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Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2011
THE ZEIT GIST
Top Tokyo haunts: five scary spots
By LILLY FIELDS
1) Sunshine 60
Build a massive shopping and entertainment complex in Ikebukuro (at one time the tallest building in Asia) on the very site where seven Japanese war criminals were executed and you are bound to piss off some ghosts. In fact, its construction was plagued by many incidents (injured workers, strange apparitions and so on). Even now people sometimes spot strange fireballs floating around.
2) Oiwa Shrine
Properly known as Oiwa Inari Tamiya Jinja, this shrine was the former home of a woman who was poisoned by her husband and came back as a ghost — her hair disheveled and one eye hanging out for added effect — to haunt him. This story is the basis for "Yotsuya Kaidan," arguably Japan's most famous ghost story. Even today, the staff and cast of theater and movie productions of the tale pay their respects at the shrine first — or risk suffering the wrath of Oiwa.
The Ireido, or Hall of Repose, is located in Yokoami-cho Park, where throngs of people seeking refuge during the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 were burned to death. The park also served as a makeshift crematorium for 38,000 bodies. Graphic photos are on display in the Ireido, a cavernous Buddhist-style memorial hall built in 1931 that was also used to placate the souls of the firebombing victims of World War II.
4) Hakone Yama
This hill located in Toyama Park, the former site of the Army Medical College and Hospital, now houses several medical research facilities, one of which is rumored to have been the training center for the Imperial Army's notorious Unit 731. Bodies left over from medical experiments are said to have been secretly buried here, and human bones continue to be unearthed within the park grounds. Especially terrifying after dusk, night strollers have reported hearing wailing, sobbing and other mysterious voices here.
5) Masakado's grave
Located in Tokyo's financial district, this is the final resting place of an angry samurai rebel from the Heian Period named Taira no Masakado. His decapitated head mysteriously resisted decay for three months, its eyes continuing to roll in their sockets, and eventually somehow propelled itself from Kyoto to Edo. Construction workers who disturb the grave risk accidents — or even death.
Lilly Fields is the founder and director of Haunted Tokyo Tours (www.hauntedtokyotours.com)