Japanese horror stories

Feeling lonely? Read these creepy Japanese horror stories that will keep you company late into the night. Who knows, you might make a new “friend” along the way.

1. That’s not my family

japanese horror stories - coraline
Image credit: Focus Features

This Coraline-esque story happened to the narrator’s 9-year-old brother, who was playing hide-and-seek with his friends at a nearby playground. As it was getting late, the narrator’s family came to pick him up and bring him home.

The narrator helped his brother with his homework and they had Hamburg steak – the brother’s favourite – for dinner. After dinner, the brother wanted to watch his favourite show, but every channel was showing a snowstorm. The mother then snatched the remote away from the brother and switched the TV off, all while smiling the whole time.

The narrator and his family were being unusually nice to the brother, saying that they bought cake for him and even had a new video game for him. The brother, being mischievous, wanted to prank them by pretending that he was in the bathroom when he was actually hiding in the basement.

Their bathroom door could be locked from the outside, and the brother made use of this to carry out his prank. While the brother was in hiding, he heard the police calling out to him using a loudspeaker.

japanese horror stories - the shining
Video adapted from: Warner Bros.

Meanwhile his “family” was knocking on the bathroom door furiously, and kept repeating that they had video games and cake for him. They eventually broke down the bathroom door, and upon realising that it was empty, they headed upstairs to the brother’s room.

The brother, terrified at that point, dashed out of the house and found himself back at the playground where his real family and police officers were present. 

This was the story he told the police officers, who did not believe him.

However, since then, the narrator’s brother always checks the television channels when he comes home. This makes the narrator inclined to believe his brother’s terrifyingly bizarre story.

2. Kisaragi Station

japanese horror stories - empty train station
Image credit: Jisun Han

Kisaragi Station is a well-known creepy story that happened in real time on 2channel (2ch), a Japanese textboard. The story follows Hasumi – the username of the person who posted on 2ch – who was riding the train home as per normal when she realised something was wrong.

The train typically stops at a station every five minutes – eight minutes at most – but it had been over 20 minutes since it last stopped. After an hour, the train stopped at Kisaragi Station, and Hasumi got off even though she was hesitant as she had never heard of this station before.

japanese horror stories - empty train tracks
Image credit: Max

The 2ch users that were engaging with her could not find anything about Kisaragi Station. One user commented that the kanji character “ (oni; demon) could also be read as kisaragi, making Hasumi’s whole situation even creepier.

Hasumi called her parents and 110 – the Japanese emergency number – but the police thought she was pulling a prank. As she was walking along the train tracks in hopes of reaching the previous station, Hasumi heard the sound of bells and drums steadily getting louder from a distance.

japanese horror stories - tunnel with strange man
Image credit: Tim Foster

She eventually reached a tunnel, and when she emerged from it, she said that a kind stranger had offered her a ride to the nearest station. She ended off her last post rather ominously, saying that the man had been muttering to himself and that she will look for a chance to escape.

Hasumi has never been heard from since.

You can access the full chat dialogue in the 2ch archive here, and read the English translation here

3. A shortcut gone wrong

This story happened back when the narrator was a junior high school student. He had planned to catch a movie with two of his friends, A and B. However, B had a violin lesson and would be meeting them after the movie instead.

japanese horror stories - sendai station bridge
Bridge at Sendai Station
Image adapted from: @__t.t.t.t.t.11.__

After the narrator and A finished watching the movie, they started heading to a nearby train station to meet B. A then suggested that they head up to the third floor of the building that was next to the cinema so that they cross the bridge that led directly to the station.

The narrator agreed as it was a more convenient and direct route to the station. However, when they reached the third floor, there were no doors. The narrator suggested going back down and walking to the station from the ground floor, but A wanted to keep going as the footbridge might be on the fourth floor instead.

The fourth floor didn’t have a door either, and neither did the fifth. At this point, the two of them were determined to climb until they found a door. It was only on the 10th floor that the narrator noticed that something was wrong – he had seen the building from the outside and it couldn’t possibly have more than 10 storeys.

japanese horror stories - creepy staircase
Image credit: Andi Li

When they reached the 20th floor, the stairs looked different – they were run-down and damp. The narrator told A that they should leave as the situation was getting out of hand. A only acknowledged the abnormality of the situation, but kept going.

The narrator realised that A’s movements were odd – he seemed to be moving as if he was being puppeteered. A then turned to face the narrator and burst out laughing, repeating the phrase,It’s not normal”. 

A’s pupils were so enlarged that the whites in his eyes were gone. At this point, the narrator ran back down the stairs at full speed. He continued running all the way to the station, where he then met B.

The narrator told B what happened and they decided to go back as they couldn’t leave A alone in the building. However, when they went back to the same building, it only had four floors. The next morning, B and the narrator expected A to be back in school, but he was absent.

A’s body was only found a month later, far away from the building where he disappeared. His body was completely dessicated, as if he had been dead for over a month.

