Explore Tokyo

Tokyo Urban Legends

Travel Tips — By Jenny on April 5, 2010 at 12:16 am
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From the headless horseman to the chupacabra, every place has its scary stories. With its long and rich history, Tokyo is no exception.

One of the most well-known historical figures in Tokyo is Taira no Masakado, a samurai who fought as a rebel against the government in Kyoto in the 900′s. He was eventually beheaded, and his head was buried in the village that eventually became Tokyo. The shrine that was built over his head is in the financial district in downtown Tokyo, and Tokyoites believe that Masakado is a malevolent spirit who haunts the area around his shrine. The legend has grown over the years, as mysteriously bad things have happened to those who have tried to move or alter the shrine. Even today, higher-ups in offices around the shrine come to pay their respects, and employees in nearby buildings refuse to sit with their backs to Masakado’s head! Now that’s a powerful legend.

A more unusual myth is that of animals, particularly dogs, with human faces. There are rumors of dogs being sighted, frequently at night along roads or highways, that have the faces of people who have gone missing. Reasons range from mutants spawned from scientific laboratories to possession of animal bodies by spirits of people who have committed suicide. Either way, this is one freaky story! Luckily, rumors of these creatures say that they just request to be left alone when encountered.

Similar to the American “Bloody Mary” myth, the story of Hanako-san is one that terrifies school children everywhere. Hanako-san was a girl rumored to have died a gory death at the hands of bullies in a school bathroom, and she still lurks in dark bathrooms everywhere. The story goes that if you summon her by name, her ghost will appear to haunt the bathroom. Because of this, some children still refuse to go into bathrooms at school after dark!

Also terrifying to children is the story of Kuchi-sake Onna, a woman who wanders the streets after dark with her whole body covered. When she sees children, she is said to stop and ask them if she is beautiful, and after they answer she exposes her face, showing a smile that stretches all the way across her face from one ear to the other. Just like Hanako-san, this story is so powerful that it keeps some children from walking on the street at night out of pure fright.

There are some hilarious legends too, such as that touching the red underwear worn by the postman on the logo of the Sagawa corporation will bring great fortune, or that a man dressed in green tights will jump out in front of people on the street and dance for a few seconds before disappearing. Cross your fingers that this is the type of legend you come across if the myths come true for you in Tokyo!

[photo courtesy of torisan]

Tags: Japan, Tokyo, urban legends
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