Japanese Scary Stories 2021 | 7 Japanese Horror Stories That Will Scare You Out Of Your Wits

by Erika Shinomoto

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. 

Related: Yurei Japanese Ghost Tales

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 women 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 it 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. 

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.

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.

Scary stories of Japan

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 on 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. 

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.

famous japanese ghost stories

The Woman of the Snow (Yuki-onna)

Yuki-Onna is a snow woman ghost who appears on snowy mountains in one of the Japanese scary stories called The Woman of the Snow. 

She appears inhumanly beautiful with eyes that can strike terror into the eyes of travelers that have lost their way. She floats across the snow leaving no footprints.

A young man traveling through a mountain was caught up in a snowstorm. After hours of not being able to find his way, the man collapsed almost freezing to death. 

He almost gave up when a strange woman covered in frost and a pale face showed up in front of him. She was a Yuki -Onna. Since the man was young she took pity on him and led him to a warm cabin in the woods. 

In exchange for saving his life, she made him make a promise, a promise to never tell anyone of this chance encounter.

Years later the man met a young and cheerful woman named Yuki whom he soon married. One day he told his wife about his strange encounter and how he was saved by a Yuki-Onna thereby breaking his promise. 

Upon hearing the tale his wife’s face grew pale and frost began covering her body. The wife was the Yuki-Onna who saved him. With the promise broken, she turned back to her true self and vanished into the night.

The Women of the Snow is adapted to be made into a film called Snow Woman directed by Kiki Sugino. It is a mystery movie that was released in 2016. It is one of the Japanese scary stories that will chill your spine.

japanese horror stories

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.

Japanese Scary Stories

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.

scary japanese stories to read

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. 

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.

stories about 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?

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