Check out these Japanese scary stories if you love reading ghost or monster stories. These will definitely scare you out of your wits! Read further for the spine-chilling Japanese scary stories.
As scared as I am, I am still a huge fan of scary stories. Although these stories keep me up all night and make me jump at the tiniest sounds, I can never seem to get enough of them. And when it comes to bone-chilling scary stories, Japan is truly ahead in the game.
Japan has some of the best ghost stories which have even led to the making of a new type of movie genre known as J-Horror.
Which is the best Japanese scary story?
I’ve read many Japanese scary stories in the past and I found The Legend of the Jorogumo to be the best scary story because of its plot, characters and story flow.
The Legend of the Jorogumo is a scary story about a yokai that is half women and half spider with the powers of shapeshifting. A young samurai were allured by a beautiful woman on the street and understood the lady’s disguise as a yokai. The samurai follows her and finds dozens of corpses of men wound up in spider silk and a giant Jorogumo.
This saga of storytelling began as early as the samurai who would sit in circles at night with hundred candles between them and would blow out once a story was told.
Once the last candle was blown the room would plunge into darkness and an apparition would appear. Scary stories of Japan are quite famous and also many of these Japan true horror stories are world-famous.
Here are a few stories about ghosts (yurei) and monsters (yokai) that will make you look over your shoulder. Here’s a list of Japanese scary stories.
Japanese Scary Stories
The Legend of the Jorogumo
The Jorogumo is a yokai that is half woman and half spider with the powers of shapeshifting and is one of the most horrific Japanese scary stories. They shapeshift into a beautiful woman who then attracts men to her so they can devour them.
Once a young and fairly new samurai were allured by a beautiful woman on the street. Though he was young, the samurai saw through her disguise and suspected her to be some kind of yokai.
He immediately drew his Katana and drove it through the creature, but only injured her instead of killing her, while she fled. It’s one of the famous scary Japanese stories to read.
The samurai followed the trail of blood to an abandoned house, inside which he found dozens of corpses of men wound up in spider silk and a giant Jorogumo that had died from its injuries inflicted upon by the samurai.
This is one of the Japanese scary stories that still gives me goosebumps. I still remember that I couldn’t sleep the entire night after reading it and the fact that she was half-spider and half women who’d feed on copse was haunting.
Jorogumo: Curse of the Japanese Spider Princess is adapted from this Japanese scary story and it is written by Charles E. Borjas. The story is based on the ancient Japanese castle in the mountains of California. It is one of the Japanese scary stories that are worth reading.
The Yuki-onna is a Japanese ghost story about a beautiful woman with white hair and ice-cold skin who preys on men. She often appears to them as they are out in the cold, lost in the snow, and lures them to their doom.
Some say she is the spirit of a woman who died in childbirth, others say she is the spirit of a woman who died from a broken heart. According to me, the scariest part of the story is that when Yuki-onna walks on snow, she doesn’t leave any footprints behind confirming that she’s a ghost.
Her origins trace down to snowy regions of Japan like Aomori and Akita prefectures in Japan. This snow ghost is known the suck the soul out of the victims. I always get goosebumps thinking about this Japanese ghost story. It’s one of the scary Japanese stories to read online.
Whatever her origin, the Yuki-onna is a spooky figure that sends chills down your spine. If you ever find yourself lost in the snow, be sure to avoid any beautiful women you may encounter!
The Secret of the Yamamba
The Yamamba (or Yamauba or Yamamba) are yokai or monsters, not dead but very much alive that look like harmless old women, that is, till you walk up to them. This is actually one of the most famous Japanese ghost stories.
They are mostly found in mountains and provide shelter to weary travelers and feed them, only to later feast on those travelers to quell their own hunger.
Once a Buddhist priest was on a journey and was caught in a storm. Luckily, he found a hut nearby and a kind old woman who welcomed him inside. She gave him a strange warning: “No matter what, do not look in the back room.”
Since he could not get over his curiosity, he peeked through a crack in the door and found that the room was filled with half-eaten corpses. It’s one of the famous Japanese ghost stories that has creeped me out to a different level. I think about Yamamba and it makes me scared out of my wits.
The Buddhist then realized that this woman was a Yamamba who lures travelers with her hospitality only to feast upon them. He fed on her hut and never looked back again. This is one of the Japanese scary stories that I read when I was young.
The Tale of Oiwa
This is one of the Japanese scary stories of betrayal, murder, and ghostly revenge. Oiwa was a young and stunningly beautiful woman who married a samurai named Iemon. Iemon was petty and only married Oiwa because of her looks and nothing else.
Another woman named Oume was in love with Lemon and was deeply outraged when Oiwa was married to her love. Out of petty jealousy, she gave Oiwa cream to apply that was laced with poison.
Unbeknownst to Oiwa, she applied the cream and it disfigured her face to the point where her hair fell out and even one of her eyes started drooping without her noticing.
Shocked and disgusted by her disfigured place, Iemon asked his friend, Taketsu, to rape Oiwa so that he could divorce her and marry Oume.
Seeing her deformed face for the first time, Taketsu was shocked and could not go through with what his friend had asked him to do and instead he told Oiwa of her husband’s plan and showed her own face in a mirror.
