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The woman who didn’t stop staring

the woman who didnt stop staring


Estimated reading time — 7 minutes

Japan
2007 – Michael B.

It was the first country I can vividly remember. I don’t mean to sound religious, but I can say without a doubt I have a strange spiritual connection with it. It brought me outside my shell and gave me the inspiration for art, photography, journals, and being over-organized.

To this day, I still have dreams of returning and being the happiest person alive because I have kind of returned to my roots as a person. My love of culture and adventure started here.

I was fascinated with the way the scenery could change, from the modern cities of Tokyo and Shibuya to the quiet temples of Kyoto and Nikko. You change eras in just a few hours.

The people were a new level of considerate, but at other times, they were oddly rude in my memory, but never once physically hostile to us. I remember one time, distinctively being called a gaijin for simply speaking English- getting lost and ignored by everyone around me despite asking for help. Perhaps my memory has failed me, and there are some holes in what I remember, but I realized how different the Japanese were when I returned to the States. Culture shock happened at home when I learned how much our people differed from one another.

Of course, I wouldn’t be mentioning Japan if I didn’t have something happen to me there.

We were staying with my grandmother. At the time, she was working and living in Kanagawa. She lived in a super tiny apartment with only one bedroom and bathroom. It was a dainty living room and a kitchen that was more long than large as it stretched awkwardly along the wall. In other words, a place that was far too small for six people. I loved it, however. I can’t tell you why, but I did.

Our neighbors across from us were a young couple that had a baby recently. We still get Christmas letters from them every year to this day.

Then we had an older lady to our right, who primarily worked, but I suppose we weren’t around the apartment for too long before we were off doing our tourist things.

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The last set of neighbors that I can remember were the ones that were at the end of the hall. They were also a young couple. They had two kids. Their names were Hitomi (the wife) and Hishoe (the husband). Unfortunately, I cannot recall the names of their children.

While my parents befriended Hishoe and Hitomi, I became fast friends with their children. Despite me not knowing no more than a few words in Japanese and hardly any English on their behalf, we got along. When they’d return from school, we’d play with our toys and games just outside our patio in the back. Hitomi spoke a little bit of English, and she communicated with us whenever we’d run into each other at any time of the day. Our interactions paid us a visit to Shibuya – a day that I remember very well, even after all this time.

The route to the nearest train station would take us through a Buddhist temple. It had a very off-putting vibe whenever you got near it. Being idiots, we even walked around the courtyard one day to take pictures of the statues. Stepping inside the enclosure gave me the weirdest sense possible. The vibe I got while looking at the sculptures’ faces made me think I was looking at something that was capable of staring back.

I haven’t told my parents, friends, or even my sisters this, but Japan is the only place in the world I’ve been to where I swear I’ve seen statues move, blink, and even shift. The temples we visited there were spectacular, don’t misunderstand me, but there is no denying that whatever the Japanese were worshiping in there wasn’t good; they were pure evil. It’s the type of evil I’ve found to be strictly unique to Japan specifically.
Hitomi told us she didn’t like the temple either, and she told us why one night after coming over for dinner. She elaborated her story over a table when she first invited us out to go to Shibuya.

When she was young, she would walk home from school, taking our frequently used route. Apparently, she told us that her aunt stopped her at the entrance, and they played with each other for a considerable amount of time before she continued her trip back home. By itself, this story was wholesome, but when she took a breath, even I realized there was more to her story.

Her aunt had passed away and had been dead for some time. After hearing this story, Hitomi’s mother told her to stay away from the temple from there on out. So even after growing up, getting married, and having her own children, Hitomi kept that promise to her mother and hasn’t stepped near that building.

Hitomi was one of the first people in my life that gave me a taste of the supernatural outside of my family. Beyond that, however, she was the first person in Japan to tell me about her people’s folklore and mysteries indirectly.
My first trip to Japan was the best overseas trip I will take, despite the odd occurrences I experienced there. I’ve stomped across the globe with different people and friends, but the first time there with my family was, and still is, sacred. I would never trade the memories I made there for anything.

