“Am I really alive?”

-Japanese horror movie 


I adore Japan because it is the part of my soul, the missing element of my life, the mystery of my creative spirit. From samurais, geishas to the modern and creepy undergrounds of Tokyo. There is a fear, darkness and life itself. There is all and nothing but I know that Japan belongs to me and I belong to Japan. It is timeless connection, resistant on the time challenges and space limits. Japan knows where I am, so its demons too.

You know about my friend Hoko? She was Japanese, born, grown up and died in Tokyo. I was devastated when I find out that Hoko passed away, without any single good bye. I know that death is more than cruel but Hoko´s death was not only cruel but mystical and secretive. She was only 45 years old, when she had her last breath on the Earth. My Hoko was not sick but strong inside and outside. When there was no hope, Hoko would have find the light for me and motivation. 5 years ago, Hoko expected me in Tokyo but her death was faster as my visit. As it was yesterday, the cold message from her brother Akifumi , changed the direction of my thoughts. My friend Hoko was dead. Nobody knows how and why, she was simply found in her new apartment, without any life sign. It wasn’t disease or murder, it was nothing but it could be everything. Akifumi told me that they wont do any additional checking…..and I wanted to know what was with my Hoko and why she was  not anymore there. I asked Akifumi to read her last emails to me and to tell me what he thinks…..unfortunately, Hoko´s brother has never written to me again. Maybe I will never catch up the truth behind Hoko´s end but her letters to me were, at the beginning, very positive and optimistic and suddenly have been coloured with darkness and twisted mind. Honestly,  I was afraid that she was losing her mind since  she had moved to her new flat and another part of Tokyo but Hoko was not the weak person who would lose her mind so easy. It was something else and I wasn’t there to help and keep light upon her head as she always did for me.

Hoko moved to  Akabane one year before she mysteriosly  died.  That was a northern Kite Ward of Tokyo, known to be retro, urban and active for pubs, restaurants and people who like social life. Her little flat was not so expensive and she could feel herself safe over there. I remember she promised me that we will go together to famous pub – izakaya, demonic Akabane Graveyard Bar, with super show business ideas mixed with horror scenography. I could have imagined my  Hoko, happy and self-confident in busy Akabane, proud of her new apartment in the tall building, behind the shopping centre. It was all good till the moment she started to share with me her fear of the apartment, like it is a presence itself. She was convinced that something supernatural is there because she lost her appetite, couldn’t sleep and live normally. I related all to her daily dose of stress due to the demanding job of nurse, but Hoko told me that her agony is real, almost like an object. She was afraid and I didn’t take it seriously or at least didn’t think it could have a serious outcome. Hoko´s boyfriend, Beniro, the photographer, didn’t like that she lives alone there and insisted that she move to him. She refused and Beniro refused to come ever again to her flat. He felt unsafe and afraid from stealth force that was, according to him, present at Hoko´s home.

Japan has that special aura of supernatural and demonic things that may flying around or staying invisible, spreading the grudge.  That is the main ground of their exceptional success in making horror movies because the feelings they put in their movie industry are not designed in cheap imagination but projected with soul surreal  experiences. If you think only about so many creepy places around majestic Japan and the bloody and sad stories behind them. Let’s start with the Forest of Suicide or Aokigahara Forest, know to be the second favourite place for suicides in Japan. We are all aware of the high level of discipline and working ethic of Japanese  people and the price some of they pay for high pressure of the high advanced society and culture. Many don’t get out of that scary labyrinth of big challenges and expectations and some of them the comfort search or even find in death, suicide   unfortunately. There are so many tales about lost ghosts that do not find their peace but reason to make a revenge. Didn’t you learn that basic motive for scariest scenarios in the Japanese horror is a revenge of the ghost who didn’t find the searched shelter? Exactly that point in their movies is something what American or European horrors will never reach, the formula of real, experienced and compassionate tragedy.

I know that Hoko has narrated me about Tusetsu  tunnel in the city of Fukuoka, and how she heard strange voices but I also knew that she was often attracted to the lucrative world of supernatural forces, trying to follow their traces that might lead her into the universe of shadows. Everyone who watched Silent Hill knows that one setting is borrowed from Japanese Yamanashi, Oiran Buti, the one of the creepiest places in the world, where more than 50 prostitutes or oirans have been cruel killed.  Then there is also one more tunnel, Komine tunnel, connected with 1989 and cannibalistic  serial killer who ruined the body of the girl and left it in the tunnel. What about Oiwa Shrine and Doryodo Temple? What about abounded schools and hotels ? Japan has million and one contrasts and Hoko wanted to learn those contrasts and to be familiar with them.

If you read Japanese urban legends and myths, my forever inspiration and thrill, you may learn that pain and agony are the gods of Japanese parallel reality. It is never accidentally that some demon is coming or some angry ghost is dancing on your door. It is justice and injustice at the same time and Japan seems to know the difference between two bipolarized dimensions.


