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Guest writer: ★rui#8760

You may have encountered the stories “Bloody Mary” or “Bigfoot” and had them keep you up at night. It’s also highly likely that you’ve even tried to meet the ghosts of the legends because of a dare from a friend, but have you ever heard about the urban legends of Japan? Whether it originated from real life events or is a work of fiction, Japan also has its fair share of stories to tell in the dark.

Most of these stories are passed on online or through word of mouth. They consist of ghosts that can be found in urban settings, where people are likely to encounter the locations of paranormal activity. You might want to wrap yourself up in your comfiest blanket. There’s no telling when jinmenken may show up, or when Teke Teke may stand before you with her notorious scythe.


Hanako-san (Toire no Hanako-san)

Hanako-san is a spirit found haunting school bathrooms depicted as a young girl. There are several versions of her backstory, varying depending on who tells the story. In some accounts, it is said that she died while hiding in a bathroom stall for a game of hide-and-seek during an air raid from World War 2. Another story is that she was hiding from her abusive parents or a stranger in the school bathroom. It dates back to the 1950’s, and children would dare each other to summon Hanako-san in the bathroom as a way to scare each other.

To summon her, you must go to the girls’ bathroom on the third floor of a school and locate the third stall. Knock on it three times, and ask “Hanako-san, are you there?”, to which she will respond with confirmation that she is there. The door opens to show the bloodied Hanako-san coming out of the toilet before she drags you in with her. Who knows where you’ll end up when she brings you with her?

Red Room Curse

You may have had pop-ups at least once while on the internet, but what about one that meant your death? The Red Room Curse started in the 1990’s and was spread quickly due to more people starting to use computers at the time. The concept of this curse is that you’ll be met with a suspicious screen. The screen would have the image of a door with a voice asking “do you like the Red Room?” Further information about the screen is that it has a red background and the question in black text. You are also unable to close it. When the pop-up is revealed, the recipient won’t be able to leave as all the windows and doors in the room will be locked the moment you see the curse.

Days after, you will be found dead in the room with the walls painted red with your blood. The urban legend started circulating when a flash animation of a boy who died from the curse was put online. One of the things that made this curse blow up was the fact that the video of the animation was bookmarked in the computer of the 11-year-old girl who was the culprit of the Sasebo Slashing, the murder of her 12-year-old classmate. Lesson learned: get a pop-up blocker.

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Teke Teke

Teke Teke is the spirit of a girl, either a young woman or a schoolgirl, who fell on train tracks and ended up being cut in half because of a train that passed when she did. Because of this, she lost her legs and now uses her arms and hands to move around. When she moves, her torso drags against the ground and makes a sound similar to “teke teke”, the sound being the reason for her name. She can be found usually in urban areas or train stations. When she finds you, she will chase after you with a scythe or other weapons. Don’t let her catch you, unless you want to be cut in half!

Depending on who tells the story, Teke Teke is identified as a person named Kashima Reiko. In this version of the legend, she usually hides in bathrooms instead of being out in the open. When found, she will ask you about the location of her legs. Answering the question wrong will guarantee you a future without any legs, but answering “on the Meishin Expressway” or the phrase “kamen shinin ma” translating to “mask death demon” will spare you from losing your legs.

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Kuchisake-onna, or the “Slit-Mouthed Woman”, is a spirit that uses a mask or any other object to hide her mouth’s disfigurement. The corners of her mouth were slitted to imitate a smile. She is usually found wandering around at night, and when she approaches you, she will ask something along the lines of: “Am I beautiful?”

If you answer her with “no”, she will murder you with a sharp object. It is most likely to be a pair of scissors, according to most tellers of the story. If you answer her with a “yes”, she will reveal her mouth and ask if you still found her beautiful. To that question, if you answer with a “no”, you will be killed immediately. If you answer her again with a “yes”, she will cut an identical smile into your lips.

To stop that from happening, you can simply say that her appearance is average. Either that, or you can distract her with earthly possessions. Kuchisake-onna remains one of the most popular urban legends in Japan ever since it was popularized in the late 1970’s to the early 1980’s, and it is said by some that she still roams the streets to this day looking for her next victims.

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Tomino’s Hell

“His older sister vomited blood, his younger sister vomited fire, and the cute Tomino vomited glass beads.” Let’s hope you didn’t read that out loud; we recommend reading this poem only in your head, unless you want to be met with misfortune. Tomino’s Hell is a poem written by Saijou Yaso included in his book titled “Sakin” or “Gold Dust”. The poem is about Tomino going into the different levels of Hell. The symbolism of this poem is hard to interpret, and the meaning can change from person to person.

It is rumored that if you read this poem out loud at around 11 PM to 12 AM, you will feel sick and bad events will happen. The biggest reason why this poem was said to be cursed is because of Yomota Inuhiko’s statement. He claimed that “if you by chance happen to read this poem out loud, after, you will suffer from a terrible fate which cannot be escaped.” Most people believe that Tomino was sent to Hell for murdering his parents, or that Tomino lived in the difficult times of war and struggled to stay alive.

If you want to live on the edge, you can find the poem and read it. It’s recommended that you read it in Japanese at the required time. However, there’s no guarantee that nothing will happen to you if you decide to risk it just to uncover the mystery shrouded around this poem.

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If you’ve made it this far, then congratulations: you’ve just read through some of Japan’s most horrifying urban legends! They play a vital role in Japanese literature, and are one of the aspects that make stories that originate from Japan so exciting. What’s your favorite urban legend? Are there some scarier ones that we’ve missed? We hope that this further pushed your curiosity in Japanese urban legends.

After reading this, it may be best to check around your room or the bathroom…just to be able to sleep well at night.


Further Reading/Sources

2 thoughts on “Japanese Urban Legends

    Good job, the article is really interesting and engaging. The language is light and friendly and one cannot help but read more of these urban legends. If I had to choose one, obviously it would be Hanako-San. Heh.


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