Five Japanese Urban Legends to Keep You Up at Night

November 3, 2014 | 2509 Visits

Halloween is here again, and most countries have urban legends or ghost stories that may spook those who are weak at heart. Over the years, Japan has been known for their haunts and horrors, and the world knows them best for their spooktacular movies! Many of the films are based on stories that have been around for years. Here are some that may provide some chills!


The Lady in the Water
Originating in Kyudu but with sightings in Fukushima and Niigata, the nure-onna or “wet woman” haunts the shores thirsting for blood.

The serpent woman gets her name from her wet appearance, but her forked-tongue, serpent eyes, and snake-like body may distract you from her wetness as she uses her trickery to harness her prey.

As the legend goes, nure-onna appears to be in distress either by looking like she’s drowning or appealing for help with what appears to be a baby bundled in a blanket. Her distress attracts a passerby who agrees to assist her. As the person comes forward, she wraps him with her tail or hands him the “infant”; the infant becomes heavy, immobilizing the victim as nure-onna drains the blood from his body with her tongue.

When in Japan, stay away from the water because if you run into a young woman who wants to hand you her child, you might become nure-onna’s next victim!


 “Are you there, Hanako-san?”
According to this urban legend, if you’re in an elementary school washroom, you can summon the child Hanako.

If you’re courageous enough to call upon Hanako, step inside the school bathroom and go to the third stall, knock three times, and politely ask “Are you there, Hanako-san?” If she responds with “Yes, I am here,” you may push open the door to reveal a little girl sporting a bob cut and a red World War II-era school uniform. If you keep your fear in check, she’ll disappear and let you go, otherwise, you risk being pulled into the toilet to join her in death!

There are other stories involving toilets including the tale of Kashima Reiko where a female ghost without legs asks for her legs.

Another story involves Aoi Manto. He asks bathroom users if they want a red cup or a blue cup. If a person says “red cup,” he or she will be slashed in the neck and back. If someone says blue cup, they will be killed by hanging.


“Am I pretty?”
If you’re a child walking alone at night and you come across a young woman in a surgical mask, you better hope she’s not Kuchisake-onna, or the “slit-mouth woman.” If she approaches you and asks if she’s pretty, you better think of an escape plan… or can you escape?

As the story goes, Kuchisake approaches children to ask if they think she’s pretty. If the child says “no,” Kuchisake stabs him to death with scissors. If the child says “yes,” she removes her mask to reveal her slashed mouth and asks “am I pretty even now?” If the child says “no,” Kuchisake chops her in half. If the answer is “yes,” the child’s mouth is slashed from ear-to-ear before Kuchisake disappears into the night.

No matter what, you’re doomed.

And don’t bother running before you answer her questions because she will follow you!
However, some versions of the tale suggest if you ask her if she thinks you’re pretty or tell her she’s average-looking, it will confuse her, giving you an opportunity to flee.


Cut in Two
If you hear a distinct scratching sound while wandering around at night, run and don’t question why you are running!
The beautiful young ghost Teke Teke is named for the scratching sound that accompanies her as she uses her hands to drag herself toward an unsuspecting victim. If you cannot outrun her, prepare to be sliced in half and become a Teke

Teke ghost too!

Why is she so cranky? The young lady was walking home one night and fell on the railroad tracks. As she fell, a train came and cut her in half. Now she wanders around looking for revenge.


Keep Moo-ving

According to urban folklore, the cow head story is so scary, no one really knows what the story’s about! Anyone who tries to tell the story either dies or suffers from strange illnesses or loses their memory.

One story that’s been passed around involves a bus full of children listening to their teacher tell the cow head story.

As he continued, he became entranced and more emphatic. Then, the next thing anyone knew, the bus crashed and the children were lying around twitching and foaming at the mouth. Rescuers were able to snap them out of their trance, but no one remembers what happened or anything about the story.

Apparently, cow heads possess strange powers.

What other strange urban legends and ghost stories have you heard from Japan? Share with us in the comments!


 Joelle Halon

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