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Ultimate Guide to Visiting a Haunted House in Japan

By Kristine | January 12, 2021

Haunted houses. Vengeful ghosts. Killer clowns. Murderous dolls. Not scared yet? You could be watching these kinds of movies and go all the way to the theatre on premiere night for that heart-racing experience in third-person point-of-view or you could get yourself a haunted house ticket for that actual horror experience in first-person point-of-view. Take your pick.

scared visitors running away from terrifying monsters inside haunted house

Visiting a haunted house in Japan is a popular recreational activity, especially in summer. Since it is believed that yurei or spirits can cross over to the living world during these hottest months, Obon season has lived up to not only honor the spirits but also freak out the living through haunted house attractions. From July to August, it’s definitely spooky season. 

Whether you want to release that summer heat frustration over a good haunted house scare or you’re simply a thrill-seeker that loves anything horror, this guide has all the information you need to keep you on your toes.

This article is part of our extensive series on Learning About Japan.

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    What is an Obakeyashiki?

    visitors getting chased by ghosts in haunted house

    Obakeyashiki (お化け屋敷) or haunted house is a form of entertainment in Japan, where it stimulates real horror by having horrifying sets and characters. So it’s basically a horror movie but with you experiencing it. Each haunted house varies with its level of horror, and haunted houses with escape rooms have become increasingly popular. In fact, haunted house creators have been so creative that there was a drive-in haunted house and a mobile haunted house that will come to you! 


    Wondering about spooky season in Japan? Read more:
    Ultimate Guide to Summer in Japan
    Ultimate Guide to Halloween in Japan


     

    For first-timers: Is a haunted house in Japan as scary as an American one?

    Japanese Horror vs American Horror: What to Expect

    In order to make the connection between how Japanese haunted houses differ from American ones, it’s important to understand the difference in how horror is perceived between these two cultures first.

    Although jumpscares are essentially common in many horror films across varying cultures, American horror particularly relies on it a lot. This is not to say that jump scares don’t give a good scare because we have all seen the demon in the closet scene from The Conjuring and that probably had many of us scarred for a good few minutes after the show or even more. And think of the tall man from IT or Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre II.  Nevertheless, American horror focuses more on jump scares and gore with plots revolving around psycho murderers, exorcisms, and clowns. Because of this, American haunted houses can be expected to be crawling with zombies, murderous clowns, serial killers, and many gory characters and elements.

    japanese horror folktales that are referenced by haunted houses

    On the other hand, Japanese horror focuses more on ghosts with storylines that go back to old Japanese folktales. It does have a good chunk of jump scares but it’s mainly the eerie atmosphere and the suspense that, for some reason, trick viewers to scare themselves. This is definitely reflected in how Japanese haunted houses were created. From mission-based escape rooms with visitors having an お守り(omamori) or amulet to vanquish all evil to having shoes taken off, Japanese haunted houses do not kid around with horror.

    Having said all of these, it would be unfair to say which one is scarier because they both focus on different elements in horror. In the end, it will depend entirely on the person —including fears and beliefs— to determine which one can nail that horror factor. Either way, it’s worth it to try and experience Japanese haunted houses. You can decide then whether it’s your cup of tea or not.

    A Mini Ultimate Guide to Japanese Ghosts & Ghouls

    These are a few of the many Japanese ghosts that are usually used as references for the characters when visiting Japanese haunted houses.

    japanese scary folktales which horror actors based on when they act in a haunted house

    Onryo

    This is the most frightening type of yurei or ghosts. These are the vengeful ghosts or spirits with grudges, who died with feelings of jealousy, hatred, and other negative feelings that made it impossible for them to pass on to the next life. Usually, these are people who were either murdered, betrayed, or even committed suicide. Because of this, they are powerful and made it their mission to seek vengeance. It is said that despite their powerful nature, Onryo prefers the person they haunt to suffer by having them watch their loved ones die in front of them. What’s more frightening is that even after these spirits are exorcised, their curses will remain a long time on the person or the place.

    Goryo

    This is a specific type of yurei or ghost. These are the spirits of warriors and nobility that have died horribly. They come back in their soldier forms and haunt those people who have wronged them. In worst cases, they will inflict calamity and curses on the family or those close to them. It is said that the only way for them to become peaceful spirits requires the aid of priests that will vanquish the evilness inside.

    Shiryo

    Literally means ‘dead ghost,’ with shi () meaning death. What separates them from other spirits is that they are malevolent beings. They are spirits that say goodbyes to their loved ones after their deaths but sometimes, take a selfish turn and attempt to take their loved ones with them.

