5 Scary Japanese Ghost Stories for Halloween 2022

We are now officially in October, and spooky festivities start to prepare for Halloween. Are you in the mood for some horrifying stories told through generations? Or are you looking to learn some Halloween-related Japanese words? Some Japanese ghost stories, also known as kaidan are based on true stories. So dim the lights, get comfortable and read some chilling Japanese ghost stories often told to children, as well as inspired by manga and anime stories.

In Japanese, the word yokai describes creatures that can be in form of ghosts, creatures or goblins. The word 妖怪 (Youkai) is a combination of 妖 (you) which means “attractive, calamity and bewitching”, and 怪 (kai) means “mystery, wonder”. For more information on Japanese ghosts, check out our top 10 yokai list here.

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1. Snow woman (Yuki Onna)

Yukionna is a story about a kind snow spirit that lives in snow-covered mountains. One day, a young man was passing through the snow-covered mountains in search of good luck. Losing his way and almost freezing to death, a woman covered in frost appeared. Usually taking the life of humans that wander in her lands, she took pity on this young man and guided him to the warm cabins, saving his life. In exchange, Yuki-onna made him promise to not tell anyone of this encounter. Later in the years, the young man married a sweet and charming girl called Yuki. They lived happily for many years until one day the young man told his wife about this occurrence. As he tells this story, his wife grew pale, and frost started to cover her body, revealing that his wife was the so-called Yuki-onna. As he broke his promise, Yuki-onna vanished back to the snow-covered lands.

2. Hanako-san of The Toilet (Toire no Hanako-san)

This is a famous urban legend that became popular in the 1980s, similar to Bloody Mary in western culture. The most popular story is about calling out Hanako-san in the school toilet. It is said that when you enter an empty school, on the third-floor toilet,  go to the closest toilet from the door, knock 3 times and ask “Hanako-san, are you there?”. Supposedly an empty school, the door will open, and a girl with a bob cut with bangs (called okappa hair cut) wearing a red skirt and a white shirt will drag you in the toilet.

3. Kuchisake onna

Started out as a rumor in 1978 in Gifu prefecture that a farmer witnessed Kuchisake-onna, this story is about a stranger wearing a mask, asking children if she was pretty. The terrified children would reply yes to the question. As the children answer, the woman asks “even if I look like this?” whilst taking her mask off. By doing this, it reveals that her mouth is slit from ear to ear. This story became an urban legend among children, and as such different features of this woman are discussed. Such as the strange woman wearing a mask, or wearing a long red coat, carrying a scythe, or running 100 meters within 6 seconds.

Interested in Japanese horror culture and superstitions? Read more: 10 Unique Japanese Superstitions to Know (and Why)

4. Okiku Japanese doll

This is a story of a haunted traditional Japanese doll possessed by a spirit, which makes the doll’s hair grow. Dating back to 1918, a 17-year-old Eikichi Suzuki bought this doll with an Okappa haircut as a present for his 3-year-old younger sister, Kikuko. Unfortunately, in the next year, Kikuko passed away from a cold. This doll was kept with the ashes of Kikuko, however keeping in mind that the Okappa haircut is a bob with bangs, the family started to realize that the hair of the doll grew past the shoulders. The family believed that the doll is possessed by the spirit of the deceased daughter, and after some time entrusted the doll in the care of Mannen-ji Temple. Despite multiple trims from the priests, the hair has grown past its knees. To this day, you can visit this doll at the temple. However, photography is prohibited.

5. Kappa (River boy)

Kappa is a Japanese mythical creature in Japanese folklore stories. Literally translated to river boy, Kappas are creatures that look like turtles with webbed and human-like hands and feet. The Kappa wears a circular dish-like hat, with hair growing around it. It also has a turtle-like back. Kappas are generally green and lived around places that have water, such as rivers or ponds. It is told that Kappa swims in water, and drags your feet in the water, drowning you. Though it sounds terrifying, this creature is largely inspired by Japanese pop culture, manga, anime, and the name is used in the famous kaiten sushi restaurant in Japan: Kappa Zushi.

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