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Horror Houses in Japan

Some years ago we were staying in the delightful mountain town of Takayama in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn, just for a couple of nights. Usually our budget limitations mean that we stay in cheap business hotels, but we always try for a couple of nights in traditional Japanese style accommodation. Our beautiful ryokan had a suite of tatami mat rooms, inside which we lounged around in yukata (cotton kimono), used the o-furo (bath, fed by hot springs in this instance) and were served the most exquisite food. It’s a gorgeous place to stay.

Directly opposite, on the other side of the road to this oasis of calm and refinement, however, we discovered the madness that was Horror House: Crazy Killer.

We’d grown up with ghost trains at funfairs in the UK and, to be honest, they are a bit rubbish. You sit in a rickety cart and are wheeled around a short track inside a tiny shack and various unconvincing props occasionally swing out at you with the aim of making you jump. Japanese horror houses are far superior: they are like a ghost train but without the train and comprise multiple rooms which you walk around. The difference is that there is usually an actor or two inside, ready to jump out at you, all with the aim of scaring the bejesus out of anyone who enters. We had been inside Japanese horror houses before, so we kinda knew what to expect from Crazy Killer.

Some years previously we visited the Toei Studios Movie Theme Park, home of samurai soap operas and big monsters, in Kyoto, which made for a great afternoon’s entertainment, especially as we adore Japanese cinema. There are all sorts of activities, from exploring the movie sets to viewing the history of the studio, as well as meeting kaiju (monsters) and enjoying a spectacular ninja show.

The studio has a horror house, inside which were a number of rooms to explore. Several denizens, dressed in various scary costumes lurked within, all ready to chase us around the room or jump out at us. The most disturbing of these was actually a lone actor, dressed in ghostly attire, who was just sitting in a corner of the room, whimpering.

Takayama’s Horror House: Crazy Killer had just one. Crazy Killer, that is. Once we paid our modest fee and entered the attraction, the building contained the usual blend of gruesome exhibits and shock tactics such as doors slamming loudly behind you, or a claustrophobic room where a light switches on and you jump at your own reflection in a mirror.

And, of course, Crazy Killer was lurking there. He first revealed himself when we passed by an array of gory severed heads which were clearly models – until we reached the last one, whereupon Crazy Killer leapt out, making us jump, and we immediately scarpered, simultaneously screaming and laughing. Crazy Killer retreated back into his dastardly domain and we tentatively continued our way around, largely in the dark, all nervous energy and adrenaline, waiting for the next time he was ready to jump out at us. Which he did on several occasions. When we finally saw the exit we could hear that he was close behind us and advancing rapidly… so we ran!

We laughed our way around and when we emerged, unscathed, at the exit, the proprietor asked us if we’d like to go in to have our photo taken with the killer. Of course we did! So she radioed him and we met up inside, whereupon he handed us a plastic machete and a severed head. Great! Apparently most visitors pose demurely alongside Crazy Killer.

The proprietor explained that it was okay, we were from England. Crazy Killer was delighted to meet us. So we all had a nice chat about the British royal family in our best Japanese (which was quite a challenge) and then we went back to the ryokan for a night of decadence and a delicious dinner.


13 Comments

  1. We absolutely LOVE Japan! The way they name things in English is always so fun, ie: “Horror House: Crazy Killer.” We’ve both been individually (Stephen’s had 5 tours of Japan as a drummer over the past several years, and Andie spent about a month there when she was little), and we’ve also visited together in 2017. That was the closest we came to being there on Halloween, as we arrived on 11/1 in the early morning. Shibuya Station was quite the scene, with so many people just wrapping up their Halloween festivities from the night before, lol! We’d love to check out something like Horror House: Crazy Killer for a better taste of Halloween, Japan-style!

    • Japan is our favourite place in the world and we have been lucky to visit a number of times – we love it too! The Horror House was both scary and silly and we had a great laugh in there.

  2. We can’t wait to visit Tokyo and Kyoto in particular. That hotel sounds very nice, but we would love to visit that amusement park and haunted/horror attraction. We just went to a haunted attraction here and it was fun.

    • Thank you! We definitely recommend at least some time staying in traditional accommodation in Japan. Do hope you get to visit. And, yes, haunted houses are so much fun!

  3. I spent 10 days in Japan a couple of years ago touring but never saw these sites – I missed something quite unique. These would scare me too much to enter but I get the fun of it, especially as you see the Japanese version of horror.

    • I think we really got lucky with the horror house – we happened to be in the right place at the right time. The Toei theme park has a permanent attraction. They are scary but in a fun kind of way. Thanks so much for your comment!

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