It's summer. In Japan, that means beaches and snow cones. It also means having the shit scared out of you.
While fall is the time for ghosts and goblins in the West, summer is traditionally the season of frights in Japan. Ghost stories are told on summer evenings. One reason for this is scary stories can cause a momentary shiver, a chill running down your spine, a cold sweat—a welcomed way to stay cool during Japan's notoriously humid summers.
Another reason is that Obon is held in August. During Obon, relatives from the spirit world return home. Family also clean their relatives' graves. In the last decade or so, Japan has begin celebrating Halloween somewhat, largely thanks to promotional events at Tokyo Disney and Universal Studios Japan.
But summer is still primetime for spookiness. Earlier this month, haunted
house hospital Chou Senritsumeikyuu or The Hyper Hair-Raising Maze was renovated at the Fuji-Q Highland theme park near Mt. Fuji. Commonly known as the Haunted Hospital in English, it is the longest haunted house in the world, spawning 500 meters and four stories. It can take up to an hour to get through. (Those who chicken out can exit mid-way!)
The attraction is supposed to be a hospital that's been abandoned for the past forty years or so. Oh yeah, it's haunted, too.
Hospitals are a common trope in Japanese horror flicks (ditto for Western ones) —one reason for this is, well, old abandoned hospitals are creepy! Hospitals pop up in horror movie after horror movie as well as scary games like Silent Hill. The Haunted Hospital was created in 2003, and postdates the first Silent Hill, which was released in March 1999.
There was a smaller, temporary haunted hospital at Fuji-Q that opened in 1998, predating the first Silent Hill game. The following year, a haunted hospital opened in July.
In 2007, the Haunted Hospital has collaborated with Resident Evil, giving park visitors the chance to experience what seemed like it was a Resident Evil meets Silent Hill mash.
It's not necessary to know Japanese to enjoy the Haunted Hospital—getting the shit scared out of you is universal! Those wanting to experience it, note that a ¥500 (US$6.30) surcharge is required.