streak may not be the most frightening prospect but then again, baseball fans can be scary!

The Jinmenken

Soiled pants rating: 1/5

The Jinmenken or human-faced dog is not exactly a new legend. It’s one of the traditional yokai that have been around since the 1600s. They are pretty much exactly as you would imagine. Large dogs (although not unusually large) with faces of middle-aged dudes that can also talk. Pretty cool.

They don’t actually seem to do anything bad, or really anything at all aside from being dogs with man faces. This said, they aren’t exactly sociable and will generally tell you to go away if you try to talk to them. Relatable! At most, some people think they are bad omens, kind of like black cats.

The thing is, stories of Jinmenken had pretty much disappeared in the 1800s and it was looking like this would remain just one of those classical Yokai and then, in the 80s and 90s, sightings suddenly skyrocketed.

Sightings were pretty much always at night, usually in rural areas and most often by people taking out the garbage as the creatures were riffling through the trash. The witnesses did not report any associated bad luck!

Some poor deluded souls have suggested they might actually be Japanese macaques but we know what’s up.

These aren’t that scary and in fact, it may be fun to have a talking dog. Although they do seem to have a more cat-like attitude.

Inunaki Village

Soiled pants rating: 3/5

If you are one of my readers, odds are you probably want to visit Japan. Or visit it again! When you do, don’t get suckered into a guided visit of Inunaki Village!

Inunaki Village is in fact a real place that exists. Or, depending on how you view these things, that existed. You can still find it in the Fukuoka Prefecture in Kyushu.

If pictures are to be believed the village itself is quite beautiful but there are a lot of strange elements abut it. For one, it is entirely abandoned and no one is sure when or why that happened. The buildings are functional and resources are available.

Theories range from the reasonable to the gruesome. Some think that due to the remote location, it was just too inconvenient for trade and the inhabitants simply left for larger towns. However, there is no evidence to support that fact as there aren’t large populations of Inunaki decedents in neighbouring areas as you would expect. Others believe a plague may have devastated the area. Once again, no concrete records support the idea.

The most uncomfortable theory is that the villagers went mad (either all of them or just a few) and slaughtered each other with an axe. Why an axe? No clue. Where are the bodies? Great question!

Sure these are just little creepypasta theories. Just about every place has these types of stories. Why should we worry?

Well because there are some things that we do know. For one, the village actually sports a mention that the laws of Japan do not apply within its borders. Why would that be? That doesn’t sound all that comforting.

Also, the village itself is accessible through a wide tunnel and apparently, a collapse during its construction killed hundreds of workers. Also not good! Apparently, electronic devices don’t work within the bounds of the village but there are pictures of it so…

In any case, by the disembodied sounds of barking dogs and the agonized screams of the dead workers!

Kotoribako box

Soiled pants rating: 4/5

There are tons of variations of this legend but the broad strokes remain the same. And here’s the problem, Kotoribako is awesome! Ok, I don’t mean that exactly. What I mean is that at first sight, Kotoribako is a traditional wooden puzzle box (depending on where you get your info there can be one or many of these things).

For those of you who have never seen a puzzle box, it’s usually an intricately carved and decorated box with panels that can side around or swerve. You need to solve the physical puzzle in order to open it. They are often very pretty and make for great little nick-knacks and objets. If I were to see one in Japan, I can guarantee you I would most likely buy it.

Unfortunately, that means I would then have a non zero chance of being completely and utterly screwed.

The effects of the evil box range from being struck by a disease that kills you instantly, being cursed to a life of misery, being haunted by malevolent ghosts. Sometimes you have to open the box to get in trouble but other times, you only need to get close to it. Like you don’t even need to touch the thing. That’s not cool man. You gotta give us a fighting chance!

Whatever the means for spreading evil or the consequences, one thing always remains the same. The contents of the box are invariably human remains. And considering these things are pretty small, they are often children’s remains. Ok, that’s not what I want on my coffee table.

it’s so pretty

Maruoka Castle and Human Sacrifice

Soiled pants rating: 3/5

Thankfully the practice has gotten less popular lately, but historically tons of places practices human sacrifice. Sometimes we shook things up a little by calling it witch burnings but the idea remains the same. Kill folks to get rid of evil or to appease God.

In Japan, the practice was called Hitobashira, and it implied actually walling people up in various structures. Usually, structures that had some defensive military use as it was believed the practice would make god protect the building from enemies. That is both horrific as I assume it is slow and very painful death and oddly bloodless. Most sacrifice traditions are a lot showier.

Maruoka Castle is beautiful and an occasional tourist spot. It’s surrounded by over 400 cherry threes so you can imagine what a sight it is during the blossom season. It is also the setting for the legend of Oshizu, Hitobashira. It is said that during construction, one of the castle walls kept crumbling no matter how it was reinforced. As a last resort, the workers suggested making a hitobashira, and a one-eyed woman named Oshizu was selected.

A poor woman with two sons, she agreed on the condition that her oldest would become a samurai. However, the lord was unable to fulfil the promise before he moved to another province. Now every spring, the castle moat floods during spring rains—the tears of Oshizu’s curse.

One the other hand, there are also tales of how a thick mist appears and hides the castle whenever an enemy approaches. So maybe Oshizu is resentful and wants to make her feelings known, but is still a patriot!

