Today, let’s talk a bit about haunted houses in Japan.
There are two types of haunted houses in Japan. The historical types where supposed murders or tragedies happened, and rumours spread. There are a lot of those in the US as well. Not that many in my neck of the woods. I think it’s because historically even if a murder happened in some houses, it was too cold and houses were too precious a resource to just write it off and people kept on living in them as if nothing happened. We’re pragmatic folk at times.
But there’s also the entertainment type of haunted house in Japan. In fact, there are a lot of them. You have probably seen school festivals in anime, there’s almost always a class that does a haunted house for the festival. That’s because it’s a big part of the culture. There are even haunted tea houses you can go to for a bit of an afternoon treat. I don’t remember the last time I stepped foot in a haunted house. I’m not sure I ever have. And I think this cultural disparity is really interesting.
Originally I was going to talk a bit about both types of haunted houses in Japan but when I started researching the real-life type of haunted house, I realized that those stories were rather depressing. Not the fun horror Halloween is supposed to stand for. So I have reworked my post to discuss only the haunted houses that exist to give visitors a thrill instead.
Haunted Houses in Japan, the ones for entertainment, are often called Obakeyashiki. Some of them are simply a path you walk through filled with horrifying sets and characters. Others can be much more complex integrating escape rooms, intricate sound design and rained actors. Apparently, there is even a drive-through haunted house somewhere in Japan as well as a mobile one that will come to you!
Obakeyashiki are often, but not always, part of amusement parks (another thing more frequent in Japan). The one considered to be the biggest and most terrifying of them all is the Shivering Labyrinth in Fuji Q. The huge set is transformed into a dilapidated haunted hospital that will give you flashbacks to all your worse nightmares. There are emergency exits all through the haunted house as visitors are often too scared to finish the experience. I’m a little scared just writing about it.
And here’s what really ups the creepy factor. Apparently, the place is modelled after the real-life Jikyu General Hospital. There is a pretty popular urban legend that at one point, the hospital had started harvesting organs from patients in order to resell them on the black market. That’s bound to anger a few ghosts! The entire experience is set to take a bit under an hour.
If that one is too scary, and it sounds too scary to me, you can visit Hanayashiki, Tokyo’s oldest amusement park. It has three separate haunted houses the most popular one being about a woman’s spirit trapped in a Sakura tree that had been cut down for the construction of the park over 150 years ago. Most of them are walking tours with no age restriction so it’s bound to be a bit less terrifying… I hope.
Daiba is a smaller haunted house that is on the higher floor of a mall. The setting is an abandoned elementary school and you, dear visitor, will have to save the souls of the teachers and students trapped within. That is if you survive!!!
Although this is a fairly short haunted house, taking no more than 10 minutes, the entire storyline is available in English so if you visit, you can have the full experience! And for about 8$, that’s definitely worth the scare!
Moving on we have Ifu Musebiya which is an escape room type haunted house. The premise is that the is a small old Japanese house for rent which you have decided to go visit with the real estate agent. However, as you start your viewing, you will very quickly realize that something is not as it should be. The bathroom is filthy and is that blood? There are impossibly dark rooms with no working lights, the stairs creak but not like stairs are supposed to creak. Obviously, this house is bad news and soon, you are going to have to find a way to escape.
SPOILER – A crazed murderer (actor) will actually chase you through the house…
If you are anything like me, you are a fan of Bungo Stray Dogs. And if so, then you are already familiar with Yokohama Cosmoworld and the giant Ferris wheel that dominates the skyline. Aside from said Ferris wheel, there are actually two haunted houses there to give you a nice scare.
Shin-yureido seems to be close to what I imagine school festival haunted houses must be like. But on a much bigger scale of course. It’s apparently full of creepy traditional Japanese dolls. Why are old dolls always so creepy? It also features a properly eery soundtrack to keep you nice and terrified all through the journey. This is one of those haunted houses where you go through a maze in a personal vehicle so you’re trapped in there on top of it all! You can choose your level of scary at the start, so chose carefully.
The second haunted house is called Yureikan and it invites you to explore the lab of the mad Dr. Edgar who conducts twisted human experimentations! Be very careful not to end up as one of them!
Finally (for this post at least, there are tons more) we have the Murder Lodge in Joypolis. I believe Joypolis is an indoor amusement park which makes it a great pick if the weather isn’t cooperating. However, what sets the Murder Lodge apart from most amusement parks is that it’s in virtual reality. Visitors are all given a VR headset to really scare the sh*t out of them and several scenarios are available. Unfortunately, as far as I could find, the scenarios are only in Japanese for now.
Doesn’t this sound exciting? Like I said, I can’t remember the last time I went to a Haunted House, and I am a complete coward. I get scared of perfectly reasonable noises in my own house so these attractions sound like the perfect thing to give me multiple heart attacks. And yet, they also sound kind of fun. Next time I travel all the way to Japan, I’m definitely going to make time to visit at least one. Maybe a short one, I’m not sure I can take an hour’s worth of abject terror.
Have you ever visited a Japanese Haunted House? Was it fun?
13 thoughts on “Haunted Houses in Japan”
Oh man, these look pretty lit! They take me back to the days when I watched a Japanese reality show, “Gaki No Tsukai” and they had one of the cast members stay overnight in a haunted onsen. Love to try one of those one day!
Overnight. Wonder if it’s extra spooky or it ruins it all since you probably get to peek behind the curtain
Don’t think I’ve ever been to a haunted house, because even the Wikipedia synopses for stuff like Black Mirror (which isn’t fully horror) tends to spook me out. I did, however, randomly end up translating on the TED crowd translation platform a TED talk regarding haunted houses from the master of Japanese haunted houses himself, Hirofumi Gomi (not to be confused with the guy who works for Shinsei Bank). That was pretty insightful as far as the thought process behind haunted houses goes (…now if only that talk wasn’t in needs-to-be-reviewed hell, as of checking it just before this comment…).
I think I saw a few YouTube vids about that. The business side is interesting
I went to I think 3 haunted houses while I was in Japan. One was a little one that was part of a local rural summer festival, one was at an amusement park (not the Fuji-Q Highland one, I absolutely refused to go in there when I visited), and one was a pop-up mall one. They were all cool experiences, but I must admit that I scare VERY easily when it comes to real-life horror, so I don’t know if any of them would have satisfied more hardcore haunted house devotees.
If you survived 3 of them, that’s already pretty impressive
These sound like so much fun! There’s a haunted house at my local fair every year, and I always go. I always have a lot of fun! I would love going to these haunted houses in Japan. Maybe some time in the future!
Oh wow, a fair haunted house sounds great
I worked at a Haunted House when I was in high school (in America), so now that I know how they work/structure of scares they’re not quite scary to me anymore. Since living in Japan, I have been to a couple of school festival haunted houses that are usually more goofy (limited budget, all in good fun) then scary but I appreciate the kids getting into it.
I think one interesting thing is that Haunted Houses in Japan are usually more popular in the summer then Halloween actually. A lot of them pop up in July/August and close around early September. Apparently there’s a notion that since you sweat when you’re scared it’s a good way to cool down? Not sure how accurate that is, but it’s pretty interesting to me!
Is it because in the summer, the veil between the near and far shore is at its thinnest?
Haunted Houses are generally interesting. I haven’t been to many myself, but the ones in Japan sound fun if you go with a group of friends. Although it can’t possibly be too scary if there are a lot of people. 🙂
You underestimate how big a coward I can be! I hope you’re right!