Haunted Tokyo Tours

Haunted Tokyo Tours

It makes sense that Tokyo should be haunted. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, what you've got here is a vast sprawl of humanity, and those not busy being born are busy dying (as a curly-haired man once said), often in the kind of violent and traumatic ways that experts on the paranormal claim promote supernatural vengeance. For centuries, Tokyo has suffered earthquakes, fire bombing, mass suicides and other forms of liberal blood letting - you'd almost expect every street to have a ghoul of its own. 

Most self-respecting cities respond to their local hauntings in the only sensible way possible: by making money out of them. London, New York, old York — each have a dedicated ghost walking tour. It's actually surprising that it's taken Tokyo so long to catch on, but with the arrival last year of Haunted Tokyo Tours, our great city can now get down amongst the gravestones with a sense of pride.

On a frigid February afternoon, Time Out Tokyo joined the very passionate and professional Lilly Fields, tour director, for a two-hour trek around some of city's most spooky locations. Lilly has been in the city for 25 years and her own interest in all that goes bump in the night eventually led her to string together a series of walks for the similarly ghost-curious. 

The tour began at the notoriously creepy Tamiya Shrine, a stone's throw from Yotsuya Station. This, as most Japanese people and international horror film aficionados will be able to tell you, is the home of Oiwa, an Edo era housewife poisoned by her randy husband as he pursued a younger woman. During her long, agonising death, she lost her hair and most of the flesh from her face, and, at some point, came upon the truth, vowing to return to haunt her errant man on the event of her death. We won't spoil the ending for you, suffice to say that revenge was sweet — and scary enough that the people of the Yotsuya area still offer up vast quantities of sake in an attempt to subdue the wandering spirit. 'I have a friend who lives near here,' explains Lilly, 'and her Japanese friends won't visit her, for fear of encountering or angering Oiwa.' Indeed, during our brief visit, we saw a group of salarymen arrive, hover around outside the shrine, plump up the courage to enter, and then scarper fairly sharpish as though something had seriously spooked them. 

Stranger still was the Uchumura UFO shop, a kilometre or so up the road. Lilly, clearly warming to one of her favourite spots on the tour, showed us photos of the proprietor — a hirsute gentleman with a penchant for tin-foil hats — who believes himself to have originated from another planet. He has followers who believer themselves to have done similar. They wear tin foil hats, too. Even without the hats, their planet obviously has a very well developed sense of humour: the owner is selling chunks of 'meteorite' for ¥10,000 a piece. Stranger still, he's obviously selling enough of it to maintain a large shop in central Tokyo.

The tour wound through extensive lanes, many of which we'd never have stumbled down without a guide as well-informed as Lilly. Every temple and shrine we passed through had a tale, every backstreet a backstory. On occasion, it was the normal rather than paranormal sights that really stood out. Taisou-ji Temple had a couple of admittedly freakish and looming statues, but it was the layered cakes of salt piled up in the courtyard corner, the result of years of superstitious but very human salt throwing, that felt like the real find. Needless to say, Lilly was able to explain this as well as she did the Oiwa story an hour earlier, making the tour informative for both the casual tourist and the experienced Japanophile alike.

While the walk took a good two hours, there was no sense of hurry, and it felt very much as though Lilly could've gone on for longer - she certainly had enough stories to tell. Indeed, her company runs a variety of rambling walks through different aspects of Tokyo's folksy landscape - both the graveyard tour and the 'yokai' exploration suit even more focused and specialist tastes. Whichever you choose, the likelihood is that you'll find a part of the capital you hadn't yet come across, not to mention a great story to go with it.

Haunted Tokyo Tours cost ¥3,000 yen per person, or $30 in advance, and can be booked via Haunted Tokyo Tours. Children are welcome on some of the tours, though it should be noted that both the content and the distance covered may not be appropriate. If you are concerned, check with Lilly beforehand

By Jon Wilks
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


Add your comment

Copyright © 2014 Time Out Tokyo