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The Unusual Times
Fiction & Drollery

Japanese Urban Legends

Blog image of Japanese Urban Legends

From the jinmenken (human-faced dog) to the eery ‘fatal fare’ that preys on innocent taxi drivers, Japan has a wealth of sinister and exciting urban legends.

Myths of vanishing hitchhikers and backseat killers are popular all around the world. The urban myth of the ‘fatal fare’ is part of this great tradition, but with a particular twist.

The story takes place at night on a quiet street. A taxi driver notices a fare haling him from the side of the road. The passenger gets in the back of the car and informs the driver of the destination. The driver has never heard of the place, so the passenger promises to give detailed directions. He then directs the driver with increasingly complicated instructions. The taxi weaves a labyrinthine route down obscure roads and lanes and then out into the ill-lit countryside. The ambling route appears to be going in circles and the driver begins to doubt the instructions. At this point he turns to the passenger for reassurance and sees that he has disappeared. As he turns back to his wheel, he realises that he is heading towards a cliff edge and is going too fast to stop.

The fatal fare is not the only thing to watch out for on the roadside when the sun goes down. If you are ever travelling on a Japanese motorway at night keep your eyes peeled, as you may spot ajinmenken. The jinmenken look like dogs, but have human faces. Witnesses have described seeing the beasts run at incredible speeds (over 30 mph) alongside cars. Some believe that the jinmenken are escaped subjects from experiments to create genetically-modified super-soldiers that took place at US military bases in Japan in the 1970s, others that they are misidentified macaques.

The story of Gozu (ox- or cow-head) is one that you will never hear, and nor would you want to. This story is frightening beyond words. According to the myth, those who hear the story often end up paralysed by terror; others shake with fear for days and, in some instances, become mute or even die. Fortunately, those who hear the story (and survive) often find they have blanked it from their memories -– as was the case with a reckless teacher who told the story to his pupils. As far as is known, the story has never been recorded.

There are plenty more uncanny beasts in these Unusual Times. 

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