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Friday, October 27

Nothing Says Halloween Like Dead Samurai

The night was black and we found ourselves deep in Japanese woods surrounded by mountains on all sides. Around us a misty air swirled through the valley allowing only a handful of stars to shine their light down to us. We pass through the wooden entryway lit only by two torches onto a path that mingled mud and stones and knotty roots that each threatened our every step. The path was illuminated for only ten steps before we were plunged back into the gloom, with the next spot of glowing light more than fifty steps ahead.

The guide begins to weave her tale of samurais long gone who spent their years protecting these lands and their lords. Samurai had been trained to crush their enemy or fight to the death. Many in these precise woods met their fate. Those of special importance were buried in yagura, grave sites hollowed out of the cliff side of the mountains. The exact place in these woods that we found ourselves bound for this eve. We are told that the spirits of these samurai are said to have remained living in the trees, the earth and the black night that surrounds us.

We make our first turn to climb the steps to the site when someone approaches from behind and grabs my shoulder. I scream and clutch the front of KH’s shirt, surely taking a few chest hairs as victims in my grasp. The trees to either side begin to violently rattle and shake and move in on us, blocking our trail. Two girls scream and one falls to the muck beneath her in sheer terror. It takes the other girl dragging her back onto her feet to get her to relative safety.

We enter a bamboo forest, weaving left and right, trying to get through as quickly as possible. We hear movement all around us but can see nothing in the obscurity of the trees. Hands reach out to grab us from the trees and I try desperately to force myself into the middle of our small group, leaving someone else to handle the tail. Screams continue to echo through the woods around us, unbeknownst to us where they come from or who or what they belong to. One of our own group goes missing at the first burial site. A second taken by Samurai spirits at a checkpoint. A man falls from a tree just missing capturing his next victim for the evening. He gives us one last glance and we can see the horrible mask he wears before he runs back into the thick woods to wait for the next unsuspecting group.

It feels like hours since we set out to see the yagura and learn about those that walked these woods long before us. We all breathe a sigh of relief when we see our first car lights piercing the darkness, temporarily blinding us, but we are thankful that we have made it out alive and have returned to modern day civilization. We will live to see another day.

One of the few Halloween activities (at least that we know about here – the Japanese are big on the orange and black decorations but aren’t altogether on the bandwagon for the scary fun yet), we heard about a Haunted Forest in the hills of Ikego and refused to miss this small touch of home. Warmed with hot chocolate and cookies, we set off on a twenty minute guided walk through the woods that gave us a little back-home-like-holiday and tied it in with a little Japanese culture. The effect was perfect. And perhaps the scariest thing I have seen done for Halloween in a very long time. Do you dare enter the Haunted Forest?

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