If you like it when chills run down your spine, let us introduce to you to yurei — the vast category of Japanese folklore which includes internationally famous legends about revengeful and spiteful ghosts. Unlike some stories about yokai, which mostly tend to be playful and hilarious, these Japanese ghost stories are more sorrowful and uncanny, and probably will make you feel uneasy.
1. Goryo, the noble dead
Literally translated as “honorable spirit,” Goryo is a ghost from aristocratic classes who died tormented and agonizing. First mentions of them go back to the Heian period, they are believed to be “the spirits of powerful lords, who have been wronged, that were capable of catastrophic vengeance.” Existing solely for vengeance, Goryo are a type of ghosts that chase after those who wronged them during their life and wreak havoc on them, causing calamities and disasters.
One quite popular legend is the one of a Goryo called Shinto Kami, also known as Tenjin. It is said that the years following the unfair murder of government official Michizane by one of the members of the Fujiwara clan, thunders and heavy rains pummeled the capital city causing fires and floods. Moreover, the Fujiwara chief and Emperor Daigo’s crown prince soon died, which completely convinced the court that all calamities and casualties were caused by the restless spirit of Michizane. In order to quell him, the Emperor himself burned the order of exile and promoted Michizane postmortem. On top of that, Michizane was idolized as Tenjin sama, which means “sky deity” and literally made him a patron god of poetry, calligraphy, and justice.
2. The rage of the Onryo
This kind of Japanese ghost story also relates to vengeful spirits but unlike the Goryo, which is not necessarily a wrathful spirit, the Onryo is almost always a malicious ghost as they died full of anger, and only return to scare the living to death and take their souls. Victims of domestic abuse or women martyred by wicked stalkers or maniacs will most likely turn into Onryo in the afterlife. This category also serves as a staple for J-horror movies and has appeared as the renowned Kayako from "The Grudge" or "Sadako from “The Ring.”
It is believed that once an Onryo decided to manifest itself, the victim starts to experience nausea, heavy headache, and pain in the chest. When just passing by, this ghost could look like a collapsed woman, probably unconscious but as you approach, she starts to make weeping, groaning sounds and whispers incomprehensible words. Eventually, she levitates towards the victim reaching one head in a bid to catch her or him, and finally covers the victim with its unkempt thick hair. Due to the dark and heavy aura around the Onryo, the victim experiences an unbearable headache, which eventually leads to death.
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