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Urban Legends And Contemporary Ghost Stories In Japan

2503 words - 11 pages

In the following, I will summarize, analyze and interpret the short ghost stories that are part of the so called “Kaidan: A Collection of New Tales” (Japanese Title: 怪談:新耳袋). Each story has a title and a number, is about five minutes long and usually in itself complete and independent. Rarely do they have a second part which is not clearly indicated to the viewer, but rather shown through other details like identical names or appearances. Additionally I will give a short historical summary of the development Japanese horror from the 1950s until today.
Primarily, the first story I chose from the Collection of Tales is called臭い (Nioi) and revolves around a female high school student on her way back home from school. She encounters a woman in a kimono sitting in seiza with her back to the girl on the side of the road. The girl approaches the woman and asks whether she is feeling okay. By doing so she notices a strange smell, that of rotten smell, coming from the strange woman who does not react to the girl’s questions. The protagonist then decides to call the police but the phone does not go through with the call. As she is distracted the woman vanishes but appears behind her again while she is confusedly looking around. Still, the viewer cannot see the strange woman’s face and can by now conclude that there is something odd going on. The girl staggers back because of the rotten smell and suddenly the woman shakes her neck and upper body in an abrupt jolting motion similar to that of ghosts in popular horror movies. As she tries to escape the creature blocks her way again (all the while making unsettling cow-like noises), then lies out-stretched behind her and when the girl turns around to run the creature traps her food under hers. The creature slowly rises, with her hands in front of her face and then reveals her features to the horrified school girl. The viewer is not shown the complete face of the creature but one can deduct that it as a matter of fact has no face at all. With a new found strength the girl runs away, down a flight of stairs only to be faced with the back of the creature again. She is then scared by her sister who touches her shoulder. However, her sister notices the strange smell on the protagonist, turns slowly around, sinks on her knees and starts with the eerie jolting actions – in other words turns into the strange creature. With that the short film ends.
As a viewer with a Western upbringing and Western background I felt confusion after the end of the video. The story is not wrapped up; it does not explain the reasons why the ghost appeared or why it attacked the school girl and what happens to her after the credits are shown. The Viewer has to accept an open ending.
This form of story-telling in Japanese horror is genuinely quite common. As for example, in Ringu (1998) directed by Hideo Nakata or in Ju-on: The Grudge (2002) - the true motives of the vengeful spirits (onryō) and the exact future of the characters are never...

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