Japan is well known for its horror movies, like The Ring, One Missed Call, and Ju-on. What people have yet to discover are the many inspirations for these stories, may it be true stories, tales passed down from generations, or places where terrifying events have taken place. Smiles brings to you today the Top five (5) haunted places we suggest that you go visit in Japan. Experience places where darkness lurks in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Table of contents
1. Aokigahara Forest – The Suicide Forest
Location: Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan
Aokigahara Forest, famously known as the suicide forest. It is located at the foot of one of the most beautiful mountains in the world, Mt. Fuji. Historically, it is said that Aokighara forest was a place where monks would go to starve themselves to death. Others say it was also used to practice ‘ubatse’ or the practice of leaving old women to die in the forest. In modern days, it is known to be the go-to forest for those who want to commit suicide.
According to Japanese folklore, those who have committed suicide in the forest continue to wander through the trees. It is said that they continue to invite others to share in their same fate.
People have reported hearing terrifying screams and shrieks when in the depths of the forest. Some hikers are brave enough to trek through the forest. Be warned! Compasses and GPS often do not work in this area, it is believed that there are high iron deposits in the soil because of the volcanic ground. Some hikers would use tape and string it along behind them to make sure they can find their way back, but there have been stories of people having their tape deliberately cut, leaving the hikers lost in the woods only to find their own way back out of the forest that seems to want to keep them in.
Stories would talk about how it could have been the previous ghosts of those that have committed suicide or demons of the forest that have made these grounds for collecting souls, whatever it is – if you decide to trek this forest make sure to be ready for what may await you.
2. Old Inunaki Tunnel
Location: Old Chusetsu Tunnel, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan
Old Inunaki Tunnel has quite a few stories being told about it. The legend of the tunnel and village were inspirations for the film Howling Village (犬鳴村) by the creator of Ju-on, Takashi Shimizu. They say it got its name from the Inunaki Village, but there is a valley that is also named Inunaki. People say that the village was founded during the Edo period and that the villagers made pottery and cast steel. Coal mining then became a new form of labor in the area and they had the Inunaki-gobekkan castle in 1865. After this they built the Inunaki Dam, and it is said that the village was abandoned and the residents moved to a nearby village. This abandoned village has been the source of the eerie stories that people have told about the tunnel.
They say a young couple once drove up Mount Inunaki and were passing by the Inunaki Tunnel, but suddenly the car’s engine malfunctioned and they ended up needing to walk to find help. After walking for a while, the couple saw a sign “The Constitution of Japan no longer applies after this point”. The road was difficult but they ended up at the abandoned village. The couple was never able to leave the village. If you go to the Inunaki Tunnel, you may find the abandoned car covered in moss.
The creepy tales about this tunnel do not end there, it gets gruesome from here. Several murders have also taken place at this tunnel. Its secluded design makes it a place for unlawful deeds to happen. One murder story is about a young girl who was never laid to rest and because of this, she has been haunting the tunnel. A soul that is tortured to remain in the tunnel and has been making her presence known to those who enter it. Previous visitors of the tunnel say you can hear whispering, murmurs and maybe the faint sound of someone saying the words “stop”. All warnings from the beyond telling you to avoid and leave the place. Those who love haunted adventures have dared to visit this tunnel, they have been witnesses to experiences of poking and shoving.
Another story of murder had happened at Inunaki tunnel was about a factory worker who was abducted and tortured by five young thieves who wanted to steal his car. They burned him to death with gasoline whilst inside the tunnel. The murderers were arrested and sentenced to life in prison. What a terrible fate has befallen people at this tunnel. It has now been shut on both ends. So visitors can no longer enter through this old Inunaki Tunnel. To this day, despite it being closed up, locals say electronic devices and cars break down around the tunnel, and you can hear the sound of dogs barking and growling, maybe even hear a screech coming from the belly of the tunnel’s darkness. Be careful when you visit this tunnel, it seems to come with a lot of misfortune for those who go near it.
3. Oiran Buchi
Location: Highway 411, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan
The story behind this gorge or waterfall called Oiran Buchi is one pushed by evil intentions. During the time of constant civil war, the Sengoku Period, one of the High Families was the Takeda clan. This clan benefited greatly from the gold they took from the mines.
The miners were working in this area and just like in most mining towns the prevalence of prostitution therefore brothels were present. After the Battle of Nagashino, the Takeda clan had planned to leave the area. A large platform was constructed over the Yanagizawa River. The prostitutes were then invited to practice a dance for the farewell party on top of the platform. As they were dancing, the soldiers hacked the vines that held the platform up. Fifty-five lives were lost that day. The women fell into the gorge, and though some were killed during the initial fall, the others that survived the fall were killed once they went over the waterfall. The bodies were found downstream by Tabayama villagers. Later on, a monument in memory of the victims was built.