4. The cursed well

japanese horror stories - creepy well
Image credit: PKDN Films

The story of the cursed well is set in a place called the Watch Cabin – a cabin next to the narrator’s high school building. 

The narrator’s house was quite far from her school, so she often stayed with friends or teachers who lived in the vicinity. However, one day, she couldn’t manage to find someone to let her stay over, so she decided to spend the night at the Watch Cabin with a friend.

As they were having their dinner, the telephone suddenly rang – it was a call from the school janitor, who was checking up on them as he was worried. Before hanging up, he warned them to make sure to close the curtains of the windows on the west side of the cabin.

japanese horror stories - visual of well
Image credit: ph by っ

The narrator and her friend went to take a peek at what was at the west side of the cabin from the windows. There was a creepy-looking well with a rope around it, but they didn’t think much of it. In the middle of the night, the narrator noticed that her friend was gone.

The narrator then checked the window on the west side of the house, and sure enough, her friend was there trying to tie the rope around her waist. She then saw a white hand emerge from the well, moving around as if it was looking for something. Once it caught hold of the rope, it began tugging at it.

japanese horror stories - old telephone
Image adapted from: @totstreasurehunt

The narrator rushed to her friend and pulled her back into the cabin. After her friend regained consciousness, she went to the telephone to call for help. It was then that she realised that the telephone was merely an empty shell completely devoid of any working parts inside.

They only found out the dark history behind the creepy well later on. When the school first opened, students kept committing suicide by jumping down the well. The school tried to bury the well, but it was never successful as those who tried to bury the well died one after another.

The school then decided to build a cabin to hide the well, but people would still use it to commit suicide. As such, the school hired a watchman to watch out for those people. However, the watchman himself committed suicide, and the cabin had been empty since.

5. Kagome kagome

japanese horror stories - kagome kagome
Image credit: @HiroshiOns

Kagome kagome is a Japanese children’s game, and there’s a song associated with it. The children playing the game will join hands and walk around in circles around a child who is chosen to be the oni (demon). The oni sits in the centre of the circle with their eyes covered.

The children will then sing the kagome kagome song, and when they finish, the oni will have to guess the name of the person standing directly behind them.

The story takes place on a suspension bridge, where the narrator and his colleagues went for a drive. They were split into two cars – the first car carried his manager and a couple, while the second car carried four people, including the narrator himself.

japanese horror stories - foggy bridge
Image credit: Yannik Mika

When they reached the bridge, it was already getting dark and the fog was not helping.

The first car suddenly came to an abrupt stop. Just as the narrator was about to open the door and head over to see what was wrong, the couple got out, hands joined, from the first car.

The couple then climbed over the railing of the bridge and threw themselves off. The manager was found talking to himself, repeatedly muttering, “Mustn’t go”. The couple was later found dead and was ruled to have committed a double suicide.

The narrator visited the manager after the incident to find out what exactly happened. The manager said that the car stopped abruptly because a girl wearing a kimono suddenly appeared in front of them.

The manager felt creeped out and wanted to run away, but he realised that their car was encircled by a group of children, who then started singing kagome kagome. The children were enticing the passengers to join hands with them, and the couple eventually gave in. 

Perhaps the manager was only safe because he religiously repeated the phrase “Mustn’t go”, almost as if it was a mantra that protected him from harm.

6. The drowning lady

japanese horror stories - creepy lake
Image credit: Vasarae

The story starts with the narrator camping with his friend at Lake Honsu. During the night, they sat around the campfire to keep themselves warm. Just then, they heard a chilling cry for help coming from the direction of the lake.

The narrator looked over and saw a woman drowning. He was just about to dive into the lake when his friend stopped him and told him to calm down.

His friend asked him how it was possible that they could see the woman’s face so clearly when it was pitch black and she was so far from them.

His friend’s words made the narrator stop and take a look at the woman again, who was now staring straight at them, completely still, as if she was standing upright. It was impossible for the woman to be standing in the lake as the waters were very deep.

The narrator and his friend immediately packed up and left the lake, vowing to never go back again.

7. Four corners

The story starts off with four college students who got lost while hiking on a mountain. They were caught in a heavy snowstorm and needed to seek shelter to avoid the tempestuous weather.

japanese horror stories - snowy cabin
Image credit: Paolo Margari

After hours of walking, the students finally spotted a cabin in the distance, and they immediately headed inside to seek refuge from the freezing cold. However, the cabin seemed desolate and there was no fireplace or anything that they could use to warm themselves.

The temperatures continued to drop as the sun set. It was so cold that the hikers knew that should they fall asleep, they would die due to the cold. They then came up with a game to help them to stay awake.

japanese horror stories - creepy abandoned room
Image credit: Yener Ozturk

The game goes like this: each person would occupy one of the four corners of the cabin. One of them would then run up to the person in the adjacent corner and tap them on the shoulder. The person whose shoulder is tapped will then run to the next corner and tap the person there. 

