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Top 10 Scariest Japanese Urban Legends

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Aaron Cameron

The west is full of classic urban legends and cautionary tales with a twist, but have you heard any of these stories? For this list, we’ve taken a look at the scariest urban tales and folktales, either involving creatures, rituals, or scenarios, from the Land of the Rising Sun, from Gashadokuro, to Nure-Onna and the Kiyotaki Tunnel. WatchMojo counts down the Top 10 Scariest Japanese Urban Legends.

Special thanks to our user Jorge Alan for suggesting this idea! Check out the voting page at https://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Scariest+Japanese+Urban+Legends.


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Script written by Aaron Cameron

Top 10 Scariest Japanese Urban Legends

The west is full of classic urban legends and cautionary tales with a twist, but have you heard any of these stories? Welcome to, and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Scariest Japanese Urban Legends.

For this list, we’ve taken a look at the scariest urban tales and folktales, either involving creatures, rituals, or scenarios, from the Land of the Rising Sun.

#10: Gashadokuro (Giant Starving Skeleton)

Said to be made up of the bones of unburied people who have died of starvation or at war, the Gashadokuro is always hungry. It hides in the woods at night – where it can blend in with skeletal trees – and then attacks unsuspecting passersby. According to the myths, the only warning that you are being stalked by one of these giant stealthy skeletons is that intended victims will suddenly experience a ringing in their ears. If that happens, be sure to high-tail it out of there. Said to be both invisible and indestructible, the only true prevention is a Shinto charm.

#9: Nure-Onna (The Snake Woman)

According to Japanese folklore, this snake woman is reputed to haunt shorelines, and will trap fishermen and swimmers, before crushing them to death and sucking the blood from her victims with her long tongue. She lures her victims with a small bundle, said to resemble a baby. If the victim offers to hold the baby, she will let them live. If they try to get rid of it, the bundle becomes incredibly heavy, and they are unable to escape. In other stories, she just wants to wash her long hair in peace, and will attack any who interrupt her... so be forewarned.

#8: Kiyotaki Tunnel

Said to be cursed, it is considered one of the most haunted places in Japan. Several rumors revolve around the tunnel, including its length. Found in Kyoto prefecture, it is said to be 444-meter-long, equivalent to about 1456 feet – with four being a suspicious and unlucky number in Japanese tradition. However, it is said to vary in length depending on the time of day, sometimes longer sometimes shorter. Furthermore, it’s said to have a particular mirror inside. If you look into this mirror, you will glimpse a vision of your own death.

#7: Tenome

This creature was the inspiration for one of the most memorable creatures in the 2006 fantasy/drama, “Pan’s Labyrinth” - the Pale Man. However, this hideous creature comes straight from Japanese lore, and is Tenome. His name means “hand-eyes,” or “eyes on hand” and the legend says that a blind old man was beaten to death by hoodlums. As he lay dying, he wished that he had seen them to know who they were - wishing he'd had eyes on his hands. Because of his rage, he came back as a ghost with eyes on his hands – and now will kill whoever he lays eyes on.

#6: Tomino's Hell

What if words could kill? Well, apparently these ones do. The legend goes that there is a poem called “Tomino’s Hell.” In the vein of “The Ring,” a seemingly innocuous action taken with an everyday object could be deadly. If read out loud, something terrible will happen to the reader, ranging in severity, from illness, injury, misfortune, or death. Most online versions of the poem are “spoken” via text to speech software. No word on if it is considered safe to read the translation aloud. Even in the digital age, it’s stories like this one that feel the most powerful, because, well, why take the risk?

#5: Gozu (Cow Head)

This urban legend also deals with cursed literature. Allegedly discovered in the 17th Century, it is said to be the scariest story ever written, and that anyone who reads it will die of fright. There are multiple accounts of the story from this era, but only in reference of its notoriety, and that it is too awful to repeat. According to the legend, most of the copies were destroyed, but some fragments remain. One account tells of an elementary school teacher accidentally reading fragment to their students, causing several to suffer fits, and the rest to break out in panic.

#4: The Red Room Curse

One for the modern age, the Red Room Curse tells of a pop-up that appears on the intended victim’s computer. The pop-up asks “Do you like the Red Room?” Even if you close the window, it will keep coming up. Once asked, the unfortunate internet user will die, with the room in which they’re in found dripping in their blood. It started as a simple – if unsettling – flash animation, but the legend became infamous when it was linked to the death of 12-year-old Satomi Mitarai, who was murdered by a classmate in an empty classroom.

#3: Aka Manto / Ao Manto (Red Cape / Blue Cape)

Japan has a thing for toilet ghosts. There’s Hanako-san, who haunts school bathrooms. And Kashima Reiko … but they say once you hear the full story, she’ll appear to you after a month, so let’s leave this be. But of all of the bathroom bogies, this one is the worst. Aka orAo Manto usually haunts the last stall in a public bathroom. If you use it, a voice will ask if you want the red or the blue paper. The results vary, but a common version goes like this: say red, it slices the back of your neck, say blue, they choke you to death. To survive the murderous ghost, decline either option. Do not ask for a different color, as the ghost will send you to the Netherworld.

#2: Teke Teke

This urban legend tells of a young girl who hit by a train on her way home from school. Cut in half, she now haunts places like railroad crossings and schools. She crawls around on claw-like hands, sharpened to the bone from years of dragging, which now make the tell-tale "teke-teke" sound. However, it sounds a bit like an oncoming train, so you can’t be quite sure when she’s near. Angry and vengeful, she chases those waiting around too long. If she catches you, she will cut you in half to make you like her. And if you think you could outrun her, bad news: She’s super fast.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Noppera-bō (Faceless Ghost)

Kayako / Onryō


#1: Kuchisake-onna (The Slit Mouth Woman)

This one is the most disturbing because it feels like she really could be walking around near you, and you’d never know. The tale dates all the way back to the Edo Period. Once very beautiful, this woman was horribly disfigured when her mouth was slit from ear to ear. She covers her face, traditionally with a scarf, sometimes a medical-mask. A vengeful spirit, she stops unsuspecting victims and asks if they think she is pretty. If they answer no, she either shows them her mouth and then slits their face with scissors or waits for them to go home and savagely kill them. If yes ... she screams, "How about now?" and then slits their face anyway. To escape, say “so-so” ... and run.


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