On August 12, 1985, after recording a TV program in Tokyo, entertainer Junji Inagawa was scheduled to travel to Osaka on Japan Airlines Flight 123. But he felt indisposed and cancelled the flight, thus escaping the crash that killed 520 of the 524 people on board.
Inagawa describes his close shave with death as "a fork in the road of fate."
Inagawa, who turned 75 last week, has since gained wide recognition for his contributions to the modernization and commercialization of ghost stories on TV and in other media.
Shukan Taishu (Aug 22-29) has recruited Inagawa to relate a personal story, about an uncomfortable night he once spent at an old ryokan (Japanese inn) in rural Fukui Prefecture.
"The crew and I had left Tokyo rather late, so by the time we arrived at the hotel it was really late," he begins. "I was sent to stay in a separate wing of the inn apart from the performers and crew. While rather old, it was robustly built.
"Opening the sliding door I could see dim light reflecting off the floorboards. I opened a connecting door and found myself in a spacious room with a high ceiling, and an old-style ceiling lamp made of cut glass hanging down from the center of the room.
"Beneath it on the floor, a futon was spread out.
"One wall of the room was by the foot of the futon, and at the head of the futon was a large sliding door made of four sheets of dark wood.
"Curious to see what was behind the door I tried to open it, but it was securely locked. While somewhat uncomfortable about sleeping with my head close to the door, I shrugged it off, undressed and crawled into the futon.
"I couldn't get to sleep. Time passed and I lay there in the dark, the room slightly illuminated by the dim ceiling lamp.
"Suddenly I heard a woman's voice call out, 'Excuse me. Are you in the room?'
"I replied, 'Hai!' Opening the door, I saw a room maid clad in a kimono.
"I'm so sorry to be disturbing you so late, but downstairs someone is asking for you," she said.
Inagawa wondered who could possibly know he was in Fukui.
"I thanked the maid and went down the dark steps. A thin man who appeared to be in his 50s was standing by the rear entrance. When he saw me he bowed slightly and took several steps toward me, with a face that bore no expression.
"'Can you ... see what is haunting me?' he asked.
"'Oh no, not again,' I thought. Things like this have happened to me twice before. I thought the man was a little screwed up in the head.
"'Eh, no. I can't see anything,'" I told him.
"'One of my ancestors had been a crooked moneylender,' he said. 'Ever since, all the men in our family have died quite young, and I expect I'll be dying soon as well.'
"'I don't know whether their short lives were caused by a curse or genetics, but if you have a sympathetic heart, you will at least have a calm mind,' I told him.
"He bowed deeply and at that instant in the dim room I saw his expression had transformed into a grin, and he laughed. Then he turned away and left.
"I returned to my room, but after lying down I sensed something strange. I turned over and looking I noticed the wooden door, previously shut, was now open about 20 centimeters -- beyond which was completely dark.
"'Eh? It's open,' I thought. Someone must have entered the room.
"'No, no way,' I suddenly realized. 'Since the door can't be opened from this side, someone on the other side of the door must have opened it and come through here. Which means they must still be around here somewhere.'
"I felt a faint presence of something moving diagonally to the left of my head, and peeped through partially opened eyes, while pretending to be asleep.
"A gush of cold sweat began pouring from my forehead, dripping through my hair and down my face.
"Then I heard a sound like peta-peta-peta, of someone or something crawling toward me on the tatami, coming closer and closer.... My body remained frozen in place, unable to move even a twitch.
"The dim ceiling light put the person's face in shadow, but I could make out that it was the face of an extremely thin man. When his face was directly above mine, he produced a frightening grin, and at that moment I realized 'It's the man who had visited me earlier!' Upon which I completely lost consciousness.
"When I awoke the next morning, the wooden door was once again closed and locked, and I couldn't budge it.
"When we departed the inn, two maids saw us off. I asked them about the other maid, whom I'd spoken with the night before.
"'I don't know who you mean -- only the two of us were on duty last night,' she told me. 'All the other staff here commute from home.
"'But then who was the maid?' I asked. They had no idea.
"Then I thought to ask them, 'What's on the other side of that wooden door?'
"A maid replied, 'Oh, that. The treasure vault. The past owner of this house was said to have been a crooked moneylender, and the things he took from people to cover their debts were stored inside. But I myself have never once seen it.'
"Oh, so then your boss looks after it."
"'No, he died quite young, and since his death no one has opened those doors even once,' she replied."© Japan Today