Long time ago, I was discussing with my another friend from Japan, Ichiro, about the type of message those scary urban legends are bringing. He had an opinion that Japanese culture is based on the supernatural presences and mystical energy sources and each individual is shaped on that basic and primal instinct fear from the unknown.  Those myths are popular, many years after…..and for every field of life, one could be found. If you are in Japanese toilets, you must be familiar with evil spirit Aka Mantle. When there is no toilet paper, he is occurring and bringing you terrible death. The horror story about Inuaki Village makes us think is is possible that there is some place in Japan, that couldn’t be found so easily on the map, where are odd rules of living, including incests, cannibalism  and murders. Hoko told me that there was a little girl Okiku with her doll. After the Okiku died, she came back and possessed her beloved doll so the doll has gotten long hair. The another girl has been damned with her Purple Mirror…and there is never-ending list of the haunted places, dangerous ghosts and playful demons that don’t give up on our world, on Japan.

Among all of them is my Hoko. She died alone and with fear and that is something that will always lurk on my happiness and thoughts about my Japanese friend. Why I haven’t visited her earlier and maybe assisted her in difficult times? Together, we may would  have defeated the shadows from the undergrounds of Tokyo. But, who knows, maybe we wouldn’t chase them away but feed them with more fear and panic. Nobody knows but as one who is not part of the Japanese culture, I can really analyse the situation and offer the conclusion, free from cultural impact and demonological background. Not all beasts come from the world of shadows, many of them are like we, among us.


I love Tokyo. I love Japan. I miss Hoko. Not any evil spirit or urban legend will ever change it or make me give up on Japan, on memory of  Hoko.






  1. Sarah’s intriguing article reminded me of my many years in The Nipponese Archipelago (14): I lived and worked in the northern island of Hokkaido, and I learned of the documented history of the ‘supernatural’ in the various civilisations of the isles.

    I never experienced anything personal of the ‘supernatural’ there, and I understood that many Nipponese people were/are susceptible to such suggestions as the supposed paranormal. Many cultures are (e.g. my English grandmother, a devout Christian, was very superstitious and susceptible to pagan and occult belief systems which influenced the creation of the Judaic sect known as ‘Christianity’).

    For myself, I believe in the laws of physics and that there are scientific explanations for all phenomena (e.g. an excessive release of adrenaline can cause someone experiencing a sudden attack of fear to enter cardiac arrest and die). The neurological system of the body communicates extraneous information (e.g. sound, light and movement) to the brain, which analysis and computes these data.

    Concerning Akabane, Tokyo was heavily bombed by The Allies (a war crime, as most targets were civilian) in World War II, between 1944-45. In March of 1945, the US-Air Force conducted devastating incendiary bombing sorties on Tokyo: about 100,000 civilians were killed. It was the most destructive single air attack in human history. Thus, Tokyo has its fair share of the dead and the horrors that surrounded them, which can easily inform a susceptible mind…

    Fukuoka has a protracted history of violence, also: Mongol warriors attempted several invasions there, and civilians were the main target. Such occurrences traumatise survivors and it is very easy to manifest tales of ghosts, etc. For example, there are several ghosts stories associated with The Holocaust.

    In Nippon, Yūrei ( 幽 霊 ) are in Nipponese folklore; analogous to ghosts. According to traditional Nipponese beliefs, all humans have a spirit or soul called a ‘reikon’ ( 霊 魂 ). When a person dies, the reikon leaves the body and enters a form of purgatory, where it waits for the proper funeral and post-funeral rites to be performed; so that it may join its ancestors. If this is done correctly, the reikon is believed to be a protector of the living family and to return yearly in August during The Obon Festival, to receive thanks.

    However, if the person dies in a sudden or violent manner (e.g. murder or suicide), if the proper rites have not been performed, or if they are influenced by powerful emotions (e.g. a desire for revenge, love, jealousy, hatred or sorrow), the reikon is believed to transform into a yūrei which can then bridge the gap back to the physical world. The emotion or thought need not be particularly strong or driven: even innocuous thoughts can cause a death to become disturbed. Once a thought enters the mind of a dying person, their yūrei will come back to complete the action last thought of before returning to the cycle of reincarnation.
    Then, the yūrei exists on Earth until it can be laid to rest; either by performing the missing rituals, or resolving the emotional conflict that still ties it to the physical plane. If the rituals are not completed or the conflict left unresolved, the yūrei will persist in its haunting…


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About Sarahowlgirl1982

I am a master of Political Sciences, with special focus on Security Studies, Islamic Counter Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction. I enjoy discovering and commenting things which are " in the air" but still not spoken.I also do like science writing and planing to move myself into the pure science journalism !