Haunted Tokyo Haunted Tokyo

4 Tokyo Horror Stories


2019.08.25

NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR

Haunted Tokyo

Japanese ghost stories and horror movies have a strong reputation all around the world, so today we bring you four of the most haunted places in Tokyo. Don't worry, these entities won't appear beneath your bed sheet.

  • 01

    Ghost Taxi (幽霊タクシー)

    Ghost Taxi

    Ghost Taxi

    A few years after the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake in 2011, stories of ghost taxis began circulating in the areas affected by the deadly tsunami.

    Many of the stories even made it into a few major western news outlets. However, such stories aren’t new. In fact, Tokyoites have been telling stories about spectral passengers since the days of the rickshaw.

    One common tale is of pedestrians hailing taxis and asking to be taken to Aoyama Cemetery. Upon arrival, the driver states the price and turns around to collect the fare, but there’s no one in the backseat.

    As it turns out, the opening of the Chiyoda Line in late 60’s brought with it a new problem. You see, the subway runs directly under the cemetery and causes the souls of the deceased to be inadvertently sent away by the trains, and end up becoming lost. They're just trying to get back to their resting place.

    Ghost Taxis

    Ghost Taxis

    The most famous version of this story says that on a dark and rainy night, a young woman dressed in black mourning clothes got caught in the rain near the entrance of Aoyama Cemetery and hailed a taxi. She had her coat pulled over her head to keep herself dry because she didn’t have an umbrella; the driver couldn’t get a good look at her face. He assumed she was visiting the family grave.

    In a sad voice, she asked to be taken to an address in an uptown neighborhood. Upon arrival, she said she just wanted to linger a few minutes. The driver couldn’t see anything but the silhouette of a young woman staring out his window. After idling in silence for about 5 minutes, the girl asked to go to another address.

    When the driver arrived at a beautiful home in an upscale neighborhood, he turned around to collect his fare but the woman was gone – only a puddle of rain water remained where she had been sitting.

    Perplexed, the driver rang the doorbell and explained his situation to the owner of the house. Without asking the cost, the owner handed him the exact change; the money was already prepared on a small table beside the door. He apologized for the inconvenience and said the passenger was his daughter.

    One rainy night, she was killed by a car while crossing the street on her way to see her boyfriend. Although they buried her in the family graveyard at Aoyama Cemetery, for the past 5 years whenever it rained, she hailed a taxi to visit her fiancé’s apartment and then her family’s home.

    都立青山霊園
    place
    東京都港区南青山2丁目32
    phone
    0334013652
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    no image
  • 02

    The Kubizuka of Taira no Masakado (平将門之首塚)

    The Kubizuka of Taira no Masakado

    The Kubizuka of Taira no Masakado

    Masakado was a samurai who lived during the Heian Period, born into a branch of the Taira clan that controlled Shimosa Province (comprised of parts of modern Chiba and Ibaraki Prefectures).

    In the 1930’s, he became embroiled in territorial disputes and power grabs with other samurai warlords in the surrounding provinces, and even within his own clan. The legend states that he had gained so much power and had launched so many bloody campaigns that the imperial court in Kyoto started getting anxious, so they summoned Masakado to appear before the court to explain himself.

    He appeared before them only to be proclaimed as a traitor. But Masakado wasn’t having it. He took his army back to the east, and began his quest to become the new emperor.

    As you could imagine, the emperor wasn't too thrilled about that, so they raised armies to suppress Masakado, who was by this time in full revolt. Needless to say, he was grossly outnumbered, and in the end he was defeated in his home province of Shimosa. His head was brought back to Kyoto and put on display as an example to all who dared defy the emperor and the imperial court.

    Then things got weird.

    Masakado’s severed head was still as defiant and independent in death as he had been in life. He resented the oppression of the imperial court and his face scowled at the passersby. Soon, Kyotoites who came to gawk at him found themselves fleeing as quickly as they could when they heard Masakado’s countenance grown, growl, and gnash its teeth in rage.

    After a few days, the head began to shake wildly and suddenly took flight and flew all the way from Kansai to his beloved Kanto and landed on a small hill near Edo Bay.

