There are so many scary urban legends from Japan. The country has a rich history of ghost stories. Yurei, or ghosts, are the subject of many classic folk tales. But Japan doesn’t just have creepy folklore. There are plenty of modern Japanese urban legends that are so scary, you can’t even speak them aloud without becoming cursed.
This list includes many terrifying tales from Japan. There is, somehow, more than one story of a ghost haunting a toilet. There are also stories about secluded villages, murderous families, women with sharp objects - you name a terrifying thing, this list has it. Including dolls. What, you didn’t think you were going to be spared a scary doll story, did you? Enjoy these creepy urban legends, and try not to get too scared.
If you ever find yourself alone on a quiet, foggy street after dark in Japan, you should probably beeline for the nearest populated place because you might just encounter Kuchisake Onna.
At first, you probably won’t be too upset about running into the woman who seemed to just appear out of thin air right in front of you. She’s gorgeous and demure, wearing a white surgical mask over her mouth. She asks you, “Am I beautiful?” You say yes, because she really is. She takes off her surgical mask for you. Her mouth has been slit from ear to ear. She asks, “How about now?” You:
A.) Say “No.” She slices your mouth from ear to ear with a pair of scissors, giving you a beautiful smile just like hers.
B.) Say “Yes.” She allows you to leave, and you think you’ve gotten off the hook. But when you arrive home, she appears again, killing you in your own doorway.
C.) Say “Maybe.” This confuses her. You run; she’s so flummoxed that she doesn’t give chase and you escape.
Do you think you would be composed enough to trick her? Or would you fall victim to a scissor-wielding maniac?
As if public bathrooms weren’t already scary enough, there’s a Japanese urban legend called Aka Manto, or Red Cape, about some weirdo in a mask who hides out in the last stall of women’s restrooms and asks his victims a question that’s nearly impossible to answer. Get the answer wrong and you die a horrible death. If you get the answer right, you live, but you’ve still been playing twenty questions in a bathroom with a ghost. There’s kind of no way to win with this guy.
The legend goes like this: Red Cape was extremely handsome in real life, attracting the attention of every woman who saw him. He became so fed up with women desiring him only for his looks that he began wearing a white mask, a tradition he continued in death. When you enter the last stall in the women’s restroom that he haunts, you’ll hear a voice.
“Red Cape or blue cape?” it asks. Answer “red” and he’ll tear your shirt off and skin your back. The blood will make it look like you’re wearing a red cape. Answer “blue” and he’ll strangle you to death, leaving your body a dazzling shade of periwinkle. Say something else, like “pink” or “leopard print with feather trim, please!” and two hands will reach up out of the toilet, dragging you down to hell. Say nothing and you get to walk away, contemplating whether that was even the worst experience you’ve ever had in a public bathroom.
Have you ever heard a story so scary that it made you catatonic and when you woke up you were foaming at the mouth? What about a story so scary that it killed you? Well, okay, you probably wouldn’t know if you had experienced the second one. Because you’d be, you know, dead. But that first one is a pretty common experience, right? No?
The story of the Gozu is a legend within a legend. According to the tale, a story called the Gozu, or Cow Head, appeared in Japan around the 17th century. It was so horrific that almost all copies of it were destroyed; those unlucky enough to read or hear it trembled and shook for days before dying of fright. Only fragments of the tale remain to this day.
Another version of the story holds that a schoolteacher was taking his students on a field trip. Tired of their chaotic behavior on the bus, he decided to try and get their attention by telling them horror stories. He had read part of the Cow Head story in the past and repeated that small section to the children. He only meant to frighten them a little bit, but they began convulsing and begging him to stop. He couldn’t pause, though. His eyes turned white but he continued, telling parts of the story he had never heard before. Saying unspeakable things. Losing all control as the children screamed.
He awoke a few hours later. The bus was in a ditch. The driver was slumped over the steering wheel, shaking. And the kids? They were all unconscious, foaming at the mouth.
This story starts out with a tragedy: a girl was accidentally pushed off the platform at a train station just as the train was pulling in. She was cut in half and died on impact. Some time later, a boy was walking home from school alone. He saw a girl through a window. She was leaning on the window sill with her elbows, looking outwards. When she saw the boy, she pushed herself through the open window.
There was nothing the boy could do except stand there, horrified. He had just seen a girl fall from a window, and on any other day, that probably would have been his low point. It might’ve even been the low point of his whole life if he got to live it. See, after the girl hit the ground, the boy realized something: she had no lower body. As he was trying to process this, the girl pushed herself up with her hands and started crawling towards the boy. She was at his feet before he had time to run. He didn’t even realize what she was carrying until the scythe was midway through his waist. As the two halves of his body fell to the ground, it was the sound that she made as she dragged herself toward him - teke, teke - that he heard last.