The Prevalence of Summer Ghost Stories in Japan
Did you know that the Japanese like to cool off in the summer with a spine-tingling story? In this blog, we look at some of Japan’s most terrifying tales as well as our scrumptious lunch box deals. Enjoy the perfect picnic in Manchester or Liverpool this summer with some great food and scary stories.
Yotsuya Kaidan (Oiwa and Iemon)
This is one of the most famous Japanese ghost stories of all time, and with good reason; this is a tremulous tale about murder, betrayal and revenge. While best enjoyed at an authentic Japanese theatre, it has also been the subject of film and television and is the first story in the J-drama series Kaidan Hyaku Shosetsu.
The tale is so haunting that it has become a tradition for any producers attempting to adapt the story to visit the grave site of one of the main characters to pay their respects. An urban legend states that trouble – even fatalities – will befall any crew who fails to adhere to this rite.
Below, we offer a summary of the story to share with your friends on hot summer evening. Please bear in mind that this summary is based on the original play from 1825, and that following variations have brought their own interpretations:
Oiwa and her sister, Osode, are tricked into believing that Naosuke and Iemon will exact revenge for their murdered father. Little do they know that both Naosuke and Iemon are ruthless murderers; Naosuke murdered another man, wrongly believing him to be Osode’s husband, and Iemon murdered the sisters’ father.
Not only are they being betrayed by those they trust to bring about justice, Oiwa faces romantic threats from another family. Oiwa is married to Iemon, but Oume loves him too. To turn Iemon against Oiwa, Oume’s family send Oiwa a poisonous face cream to disfigure her.
Iemon leaves Oiwa for Oume, but Oiwa, betrayed and furious grabs a sword with which to take her own revenge. Unfortunately, she fumbles with the sword in her hysteria and takes her own life instead.
Oume and Iemon are married but cursed by Oiwa. Oume’s family die one by one while Osode faces her own troubles. Whilst grieving for her dead sister, Naosuke tries to convince Osode to consummate her marriage with him. During this scene, Osode’s husband appears and accuses the two of adultery. Osode decides that suicide is the only way to reclaim her honour; she leaves Naosuke a note and disappears.
Naosuke reads the note, where he finds that Osode had been trying to escape his advances because they are siblings. Horrified with himself, Naosuke commits suicide.
Iemon believes he is haunted by Oiwa so he flees to the mountains where he descends into madness and can no longer tell the difference between reality and his haunted dreams.
Some Other Japanese Ghost Stories
Ghost stories are believed to be popular in Japan for more than just their spine-tingling success, but also because summer is the season of the Obon festival where the souls of the dead are believed to return to the world, and it is also when kabuki theatre is most popular – and many kabuki plays were inspired by folk ghost stories.
More traditional ghost stories feature in The Legends of Tono and The Tale of Genji, but there are also plenty of films that had garnered popularity in the West, such as The Grudge and Ring which shows a fascination with hauntings and death.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for something you can enjoy now, you could try the Kowabana: ‘True Japanese Scary Stories collected from the internet and read aloud by horror author and translator, Tara A. Devlin.
Our Take-Away Lunch Boxes
Our bento boxes cost £10 each and are the perfect addition to your picnic. We have three variations for you to choose from:
Our Katsu Chicken box comes with katsu chicken curry and miso soup, as well as plenty of Japanese pickles and four tasty California rolls.
For seafood lovers, we offer our Salmon Bento Box, with its salmon teriyaki and miso soup, steamed rice, stir fry vegetables, Japanese pickles and four California rolls.
Lastly, we offer a Vegetarian version, filled with vegetable yakisoba, miso soup, four scrumptious cucumber maki, vegetarian spring rolls, more Japanese pickles and a refreshing wakame seaweed salad.
We recommend returning to our Japanese restaurant in Manchester or our Japanese restaurant in Liverpool to try every bento box, as each has its own flavour profile to be savoured and enjoyed. Alternatively, if you found these ghost stories a little too chilling, you should consider dining in on our Express Lunch menu where we offer a spicy chilli beef ramen noodle soup for £5.