Most haunted places in Japan
Japan is a treasure trove of all things horror, from iconic J-horror films that’ll make your teeth chatter to video games that’ll scare you out of your couch. The Japanese love their creepy stuff, and in a country full of spine-chilling urban legends and ghostly folktales, it isn’t difficult to find inspiration.
We’ve compiled a list of the most haunted places in Japan in real-life, along with the creepy tales behind these locations, for daredevils seeking abandoned places for their next adventure and those who are just here to read some scary stories from beyond the grave. You’ve been warned.
1. Round schoolhouse ruins (沼東小学校)
The round schoolhouse ruin is located in a small rural town in Hokkaido, called Bibai. The school was built in 1906, but the eponymous circular school building was only constructed in 1959. Most of the children that went to the school were children of the coal miners that worked in the Mitsubishi coal mine nearby.
It’s surrounded by overgrown woods, and the only way to get to the ruins is by trekking through it. You can spot abandoned cars in the road leading up to the woods – go figure.
The school was abandoned in 1974 after Japan slowly shifted towards importing coal instead.
Much of the school furniture was left behind, such as the desks and chairs.
There are stories of people who ventured into the schoolhouse ruins but returned deranged, traumatised by what they saw inside the school. Some have never returned.
According to rumours, people have reported hearing voices and footsteps, the feeling of being watched, shrill screams from the woods at night, and even attacks from shadowy figures that emerge from the woods.
One story goes that a group that decided to explore the ruins of the schoolhouse was attacked and had barely made it back to their car before the figure slammed into it and disappeared.
It was once a popular spot for ghost-hunting back in the 70s and 80s. Although it’s no longer as popular these days, a handful of daring souls still visit once in a while.
According to a group of paranormal investigators that encountered a shimmering patch in the school building, the site is an interdimensional portal.
Japanese mediums refuse to go anywhere near the site because of the heebie-jeebies they get.
2. Oiran Buchi Bridge (花魁淵
Oiran Buchi, which translates to “Courtesan Gorge”, is a suspended bridge situated off Highway 411 in Yamanashi Prefecture. It overlooks the surrounding area, which has great natural scenery. The picturesque cliffs and river, however, hide a dark past – it’s said to be the site where 55 oiran perished in the 16th century.
According to legend, back in the Sengoku Era (15th century), the area had gold mines that were run by the Takeda Clan. The clan also ran brothels to keep the guards and miners entertained. These brothels kept oiran (花魁) – high-ranking prostitutes also referred to as “courtesans”. They were prized for their beauty, and you can imagine that they were regularly visited.
Following a lost battle, the Takeda Clan had to retreat and abandon their mines. They didn’t want the mines to fall into the hands of their enemies, so the clan lined up all 55 courtesans on the bridge before chopping off the ropes in a bid to silence them. The women plunged to their deaths, into a watery grave at the bottom of the valley. It is said that their vengeful screams can still be heard till this day.
3. Nakagusuku Hotel ruins (中城ホテル跡)
The ruins of the Nakagusuku Castle in Okinawa are a famous tourist attraction, but the nearby Nakagusuku Hotel ruins aren’t as well-known, even though it’s only 50 metres away from the castle walls.
It’s believed that a rich developer from Naha, the capital city of Okinawa, wanted to build a hotel and leisure park to capitalise on the tourists attending the 1975 Okinawa Ocean Exposition. The hotel’s site seemed ideal – it was chosen to be on the hill south of the castle, and it had a scenic view of both the castle and the sea.
But Buddhist monks warned that ancient graves and sacred sites lay upon that hill, and that angering the spirits was not wise. After multiple mishaps which delayed construction, some even fatal, the workers refused to continue and construction ground to a halt.
The owner was exasperated and decided to volunteer to spend a night in the site to dispel any rumours that the place was haunted. When morning came, he was found demented and was admitted into an asylum, where he soon disappeared.
4. Camp Hansen Gate 3
Okinawa Island was the bloodiest battlefield in the Pacific Ocean theatre of World War II (WWII). Both the Japanese Imperial Army and American forces suffered heavy casualties, with over a quarter of the civilian population either killed or committing suicide. It’s no surprise that a large number of haunted places in Japan are in Okinawa.
Gate 3 of Camp Hansen in Okinawa was said to be haunted by the ghost of a US Marine from WWII. Dressed in blood-splattered WWII-era fatigues and toting a cigarette in his hand, he would approach the security forces at 3AM and ask for a light. The ghost would then disappear after his cigarette was lit.
The hauntings were frequent and the guards were spooked. The entry point was eventually closed because the adjacent gate was more accessible, but some claim otherwise. Some have also seen the ghost of that Marine protecting the gate of the camp from other WWII Japanese soldiers who were haunting the same gate.
5. Okiku’s Well (お菊井戸)
In the era of the shogunate, a samurai, Aoyama Tessan, had taken a liking to a beautiful servant named Okiku. She repeatedly refused his advances, which frustrated the samurai. He devised a plot and hid one of his ten precious heirloom plates, and then blamed its disappearance on the maid. Even though the poor servant frantically recounted the plates over and over again, the tenth was nowhere to be found.
The samurai then offered to pardon her, but only if she’d agree to be his lover. Once again, she refused, and the samurai threw her down a well in his rage.
6. SSS Curve
Very little information can be found about the SSS Curve online, which makes it hard to locate. The name of the spot comes from the S-shaped path leading to it, and one has to trek through the woods to get there.
Reportedly, visitors experience an unnatural cold, nausea, hallucinations, and vomiting. Local psychics say that there’s an overwhelming negative energy, and you can feel as if something is touching you.
Some say that the ghosts of the WWII Japanese soldiers come back to haunt this spot in Okinawa, or that there is a self-mutilating cult that causes the negative vibes. It’s said to be a training ground for psychics and spirit mediums, who try to make contact with the highly-active spirits. It is rumoured that some psychics lose their lives during training here.