Dan and I celebrated the, in no way British, holiday in Tokuyama. A lovely city with bars aplenty!
However, for this blog we are going to focus on our Japanese ghost stories. Twice we have found ourselves in rather creepy, very old, empty historical buildings that we are certain must be haunted by more than history alone.
First, was Tsuwano. I’ve mentioned this in a previous post, but for our Halloween special it will get further attention. To reach the site we hiked up an old woodland country road which was crossed with trees, leaves, and far too many monster cobwebs for anyone’s enjoyment. We passed an abandoned block of flats with vines growing in the windows, crumbling balconies and the distinct air of despair. The road beckoned us on, calling for us to see what was behind each bend. A building came into sight; it was about as creepy as you could hope for in this slightly odd, but entirely truthful, story. A small abandoned traditional Japanese home with a tree through its roof.
I recently read an article about the increasing number if buildings like this, which lie alone and empty after the aged owner dies. This little beauty told a clear story of being a home, with a ladder outside and pots and pans visible. It was clear it had been empty for some time as the toilet was still separate from the house. We were separated from exploring the house further by a deep stream, unconvincing bridge, and a little fear. We mused and commented on the home it could have once been and wondered if either we, or Hansel and Gretel, could live somewhere that remote.
After visiting this house and having not seen another person for hours, we retreated back down towards Tsuwano. We had a goal in site after reading about a traditional Japanese temple nearby. A short trek later, we found the building in question. It was surrounded by dense woodland and very silent. The shivers started at the base of our spines. We searched for the usual volunteer that sits with these famous sites during daylight hours, and we found a chair and dusty old newspaper, but not a sole around. Tentatively we ventured into the building, exploring the pristine tatami rooms and immaculate garden. No one appeared. For those of you familiar with Japan, this is pretty impressive and very unlikely at such a beautiful old building as this. With a population of 128 million and a landmass only 1.56 times bigger than the UK, there are a lot of people to fit in the small areas of flatland Japan provides. And ancient houses are their cathedrals. You’d struggle to be alone in a British cathedral!
The alone time in a deeply spiritual and empty but for us place, naturally drew us into a conversation on ‘spirts’. We concluded very little, apart from we were slightly creeped out, but impressed, with the immensely beautiful building we had been allowed to explore together. As we left, a solitary man walked towards us and entered the site. I wondered all the way back the village the type of experience he was now having, if indeed, we had seen him at all…
Then it happened again today. On our way back from our Halloween party we decided to do a little exploring of our home city. We stomped around the market area and enjoyed the dockside views across to Kyushu. On our way back to the train station a tall building with a full on tree growing out of its roof caught my eye. “Hey, as we’re exploring, let’s take a look” I say, so we enter the extremely old building with the fascinating roof garden. An ancient man, who on reflection we think was actually a ghost, floats over and provides us with some leaflets. He then invites us to explore the three floors, alas, not the enticing roof garden.
Off we go, feeling wildly self conscious as we glance at the sparse display all in Japanese. The ghost guide retreats to a chair in the centre of the room. To escape how uncomfortable we feel, we take the very old dark wood staircase to the poorly lit second floor. The quiet combined with the lack of any other people, a ghost guide, and the creepy old interior made us a little giddy. Here sparked an idea, let’s tell our Japanese ghost story! So with renewed enthusiasm we explored the two floors, the world’s most terrifying out of bounds toilet, and wondered why each floor required a metal gate with a padlock. Then we made a reasonably hasty and freaked out retreat into the daylight.
We concluded, if we return, the building will surely not be there…