    Things You Need To Know Before Visiting a Haunted House

    It’s not for the faint of heart

    Haunted houses aren’t filled with rainbows or candies. Depending on the theme, people can expect variety but it’s always going to be horror-related. Skeletons and a dark hallway. Flickering lights and a Sadako-like character. It’s not designed to make people go ‘aww’ nor is it to make them laugh happily. There are those who come out of a haunted house having a good laugh about it and there are those that come out completely freaked out. Either way, visiting haunted houses is for those that know they can handle it or at least have someone they know that can handle the horror. It’s especially best if people with heart-related diseases avoid it altogether.

    Dress comfortably

    Imagine having a half-dead person chasing you in darkness and you’re wearing heels. At this point, it’s not even a chase anymore. The half-dead person might have to wait for you to catch up. Dressing comfortably is important for many reasons. As mentioned, it could save you in escape-type haunted houses. So wearing comfy shoes is the way to go! Wearing short dresses or short skirts might not be the best in case there are objects that might have them ripped as you run. This doesn’t mean the only options are sweatpants and t-shirts but just remember to avoid tight clothing!

    It’s also possible to be targeted by some horror crew, and what better way to stand out than to wear bright or neon colors? So try to avoid bright colors such as mustard yellow or neon pink. If you want to blend in and stay hidden, wear muted colors such as black, navy blue, or dark green. And an additional tip for the women: don’t wear giant hoop earrings unless you want them yanked. 

    Don’t come alone

    For those thrillseekers that feel very confident in going alone, you can go ahead and visit them solo. But for the rest, it’s best to have a friend or two when visiting these haunted houses. In fact, it’s not unusual for people to go in medium-sized to large groups when visiting. Other than the fact that there’s a sense of reassurance with large numbers, it’s more fun to go with friends! In escape rooms, it’s even strategic to go in pairs as it gives the role of one person to figure out the clue and the other to watch their backs. With that said, some haunted house attractions do not allow solo thrillseekers such as the Shivering Labyrinth in Fuji Q so better check their websites for their rules.

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    Top 8 Scariest Haunted House Attractions

    Family-friendly

    This is a haunted house ride in Disneyland for the whole family to enjoy. The creepy gothic mansion is home to 999 ghosts and ghouls alike. Visitors can expect glowing scary characters and eerie music as background. The ride might have those abrupt breaks so better hold on tight! 

    Duration: 15 minutes
    Hours: 9:00 AM - 21:00 PM
    Fee: Included in Disneyland ticket (see website)
    English Available: Yes
    Nearest Train Station: Maihama Station

    This is a small haunted house attraction located on the 4th floor of DECKS Tokyo Beach in Odaiba. Visitors are tasked to save the souls of students and a teacher who committed suicide. With creepy mannequins and chilling corridors, it’s best for families to enjoy. And its storyline is available entirely in English so expect to enjoy the attraction to the fullest. This abandoned school-themed haunted house might not seem to take very long, but a few minutes is enough for a good scare. 

    Duration: 5-10 minutes
    Hours: 11:00 AM- 19:00 PM
    Fee: ¥800
    English Available: Yes
    Nearest Train Station: Kaihinkoen Station

    This is an unguided walking horror experience in a theme park in Kyoto, where people have to pass through one room at a time. Since this haunted house attraction looks like an old samurai house, expect vengeful samurai spirits and zombies inside. Although this was recently renovated to become scarier, children starting from the age of 3 years old can already enter, given that they will be accompanied by a guardian. Moreover, guidelines explicitly tell visitors to not take photos inside and to not kick actors.

    Duration: Undetermined
    Hours: 10:00 AM- 17:00 PM
    Fee: Adults ¥500 Children ¥400
    English Available: Yes
    Nearest Train Station: Uzumaza Koryuji

    Thrill-seekers

    This is one of the biggest and scariest haunted houses in the world. Located in Fuji-Q Highland, an amusement park in Yamanashi, this haunted house attraction has a hospital-themed setting and is 900 meters long. With new horrifying rooms, this might just send a few visitors running towards pink doors labeled, “retire.” These pink doors spread across the maze are emergency exits that allow visitors to escape if they wouldn’t be able to complete it or if they got too scared. 

    The Shivering Labyrinth was actually inspired by a story about the closed Jikyu General Hospital at the foot of Mt. Fuji. It was said that the head of staff started harvesting organs from surgical patients and placed them into jars. These were sold and the bodies were stored in wooden crates. Whether this urban legend is true or not, visitors will encounter the vengeful spirits of those patients and might second-guess themselves in everything they will encounter inside. 

