Hiding from Japanese Ghosts' Experience with Kiyotaki Tunnel
I first heard about Kiyotaki Tunnel years ago from a friend, suggesting 'we visit the tunnel everyone says is haunted'. I had read the reports, stories, and articles about Kiyotaki Tunnel. This is by no means an unknown ghost spot - there are articles and sources in a range of languages, and it is a popular reference for media and bloggers to brag about their bravery.
Usually I try to explore places lesser known to the public, and I was put-off by the sensationalised television segments, copy-paste adds to click-bait mystery lists, and Youtube clips of reporters offering contradicting information (or walking through the new tunnel as opposed to the old).
I thought I would check it out on the way to two other reportedly haunted locations in the area since Kiyotaki Tunnel was not a difficult place to access compared to the other ghost spots; it was a hop and a skip from the Sagano Walk and Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, and there was a regular bus which travelled through the tunnel every fifteen minutes. It was barely what others had described as a 'frightening, deserted ghost spot'.
However, the woodlands were dense in that area, so the sources couldn't be completely written-off as fiction.
I arrived at the tunnel from the Arashiyama side via bicycle around midday. I was cautious about entering the tunnel on a bike due to the tightness of space - if I entered the tunnel and a car approached from behind, there wouldn't be enough room for them to overtake me. If I took too long getting to the other side, the signal would change to green and there would be a problem of oncoming traffic clogging the one-lane tunnel. Despite that, I wanted to check the rumour of the distance contradiction (the length of the tunnel seeming longer on a return trip).
I waited for roughly fifteen minutes, taking time to check the famous mirror outside the tunnel entrance (no ghosts there - lucky?), and the timer system on the traffic signal (it had arrows counting down to the signal change).
I was still deciding whether or not to ride through on a bike when a guy exited the tunnel on foot. I thought, 'Screw it. If that guy can walk the distance, I can go by bike'.
When the signal changed to green, I entered on my bicycle, and almost immediately regret it as a car approached me from behind (so now I was blocking traffic). I tried moving to the side to let them through, but the tunnel was far too tight for overtaking. It was exactly why I didn't want to enter the tunnel in the first place, and now I had to ride the length of the tunnel being tailed by an irritated driver (who had their windows down, and I could hear them muttering annoyances to the front-seat passenger).
About halfway through the tunnel, something felt very wrong as if something cold had settled in my stomach. There was someone walking towards us from the other side, and I panicked for a moment thinking the signals had changed and oncoming cars were coming our way. However, as the distance closed between us, there was something very off about the figure walking towards us; his clothes were hanging off him as if only tied on by rope; he had a slight limp on his left side; and he was carrying a long-handled garden hoe. Though, by far the most unsettling feature was his face and hands - they were luminously white under the yellow lights, but his lips and eyes were black lines as if painted on with heavy marker. I was almost certain he was wearing a clown mask because his forehead was a mass of deep, layered wrinkles which extended past his hairline, and half of his mouth was curved into a toothy grin emphasized by the thick, black lines of his lips. It was like meeting a monochrome version of Batman's Joker minus the suit.
I couldn't look away from him, and behind me the driver and passenger became alive with caution and disbelieving remarks ("You're kidding me.", "What's up with that guy?", "He's giving me the creeps.", "What does he think he's doing?"). It was at that point I was thankful there was a car behind me since I wasn't quite sure if my eyes were playing tricks, and I suddenly didn't want to be alone.
I locked eyes with the oncoming figure and I wished I hadn't - his eyes were wide; eyeballs as luminously white as his skin except for the piercing, small dots of black pupils. His eyes followed my movement, but his face and neck didn't budge as I gave him as much space as possible to pass. He kept heading his way, and I kept heading mine.
When I reached the other side of the tunnel, I was shaking and feeling sick.
It was strange that he had entered the tunnel on what I guessed was a red signal. With his limp, it would have taken him at least two rounds of signal changes for him to have reached that point of the tunnel. With buses travelling through the tunnel every fifteen minutes, there's no way they could have overtaken him in such a cramped space - which would have led to a noticeable clog in traffic. Eerie considering there was none.
Luckily, a group of men on bicycles and a bus were waiting on the other side for the signal to change. The signal changed to green a few minutes later, and I was relieved I wouldn't have to ride back alone.
On the return trip, the man with the limp was gone.
Hiding from Japanese Ghosts
Ghost stories are the least frightening thing about Japan when facing culture clashes, mystery food, language barriers, and - scariest of all - marriage.