    The locals, who honored him as symbol of eastern pride and independence, reverently buried his head and erected a small mound-shaped grave. This type of mound is called a kubizuka, literally “head mound.” He was also enshrined at Kanda Shrine, one of the major shrines in the village of Edo.

    The Kubizuka of Taira no Masakado

    The Kubizuka of Taira no Masakado

    When the first shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, established his capital in Edo (the hamlet that would later become Tokyo), he wanted to relocate the shrine. After all, having the ghost of a powerful anti-government samurai so close to his castle and newly established shogunate seemed like a really bad idea – even if it was merely symbolic.

    Although moving the shrine was no problem, when trying to move the kubizuka (grave), there were a number of suspicious deaths and terrible omens around Edo Castle. The plans to move the grave were soon abandoned and Ieyasu commanded the shogunate to maintain the kubizuka with its own funds.

    However, from time to time people would neglect the grave. Inevitably, whenever this happened, there would be an outbreak of disease, a deadly fire, a major earthquake, or some other terrifying omen.

    After the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake destroyed most of Tokyo, the government planned to move the kubizuka in order to build some new offices. Once the plans were put into effect, 14 construction executives and government officials died suspiciously one after the other. The project was halted immediately, and the Ministry of Finance created a brand new, shiny plaque to decorate Masakado’s grave, hoping this would keep him content.

    But this would only last about 20 years, because after World War II, the Americans wanted to build an office next to the Imperial Palace (former Edo Castle). This meant moving the kubizuka. The Japanese told the Americans that it was a bad idea, but they didn't listen. Sure enough, more inexplicable deaths and more bad omens occured, so the project was abandoned and Masakado was left to rest as he had for almost 1000 years.

    UFJ Bank eventually built their headquarters on the site, but they actually built around the kubizuka and assumed responsibility for maintaining it. In accordance with the rules of feng shui, the company forbade any desk from facing away from the shrine, a grievous sign of disrespect.

    In 2006, when UFJ and Tokyo-Mitsubishi Bank merged, the senior management of Mitsubishi were surprised by this rule, but apparently not opposed to it. So, after the merger, a special bank account under the name Taira Masakado was established and today the funds are used to make yearly offerings to appease his spirit at Kanda Shrine and to maintain the Kubizuka of Taira no Masakado.

    The Kubizuka of Taira no Masakado

    The Kubizuka of Taira no Masakado

    平将門の首塚(将門塚)
    place
    東京都千代田区大手町1丁目2-1外
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    no image
  • 03

    Suzugamori & Kozukappara Execution Grounds (鈴ヶ森&小塚原)

    Suzugamori in Shinagawa and Kozukappara in Minami Senju are two of the darkest places in the city. These are the remains of execution grounds run by the shogunate.

    Just to give you an idea of how dark it got, the most humane form of execution was beheading. The condemned, with hands tied behind their back, would kneel before a pit and bow down, holding their head over the hole. The executioner would swing down and the head would fall into the pit while the blood would drain out. The criminal’s head was then washed and put on display – the shogunate’s way of saying “don’t do it again.”

    Another fun way to go was being locked up in a box with only your head exposed. The box was then rolled into a high traffic area, for example, Nihonbashi, where everyone could see you. They could slap you, hurl insults at you, and spit at you if they felt like it.

    After two nights and three days of exposure and humiliation, you’d be paraded through the streets back to the execution ground, crucified naked – exposed for all to see. You’d only receive mercy when two executioners arrived to slit your throat. The body would remain on display for 3 days as a gentle reminder.

    Suzugamori & Kozukappara Execution Grounds

    Suzugamori & Kozukappara Execution Grounds

    Real estate around the executions grounds has traditionally been cheap since they’ve been defiled by death and are haunted by the ghosts of Edo’s worst criminals.

    For years, the people associated with that area were stigmatized. The area still gets mentioned quite frequently in historical fiction samurai movies, so its reputation persists to this day.

