Shirokiya Fire

Japanese Urban Legends and Haunted Places

Halloween is just around the corner. There are many places all around the world that have stories of the unexplained, and Japan is no exception. Here are some of Japan’s talked about haunted destinations and urban legends:

Shirokiya Department Store, Tokyo

Shirokiya_FireThe Shirokiya Department Store fire took place on December 16, 1932, killing 14 people and injuring 67.  Shirokiya Department Store was having their year-end Christmas theme sale and the store was festively decorated for the season.

Shiroyika fire.

The fire began at about 9:15 am at the toy section a few minutes before the store was to open and spread rapidly on floors 4-8. The staircase filled with smoke like a chimney, cutting off a major escape route.  Many at the upper floors were forced to climb to the roof while others made makeshift ropes from clothing or curtains and climbed down to safety. Others were not as lucky and fell to their deaths or suffocated. A tragic end for the 14 people who perished during what supposedly should be the happiest time of the year.

During those times, women who wore traditional kimonos did not wear panties. According to urban legend, saleswomen in kimonos chose not to jump from the roof to safety nets because they were ashamed to be seen from below, and so perished in the fire. This led to the rise in popularity of Western-style panties, although there has been no proof that the legend is true.

Oiran Bushi, Yamanashi

Don’t be fooled by the lush and peaceful scenery of the quiet town of Oiran Bushi, located along Route 411 just outside Yamanashi City. The picturesque steep cliffs and flowing river hold a darker secret. There is a story among Japanese locals that a long time ago, 55 ladies of the night were killed right in Oiran Bushi and their restless souls still linger, ready to frighten any unsuspecting visitor who dares wander around Oiran Bushi.

Doryodo Ruins, Tokyo

Doryodo Ruins are ruins of an old temple right in the center of Otukayama Park in Hachioji. Like most stories of the unexplained, the legend of Doryodo Ruins is cloaked in mystery. As the story goes, there was an elderly woman who was brutally murdered in the area in 1963. Ten years after her senseless death, another murder took place. This time a young woman was found lifeless in the same area. It was rumored that a college professor had killed her. Years later, the temple ruins were further torn down, but the restless spirits still wander the grounds. It is said that at night, sounds of distant crying can be heard. Some witnesses have reported feeling intense sadness and a sense of being watched.