August 28, 2016
by Hayato Tochimori and Yuta Sakurai
Summer in Kyoto is very hot. The average of maximum temperature is somewhere between 30 and 35 degrees. Ways of keeping cool are using air conditioners, eating ice cream, swimming in a pool, watering down a path, and so on. However, there is another way of keeping you cool in Japan. It is called kimodameshi, which means a test of your courage. Some people (especially young people) go to psychic spots at night because they can feel cool naturally with fear. Below are three recommended spooky places in Kyoto that are sure to send chills down your spine.
The Kiyotaki Tunnel
The Kiyotaki Tunnel is located in the Ukyo Ward of Kyoto city. This spot is very scary, so already some TVs and magazines have introduced it to the public. It became psychic spot because it was once an execution site, and a number of people have since committed suicide inside the tunnel. In the distant past, the tunnel used to be for trains of Atagosan Railway line only. Eventually, the railway closed for business just before the Second World War. After that, the tunnel was designated for use with cars.
There are some rumours about this Kiyotaki tunnel. First, do not enter the tunnel when the traffic signal is green. When it is green, it means that spirits welcome you. If you enter it when the traffic signal is green, female spirits will appear in front of you. So, if you see a green light when you arrive at the entrance to the tunnel, you should wait for the traffic signal change to green again after red. Second, there is a facing down mirror after you go through the tunnel, but do not look at it recklessly at night. If you look at the mirror, you see yourself as a dead person. If you look at the mirror and you do not see your own figure, you die in a few days. Third, you might hear shrieks of women. Fourth, if you go through the tunnel by car, you might see handprints on the hood of your car.
The map shows where the Kiyotaki Tunnel is. You can go to this spot by Kyoto bus. From Kyoto station, please use No.72 or 84 bus. From Hankyu Arashiyama station, please use No.62, 64 or 94 bus. Then, please get off at Otagidera-mae.
Midorogaike Pond is located in the Kita Ward in Kyoto city. This spot is the scariest in Kyoto, so a lot of Kyoto citizens already know about this pond. Midorogaike pond is designated by the government as a natural monument to conserve the plants and animals of the pond. It became a spooky place due to several widespread rumours. First, there is one story of a taxi. The taxi driver picked up a woman at one night, and she asked him to take her to the Midorogaike pond. The driver wondered why she wanted to go there at such a late hour, but he went ahead and proceeded to take her to the pond anyway. When the taxi driver arrived at the pond and looked back, the woman had disappeared and the back seat was wet. After this incident, some taxi drivers in Kyoto have agreed not to take passengers to the pond at night. Second, it is said that spirits wander around the pond. There used to be a mental hospital near the pond and some of the patients had drowned themselves there. There is belief that a lot of drowned corpses are sunk deep within in the pond because condition of the pond is bottomless. If you fall into the pond, it is difficult for you to get out because of the vast amounts of mud. Some eyewitnesses have said that they have seen spirits and human souls around the pond.
The map shows where Midorogaike Pond is. You can go to this spot by underground or Kyoto city bus. If you go by underground, please get off at Kitayama station and walk 15 minutes. If you go by city bus, please get on No.4 bus at Kyoto station and then get off at Midorogaike.
Finally, I am going to write about ushinokoku mairi. It is the ritual of laying a curse on to another person. The term ‘ushinokoku’ refers to the time between 1:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m. in Japan. Mairi means going to worship. It is said that this ritual was completed in Edo period (1603~1867). In this ritual, a person who wants to put a curse on someone else nails a straw doll (similar to a voodoo doll) on a tree. It is common to perform the ritual wearing white clothing and wooden clogs, with disheveled hair and a whitened face. The person who is cursed gets sick from the same organ into which the nail was put into the doll. This is a very scary cultural practice. However, nobody must see a person performing this ritual because it is believed that the performer will get the curse back on him or her, and the performer should kill the witness if the performer is seen to perform the ritual. Therefore, please be careful not to observe this ritual. It is a dangerous ritual, but it is a really interesting part of Japanese culture.
In the very north part of Kyoto city, there is a shrine related to ushinokoku mairi. It is called the Kibune shrine. It is famous for the God of marriage, but is also known for the birthplace of ushinokoku mairi. This shrine has a set of stairs made of rock, and there are many red lanterns hanging on both sides, so the scenery is very beautiful. Therefore, you can enjoy these spots in Kibune shrine, while thinking about the scary culture of ushinokoku mairi. However, just be careful not to go to Kibune shrine between the hours of 1:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m.
The map shows where Kifune shrine is. The way to go to Kifune shrine is to walk from Kifuneguchi station. It is the nearest station from Kifune shrine. From Kyoto station, you can go to the station by bus and train. First, please use a train bound for Kokusaikaikan, and then, please use a bus bound for Kifuneguchi station.
So those are three scary places in Kyoto. Is it spooky enough for you? Such a strange way to make us cooler in the heat of the summer is such an interesting part of Japanese culture, isn’t it? If you want to overcome the really hot temperatures of the Kyoto summer, then visiting these places is indispensable. Moreover, it is better for the environment than just using an electric air conditioner. Let’s enjoy our summer in Kyoto with these three not only interesting, but also scary places.