Japanese horror films are some of the scariest films ever made. Mostly rooted in legends and ancient tales, they present centuries old tested stories that have scared for generations. Still there are few stories from Japan that could be easily made into some very frightening films. Here are just five Japanese urban legends, both old and relatively new, that could use the cinema treatment.
In Japan, even bathrooms can be haunted. Hanako-san is the spirt of a young girl who haunts school bathrooms. According to the most popular belief, she is the ghost of a girl killed in an air raid during World War II. The legend states that if you go into the third stall on the third floor then nock three times and ask “are you there, Hanako-san?,” then she will respond with “I’m here.” If you hear the reply and still enter, you will see a small girl in a red skirt. Other variations of the legend say that if you enter after hearing her reply, you will be eaten by the three-headed lizard pretending to be Hanako-san. Still other legends say a blood-stained hand print will appear on the door to indicate her arrival.
The Kiyotaki Tunnel is a real tunnel connecting the town of Arashiyama to the town of Sagakiyotaki. Opened in 1927 for the railroad, the tunnel was built by slaves, several of whom died during construction. Cut into the side of a hill and surrounded by trees, it is an ominous sight. No longer a rail tunnel, it now serves as a roadway through the hills. It is said to be haunted by the ghosts of the slaves who died while building it as well as the ghosts of suicide victims who hung themselves from the trees above. There is a mirror placed in front of the tunnel to give drivers better visibility while driving around the corner which is said to show the occasional ghost as well.
This urban legend/ Creepypasta claims to come from an old poem by Yomota Inuhiko called “Tomino’s Hell,” originally published in his book THE HEART IS LIKE A ROLLING STONE. According to the legend, if you read this poem aloud, you will be overcome with tragedy. These tragedies range from vomiting glass shards to losing a loved one. I love movies about cursed items, but I really like the idea that the curse not coming from a tangible object, but rather from simply uttering words. It reminds me of Chuck Palahniuk’s LULLABY.
Doing a brief bit of research, I couldn’t find a book called THE HEART IS LIKE A ROLLING STONE. The only Yomota Inuhiko I found was a film historian, who actually went by the name Inuhiko Yomota, and he was born in 1953. So the tale is likely just Internet lore, but still a great concept.
Also known as Kuchisake-onna, the Slit-Mouthed Woman has been making appearances in Japanese folklore since the 1600s. She even appeared in a Japanese movie a few years back called CARVED. But she has yet to make her way over to the US. The Slit-Mouthed Woman was the victim of a cruel husband who mutilated her before killing her. In true folklore fashion, she returned as an angry spirit hell-bent on getting her revenge on any man unlucky to cross paths with her. She will approach as woman covering her mouth with a scarf or mask. She will ask her victim, “Am I pretty?” If the man answers yes, she will remove her covering and reveal her mutilated mouth. She will ask once again, “Am I pretty?” If he answers “yes” or screams, she will slash his mouth just like hers was. If he answer “no”, she will walk away, then murder you later that night. So it’s really a lose-lose situation. Some say that if you throw money or candy at her, it will give you time to run away, saving yourself either fate.
The Red Room
If there was ever a need for a pop-up blocker, this would be it. The Red Room legend is about a strange pop-up window that sometimes appears when you search for the phrase “Red Room”. According to the legend, the pop-up will appear in a small red window that reads “Do you like -?” If you attempt to close it, it will immediately pop-up again. Eventually the text will read “Do you like the red room?”, and it will be accompanied by a child’s voice asking, “Do you like the red room?” Afterwards the screen will go black, and then a list of names will appear. At the bottom of the list will be your name. Not long afterwards, you’ll will die in an unusual manner, just like all the other names on the list.