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More Scary Japanese Urban Legends

Discover chilling Japanese urban legends. From the haunting Cow Head to the eerie Teke Teke, delve into bone-chilling tales that blur the line between myth and truth.

By 7 min read

Some of the scariest Japanese urban legends, like those in this bone-chilling list, are intertwined with reality. Whether from cautionary tales, mysterious occurrences or eerie happenings, these legends possess a disturbing semblance of truth.

More than just Japanese ghosts and monsters, urban legends’ creepiness, strangeness and unnerving plausibility leave an indelible mark of fear on those who dare to delve into their depths.

1. The Cow Head

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The story is the real legend.

The legend of Gozu, the Cow Head, instills fear in all who dare to hear its complete tale. The story is believed to bring dire consequences to those who listen in full—from blackouts and violent shakes to death itself. This terror has led storytellers to share only fragments, offering only a haunting glimpse.

Rumors tell of an elementary school teacher who discovered the original “Cow Head” story, leading to a spine-tingling encounter during a school trip. As the teacher recounted the tale of Gozu, what began as amusement quickly turned into silence, with students gripped by curiosity and fear. The air grew colder as the eerie story unfolded, sending shivers down the listeners’ spines.

Some felt an icy chill crawl down their backs, while others fidgeted nervously, unable to shake off the unsettling atmosphere. Even after the trip, a lingering unease remained, leaving an unsettling mark on their memories. The myth turns sinister in some retellings, with students experiencing sudden blackouts or meeting tragic ends.

The actual myth follows a bovine-human hybrid, reminiscent of a minotaur, who met a gruesome fate at the hands of desperate villagers who resorted to cannibalism. The curse he unleashed was so potent that merely reading about his story could drive one to madness and eventual death.

2.

Picture a moonlit night, a lonely alley and the sudden appearance of a creature with a dog’s body but a human face staring back at you with eyes that pierce through the darkness—a sight that would make even the bravest hearts skip a beat.

The Jinmenken, or human-faced dog, is a creature from Japanese urban legends that has fascinated people for generations. The legend describes these eerie beings as having the bodies of dogs but the faces of humans. They are often depicted as haunting deserted places or appearing unexpectedly to terrify unsuspecting individuals.

The origins of the Jinmenken legend can be traced back to Japan’s history of sideshow exhibitions known as misemono (shows). These exhibitions featured deformed animals and human anomalies. It is believed that sightings of deformed or poorly taxidermied dogs with human-like facial features contributed to the creation of the Jinmenken myth.

Over time, as these exhibitions faded into obscurity, the Jinmenken evolved through oral storytelling and popular culture, becoming a prominent figure in Japanese folklore and urban legends. The eerie combination of familiar yet unsettling features, such as a dog’s body with a human face, continues to fuel ghost stories in contemporary times.

3. The Teke Teke Phantom

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You better know where her legs are.

Imagine going to a deserted bathroom. You venture towards a stall when suddenly you hear the sound of nails scratching on the floor, teke teke, and a voice hisses at you, “Where are my legs?”  Your disbelieving eyes turn to the source of the sound, widening in terror as they take in the severed half body of a woman crawling towards you with a blade in her hand.

The Teke Teke legend is an onryo (vengeful spirit) accidentally or deliberately cut in half. The details may vary, but the core narrative involves a ghost of the woman’s upper body haunting locations like bathrooms or train stations, asking about her missing lower half and killing them for wrong answers—in the same way she was.

The phantom’s existence is tied to the tragic fate of a woman who met her untimely end on train tracks, severed in half by the unforgiving force of a speeding train—a warning and likely the origin of the story.

The phantom’s name, “Teke Teke,” likely comes from the onomatopoeic sound associated with the creature’s movement. In Japanese, teke teke (テケテケ) is an onomatopoeic expression used to describe a tapping or scratching sound akin to footsteps or nails on a surface. This chilling sound mirrors the phantom’s eerie noise as she drags her torso across the floor, inching closer to her unsuspecting victims.

4. Kisaragi Station

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Don’t fall asleep.

Falling asleep is commonplace on Japanese trains. Most people have nothing more to worry about than waking up in a compromising position. However, some might find themselves in mysterious, alien places. Kisaragi station, a common feature in these stories, traps victims in a bizarre limbo where they can contact the outside world but can’t escape. People report being plagued by noises and feeling watched by something monstrous.

The story originates from a series of online chat forum 2chan posts. A woman, “Hasumi,” was asking for help after falling asleep on a train and getting off at the unfamiliar Kisaragi station. Finding the station unattended, she tried to follow the tracks back.

Her posts grew increasingly surreal and disturbed, describing being tormented with bells and drums, like an unwelcome participant in a horrific festival. In her final posts, she met a man who appeared normal but began to increasingly speak in a twisted language, making her flee and try to hide…

There were no other posts.

5. The Cursed Advert

In the 1980s, Kleenex aired three Japanese commercials featuring an actress and a child in an ogre costume set to a song titled It’s a Fine Day. Despite its innocuous premise, some deemed the video too creepy or sinister.

According to the legend, viewers claimed that the singing voice changed to a crone’s voice late at night or would chant “die” repeatedly. Some people would even become violently ill. The ad was quickly pulled from circulation, but rumors swirled about what happened to the actress in the wicked video. Some said she was driven mad and spent the rest of her days in an asylum.

In truth, this story originated from the Internet when the video resurfaced online. Far from cursing her, the woman was a young Keiko Matsuzaka, a celebrated film and TV actress still working today. Matsuzaka would have a successful movie career, winning the Japan Academy Prize for her performance in The Sting of Death.

6. Ghost Passengers

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Room for one more.

A chilling phenomenon emerged after catastrophic events like the Hanshin Earthquake and the Tohoku Tsunami. Taxi drivers began recounting eerie encounters. These drivers shared unsettling tales of picking up passengers who appeared freezing or drenched. The passengers often complained of an unrelenting cold.

During these ghostly rides, a sense of unease would permeate the car as the spectral passengers recounted their tragic tales. Their presence, though intangible, carried a weight of sorrow and loss. Yet, as the journey neared its end and the destination approached, a chilling realization would dawn upon the driver—there was no trace of the passenger left behind.

Such encounters with ghost passengers are rooted in the aftermath of grief and trauma. The real horror lies in the spectral encounters and our helplessness when confronted with Mother Nature’s monstrous side. Perhaps the echoes of grief and loss resonate in the silence of a taxi ride haunted by ghost passengers.

7. Hachishakusama: The Eight-Foot Tall Woman

An unsettling legend whispers through the winds in the rural landscapes of Japan—the tale of Hachishakusama, the Eight-Foot Tall Woman. Locals say she stalks the countryside, preying on unsuspecting children with her eerie presence.

Hachishakusama appears as a towering woman clad in a white kimono, her long, black hair flowing like tendrils of darkness. Her unnaturally tall stature sends chills down the spine of anyone who crosses her path. The mere mention of her name is enough to evoke fear. Witnesses recount intense dread and a sense of impending doom. Those unfortunate enough to catch her attention may vanish without a trace.

Hachishakusama’s origins remain mysterious, with some linking her existence to ancient rituals or supernatural occurrences. Her penchant for targeting young children serves as a cautionary tale, warning them to be wary of strangers.

This article was written in collaboration with Aaron Baggett.

Have you heard tales of any Japanese Urban Legends? Which is your favorite? Let us know in the comments. 

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