ghost stories

Japan is full of ghosts: Visiting the grave of Taira no Masakado’s head

Summer in Japan means heat and humidity — enough such that people will try to cool down by any means necessary, including enjoying a few hair-raising ghost stories. From haunted houses to horror films, there are plenty of ways to get goosebumps in Japan, but today we’ll be taking you to the location of one of Tokyo’s most famous angry spirit!

Though it’s not exactly a shinrei spot (a place where ghosts have allegedly appeared), Taira no Masakada Kubizuka is one of the most famous “ghost” spots in Japan. It’s where Taira no Masakada’s head was enshrined in order to quell his spirit…because people believed it was wrecking havoc on the capital!

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One man’s mission to record the stories of Tohoku survivors “revisited” by lost loved ones

What happens after we die? Is it possible to communicate with loved ones after they are gone? And if not, how can we explain the stories of those who claim to have done so? These questions are pertinent to the work of journalist Shuji Okuno, who researches the yūrei banashi, or ghost stories, of relatives bereaved by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

Over 18,000 people were killed in the disaster in March 2011, most by drowning; including 2,601 bodies that were never recovered. Okuno has been researching and recording the stories of Tohoku people bereaved by the disaster who say they were visited by the spirits of their deceased family members, often at the exact moment of their passing.

But reporting on ghost sightings in a disaster zone is controversial work. In an interview with Tohoku-area newspaper Kahoku Shimpo this week, Okuno spoke about the stories he has uncovered and the criticism he continues to face.

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Japanese viewers spot “real ghost” in TV broadcast, get all freaked out

As well as barbecues, rooftop beer gardens, and delicious ice-cream, summer in Japan is time for horror. No, not the fear of opening your August electricity bill after all those nights sleeping with the air-con on, but scary stories. Whether you get your scare fix by going to the movies, visiting a pop-up haunted house, or do it old-school by telling ghost stories around a campfire, in Japan, summer is the season to cool off by giving yourself the chills.

I’ve never quite seen the appeal of actual horror films, personally, and tend to find them mildly distressing, although not in an exciting way like other people do. “Well, that’s kind of gross”, is about the strongest reaction I can muster. I do love Japanese TV though, and there’s no shortage of scary programming here in summer. Honto ni atta kowai hanashi (“scary stories that totally actually happened”) – or Honkowa for short – celebrated 15 years onscreen this year with a summer special that went out on the night of August 16th. During the broadcast, something unexpected happened – and viewers took to Twitter to ask the eternal question into the internet ether: “Did anyone else see that, or was it just me!?”

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