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10 of the Most Haunted Places in Japan

Dare to venture into Japan’s creepiest spots.

Japanese lanterns at Kasuga-taisha Shrine
Hi, I'm Karen!

Karen is a Scottish freelance travel and culture writer based in the US. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, National Geographic, BBC, and Condé Nast Traveler.

It’s no surprise that Japan is home to some spectacularly spooky spots. Japanese folklore is rich with tales from beyond, and this is the country that’s made some of the world’s greatest horror movies. Perhaps you recognize contemporary J-Horror films such as Ringu and Audition, or classics like Onibaba and Godzilla. In the spirit of Halloween, which is always an eerie affair in Japan, here are 10 of the creepiest, spookiest, and most haunted places to visit throughout the country.

1. Himeji Castle, Hyōgo Prefecture

Himeji Castle, Japan
This beautiful castle is the home of a haunting legend.Photo Credit: TAW4 / Shutterstock

Home of the legend that inspired “The Ring.”

Perched atop a hill in Hyōgo prefecture, close to Kobe, Himeji Castle (Himeji-Jo) is a popular day trip from Kyoto or Osaka. It’s also known as one of Japan’s largest and most beautiful castles. But many visitors don’t realize that this elegant castle inspired the plot of Ringu, the Japanese horror movie that was remade in the US as The Ring.

The movie’s plot was influenced by the legend of banshu sarayashiki (The Dish Mansion in Harima Province), in which a woman named Okiku is falsely accused of stealing a treasured dish, then killed and thrown into a well. You can still see the fenced-in Okiku’s Well when you visit the castle today—and perhaps you’ll spot the ghost of Okiku, too.

2. Sunshine 60, Tokyo

skyline of tokyo, japan
The Sunshine 60 tower was built on the site of a prison.Photo Credit: Rick Siu / Shutterstock

It’s not always sunny at this skyscraper.

Located in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district, the multi-use complex Sunshine 60 was once the tallest skyscraper in Asia. Today, it remains a popular attraction for locals and tourists alike due to its city-in-a-city concept, where offices, shopping, restaurants, and hotels all sit under one roof. It’s also home to a theater, aquarium, planetarium, and 60th-floor observation deck, Sky Circus Sunshine 60.

Despite its cheerful name, Sunshine 60 was built on the site of one of Japan’s most notorious places, Sugamo Prison, which held senior Japanese World War II criminals, including former Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, who was hanged there in 1948. The dark history of the place has continued on, complete with accidents occurring during construction and ongoing supernatural sightings.

3. Toyama Park, Tokyo

Toyama Park, Tokyo, Japan
According to local lore, this serene park was once the site of horrifying atrocities.Photo Credit: picture cells / Shutterstock

A lush park with a dark history.

By day, Toyama Park is an attractive, lush spot for relaxing and picnicking in the heart of the high-paced Shinjuku district. But after dark, chilling legends come to life. The park is rumored to have been a training ground for the infamous Unit 731, Imperial Japan’s chemical and biological weapon research unit, which conducted sickening experiments on prisoners of war during WWII. Details of the atrocities committed there are still shrouded in mystery, but human bones were unearthed in the park in 1989. Apparently, nighttime visitors can still hear the victims’ cries and suffering.

4. Ryokufuso Inn, Iwate Prefecture

interior of Ryokufuso Inn, Japan
The ghost that's thought to haunt this inn is, fortunately, a benevolent one.Photo Credit: honu8279 / Tripadvisor

The inn’s ghost might bring you luck.

This ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) in Iwate prefecture has long been believed to be the most haunted accommodation in Japan. But visitors need not fear. Ryokufuso’s ghost is a benevolent one, a zashiki warashi, a kind of yokai (spirit) typical of the Iwate region. The spirit takes the form of a young boy and resides in an inner room where he brings good fortune to the lucky guests who spot him. Although Ryokufuso burned down in 2009, it reopened in 2016, and the legend still persists.

5. Maruoka Castle, Fukui Prefecture

Maruoka Castle, Japan
Maruoka Castle is thought to be haunted by the spirit of a human sacrifice.Photo Credit: Y.OKMT / Shutterstock

A beautiful castle built by a mother’s sacrifice.

