Perhaps stemming from the belief that hearing a scary story will send a chill down the spine and provide welcome relief from the summer heat, August is Japan’s favorite season for traditional tales of horror. At local festivals and in theme parks, the obake yashiki (haunted house) is a standby for dating couples. A few of the bolder ones might even head for the sites of historic murders or hauntings, such as the shrine to O-Iwa, located a short walk from Yotsuya-Sanchome Station on the Marunouchi Subway Line. It is said to memorialize a young woman who was killed by an unfaithful husband who coveted her inheritance. She then returned to wreak terrible vengeance, as featured in Tsuruya Nanboku’s celebrated 1825 kabuki drama, “Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan.”
It’s also time for the weekly magazines to run scary stories, so once a year, just for fun, we spread our net for a few choice examples.
For stories with a modern twist, Weekly Playboy (Sept. 2) features a collection of eight terrifying tales titled “Keitai no Kaidan” (cell phone ghost stories). One, supposedly submitted by a 31-year-old man, reflects on events 11 years ago, at which time he was dividing his affections between two female friends. One was a “serious” relationship and the other a casual one mostly physical in nature.
One day his casual girlfriend informed him she was pregnant. “She said she wanted to keep the baby, and would raise it by herself,” he relates.
” ‘No, it’s better for both of us if you get an abortion,’ I pleaded with her, kneeling on the floor in front of her and bowing.
“With a somewhat glassy-eyed expression, she nodded in agreement. I accompanied her to the clinic for the procedure, but she never spoke so much as one word to me the entire day. Afterward, we split up, and about six years ago I married my ‘serious’ girlfriend.
“After that, without fail on the morning of Sept. 4 every year — the date she underwent the abortion — my cell phone would start receiving messages, arriving about five minutes apart. The sender’s ID was always ‘The rejected woman’ and each message read the same: ‘It hurt terribly. I’ll never forget that pain. And I won’t forgive you.’ Several dozen would arrive in the course of the day.”
Each mail also contained a link to a site that contained the audio of a baby crying.
The man’s efforts to block the sender proved futile. Repeated changes of his email address were likewise unsuccessful — her aggrieved messages kept arriving like clockwork, every Sept. 4.
“I haven’t the courage to reply to her mail,” he confesses, shuddering in anticipation of their next impending arrival … just 10 days from now.
Shukan Taishu (Aug. 12), meanwhile, served up several pages of ero-gowai hanashi (erotic and scary stories).
One was about a 28-year-old man named Keisuke who met a gal named Reimi at a party. They dated several times, and finally decided to become better acquainted at a love hotel.
“There was something creepy about her that I couldn’t quite figure out,” Keisuke relates. “But she had a big, voluptuous body that commanded my attention.”
Once in the hotel room, Reimi turned to him and said, “Actually, I’ve got paranormal powers, so it’s possible something weird might happen.” But by this time, being a red-blooded male, Keisuke’s lizard brain had taken over and he gave little heed to her warning, replying, “Daijobu” (no problem or never mind).
Reimi, however, was not exaggerating. The two disrobed, headed for the bathtub, and were soon engaged in sudsy mutual frolic when the lights in the room suddenly blacked out. Then they came back on. This occurred several times in succession.
When they moved to the bed, Keisuke heard heavy footfall of someone walking past in the corridor. But when he opened the door and looked out, not a single person was there.
Then scant moments after the two began to snuggle, the bed began to emit a distinct rattling noise, which increased in volume, and began to shake violently. In a panic, Keisuke grabbed his cell phone, logging on to the Meteorological Agency’s site to see if a large earthquake hadn’t just occurred.
While they were in the throes of passion, Reimi began to sob. “This happens every time I start to make love to a man,” she blurted.
Needless to say, those special effects put a damper on any further displays of affection from Keisuke.
The animal passions of the human heart, the writer concludes, may be more fearsome than any malignant spirit.
Shukan Taishu uses the article to tout a new book from its publisher, Fushosha, titled “Haikin ga Kotta Kowasugiru Shinrei Taiken” (“Really Scary Paranormal Experiences That Will Chill Your Spine,” ¥630), which comes bundled with a 125-minute long DVD.
Publisher Million Shuppan, meanwhile, put on sale a 130-page magazine titled “Manga-Anime no Kowai Hanashi” (“Scary Stories from Comics and Cartoons,” ¥600), which features accounts of strange happenings about the late cartoonist Osamu Tezuka and animated filmaker Hayao Miyazaki, among others. Also earlier this month, popular thriller author Miyuki Miyabe released a paperback titled “Miyabe Miyuki no Edo Kaidan Sampo,” (by Chukei Shuppan, ¥690) in which she takes readers on a walking tour of famous haunted spots in old parts of Tokyo.