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Kimodameshi: A terrifying challenge loved by Japanese people

Kimodameshi (肝試し), is made up of the kanji of: Kimo (肝), meaning “liver” and Dameshi (試し), meaning “test”, but usually translated as test of bravery or test of courage.

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Learn more about the Kimodameshi adventure that the Japanese love!

kimodameshi
Place for kimodameshi

What Kimodameshi (肝試し) means.

Kimodameshi (肝試し) is usually translated as “Test of Courage”, which is not a very literal approximation, as you have seen in the paragraph above. I’ll explain why they call this Japanese horror game Kimodameshi.

In Japan, the liver is associated with bravery, for example, kimo ga suwaru (sitting on the liver), means to be brave or confident. So a more literal translation of kimodameshi, taking into account the meanings of Japanese sayings, could be “to prove you have guts,” as we see in many Japanese anime and doramas.

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kimodameshi

The Japanese “Kimodameshi” (肝試し) challenge.

This is a Japanese challenge, they say for the brave, as it is terrifying, and in it (alone or with friends) you enter abandoned structures, such as: parks, temples, houses, shrines, among others, even sometimes Kimodameshi is given in forests, to prove your bravery.

  • The objective of Kimodameshi is to “survive” your journey to your chosen haunted location.

Those who start the Kimodameshi game, must go to the place chosen by others, but at night, to ensure the greatest terror, and either bring back something that proves they have been there, or leave some solid evidence that can be collected the next morning.

It is very common to see it in the summer months, especially in the Obon, and sometimes at another time, in the golden week, but most typical is summer. But it must be said, that some Japanese venture out to do kimodameshi, in the Japanese autumn, as the weather is splendid, and it is time for walking outdoors, and will be less likely to be crowded with Japanese people doing kimodameshi (肝試し).

In Japan kimodameshi, is done in summer usually, but there is a reason (even if it is done in other seasons, summer is the best), because it is when the world of the living interconnects with the world of the dead, and it is also when the yokai and yurei come out of their encondites.

All haunted houses in Japan that hold kimodameshi, organize kimodameshi func

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Abandoned place to make Kimodameshi

KIMODAMESHI AND TERROR IN JAPAN (肝試し)

So, to do Kimodameshi, the Japanese like to go to abandoned properties that tend to be dilapidated or derelict, but these places are extremely dangerous and are usually patrolled by the police or private security companies, because they know that some young and not so young people do kimodameshi in these places.

Many of these places have warnings from the police in case intruders sneak in, with heavy fines for intruders. So visiting a haunted public place in Japan, is not the safest option (neither for your health nor for your pocket 💴😉).

Kimodameshi places in Japan (肝試し)

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Examples of kimodameshi locations

There are several places to go in Japan to do the kimodameshi test and many of them are well known among lovers of this practice.

Kimodameshi and the legend of the tomb of Taira no Masakado (将門塚).

Perhaps the most famous of all the ghostly places in Tokyo to do Kiodameshi, is the tomb of Taira no Masakado (将門塚, Masakado Zuka ).

This ghostly place in Tokyo is located in the Otemachi area.

Legend has it that, technically, only your head is buried here, trapped in the heart of the financial district of the great Tokyo orb, Masakado’s tomb is said to have been responsible for lightning strikes, suspicious fires, serious industrial and automobile accidents, sudden outbreaks of disease and viruses, and major business failures in the area.

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Not only that, but also, according to ghost hunters in Tokyo, those who visit Masakado’s grave, without showing due respect could also end up suffering or with a worse fate.

Sudden separations between friends, partners or families, loss of jobs or business, even failing in school, and in one known case of doing Kimodameshi at Masakado’s tomb, very unfortunate, a boy broke 2 wrists after falling down the stairs of his home station the same night he made a drunken visit to the tomb.

Because of all this, Masakado’s tomb, is possibly according to the Japanese and especially Tokyoites, one of the most dangerous places around to do Kimodameshi.

Of course, all this could be a coincidence, but it is probably better to be respectful to Mr. Masakado, rather than risk doing kimodameshi there, right?

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Masakado Tomb

Places to do Kimodameshi in Japan, the Hachioji Castle

Another very famous place for kimodameshi is Hachioji Castle, which belonged to the Hojo family, who ruled the Kanto region during the Sengoku era.

The Hojo ruled through Odawara Castle, Edo Castle (of the Imperial Palace), Hachioji Castle and others, but it was the attack on Hachioji Castle that led to the famous ruin of the Hojo family.

*There is too much history to tell in the same post, and this same story of Hachioji Castle would take up a whole post (which we hope to do soon), and we will put it here attached.

In short, when Hachioji castle fell to the armies of Lord Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the women and children of the castle committed suicide by throwing themselves into a nearby waterfall, and drowning or beating themselves and then drowning.

According to legend, the waters were dyed red for 3 days and, even today, the screams of women and children can still be heard at night, as well as soldiers and even the trampling of the hooves of ghost horses.

And for all that, walking around there is certainly a terrifying adventure, to make Kimodameshi.

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Hachioji Castle

The History of Kimodameshi

We are going to tell you the real story of Kimodameshi: As it is known, most of the Japanese folk customs, such as the one that originated kimodameshi has been lost in legends. But it is said that there are 2 possible origins, both being equally likely.

Kimodameshi, possible origin in the children of Fujiwara Kaneie

In the last years of the famous Heian period, during the reign of Emperor Shirakawa (from the year 1073 to 1087), the book “O-kagami” (大鏡 The Great Mirror), was written by a still unknown author.

In the book he tells the story of the 3 sons of Fujiwara Kaneie: One night, during the Ox Hour (approximately around 3am), the 3 sons challenged each other to go to a nearby house which was said to belong to an oni (demon or ogre in Japanese).

Only the eldest son, who was the leader of the martial arts school dared to accept the challenge (kamedameshi), and as proof of his courage he used his sword to cut a small piece of the lintel of the haunted house, to take it back and show it to the other brothers.

It is not known whether the story of the 3 sons of Fujiwara Kaneie is true or not, but it is said that kimodameshi began among the samurai class as a way to confront their sons’ deepest fears, and that the game served as a kind of samurai training.

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kimodameshi

Kimodameshi, The Hundred Candles Game (Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai)

During the Edo period, the Hundred Candlestick game (Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai) was a form of kimodameshi through Japanese storytelling.

The earliest extant record of the game of kamedameshi comes from the kaidan-shu “Tonoigusa” (from the year 1660) where a group of samurai gathered to test their bravery as they each told a ghost story.

Which story do you think is true? Leave a comment.

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We are specialists in Japan, one of us graduated in Japanese culture, studying in Japan at Keio university, also with Japanese language course, and qualified in Japanese noken 3 (n3). We are a family of 4 and we love to travel. We love Japan, its culture, its people, its language, its cities, its small towns, its nature, its food, anime and manga, souvenirs.... EVERYTHING ABOUT JAPAN!

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