The students continued the game until the sun rose the next morning, and they were fortunately found by a rescue party and safely descended the mountain. 

When the four students told their story to their friends, one of their friends froze, gathering his thoughts before slowly stating that the game they played should have been impossible for the four of them.

If each of them took one corner and played the game accordingly, there wouldn’t be anyone for the last person to tap in the first corner. In order for them to continue playing the game as they did, there would have to be a fifth person involved.

8. “Sleeping Beauty”

japanese horror stories - creepy girl
Image credit: @nikoruki and @alvinwongster

This story follows the narrator, who was assigned to clean up the art room after school ended. While cleaning, the narrator stumbled upon a painting of a beautiful woman, but she thought that the painting was eerie as it seemed as if the woman’s large eyes were staring at her the entire time.

Feeling creeped out by the strange painting, the narrator quickly finished cleaning and went home.

The next day, the creepy painting was missing. Given that the narrator was the last person to see it, she got hounded with questions by the art teacher.

japanese horror stories - girl sleeping
Image credit: Andalucía Andaluía

It wasn’t that the painting was particularly expensive it was a sentimental piece gifted by the art teacher’s friend, who painted his daughter while she slept. Unfortunately, both the artist and his daughter had passed.

japanese horror stories - sleeping beauty
Image credit: Buena Vista Distribution

The painting was titled “Sleeping Beauty”.

The painting was never found. Although it was speculated to be stolen, there were no traces of a break-in.

9. “Open the door”

japanese horror stories - studying at night
Image credit: Rafay Ansari

This story happened to the narrator’s friend, who was burning the midnight oil for an upcoming exam. 

Around two in the morning, he heard a knock on his door, followed by the voice of his mother saying that she brought a snack and asking him to open the door as it was locked.

As the friend was engrossed in studying, he did not want to take a break. Instead, he asked her to leave the snack at the door, thinking that he would just grab it later. Upon saying that, he heard the sound of her footsteps gradually fading as his mother left.

An hour later, he heard knocking on the door – his mother had brought him snacks again. He again replied that he did not want any snacks, but this time, she stayed and screamed at him to open the door.

japanese horror stories - the grudge
Image credit: Sony Pictures Releasing

He almost opened the door because of how distressed she sounded, but his gut stopped him from doing so as he could sense that something was amiss. His mother then started pleading with him to open the door while sobbing, but after 10 minutes, he heard her click her tongue and leave.

It was only then that he remembered that both his parents were at his grandparents’ house and wouldn’t be returning till the next day.

What would have happened if he had opened the door and let her in?

10. The Lift

The story takes place in the narrator’s apartment building, where he lived on the sixth floor. Most of the residents there used the lift instead of taking the stairs as it was simply more convenient.

One weekday afternoon, the narrator wanted to go to the convenience store nearby to get lunch. As usual, he called the lift to go down to the first floor.

When the door opened, a middle-aged woman that he often saw was already inside. He gave her a polite nod before entering. The lift stopped again on the fourth floor and a delivery man got in; they were all heading to the first floor.

japanese horror stories - creepy lift
Image credit: 𝓴𝓘𝓡𝓚 𝕝𝔸𝕀

The elevator suddenly came to a stop between the second and third floor, and they all looked at each other, puzzled by what was happening. It couldn’t have been a power failure as the lights in the elevator were all working.

The delivery man tried pressing the emergency button but there was no response. After what seemed like an eternity, though it couldn’t have been more than a few minutes, the elevator started going up.

The elevator opened its doors upon arriving at the seventh floor, and both the woman and delivery man decided to get out as the elevator was unstable and potentially dangerous. 

The narrator initially agreed as he thought that they were lucky to get out unscathed.

japanese horror stories - annabelle lift scene
Video adapted from: Warner Bros. Pictures

However, the narrator suddenly felt that something was wrong – the corridor was almost pitch black; none of the lights were on. Again, it couldn’t have been a power outage as the elevator’s lights were shining so brightly that it seemed incongruous with its gloomy surroundings.

The narrator then realised that the sky was an intense crimson red, and there was nothing but dead silence – there wasn’t even the sound of traffic, birds, or anything. Nothing about the place seemed alive.

japanese horror stories - creepy red sky
Image adapted from:
Chris Barbalis

The narrator chose to remain in the elevator. The doors closed and the elevator descended safely to the first floor. The doors opened and everything was normal – the sound of busy traffic could be heard, the sight of people walking could be seen

The narrator then became worried about the woman and the delivery man. He decided to wait for them at the stairs, but even after 15 minutes, they didn’t show upit couldn’t have taken any longer than that to come down.

Did the narrator chance upon another world and manage to escape unscathed? What happened to the two who didn’t?

Japanese horror stories to send chills down our spines

Satisfy your creepy cravings with this list of Japanese horror stories; whether it is about a gateway to another world or a train station that doesn’t exist, these stories managed to keep us on edge the entire time. 

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Cover image adapted from: Max and Yener Ozturk

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