There are several Japanese horror legends, although they are also called urban legends of Japan, which have been passed down through generations and are well known and often feared among the Japanese.
Some of the most popular Japanese horror legends include:
“Kuchisake-Onna” (口裂け女) | Japanese horror legends
It is one of the Japanese horror legends where a woman with her mouth cut from ear to ear, who appears in the streets at night asking people if they are beautiful and is called Kuchisake-Onna.
If the person answers “yes”, she will take off her mask showing her cut face and ask again, if the person answers “no” she will kill them, if they answer “yes” again she will kill them anyway.
Which makes it one of the most terrifying Japanese myths.
“Teke Teke” (てけてけ) | Japanese horror stories
This is one of the Japanese horror stories with a legend of a female spirit who fell in a train accident and her body was split in two.
Now, Teke Teke is said to crawl the streets with only the upper half of her body, seeking revenge on those who laugh at her.
“Aka Manto” (赤マント) | Japanese horror legends
It is one of the Japanese horror legends, where a spirit appears in public bathrooms, asking women if they want a red towel. If the person says “yes”, it will vanish and will not appear again. However, if the person says “no”, the spirit of Aka Manto will reveal itself as a demonic figure and attack them.
“Hanako-san” (花子さん) | Japanese horror legends
It is the Japanese horror legend where a ghost girl appears in college and university bathrooms, particularly in the third cubicle of the girls’ bathroom. It is said that if you call Hanako-san three times, she will appear behind the bathroom door.
Even today, superstitious Japanese women, or those who believe in such Japanese horror legends, do not use the third toilet cubicle for fear that something will happen to them.
“Kasha” (火車) | Japanese urban horror stories
It is one of the Japanese urban horror stories where a Japanese yōkai is said to take over the corpses of a dead person in funerals and cemeteries after a series of bad deeds and takes them to hell.
That is, if the person has been bad in his life, Kasha will come for his body taking him to hell to suffer eternally for his sins and actions.
“Tengu” (天狗) | Japanese horror legends
It is one of the Japanese horror legends, where the protagonist is a mythological creature called Tengu, with characteristics of a mountain god and a demon, it is said that they live in the mountains and can cause problems for people who enter their territories.
“Hyakki Yakō” o Hyakki Yagyō de Nurarihyon (百鬼夜行) | Japanese horror legends
Hyakki Yakō is a procession of demons and yōkai spirits that occurs on the night of August 15, and this makes it one of the unique Japanese horror legends, as it has a specific day, although in one of the Japanese horror stories it is said that this procession lasts every summer night.
In this Japanese horror legend, the yokai Nurarihyon will be in charge of leading all the other yōkai through the streets of Japan, and it is said that anyone who sees them will die on the spot unless that person was protected by scrolls or manuscripts handwritten by the onmyoji, who are the practitioners of onmyōdō and also the casters of anti-yokai spells.
Japanese horror legend has it, that only 1 of the onmyoji clan is enough, as he is strong enough to be safe from harm when encountering the Hyakki Yagyo or Hyakki Yakō of Nurarihyon.
“Ningyo” (人魚) | Japanese horror legends
It is a mythological being half human and half fish, said to bring bad luck and misfortune to those who catch or see them.
It is one of the Japanese urban horror legends that scares you by telling you exactly where it appears: Ningyo appears in the coastal waters of Shikoku, in Wakasa Bay, and in Kyushu, appearing on the seashore when a storm is approaching.
So many Japanese believers in these Japanese horror legends move away from those shores and bays when the storm comes.
“Umi-bozu” (海坊主) | Japanese horror legends
A maritime spirit that looks like a giant head without a body, it is said to lure sailors to dangerous cliffs.
“Namahage” (生剥) | Japanese horror legends
It is a spirit that visits homes during the New Year’s holidays and appears masked and with a knife, to scare children who misbehave.
“Gashadokuro” (がしゃどくろ) | Japanese horror legends
It is a mythological creature that feeds on the bones of humans.