    Duration: 50 minutes
    Hours: 10:00 AM- 17:00 PM
    Fee: ¥1000/ person (See Fuji-Q Highland tickets for day passes)
    English Available: Yes
    Nearest Train Station: Fujikyu Highland 

    This is an escape-room-type of haunted house in Tokyo with four chapters to play. Visitors have to solve mysteries hidden inside the house to escape. Although there are four chapters, they can’t be chosen freely without clearing everything. Visitors need to complete Chapters 1-3 in order to proceed to Chapter 4. Since each chapter becomes progressively scary, there are age restrictions from Chapter 3 with only visitors aged 15 years old and above that can enter. An important note to remember is that the staff will meet visitors in the station to guide them to the haunted house. Hence, Japanese will be used. Unless visitors are confident with their language ability, it’s best to have a Japanese friend or someone that can speak fluently.

    Duration: 60 minutes
    Hours: 13:00 - 21:00 PM
    Fee: ¥2600 (advance reservation) ¥3000 (walk-in if slot is available)
    English Available: No
    Nearest Train Station: Honancho Station 

    This is a haunted house attraction located on the 3rd floor of Odaiba’s Joypolis Amusement Park. What makes this particularly scary is the use of a VR headset device for visitors to immerse in the horror. For the first few minutes, the staff will guide visitors into a dimly-lit room and have them hear the story. Unfortunately, the story will be all in Japanese but if you still insist on visiting this one, you might get the gist of the entire story considering the special effects and the darkness engulfing everyone’s sights. 

    Unlike the usual Japanese horror focused on old folktales, this haunted house attraction’s story focused on survival in a lodge. It almost seemed American-style because the story started with a group of people hiking. Then, a suspicious old man guided them towards his lodge. Who knows what will happen inside?

    For this attraction, children under 7 years old are not allowed. Moreover, 7- 11 years old will be accompanied by an adult. Despite children being allowed in this attraction, it’s not recommended for families. 

    Duration: Undetermined
    Hours: 11:00 AM- 19:00 PM
    Fee: ¥600
    English Available: No
    Nearest Train Station: Odaiba Kaihinkoen Station

    This is a Japanese-themed haunted house attraction in Tokyo Dome. Gomi Hirofumi, the most famous haunted house producer in Japan, created this attraction which will surely send shivers down your spine! The creator’s unique way of having a storyline that visitors can play along with has made many of his creations successful in delivering a good scare. In fact, this haunted house attraction makes visitors take off their shoes for a heightened horror experience. The mission will revolve around a woman named “Youko” for visitors to escape from the house. For this attraction, children above 6 years old can enter but be accompanied by an adult. 

    Duration: Undetermined
    Hours: 10:00 AM- 21:00 PM
    Fee: ¥850
    English Available: Yes
    Nearest Train Station: Korakuen Station 

    This is Japan’s first haunted house that will come to you! Due to COVID-19, this haunted house concept was introduced as a way to not only scare the living daylights out of people but also to prevent the spread of COVID-19! This ambulance-type haunted house will have visitors boarding the ambulance and experience horrors only those inside can vividly describe. Since this will be delivered to visitors’ homes, advanced reservation is needed. Also, this is only applicable to the 23 wards of Tokyo but other areas can be consulted (see website). Currently, this haunted house is being renewed so stay tuned for a heightened horror experience in the upcoming weeks.

    Duration: 15 minutes
    Hours: *consult in the website's inquiry form
    Fee: ¥12,000/ group up to 6 people
    English Available: to be determined*

    Can't handle the horror? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Amusement Parks in Tokyo

    Handy Japanese Vocabulary: Haunted House Edition

    Choosing a Haunted House:

    In case visitors want a haunted house experience targeted at a specific horror character, remember these words to see if the haunted house plot or theme will revolve around the specific character visitors might want to see or avoid.

    おばけ or obake — ghost.
    ゾンビ — zombie
    幽霊 (ゆうれい) or yurei  —  spirit.
    人形 (にんぎょう) or ningyou  —  doll.

    Visiting a Haunted House:

    Entrance・Exit ( 入り口・出口 )

    入り口 or いりぐち (iriguchi) means entrance while 出口 or でぐち (deguchi) means exit. In case you can’t seem to find the exit and want to ask the staff, you can use this phrase to ask:

    怖すぎだし、出たい。出口はどこですか
    kowasugi da shi, detai. deguchi ha doko desuka
    It’s too scary. I want to leave. Where is the exit?

    You can expect the staff to say these in return:

    そこのドーアです。
    soko no doa desu
    That door over there.

    or

    まっすぐ行ってそして、左・右に曲がります
    masugu itte soshite, hidari/ migi ni magarimasu
    Go straight ahead. Then, make a left/right.

    Take note: まっすく(masugu) means straight, (hidari) means left and (migi) means right.

    Can't find the phrase you were looking for? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Useful Japanese Phrases!

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    Japanese Speaking

    Where is the toilet? (トイレはどこですか)

    This is in case you might have to go to the toilet (hopefully not while a half-dead person is chasing you).

    トイレはどこですか
    toire wa doko desu ka
    Where is the toilet?

