Halloween is over, but the candy piled up on my desk means that I’m not quite ready to let it go. Which is why I couldn’t resist this spooky story treat when I came across it: a rare gem of culture and fun on the web, 百物語怪談 Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai: Translated Japanese Ghost Stories and Tales of the Weird and the Strange caught my eye.
The site is run by Zack Davisson, an avid researcher of Japanese ghost stories and folklore. He has had a number of articles published online for Japanzine, and works in other freelance writing and consulting capacities. But just one look at this site and one can see that his passion lies with the supernatural of Japan.
As the title suggests, this blog is a collection of translated ghost stories and other strange tales having to do with Japanese supernatural beings and experiences. In Japan, weird accounts of the unseen “other” world date back centuries, and have always caught the eager ears of listeners. The name of this blog comes from the traditional game “Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai” (百物語怪談会), or “A Gathering of 100 Weird Tales.” As Davisson describes it:
100 candles would be placed in a circle, and the players would each tell a ghoulish tale, often a story from their local village, or perhaps a more personal experience. As each tale ended, the storyteller would douse a single candle, the light slowly fading as the tension rose. The game was said to be a ritual of evocation, the expiration of each story and each candle summoning more spiritual energy, transforming the room into a beacon for the dead. With the vanishing of the final light, someone or something terrible would be waiting in the darkness.
There’s a marvelous variety of these tales, and Davisson arranges them thematically in convenient categories such as yōkai stories, Buddhist morals, or magical animal stories, along with tags for essays on kaidan (ghost stories). He has informative articles on ghost stories in Japan, as well as the origins of the hyakumonogatari in both game and published formats. Also of interest are his descriptions of the connection of these early tales to modern j-horror films.
If you’d like a little taste of the spooky (Japan-style), definitely take a look at this site and read a couple of the stories or explanations of Japanese ghosts and supernatural that he’s translated. I definitely lost some time once I got started!