Beware fellow readers, this is not your ordinary book of ghost stories: not only does this book contain a collection of genuine (or believed to be genuine) tales of hauntings from Japan, this book also contains a spell to summon a ghost. Apparently, if you sit in a darkened room with 14 large lit candles, snuff one out after every chapter and, upon completion of the book, say ‘Au nowa wakari no hajimari’ before you put out the final candle, you’ll summon a ghost. Well, either that or set off the fire alarm- and since I live in accomodation where one fire alarm will cause the whole building to be evacuated, I decided to give the ghost summoning part a miss.
I admit initially I was a bit disappointed when I opened this; I thought it was going to be a collection of Japanese ghost stories, but instead I got a collection of paranormal sightings and the myths behind them from Okinawa Japan- and most of them pretty similar to sightings and ghost stories we find in the West.
In one story, a cab driver named Mr Miyagi- no, not that Mr Miyagi- comes across a ghostly passenger, who spooks him with her flashing eyes before disappearing into thin air- leaving a puddle of water behind; another is about the victim of an English sailor who drowned during a ship wreck in 1840 and whose screams can still be heard on a stormy night in August; another is about a marine on an American military base who still appears to people asking for a light. There’s 14 in all and they’re all in that vein.
While I was disappointed by the lack of Kage Onna and the fascinating creatures found in The Hour Of Meeting Evil Spirits, it was pretty interesting for what it was (plus it had some Shisha statues in there, which cheered me up). The ghost stories are recounted in a very unbiased, matter of fact way and each story comes with a picture of the location that where the tale took place.
According to the author, in the original version there were maps to the locations given which were removed, but given the photos and descriptions, its unlikely that any of these places will be hard to find if you go to Okinawa .
The tales themselves are not the only thing this book has going for it; we also have some snippets from two ghost hunters- Jack Fletcher and Junko Yamaguchi- who went to visit some of the haunted locations at night.
Their part certainly adds some atmosphere and some creepy fun to the proceedings: they bring the place to life with their descriptions and their description of the Shah Bay resort is definitely enough to send chills up your spine. However, a google search told me the Shah Bay resort has been torn down, so it the ghosts there have been defeated by the power of industrialization.
Apparently they also heard strange voices in the other locations, which they caught on tape, but since as of the time the book was written, they are using the footage as a bargaining tool for a television series, whether the footage is truthful or whether its a fake to make money is up to the reader to decide. The optimist in me who would love to believe in life after death hopes the former, but the realist in me suspects the latter.
VERDICT: Whether you’ll enjoy this depends on whether you’re interested in paranormal sightings and shows like ‘Britain’s Most Haunted’ interest you. If they do, then this is as good as it gets. This is a series of well researched, evenhandedly told collection of tales, which while resembling paranormal sightings from the West, do also offer a bit of an Eastern variety. If you’re going to write a ghost story set in Japan, these stories also provide a good authentic base to build upon.