Okiku Doll

Soiled pants rating: 3/5

This one is apparently “True”. At the very least both the doll and the temple physically exist so that’s always a bit more unsettling.

The story goes that in the early 1900, a boy both a doll for his much younger sister because the doll reminded him of the little girl. More specifically, they both had the same chin-length hair.

Sadly, the little girl died not long after and the family decided to add the doll to their household shrine in memory of her. However, in time, they noticed that the doll’s hair was growing. It was a slow and gradual process but after some time, there was a definite difference. Eventually, the parents tried to cut the hair. I’m not entirely sure why…

This said, even after it had been cut, the hair continued growing just as before. At this point, the parents got freaked out. At this point? I really don’t know why the hair cutting is the catalyst here. It was a super freaky way before that. Anyways, the father smartly figured that the best thing would be to bring the doll to Mannen-ji Temple in Hokkaido, where it can be exorcised and kept out of trouble.

The doll is still there. You can go see it if you like. They do guided tours and stuff. And the final blow is that supposedly, the doll’s hair has been analyzed and it is actually human hair!

Now here’s the thing. Dolls were routinely made with human hair at the time. So that’s not that weird. In fact, synthetic hair wasn’t exactly available and alternatives would have been rare and expensive. I completely believe that doll has real human hair. You can buy a doll with human hair on Etsy right now if you want. It’s still freaky mind you.

Hasshaku-sama

Soiled pants rating: 3/5

This one has all the hallmarks of a classic urban legend. A young man visits his grandfather in the countryside and sees a really tall woman with a large withe hat and a very unusual laugh. The actual height of the lady is 2 meters and when I read this story, this fact was present as a somewhat supernatural element all by itself. At the very least proof that something was amiss. Two meters is about 6.5 feet. It’s tall don’t get me wrong. Real tall. But I know a woman that tall… If you know who Elizabeth Debicki is, she was in Guardians of the Galaxy v2, she’s about that tall. The tallest woman was 7′ 7″, that’s an extra 30 centimetres.

I’m really short so I pay unnecessary attention to other people’s height…

So o.k. Tall lady with a great hat! The boy doesn’t think much of it but still mentions it to his grandpa as dinner conversation. And the old dude just freaks out. He tells his grandson that the lady is named Hasshaku-sama and if she appeared to him, then she must have taken a liking to him.

The downside is that people Hasshaku-sama likes end up dead, real quick at that. She only shows up once a decade and it’s always the same story. She takes a liking to some young stud and a few days later, he’s a goner. My theory is that she’s a ghost and she wants to date them in the afterlife. So this is just a bit of fatal flirting. That’s all headcanon though. Unless you read a version of the tale where this is actually the explanation in which case, I totally knew that. I do my research…

The legend says that with the help of the entire village, the young man manages to leave the place and escape beyond Hasshaku-sama’s reach. The boy manages to survive for years by never, returning to the village no matter what until one day, he gets an alarming call. A villager informs him that one of the Jizo statues that were preventing Hasshaku from leaving has been destroyed. Now the boy hears that weird laugh everywhere!!!

You know what the scariest part is to me! I can just picture her appearing to me, giving me a once over and going: “You know what…never mind. Have a nice day, ma’am”. It hasn’t even happened and it hurts!

Man, I still love writing these. I do hope you enjoy reading them! This Halloween season, just remember, stay safe, cuddle up with a nice creepy anime or get on discord and share some spooky stories with your friends!

Irina

I'm much nicer than I seem, we should be friends!

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21 Responses

  1. Asra Anime says:

    I love weird things ! 😈😅

  2. queerotaku says:

    Me: scrolling nonchantly
    Also me: IS THAT PICTURE FROM YU-GI-OH?!? AHSVUDVEUSBDNDODHEGDBDUEUDB

  3. Dawnstorm says:

    Looks like Inunaki village served as the inspiration for Mayoiga? And the And the Kotoribako may have been the inspiration for Hellraiser?

  4. Kotoribako box = haunted Rubik’s cube?

  5. foovay says:

    I really love these posts. Thank you for going to the trouble of the research. The village is super spooky though. I could write a few dozen speculative stories… 😛

  6. Anonymous says:

    Inunaki village is the scariest one i found.
    -K.Anthony

  7. macksamson says:

    Wow, nice post! Can you please tell me where you got all this information from? I’ve found sources to be extremely scarce (plus they’re impossible to cross-check because literally every source will be different). Did you get all of it solely from watching anime?

    • Irina says:

      I actually asked several Japanese friends then went from the names and descriptions they gave me and checked several websites and a bunch of folklore books I rented from the library and sort of put together the common points all the legends had

      • macksamson says:

        Aw man, your library actually HAS those kinds of books?! Man, I’m jelly! I’ve had to buy all of my research books (one of which was published over 100 years ago), and other than that, I’ve only had Wikipedia, some independent yokai website, and TripAdvisor. I do have a couple of friends from Japan but they’re busy because, well, it’s Japan.

  8. raistlin0903 says:

    I have to say out off all these the one that I found the most interesting is the one about the Inunaki village, that really sounds scary😀

  9. oliveunicorn says:

    Ooh Inunaki village sounds pretty spooky

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