    As such, these places attract visitors with an interest in the macabre, or people who hope to encounter ghosts. The locals, on the other hand, bring daily offerings of flowers and sake to appease the restless spirits of the executed. The last thing they need is to be haunted by a executed criminal.

    Suzugamori is the most well known execution ground and the killing floor is still preserved. Today it’s littered with Buddhist monuments erected in attempt to keep the ghosts at bay.

    You can see the stone bases used to hold stakes in place for burning prisoners alive. A well known legend among lovers of Tokyo’s darker history says that you can see ghosts if you take a few pictures of the well that was used for cleaning blood off the decapitated heads.

    But you have to take the pictures at night...

    Suzugamori & Kozukappara Execution Grounds

    Suzugamori & Kozukappara Execution Grounds

    Kozukappara is notorious for the number of executions from 1651 to 1873. It is estimated that between 100,000 and 200,000 people were executed here.

    Every execution was carried out in front of a large Buddhist statue called "Head Cut Jizo, meaning that it was the last thing you would see before you died. A street in front of the station still has the nickname "Bone Street" because it was littered with bones discarded by animals that had dug up the shallow graves to feed on decaying human flesh.

    Suzugamori & Kozukappara Execution Grounds

    Suzugamori & Kozukappara Execution Grounds

    Suzugamori & Kozukappara Execution Grounds

    Suzugamori & Kozukappara Execution Grounds

    Kozukappara Execution Grounds
    place
    Tokyo Arakawa-ku Minami-senju 2-34-5
    opening-hour
    [Enmei-ji] 9:00-17:00[Ekoin]…
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  • 04

    Hachioji Castle (八王子城)

    In 1585, the most powerful man in Japan was a samurai warlord made imperial regent named Toyotomi Hideyoshi. He rose through society from a lowly, dirt grubbing farmer to a man who would be the one to unite Japan after a hundred years of civil war.

    While he had subdued most of the country, the Kanto region still remained under the control of a certain Hojo clan, a samurai family who refused to bow down and swear allegiance to Hideyoshi.

    At the time, Hojo Ujimasa was the lord of Odawara Castle. His brother Hojo Ujiteru was the lord of Hachioji Castle, an old school mountaintop fortress in the west side of present Tokyo.

    Hideyoshi marched to Odawara with a massive military force and laid siege to the castle. Ujiteru took the bulk of his army and rushed to Odawara to assist his brother in defending the castle. He left behind a skeleton crew and the women and children. Little did he know, Hideyoshi had sent two of his generals to attack Hachioji Castle while he was away.

    Hachioji Castle

    Hachioji Castle

    What happened next wasn't a battle, it was a massacre. Surrounded by enemy forces, the women grabbed their children and ran to a nearby waterfall in their garden. The women killed the babies in the stream and then slit their own throats so they wouldn’t be taken by the enemy. The water was said to have run red for 3 days and stained the rice growing in the paddies that lay downstream.

    The samurai defenders had presumably already run to the highest part of the mountain to see if it was still defensible. When they saw that the castle was lost, they performed seppuku or fought to the death.

    About a week later, Odawara Castle also fell and Hideyoshi ordered the brothers, Ujimasa and Ujiteru, to commit seppuku. That was the end of Hojo's control in the Kanto area and was the beginning of the end for the Hojo clan.

    Hachioji Castle

    Hachioji Castle

    The castle was never rebuilt and eventually was eventually overtaken by nature. The locals knew the mountain was stained with death and in-turn must be haunted.

    They said that when mist covered the mountains, you could hear the sound of the castle burning. The shouts of men locked in mortal combat, and the clanging of swords echoed through the forest. The scariest reports were the wailing of the ladies of the castle as they slit their children’s throats in the bloody stream.

    This haunted mountain was seen as an evil place, and it wasn’t until 1817 that the villagers erected a statue near the waterfall in order to placate the ghosts. It bore a very simple inscription: “Lord have mercy on us.”

    Hachioji Castle Ruins
    place
    Tokyo Hachioujishi Motohachioujimachi 3-2715-2 (Administrative Building)
    phone
    0426632800
    opening-hour
    9:00-17:00
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