There can be no doubt that Japan possesses more than its fair share of haunted places and ghost stories, not surprising in this land of long and often violent history. I have written often on the paranormal of Japan, and certainly some of the creepier places are off the beaten path, through the brush and trees of rural, isolated, feral areas surrounded by wilderness and a sense of creepiness that seems to pervade the very air itself. Here are some of the more notoriously haunted places of Japan that lie off the trail, and surrounded by both woods and sinister tales.
Some of the most infamous haunted rural places in Japan are tunnels, already eerie enough places as it is without talk of specters and spooks. One such tunnel is located in Fukuoka, on the island of Kyushu. Here along a mountainous dark road called the Inukane Pass is the very creepy, almost legendary Chusetsu Tunnel, now abandoned and not in service, but brimming with activity of a ghostly kind nevertheless. The Chusetsu Tunnel is supposedly intensely haunted, with anyone brave enough to walk through it experiencing numerous paranormal phenomena such as disembodied footsteps, tapping, scratching, wailing, screaming, or a voice that calls out to say “Stop.” Sometimes the voices warn against going any further, or spew forth a string of unintelligible gibberish startling in its animosity. More ominous are reports of hands pushing, stroking, or poking at those who would walk through, and photos routinely turn up myriad orbs and other anomalous lights.
The most popular legend as to why the tunnel is so haunted revolves around the tale of a young woman who was brutally murdered here, but details of this killing are scarce. The haunting is so intense that it is said to be nearly impossible to make it from one end of the tunnel to the other, although as many Japanese YouTube videos assert it is definitely possible, if not a little creepy. The old Chusetsu Tunnel is a popular place to dare friends to go through, and it has become so well-known in Japan that is frequently makes appearances on paranormal TV programs.
Another haunted tunnel in Fukuoka is called the Inunaki Toge Tunnel, which is purportedly prowled by the spirit of a man who died here in 1988 after a group of thugs tried to burn him alive. The victim is said to have escaped into the tunnel even as the flames consumed him, eventually dying right in the middle of the tunnel after committing suicide to end the excruciating pain of his ordeal. Ever since then, motorists have reported an apparition appearing besides their car, and unexplained brake failure is also frequently reported from here.
There are other supposedly haunted wilderness tunnels in Japan as well. In the area of Arashiyama, in Kyoto, is the Kiyotaki Tunnel. Originally part of the Atagoyama Railway, finished in 1928, it is a short, nearly 500 meter tunnel meant to connect Arashiyama to the neighboring town of Sagakiyotaki. The construction of the tunnel has a dark history, with many fatalities during its building due to poor safety regulations and harsh working conditions, and beyond this there were reportedly executions carried out here during World War II. Adding to this all is that the tunnel is said to be precisely 444 meters in length, an unlucky number in Japan as “4” is read as “shi,” which can also mean “death.”
It is perhaps because of this that the tunnel has gained a reputation as being one of the most haunted and cursed places in Japan, with various strange phenomena reported from here. Motorists have reported having ghostly apparitions appear in their car to ride along for a time before blinking out of existence. Other entities are seen wandering about in the tunnel itself, and are often blamed for accidents here, including a rather aggressive woman in white with a penchant for jumping onto the hoods of cars without warning or chasing vehicles. There are also voices heard here with no source, and the traffic light leading into the tunnel is said to suddenly and inexplicably change in order to cause accidents as well. One very strange phenomenon reported from the tunnel is that the length of the tunnel sometimes seems to change, getting shorter or conversely longer, like in a dream where you can’t seem to reach the end of a hallway no matter how fast you run.
Topping it all off is that the area around the tunnel has become a popular suicide spot, further cementing it as a dark and sinister place. Indeed, these suicide victims are said to haunt the surrounding wilds of the tunnel, with forlorn screams commonly reported from the darkened trees at night or shadow figures falling from the top of the tunnel. Even for people who do not see or hear anything strange, cold spots, a feeling of thick dread, nausea, sudden headaches, and dizziness all seem to pop up here for no reason, and the tunnel has become well-entrenched in the lore of places of Japan you should stay away from, with many refusing to drive through it at all.