Horrified by what was staring back at her in the mirror, Oiwa took Taketsu’s sword and killed herself cursing Lemon’s name. This is one of the Japanese scary stories about love.
On the night of Iemon’s marriage with Oume, the disfigured ghost of Oiwa appeared before him. Terrified and guilt-ridden, Iemon fled from Oiwa’s ghost but no matter how far he went, Oiwa was always there.
No matter where he looked he could see her face staring back at him. This is one of the scary stories of Japan that is very famous.
Ayakashi Samurai Horror Tales is an anime adapted from The tales of Oiwa. It is produced by Toei Animation. It is one of the Japanese scary stories that is seen worldwide in the horror/mystery genre.
The Ghost of Okiku
This is the story of a servant girl named Okiku. It is a story of broken trust and broken promises that leads to a dismal fate. The Ghost of Okiku is one of the Japanese scary stories that most people read while growing up.
Okiku lived as a servant in Himeji Castle bound to her master, samurai Aoyama. One of her tasks was to take care of a collection of ten plates that belonged to her master.
One day while washing them she realized that one of them was missing and could not find it no matter how hard and wherever she searched. She kept counting the plates, always ending up one short.
Enraged by the fact that she lost one of his plates, Aoyama had her thrown down a well. Murdered in such a brutal manner, Okiku came back as her soul could not rest. Every night her ghost would crawl out of the well to continue counting her master’s plates.
Upon realizing that there were only nine plates instead of ten, she would shriek and keep everyone up in the castle for weeks. It was not until a Buddhist priest came along and then appeased her spirit.
This is definitely one of the scary japanese stories to read that might make you terrified of samurais!
The Ring is an adaptation of The Ghost of Okiku and is definitely one of the Japanese scary stories that you’ll never forget. It is directed by Jonathan Liebesman, F. Javier Gutiérrez, Gore Verbinski and Hideo Nakata.
The Black Hair
The Black Hair is one of the Japanese scary stories that will scare you for a very long time in real life. A long time ago a samurai was living in impoverished conditions with his wife in Kyoto.
A wealthy lord invited him to be his vassal to which the samurai agreed since it was an honorable opportunity. He had no choice but to leave his wife until he returned.
Years later, after fulfilling his duty as a vassal, the samurai came back to his disrepair home and was greeted by his happy wife. They spent the entire night talking and laughing before they both fell asleep.
Upon waking up he turned toward his wife only to find a cold skeleton with long black hair instead of his loving wife.
The samurai later learned that his wife had passed away the previous summer due to sadness and loneliness but her skeleton remained to wait for his return faithfully.
The Black Hair has been very successfully adapted into a Japanese movie called Kwaidan. It is a 1964 horror/fantasy film made by the director Masaki Kobayashi and has a very gripping story.
The Peony Lantern
On a dark and lonely night, samurai Ogiwara saw a beautiful woman carrying a peony lantern through the streets of Edo. This is one of the Japanese scary stories that is made to the big screen.
For the samurai, it was love at first sight and invited the beautiful woman, Otsuyu, to his home where they talked and laughed and enjoyed each other’s company. It’s one of the most famous japanese horror story movies.
Upon hearing this eerie laughter, Ogiwara’s neighbor peeked over the wall only to find Ogiwara holding a laughing skeleton. The next day the neighbor told Ogiwara what he saw. Frightened, Ogiwara went to a priest at a nearby temple.
Shockingly, Ogiwara found the woman’s grave at this temple and realized the woman he met last night had passed away a long time before they had even met. Knowing this truth, he never saw Otsuryu’s ghost again.
Though he knew the truth, Ogiwara could not move on and missed Otrusryu. He went to visit her grave at the temple where Otsuryu appeared in front of the gates again and offered him her hand to accompany her home. This Japanese scary story will give you chills!
Ogiwara took her hand and walked with her into the darkness. After this visit to the temple, Ogiwara vanished. The concerned priest, fearing the worst, had Otsuryu’s grave opened where he found both lovers lying together.
This is one of the Japanese scary stories that you’ll love to read.
This Japanese scary story is adapted into a movie with the name Tales of the Peony Lantern. It is directed by Satsuo Yamamoto and produced by Masaichi Nagata in the year 1968. It’s one of the famous scary stories in Japan.
Best Japanese Horror Stories: FAQs
What is the scariest Japanese story?
There are a lot of scary Japanese stories about Yokai but the scariest is the Legend of Jogomoro. It’s about a shapeshifting Yokai who is half woman and half spider. The story follows a samurai who was lured by the Yokai but later finds out that numerous corpses of men the Yokai fed on.
Are Japanese ghost stories scary?
Japanese ghost stories can be quite scary. In fact, some of them are so frightening that they have been banned from being told in public. Most of the stories are based on Yokai that might look like ordinary humans but are disguised as ghosts.
Got the Chills?
These were some of the most thrilling Japanese scary stories that will truly make you watch over your shoulder. These stories kept me up all night and made me scared to even visit the washroom alone.
But these sure are extremely interesting and intriguing. Once you start watching/reading, you will not be able to stop. So, are you ready to get the shivers with these Japanese scary stories?