You could call it ghost hunting, paranormal tourism, or just an interest in the unknown. Like foodies and gamers, there's a travel plan for those that are seeking the ethereal. Japan, the land of a thousand gods, also has a lot of creepy ghosts to visit. From ruins to temples to hotels, there's plenty for a ghost hunter to experience in Japan. Every one of the following places is open to visitors, although some are more accessible than others.
10 Oiran Buchi, Yamanashi
The translation into English is "bridge of the wailing women", which gives you a clue as to the restless spirits in this beautiful but eerie place. This rural location is in the heart of a lush forest. The only civilization nearby is the small mountain village of Kosuke, which is known for nature trails and hot springs. The story of the haunted bridge goes back to the 16th century when the area was controlled by the Takeda Clan and rich with gold. The clan brought in certain perks to accommodate the miners, including women.
After the clan lost the mines in the Battle of Nagashino, they killed the remaining women as they retreated so the mines would stay a secret. Many of them perished when the Takeda Clan commanders tricked them into crossing the bridge, only to cut the ropes and let them fall into the deep ravine. Today, you can safely cross the modern suspension bridge if you dare to brave the cries that come up from the darkness below or the poke of cold, invisible fingers.
9 The Ruins of the Royal Hotel, Okinawa
It was difficult to get a building permit since the hotel would be built on the ruins of an old castle. The Buddhist monks warned the developer that the spirits who haunted the ruins of the Nakagusuku Palace would never rest and that his hotel would fail before it even started. The owner's reaction and the end result is predictable. He didn't heed the mink's advice, and after several mishaps and even worker deaths, rumors about angry spirits were starting to spread. Still defiant, the owner decided to prove the rumors wrong by spending the night in the hotel. By morning, he was a broken man, babbling gibberish. Shortly thereafter he disappeared and all work on the hotel was stopped, leaving an empty concrete shell. Visitors claim to see lights and hear the voices of both the ancient inhabitants and the dead workers.
8 The A-Bomb Dome, Hiroshima
On August 6th, 1945, the A-bomb hit Hiroshima on this spot, exploding just above the dome. It was the only thing left standing after the destruction, which killed over a hundred thousand immediately and several thousand more in the following years due to related diseases and sicknesses.
Also known as the Peace Memorial Park, this is a pleasant if not an eerily quiet place most of the time. If you visit early, you might hear quiet voices on the wind crying for help even though the park is completely empty. The bomb hit the city in the morning, at 8:15 am.
7 Ikego Middle Gate, Yokohama Forest
There's more to this story than just this lonely entry gate, surrounded by lush green forest now that the site has been abandoned. During World War 2, this was an internment camp for Korean and Chinese prisoners of war. Hundreds died from forced labor or malnutrition, and their spirits are still restless. There are two other entry gates where visitors and residents have also seen chilling visions. The Ikego Housing Detachment is nearby, and guards watching the gates have seen phantoms with no legs, heard ghostly footsteps and agonized cries for help.
6 Himuro Mansion, Tokyo
This location was a source of terror well-before it was featured in the horror video game, Fatal Frame. It was rumored to host occult practices that involved human sacrifice. It's a mystery how that got out of hand, but one version says that a younger member of the family helped a woman escape. This angered the demon that the family was trying to appease, and he possessed the old Lord Himuro to kill everyone in the house. The resulting mass murder and suicide ended the family for good. Visitors claim that they can see and hear the restless spirits in the house, beckoning them to complete the final ritual.
5 Aokigahara, Tokyo
Quiet, green, and peaceful, this lush forest on the slopes of Mount Fuji is known for photos, hiking, and suicide. Its unfortunate nickname is the Suicide Forest, and it's the most popular location in Asia for the last choice some people ever make. The sad story of this forest goes back much further than that, however.
In former years the forest was a common place for the practice of ubatse, or leaving older relatives to die in the wilderness. Visitors attribute the dead silence and malfunctioning compasses to the presence of ghosts, but it actually has more to do with the hardened lava that forms the forest floor and mountain base.
4 Okiku’s Well, Himeji
There's a Japanese folk tale, or gaidan, about the ghost that haunts this well. It was featured in the famous puppet play that was popular in the 1700s, so the legend goes back a long time. Most people come to Himeji Castle to marvel over art, architecture and history, others come to see the symbol of the story's tragic climax, Okiku's Well. There are several variations of the story, but most versions agree that Okiku was a servant girl who spurned the lord's amorous advances. Even after she was threatened with the punishment of death, she refused him. Enraged, he threw her down this well and killed her. If you visit at night, you can still hear her counting ten plates, and then screaming when the tenth plate is found missing.
3 Round Schoolhouse, Hokkaido
The architecture was always distinctive, even when it was first built in 1906. The building was a normal schoolhouse for decades until it was suddenly abandoned in the 1970s. Once curious explorers found the place, the ghost stories started. Visitors claim to have heard voices, seen ghostly figures or bright lights flashing.
Locals claim that some visitors to the site have returned insane or have disappeared entirely. This is one of Japan's most popular and notorious haunted places. The ambiance is complete with a chilly northern location that is often covered in snow.
2 Toyama Park, Tokyo
You would never guess this is one of Tokyo's most vibrant paranormal hotspots if you visited during the day. It's a pleasant natural park with nature trails, streams, and big green trees. Go for a walk at night, however, and the park seems to be filled with disembodied voices. The paranormal activity gets especially intense near the park's lookout hill, Mokone Yama.
What lies beneath this peaceful greenery is a mass grave surrounded by mystery and secrets. After World War 2, this was the burial site of the infamous Unit 731. This was an experimental chemical and biological weapons army unit that originally was located in China. Prisoners of war were used in horrific government experiments. At the end of the war, the unit was located here along with a number of other medical facilities. Much of the stories were conjecture until 2006 when a nurse who worked at the site came forward to confirm some of the rumors. Hundreds of bones have been unearthed at the site so far, with more still interred.
1 Old Chusetsu Tunnel, Fukuoka
The alleged site of a gruesome murder where the dead can't rest, this tunnel ends in a dead end, is lined with graffiti and other warnings about the ghosts. This old underground passage is wet, lined with hanging moss, and filled with strange sounds and what seems like voices. Visitors claim they can hear the word "stop" being yelled, along with whispering and screaming. Nearby there's another haunted passage known as Inukane Pass or the Whispering Tunnel. Urban legend says that a young woman was murdered here but her body was never properly interred, and so she still haunts the place where she died.