The second time was a little more impacting, though. We returned as missionaries about a year or two after the first trip since we had met a few other pastors down there. They weren’t Japanese; instead, they were primarily Filipino. I say mainly Filipino, but there were also Japanese involved, even some east Indians. I found myself admiring the intermingling of the different cultures with each other. It was enlightening to see people from other countries worshiping God Almighty since we all had unique ways of doing it. But I digress.

I loved Kanagawa. I did. Leaving it the second time was more complicated to take than the first time. It was the saddest day I’ll ever have overseas. I knew I was leaving a country that I might never see again. I was so thirsty for more of the Japanese culture! I didn’t want to go, not yet! I wasn’t ready to take my departure from the island. My experience there is still unmatched… A close Japanese friend of ours often said “sayonara” when leaving spots we visited.

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He told us that “sayonara” in the Japanese culture has a deeper meaning than what we use it for in the West. It isn’t just a simple way of saying “goodbye.” The way our driver had put it was much more meaningful. It indeed was farewell. My second time wasn’t as intimate as the first, and I knew even then that if I were to return a third time, it wouldn’t even scratch the surface of the second.

I was so lost in my world of self-pity. I wasn’t aware of that unnerving sensation building in my nerves.

It’s now been years since I’ve experienced this, but I feel like I’m being watched even currently, as I am writing this. I know I was violated here, but I can’t explain why. Thinking about this very moment makes my entire body feel wrong, and I begin to feel annoyingly anxious.

Japan has a tremendous history, and folklore involves some of the strangest urban legends and myths I’ll ever come across. As I recall this incident, I can’t help but wonder how many of those legends are true. I can’t forget it, no matter how hard I try. I’m unsure what “myth” or “legend” this falls into, but this was not the slit-mouth lady or some damn Yurei spirit.

When I came to my senses and looked around me, I saw a woman standing at the bus stop we were approaching. She was the typical horror-flick character. White kimono and bow. Long black hair and waxy-pale skin. Her expression was straightforward and blank. She looked young and would have been mildly attractive if she didn’t look dead.

There were a few of us that noticed this woman, but many of us decided to pay no attention to her. I couldn’t get my eyes off of her, though. I remember how tense my body got when we got to the bus stop. I didn’t want to be 50 feet from her, but she was right there at the bus stop, so I had no choice. The other people there before us stood 15 feet away from her, but in my opinion, we were all too close to that woman.

For 30 minutes, she didn’t move or say anything. She didn’t even shift her legs or turn; she just stood in the same spot until our bus came.

When we all loaded inside, I somehow managed to get the right seat in front of her. The girls in front of me started to giggle and point, saying “Kowai! Kowai!” (“Scary! Scary!”) to each other. Unfortunately, I didn’t share the same sense of humor.

For another 10-15 minutes, she did the same thing. She just stood in her spot without moving an inch. Staring. It was apparent she wasn’t focused on the bus; it was more like she was staring at something through the bus – trained on something no one could see.

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I brought my attention to something else at one point, and my stare from her was broken. When I returned my gaze, I found that she was staring directly at me with a horribly wide and morbid expression. Her eyes were vacant of color—just big black dots over her scleras.

I didn’t have to fight the urge to either jump or scream; I was so startled that all I could do was look directly back at her before the bus started to move away. On its own, this experience made me feel uncomfortable, but it didn’t end there. I saw the same woman countless more times through the areas we drove past. Under bridges, in crowds, and in lonely parts of the street. She wasn’t staring at me anymore, but I always felt like she was watching me nonetheless. My sense of security, to this day, has been shot to hell.

I tried looking for pictures of this lady in my photo albums and old camera, but I can’t find her anywhere. I’ve been attempting to research and ask people about this phenomenon, but I always get the same answer to the wrong question.

What I saw was not a Yurei. I know this for sure. The characteristics are there, but nothing I’ve read or heard has ever said anything about them following you for so long or having them look at you with such a morbid expression.

So, what was it I saw? I’ve never had the comfort of hearing anyone else go through this. I feel alone in the matter, and bringing it up in conversation never goes well. It isn’t just a story I like to tell. It isn’t even something I want to bring up.

…If it was a Yurei, why did I see her so many times after getting so far from her original location? And why did she notice me?

Credit: Koji Monanoka

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