Surrounded by 400 Yoshino cherry trees, Maruoka Castle is a top viewing spot for enjoying the cherry blossoms in the Fukui Prefecture. But its beautiful appearance comes with a gruesome legend. In 1576, as the castle was being built, a stone wall kept collapsing. A widow named Oshizu agreed to become a hitobashira (human pillar or sacrifice) if her son could become a samurai.

However, the promise was broken, so Oshizu flooded the castle’s moat with rain every April, which the locals deemed the tears of Oshizu's sorrow. A small tomb was later erected to soothe her spirit and stop the flooding, but her spirit remains.

6. Sendagaya Tunnel, Tokyo

Senjuin temple, Tokyo, Japan
Sendagaya Tunnel runs beneath the cemetery of Senjuin temple.Photo Credit: yoiyoirio / Tripadvisor

Ghostly hauntings in the heart of the city.

Built below the cemetery located on the grounds of Senjuin temple, close to Shibuya, Sendagaya Tunnel is said to be haunted by the ghost of a bloodstained woman with long hair. Drivers have reported temperature drops in the tunnel and seeing mysterious handprints on their cars, while those walking along the pedestrian walkway claim to have been followed by the long-haired woman’s ghost.

Related: Visiting Tokyo for the First Time? Here’s What To See and Do

7. Old Chusetsu Tunnel, Fukuoka

Old Chusetsu Tunnel, Japan
Legend says that a girl was murdered inside a tunnel in Fukuoka.Photo Credit: vichie81 / Shutterstock

This dark, creepy tunnel chills anyone who visits.

Tunnels are a common motif in Japanese ghost stories, so it’s no surprise that this one near Fukuoka, the alleged site of a gruesome murder, is a creepy spot. The story goes that a young woman was murdered in the tunnel. Because her killers were never caught, she can’t rest in peace. The tunnel, which leads to a dead end, is lined with graffiti warnings about the ghosts. Visitors claim to have heard the word "stop" being yelled at them as they walk.

8. Oiran Buchi, Yamanashi Prefecture

Oiran Buchi, Japan
In the 16th century, 54 sex workers were murdered in this scenic gorge.Photo Credit: kazu8 / Shutterstock

Stunning scenery with a sad backstory.

With its steep cliffs and lush greenery, this gorge located in Yamanashi is known both for its rugged beauty and for its gruesome backstory. Back in the 16th century, the area had gold mines and brothels both run by the Takeda clan. After the Takeda clan was defeated in battle, they fled the area, but not before killing the 54 women who worked in the brothels to prevent them from revealing the existence of the gold mines to their rivals.

Many say that the cries and screams of the women can still be heard today. However, since part of National Highway 411 was closed in 2011, the exact spot where the women met their deaths has since become more difficult to reach.

9. Round Schoolhouse, Bibai

Round Schoolhouse, Bibai, Japan
Walk through the creepy woods to visit the ruins of the Round Schoolhouse in the rural town of Bibai.Photo Credit: osap / Shutterstock

Visit this abandoned school if you dare.

Built over a century ago in Bibai, western Hokkaido, Numahigashi Elementary School, better known as the Round Schoolhouse, was abandoned in 1974. The mysterious circumstances and reports of paranormal activity began in the 1970s while it was still operating when a young girl disappeared during a short break. The girl was never found, and visitors to the ruins of the school claim to have seen her ghost carrying her distinctive red backpack and have heard her giggles coming from the surrounding woods.

10. Osorezan, Aomori Prefecture

Osorezan, Japan
The name Osorezan translates to "Mount Fear."Photo Credit: KAZU_49M / Shutterstock

This mountain is a portal to the afterlife.

With a name that translates to “Mount Fear,” it’s no wonder that Osorezan in Aomori Prefecture is a sinister site. Long believed to be the entrance to hell and location of Sanzu no Kawa, a Styx-like river that must be crossed to reach the afterlife, Osorezan is known today as the site of Bodai-ji Temple, where, during the festivals to celebrate the dead, female mediums known as itako, communicate with the deceased.

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