Equally as creepy as any tunnel is a surreal looking suspension bridge in the wooded hills just outside of Yamanashi. The dark history here involves 55 prostitutes being killed at the bridge long ago, and the name of the bridge Oiran Buchi, reflects this, with “oiran” being a name for a type of high-class prostitute. The locale, with its thick woods, rather precarious bridge, and steep cliffs, is already very scary, but the spirits of those prostitutes are said to roam this place, appearing on the bridge or howling or shrieking in the night, and joining them is the apparition of a beastly, faceless woman who is said to rather aggressively terrorize those who dare to come here in the evening hours. Is this place haunted, cursed, or both?
Moving down south we come to the southern islands of Okinawa, which in addition to being the home of pristine beaches and gorgeous ocean vistas is also home to many heavily haunted locations. In a rural, forest carpeted hilly area known as Kitanakagusuku, a stone’s throw away from the historic Nakagusuku Castle, there are the decrepit ruins of a crumbling resort that forlornly overlooks the sea and is uninhabited except for the ghosts. In the 1970s a wealthy business man came here to build the hotel, and the proposed Nakagusuku Shiroato Kogen Hotel Leisure Land, also simply called The Royal Hotel, was envisioned as a luxury getaway complete with waterpark, night clubs, and all of the trappings of a world class resort.
Even before construction began there were ominous signs, as the local monks warned the business man that the resort was to be built over the site of ancient tombs and sacred graves, and that to continue the project as planned was to risk incurring their wrath. Of course, when have such things ever stopped a hungry land developer? The project of course went ahead exactly as planned, but not long after this was plagued by a series of freak accidents and deaths of construction workers, to the point that some of them refused to return to work. The project quickly gained a reputation as being cursed, and with nonstop delays and setbacks it was stalled in 1975, after which it was mysteriously abandoned altogether, leaving the half-finished structure to rot away and be reclaimed by nature.
Considering there was never any official reason for why the construction was scrapped, added to all the talk of ancient curses, there are not surprisingly some spooky stories about why the hotel was abandoned. The most popular is that the greedy land developer, frustrated with all of the talk of curses and ghosts, supposedly offered to spend the night alone in the unfinished hotel to prove that there was nothing paranormal going on. What could possibly go wrong? Well, a lot apparently, as he was then purportedly found the next day stark raving mad, and later moved to an insane asylum. To top it all off he then apparently vanished off the face of the earth.
Whether this is true or not is unknown, but whatever the case may be the ruins of the hotel have become well known for being just as haunted as one might expect. Adventure seekers often report encountering ghosts in these corridors, and spook lights wandering about are fairly common. Anomalous noises, EVP phenomena, moving objects, cold spots, you name it and this abandoned hotel has it, earning it a prominent place on lists of most haunted locations in Japan and making it a favorite destination for paranormal researchers.
Also in Okinawa is the notorious haunted trail simply called the SSS Curve. Winding through darkened trees it is already like something out of a horror movie, but there are the rumors of soldiers who died here during World War II, which could have something to do with all of the strange phenomena reported from here. Those who walk along the trail have reported being accosted by a formidable presence that incites deep dread, nausea, dizziness, and hallucinations. In more frightening reports there are claims of unseen hands pulling, pushing, or striking out. The walk is a popular one for Japanese paranormal investigators, and whether or not it is haunted it certainly looks the part.
Here we have looked at just a few of the darker, more rural haunted areas of Japan. From spooky, lonely tunnels to murky trails and abandoned, crumbling structures, even if none of these places really have any ghosts or not they certainly look the part at the very least. In a country already bustling with haunted sites, these are perhaps amongst the creepiest, and if you ever make a visit be sure to keep you eye on the surroundings. You never know what might pop out from the gloom.