It is said that the Takeda clan had used female ninjas to help gather information about their allies. This meant that they kept secrets that the Takeda clan wanted to greatly protect. The ninjas had information about the mines, the clan and their enemies. The planned killing of the prostitutes may actually have been a plot to cover the female ninjas of the Takeda clan. Whatever the true reason for the mass murder, it had left sounds of wailing and crying at the gorge.
Sudden deaths like this cause spirits to imprint on an area. Most paranormal activity that has been reported about the Oiran Buchi has occurred at night. The most common being screams, but there have been experiences of people hearing singing on the bridge. Possibly remnants from the memory of moments before their fall to their deaths.
We advise that you visit the bridge during the day and if you are a man, be extra careful! These vengeful spirits may want you to experience their very same fate. An additional warning for those that visit Oiran Buchi, try not to read the entire sign. According to legend, if you read it till the end then a curse will be placed upon the reader.
4. Okiku’s Well
Location: Himeji, Hyōgo Prefecture
The story behind the ghost that haunts Okiku’s Well is about a servant maid that had met an unfortunate ending into the depths of a well. There are many versions of this story, all about how she is maltreated and it leads to her death. It was mainly a story about love that led to tragedy.
Okiku, a servant maid, was in love with a brave warrior, Kinugasa Motonobu. She was the servant of Aoyama Tetsuzan, an influential samurai who as the regent of the ruler of the Castle, Lord Norimoto. Aoyama Tetsuzan planned to seize the castle so that he could rule. Okiku knew of this plan and informed her lover, Kinugasa Motonobu. Kinugasa Motonobu then informed Lord Norimoto. Lord Norimoto was able to escape before the attack happened. Aoyama Tetsuzan knew it was Okiku who had divulged his plan.
He had an accomplice to this plan, his name was Danshirō. Danshirō was known to be a selfish and conniving man. They were about to punish her for ruining their plan. But Danshirō wanted to use this opportunity for his own personal gain. He was so enamored by her beauty that he planned to use this as a way to get her to marry him. He blackmailed her by saying that she will be given mercy if she chooses to marry him. Okiku was deeply in love with Kinugasa Motonobu, so she declined his proposal.
Being a man and not understanding that no means no, he does not give up. He then steals a plate from 10 valuable heirloom plates of the Aoyama family. He then tries to manipulate her again. Tells her that the family will blame her for the lost plate since she is just a servant. Taking his chance, he proposes to her again, receiving yet another rejection. She would rather die than marry him. Rage overtakes his body and swiftly he kills her. He then takes her dead body to the well to conceal the murder that just took place.
Till this day, the well is there at Himeji Castle. They say if you stand close to the well and listen carefully you can hear a woman’s whisper counting one to nine, over and over again. Her soul is still restlessly looking for the tenth plate.
5. Round Schoolhouse
Location: Bibai, Hokkaido
The last, but definitely not the least haunted place on the list is the Round Schoolhouse in Hokkaido. It was built in 1906 with a circular design. It was used as a school from the 1940s to the 1970s. For unknown reasons, it was shut down and left abandoned. The roads leading up to the school have been covered by the forest surrounding it, so the only way to get to the school now is by foot.
Locals have witnessed mysterious lights, shadowy figures, and screams from the woods. Legend has it that children who had gone to play in the woods would end up never returning. Mediums have said that there is an overwhelming negative spiritual energy in the area. Many refuse to go back. Even those that come to explore the abandoned building end up disappearing without a trace. There have been abandoned cars whose owners never returned. There are also those that have come back from the visit and have become completely insane. Claiming that the cause of this insanity was whatever they had witnessed during their visit.
It has all the makings of a horror movie you can find in this building. A group of visitors shared that they felt the unsettling cold and shadows following them. Not long after the paranormal activity would escalate quickly, such as items being knocked over, doors slamming shut, and invisible entities.
It is claimed that there is a vortex or inter-dimensional doorway within the Round Schoolhouse. Eyewitnesses have claimed to have seen a sort of glimmering portal to a different dimension. Think twice before you visit this haunted place. It comes with risks and thrills of finding something out of this world.
That sums up the list of the most haunted places in Japan according to Smiles. Smiles loves to keep people happy and if spooky adventures are your thing, try planning a visit to the haunted places we listed above! Enjoy your visit but also keep in mind all the warnings we mentioned in the article. Share your spine chilling stories with us by commenting it down below. We would love to hear the experiences you have had at these places.