“Japan is a safety country” is a common phrase uttered by students and grammatical errors aside it is fairly true regarding the people but not so valid given the high amount of earthquakes, typhoons and other natural phenomena. On top of this there are also many stories, rumours and myths about Tokyo being inhabited by folklore creatures, ghosts, gods and other such evil spirits. Unable to run because of a bad leg and feeling in need of some exercise I thought it was time for another bicycle ride around Tokyo visiting all these places in a single day. The perfect way to get into the Halloween spirit.
1) Sunshine 60 – The 60-storey skyscraper part of Sunshine City at 3-1-1 Higashi Ikebukuro was built on the grounds of the destroyed Sugamo Prison which held senior war criminals and was where a former Prime Minister was hanged. Inevitably in modern folklore the area is supposed to be haunted.
2) Sougenji Temple a.k.a. Kappa-dera Temple is at 3-7-2 Matsugaya in Taito-ku and is dedicated to these bipedal, turtle-like aquatic goblins who have been known to grab children crossing bridges and drown them. This temple was built to appease the many kappa creatures in the area and the altar has offerings of cucumbers for them which is their favourite food. If you’ve ever had kappamaki in a sushi restaurant you now know how the cucumber sushi roll gets its name.
Kappa’s have a bowl-like dent on the top of their head which must be kept full of water for them to survive so if you see a real one be sure to bow to it and they will be obliged to bow back in return thereby killing themselves.
3) Akiba Daigongen – I had pretty much given up on this until I stumbled on it by accident. It’s not too far from the Kappa temple and is at 3-10-7 Matsugaya though it did used to be in Akihabara (or Akiba as the ‘otaku’ (geeks) prefer to call it) a long, long time ago. Akiba Daigongen, a powerful Buddhist deity associated with fire, is said to watch over the area.
4) Chingodo – This is part of the Sensoji temple complex at 2-3-1 Asakusa in Taito-ku and is home to the Tanuki (Japanese raccoon dog). These funny-looking creatures from Japanese folklore are famed for their massive b*llocks which can, believe it or not be fashioned into makeshift disguises, tools and weapons though god knows how that works exactly! Tanuki are symbols of good luck as kintama (testicles) can literally be translated as golden balls. Like the kappa-dera temple, this place was also built to appease these troublemakers who are supposedly resting on their over-sized balls in the picture below.
5) Ubaga-ike (Old Hag’s Pond) – Yet another Taito-ward location and this one can be found at 2-4-15 Hanakawado. An interesting story this one as a wicked innkeeper from the 7th century tricked guests into sleeping in a room with a boulder hidden in the rafters which would fall on their heads while they were sleeping thereby killing them and giving her the chance to rob them. However, one night things went wrong and her daughter was killed and the evil innkeeper dumped her body in the pond which is now somewhat strangely located next to a children’s playground. This story has inspired kabuki plays and a horror film and naturally the site still harbours the spirits.
6) Ireido (Hall of Repose) – In the midst of Yokoami-cho Park is this Buddhist style hall which is a memorial to those unidentified people who died in the Great Kanto Earthquake and the bombing of Tokyo in WWII. It was built to calm the souls of those victims and its address is 2-3-25 Yokaimi, Sumida-ku.
Cycling Tokyo’s Most Haunted Sights…In One Day Pt II can be read here