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With summer winding down, people across Japan are scrambling to squeeze the last bits of entertainment from the season. We may be into the second half of August, but there’s still time for a last trip to the beach, one more barbecue, or a final icy cold beer.

As a matter of fact, you can combine the last of those pleasures with another Japanese summertime tradition – ghost stories – at a bar in Tokyo that provides stiff drinks, spooky tales, and truly terrifying interior decorations.

The establishment is called the Kaidan Live Bar Thriller Night, kaidan being the term for traditional Japanese ghost stories. Since we’d heard it was filled with all manner of ghouls and ghosts, we decided that sending the whole RocketNews24 team would be a mistake. After all, how could we update the site if we were all eaten by monsters?

In the end, the assignment fell to our Japanese correspondent Momo, who you might remember from the day she ate a giant sea bug, or the somewhat more appetizing afternoon she spent at a dessert decorating class. Well, the pendulum has swung back towards scary for poor Momo, who describes herself as the sort of person who once ran screaming out of an amusement park haunted house.

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While the original branch of Thriller Night is in Sapporo, their Tokyo location can be found in Roppongi, the capital’s center for nightlife. Death is the first thing that came to Momo’s mind, though, as there was a giant skeleton protruding out into the basement hallway where the bar’s entrance is located.

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Taking a deep breath, Momo stepped across the threshold and into a small entryway. So far, thing didn’t seem so bad. What’s that in the glass case, though? Let’s take a closer look.

▼ Gwah!

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This is only the first of many severed heads waiting for customers inside Thriller Night. Heck, it’s not even the only one in the entryway, as there’s another being carried by a huge praying mantis. We’re not even sure what the insect plans to do with it, but Momo sure wasn’t sticking around to find out, so she pressed on into the bar itself.

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▼ Oh look, they have lockers…filled with skulls!

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Thriller Night’s unique pricing system is a cover of 3,500 yen (US $34.70), which gets you all you can drink for 60 minutes, with one-hour extensions available for another 2,000 yen ($19.28). This is actually a little on the pricy side for an all-you-can-drink deal, especially when the frightening wall-to-ceiling decorations are already making you want to pee. Included in that fee, though, are hourly performances by Thriller Night’s resident ghost story tellers, so all in all, it’s a reasonable package.

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There is a sofa and a counter, a welcome sight for individuals like Momo who’re brave enough to come alone. As she saddled up to the bar, our reporter spotted another figure sitting alone.

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Being the friendly gal she is, Momo leaned over to say hello, and got a sudden lesson in the dangers of talking to strangers.

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Thankfully, Momo hadn’t yet ordered a drink to spill. The dummy was so creepy she wanted to pick it up and put it somewhere far away. She wasn’t sure it wouldn’t come to life and devour her soul in the process, so she ended up moving to a sofa. It too seemed to be occupied by some dark denizen, but since it wasn’t nearly as big as the adult-sized creature, Momo concluded it couldn’t be that scary, could it?

▼ Actually, it could.

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With seemingly nowhere to run from the terror surrounding her on all sides, Momo finally found a pleasing place to rest her gaze when she saw the face of Thriller Night’s manager. In stark and welcome contrast to the bar’s army of hellish abominations, he was disarmingly friendly and relaxed. As a matter of fact, this seems to be a conscious effort, as some customers at the Sapporo branch have said it was too scary. At the Roppongi location, Momo was able to put her guard down while she was speaking with the manager, at least.

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He was even kind enough to offer her a bit of advice. Once the ghost story starts, all the interior lights are turned off, making it hard to move around. “If you need to go to the bathroom, it’s better to go beforehand,” he told her, and Momo decided to follow his suggestion.

Opening the door to the stall, she found it bathed in blood red light.

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It was a tad unsettling, but Momo figured she could handle it, so she stepped inside and closed the door behind her…

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…bringing this into her line of sight!

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It seems there’s a similar surprise waiting for guys in the men’s room, but its reflection shows up in the mirror, lessening the shock somewhat.

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Poor Momo was completely unprepared for her unwelcome bathroom company, though, and immediately realized she’d been taking in by the manager’s service with a smile.

▼ Truly, alcohol was her only ally.

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▼ A small taste of the horrors Momo faced

Finally, it was time for the ghost story to start. The lights went off, and a video appeared on the wall-mounted screen asking that patrons remain quiet during the performance. The warning seems to be more about personal conversations, though, as shrieks of terror are allowed, and even expected.

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After the video ended, a single green spotlight illuminated the stage, which was occupied by Ayumu Shirotani, a kaidan performer who’s also entertained Thriller Night patrons in Sapporo. He started off with a smile and a bit of small talk, eliciting a few chuckles from the audience. As his tale grew more macabre, though, the atmosphere in the bar changed, with his story now punctuated by gasps and screams instead of laughter.

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After he finished and the lights came on again, Momo took a few moments to talk with the storyteller, asking if he’d ever noticed a supernatural visitor mixed in with the human audience. “Yes, I noticed one once,” he said. “She was a woman with long black hair. But you know, people have said for a long time that having a ghost in your bar leads to prosperity.”

Honestly, we’ve never heard anyone say that before. Judging from the many satisfied customers we saw at Thriller Night, though, we really can’t argue that their combination of spirits, both drinkable and deceased, are definitely good for business.

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Restaurant information
Kaidan Live Bar Thriller Night / 怪談ライブBAR スリラーナイト六本木
Address: Tokyo-to, Minato-ku, Roppongi 5-5-1, Roa Roppongi, basement level 1
住所:東京都港区六本木5-5-1 ロア六本木B1F
Open 7 p.m.-5 a.m.
Closed Sundays

Photos: RocketNews24
[ Read in Japanese ]