If you didn’t know, August is Japan’s ghost season. Tokyo actually has quite a high number of supernatural tales and urban legends that originate in the city. So what better way to get in the spirit of the summer ghost season than to visit some tourist spots in Tokyo with scary backstories?
Here are five of the best. Are you brave enough to visit?
Oiwa-Inari Tamiya Shrine
Oiwa-Inari Tamiya Shrine is home to one of Japan’s most famous ghost stories. Located in a residential area of Shinjuku, the shrines backstory involves a fatal love triangle.
Oiwa and Tamiya Iemon once lived on the spot of the shrine. After Tamiya fell in love with another woman, he killed his wife, Oiwa, by pushing her off of a cliff. He was then free to marry his new love, Oume, but shortly after their marriage he began hearing the voice of his deceased wife. One day, he noticed Oume’s face had been transformed into that of Oiwa’s. In a fit of desperation, he stabbed at the apparition, killing Oume in the process. He then tried to flee the scene and was followed by the spirit of his ex-wife. She chased him to the cliffside where he had killed her and the spirit pushed him off, resulting in a dramatically ironic death.
The shrine itself is a rather peaceful place in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Shinjuku. It is open to visitors, many of whom go to pray and give offerings.
Just a short walk from Otemachi Station near the Imperial Palace, you’ll find Taira-no-Masakado’s grave. Thought by many historians to be the first samurai of Japan, Masakado betrayed the Western capital of Kyoto and established a new capital in the east, proclaiming himself the new emperor of Japan. This didn’t sit well with the established government, and he was executed as a traitor by beheading shortly after his proclamation.
His grave is the site of many supernatural occurrences, including the tragedy of the Japanese Minister of Finance during the 1920s, who attempted to use the grounds as the spot of a new office. The Minister and many of his staff wound up dead. The office was removed, and the grave was replaced after a Shinto ritual was performed to calm the raging spirit.
You can visit the shrine today, but be wary. This disembodied head has some serious anger issues.
This one is right near the Breaker Japan office. Oh boy! The Aoyama Cemetery is home to hundreds, maybe even thousands, of individual graves, as well as mass graves dedicated to several natural disasters in Japanese history. Because of its vastness, it is one of the quietest places in the city.
There are some beautiful spots within the graveyard, and it’s a popular spot for cherry blossom viewing in the spring. It’s also home to the grave of Hachiko, the faithful dog who is commemorated in statue form at Shibuya Station. The canine was buried alongside his two owners.
This spot may not have any horrible stories attached to it, but cemeteries are always supernatural hotspots, and one this big can’t be without a few spirits wandering around.
Near Akasaka Palace in Tokyo, a sloped road called Kii-no-kuni-zaka runs near the moat that surrounds the palace grounds. In olden times, a noppera-bō used to stalk the road. Noppera-bō are one of a variety of yōkai or supernatural monsters and spirits that inhabit Japanese folklore. This particular one is a shapeshifter who enjoys appearing in human form and then erasing its own facial features. Creepy.
Naturally, many people avoided kii-no-kuni-zaka, especially at night. There’s even an old story about a man who attempted to walk down the road by himself. Spoilers: it doesn’t end well for him.
Even nowadays, the road is sparsely lit at night. Are you brave enough to wander this lonely slope alone?
Yakebe Pond in Sayama Park holds a dark secret. In the summer of 1925, 10-year old Tacchan fell into the pond while playing. Two other boys tried to help him, but sadly all three of the boys drowned.
The pond, which can be found in Tokyo prefecture’s Higashiyamato city, is not that deep. So how did three young boys drown in a shallow pond? Well, a few years later, some people started to notice white hands reaching up out of the water at night. The story came to be that these hands dragged the three down to their deaths.
It’s said that at night you can hear the sounds of children crying near the pond, along with the quiet plop of hands raising and lowering through the water’s surface. Because of the unfortunate accident, the pond gained its nickname, “Tacchan’s Pond.”