    The staff will probably respond through hand gestures so you don’t have to worry but a few words to remember would be: 

    そこのドーア
    soko no doa
    That door

    外で
    soto de
    Outside 

    ありません・ない
    arimasennai
    There’s none

    〜minutes (〜分)

    Although some haunted house attractions have an undetermined duration of time on their websites, they might have this posted in the actual location. 〜分 (〜ぷん・ふん) will help you identify how many minutes the ride or the attraction can be played or visited.

    For example:

    15 50, where means minutes 

    In case you can’t find the time and you want to know, you can directly ask the staff using this phrase:

    すみません、何分かかりますか。
    sumimasen, nan pun kakarimasu ka
    Excuse me, how many minutes will it take?

    The staff’s response will be fairly straightforward, but these are the common duration of haunted house attractions that you have to listen for:

    5 (gofun)
    10 (juu pun)
    15 (juu go fun)
    20 (ni juu pun)
    30 (san juu pun)
    40 (yon juu pun)
    50 (go juu pun)
    60 (roku juu pun)


    Want to know more about numbers in Japanese? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Counting in Japanese


     

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    EXTRA SCARY: Real Haunted Places

    Japanese horror is not only found through visiting haunted house attractions but experienced through real haunted locations or so they say. Since the Edo and Meiji periods, Japanese horror folktales emerged with stories about all kinds of monsters and creepy happenings around people. Many people still believed in these stories while some remain skeptical but whether these legends hold some truth behind them or not, visitors that decide to visit these spine-chilling locations should remember to stay informed and understand the place and the story behind it. After all, many vengeful spirits and evil monsters are thought to be created out of the disrespect given to them. So to the people thinking about visiting just to make fun of these locations, just don’t.

    haunted house real locations in japan

    Aokigahara Forest

    At the base of Mt. Fuji lies a forest that many people enter but don’t come back. The Aokigahara Forest—Jukai—or commonly referred to as the “Suicide Forest” is Japan’s infamous place where many people commit suicide. There are many stories behind it but historically, this forest was where monks starve themselves to death. It was said that many spirits that have committed suicide continue to wander in this forest and those who enter might not get out. This forest was actually in the novel, “Tower of Waves,” by Seicho Matsumoto where a couple of lovers committed suicide. Since then, the Aokigahara forest, aside from its dense nature, is a spot for many people that want to end their lives. 

    Many authorities have actually tried to lower suicide cases in the forest such as placing signs that encourage life and even putting up suicide hotline numbers. Presently, this forest can be hiked but the path is not well-maintained in all parts. Because of this, it also poses a danger to hikers in losing their way. Despite the legends surrounding this place, many people continue to visit (rightfully so) because this thousand-year-old forest is serene. 

    The Round Schoolhouse

    With a unique round form, this former elementary school is known to be one of the haunted locations in Japan. Located in the rural town of Bibai in Hokkaido, many locals say various happenings are seen and heard such as black shadow figures and eerie noises that are too hard to discern. It was said that the once former school was closed for unknown reasons and was later a ghost sightseeing spot in the late 1970s and 1980s.

    Since then, many people claimed to have had paranormal experiences in and around the place such as objects getting knocked over, slamming doors, and even noises that seem just a little bit too close to the ears. In fact, people disappearing without a trace when exploring and people coming out bringing insanity with them have all been claimed to have happened. Moreover, the place is believed to have held such negative energy that even some Japanese mediums wouldn’t dare to come back.  

    SSS Curve

    There are roads that take people to unknown places and there are roads that are the unknown, themselves. Located in Okinawa, the SSS curve, which got its name from the shape of the road, is claimed to be haunted. The story dates back to World War II. It was a time of war, suffering, and death. During WWII, many Japanese soldiers lost their lives, and one particular place where many met their deaths was the SSS Curve. Since then, it is believed that the soldiers’ spirits haunt this place. Visitors often report feeling dizzy, nauseous, and just outright uncomfortable when they try to take the road. Moreover, some people report feeling a hand on their shoulders and even seeing a soldier! 

    Presently, getting to this stretch of road isn’t exactly pinpointed in Google maps as it will take some walking around the area to find the exact location. However, visitors will know it’s the place when they see a large red sign labeled, “forbidden or 立ち入り禁止.” Either way, not much information is known about the place so be careful when deciding to visit because the way to this road will probably have local shrines in the area. This means visitors shouldn’t make a fuss and unintentionally disrespect the sacred grounds while exploring. 

    Conclusion

    Haunted houses in Japan might just be a visit you’ll enjoy and an experience that’ll certainly stay with you (who forgets about getting chased, anyway?). And with each year, people can bet on Japanese haunted houses stepping up to provide scarier entertainment! Now that you have all the information you need, it’s high time you experience that scare (not the COVID scare though).

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