“Jinmenken” (人面犬) | Japanese horror legends
A mythological creature with a human face and a dog’s body, they are said to roam the streets and can talk like humans. Legend has it that in the streets where it rained a lot or with little light, there were many rumors of seeing “dog-faced” animals.
“Okiku” (お菊) | Japanese horror legends
It is the legend of a maid who was falsely accused of stealing a valuable dish and was condemned to die in a well. Her ghost is said to still haunt the well, counting the pots and seeking revenge.
“Rokurokubi” (ろくろ首) | Japanese horror legends
It is a mythological creature with a long, elastic neck that can stretch to attack its victims.
“Kasa-Obake” (傘お化け) | Japanese horror legends
It is a spirit that dwells in umbrellas, it is said that it can change shape and attack people.
“Yuki-Onna” (雪女) | Japanese horror legends
It is the legend of a snow woman or snow spirit, who appears to people on days of heavy snow and can freeze them with her cold breath. She is said to be especially dangerous to travelers who get lost in the snow.
“Jorogumo” (絡新婦) | Japanese horror legends
It is a mythological creature that transforms into a beautiful woman to lure its victims and then reveals its true form as a giant spider.
“Nukekubi” (抜首) | Japanese horror legends
It is a mythological creature that can detach its head from its body and fly to attack its victims.
“Oni” (鬼) | Japanese horror legends
It is a demon or evil spirit from Japanese mythology, often depicted with horns, red skin and a scar on the forehead. They are said to be malicious and can cause trouble for people.
“Kasa Jizo” (傘地蔵) | Japanese horror legends
It is the legend of a statue of Jizo that is placed under umbrellas, said to be a protector of travelers and pilgrims.
“Hitodama” (人魂) | Japanese horror legends
It is the legend of a soul that separates from the body after death, and is seen as a ball of light or fire.
“Akaname” (赤面) | Japanese horror legends
Akaname are small, goblin-like yōkai that inhabit only the dirtiest houses and public toilets.
They are about the same height as a child or short adult, although they generally appear much smaller due to their hunched posture.
Akaname’s body is naked and their skin is oily like their hair, plus they have many colors and varieties, ranging from a dark green mold-like, to the reddish pink of ulcers.
They have an extremely long and sticky tongue, and use it to clean mold, grease, hair from the floor and other dirt found in bathhouses and behind toilets.
Akaname hate clean and well-kept homes, and only appear if you don’t clean them and are careless, they usually avoid humans but cause diseases that can sometimes become deadly.
So it is one of the Japanese horror legends that are not only to scare but also teach the value of cleanliness and neatness.
“Onryō” (怨霊) | Japanese horror legends
It is the Japanese horror legend, about a vengeful spirit of someone who died in a tragic or unjust way, it is said that they seek revenge on the living.
“Mokomokai” (モコモカイ) | Japanese horror legends
It is the Japanese legend of beings that resemble a human head sometimes with an animal body or tattooed, they are commonly seen in bars and taverns in Japan, so if they detect that you are an enemy or you are a bad person they will subject you to the tā moko and preserve you from loot.
The word Mokomokai refers to a skull with preserved Maori human heads, especially tā moko (tattooed faces), although they are also known as Toi moko.
When a person who had tā moko died, their head was smoked and preserved. The brain and eyes are also removed so that it does not rot, the aorta is hardened with flax fibers and sap, boiled or steamed, dried over natural fire, and waxed with shark oil to finish.
The resulting mokomokai is carefully preserved and sometimes used in sacred ceremonies.
“Jibashiri-Onna” (地走り女) | Japanese horror legends
It is the legend of a woman who crawls on the ground, usually appearing in the fields and mountains.
These are just a few more examples of popular urban legends in Japan, there are many more. Although these stories are considered to be Japanese horror legends, they are still an important part of Japanese popular culture and are part of the oral tradition.