Japanese horror movies are known for their ability to scare the wits out of people but at the same time, keeps their attention enough to let them keep watching until the end. Carefully placed jumpscares, interesting storylines, and accompanied with the appropriate music at the right time makes Japanese horror movies so entertaining and so scary. However, another reason why Japanese horror movies are so well-known for their ability to tell horror stories is because of the abundance of urban legends they have in their country. Some urban legends are popular, and probably so scary, that these urban legends have been translated to the big screen.
The Ring or Ringu, one of more internationally-known Japanese horror movies is actually based on a Japanese urban legend, the Okiku. The Okiku, like the ghost Sadako in The Ring, is a woman ghost that was thrown down the well as well, and – as all ghosts do – comes back to haunt people every night.
A famous urban legend in Japan is the Kuchisake Onna, or the slit-mouthed woman. This urban legend was turned into a movie called, The Tale of Kuchisake Onna. This urban legend tells the story of a woman wearing a surgical mask. She approaches people and asks you, “Am I pretty?,” if you answer yes, she will remove her mask, revealing her slit mouth and asks you again, “How about now?” If you change your answer, she cuts you in half, but if you answer is still yes, she also slits your mouth.
Another famous urban legend Hanako-san inspired two movies, Toire no Hanako-san and Hanako of the Toilet. It is said that Hanako-san haunts the third stall of a school’s third floor girl’s bathroom. The story of how she became a ghost changes from time to time, and even the location of what school it is also changes. However, the way to summon her is probably the only thing that doesn’t change. To summon the ghost of Hanako-san, you knock on her stall thrice and ask, “Are you there, Hanako-san?” if you hear answer and open the stall, she drags you into the toilet with her.
There is a Japanese movie called The Legend of Teke-Teke which is based from the urban legend ghost Teke-teke. It is the story of a girl who fell down the railroad tracks and had her body cut in half. It is said that you could see a girl – with the lower half of her body missing – roaming around in Japan. If she catches you staring at her, she chases after you – using her hands as legs – and if she does catch up to you, she slices you in half.
The ghost that is seen in the story of The Grudge, or Ju-on is also based on another famous urban legend. Kayako, the ghost in The Grudge, was said to be killed by her husband since he suspected her of cheating and after killing her, also killed their son, Toshiro. Kayako is a ghost that was born out of grudge or vengeance. This kind of ghost is based on the urban legend of Onryo, a ghost that can actually cause harm to humans, and even kill them.