TW Asked, You Answered: Have you ever seen a ghost in Japan?

Japan's summer Obon season is when spirits rise to walk the earth. We asked TW readers if they have seen any such spirits.

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We love a good ghost story here at TW. We don’t necessarily like seeing ghosts, but we like to share with others our ghostly encounters – real or perceived. While Japan’s vengeful ghosts receive the most attention from Hollywood, those aren’t the only spirits here raising the hairs on our arms.

The Obon season in Japan is said to be a time when people welcome the spirits of ancestors and recently departed loved ones back to their homes. Since it’s that time of year, we reached out to TW readers through our Facebook page to ask if any of you have had a freaky encounter in Japan (of the ghostly nature – the other kind is a story for another day). Thankfully, our readers weren’t too afraid to share.

1. Night Terrors in Hiroshima

Let’s start with the most unsettling encounter. Kei Em writes that upon waking up at their Hiroshima Airbnb, her boyfriend asked how she was able to sleep through all the commotion the night before. There was screaming. The neighbors were throwing things at the wall, he said. When Kei looked out the balcony, she saw they were on the corner unit. There were no neighbors. But there was a cemetery below.

2. Mongolian Raiders Return to Haunt Fukuoka

The Mongol invasions of Japan of the late 13th century are legendary. While the popular video game Ghost of Tsushima was inspired by the events, these aren’t the ghosts we are talking about. Kublai Khan sent tens of thousands of warriors to overtake Japan by boat. On both occasions, the Divine Wind blew away the invading party.

The Mongols who did make it to shore at Hakata Bay (present-day Fukuoka) were soundly defeated. Talk about a breeding ground for ghosts. We can only assume this is what TW reader Elele Jim is referring to when he writes, “You need to go to Fukuoka, ask people in old izakayas of Higashi and Nishi-ku about the Mongolian ghosts. It’s interesting.” Consider our interest piqued.

3. A Poltergeist with a Taste for Merlot

TW reader Michelle D. says she and her husband were at a seafood restaurant in Iidabashi when her wine glass moved all by itself. “No I wasn’t drunk. I’d only had that one,” writes Michelle. While we’ll let higher powers be the judge of that, we wonder if the Shadow of Yotsuya, one of Tokyo’s most famous ghosts, hopped on the Namboku Line, taking one stop to Iidabashi for a nightcap to take the edge off.

4. The Haunted Hallways of Junior High

Meanwhile, Katie S., an ALT, says she always sees a ghost at the junior high school where she teaches English. The ghost is usually a young student. Recently, Katie saw an adult woman. While we have plenty of follow-up questions, perhaps Katie’s school is the original location upon which the Gakko no Kaidan stories are based.

School Ghost Stories in English, the spooky tale tells of a local school terrorized by disgruntled ghosts after work at a nearby construction site disturbs their resting place. Originally a series of books, Gakko no Kaidan also raised an anime series that has grown a cult following for being entertainingly bad.

5. Alien Abductions? In Japan?

Reader Aaron F. asks if alien abductions count. Hey, who’s counting? We’re a fan of anything creepy – including Pikotaro. Perhaps the most famous alleged alien abduction in Japan was that of Miyuki Hatoyama – the wife of former Prime Minister of Japan Yukio Hatayama.

Miyuki wrote a book about her experience titled Very Strange Things I’ve Encountered (perhaps subtlety is not a strong point for the former member of the Takarazuka Revue all-female acting troupe). She says that while her body was asleep her soul flew on a triangle-shaped UFO to Venus. The same thing happened to us in Roppongi.

6. Creepy Kids

TW’s own digital content manager Ally Hongo reports that while riding her mama bicycle past a cemetery her precocious one year old happily waved at the empty graveyard. Then our editor Nick Narigon, who admittedly gets spooked by Japanese toads, claims that while washing dishes his five-year-old son glanced at him, got startled and exclaimed, “Demon!”

“Where?” asked Nick.

His son, eyes wide, pointed directly over Nick’s shoulder. Then the boy calmly returned to watching TV.

Kids, man.


If you have any more Japan-based ghost stories, we’d love to hear them. Just send an e-mail to editor@tokyoweekender.com

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