After months of spending your limited free time stressfully looking for the perfect place to live, you end up finding a 1LDK apartment in coveted Chiyoda ward. It’s a dream property. An apartment of that size in the heart of Tokyo is rarely available, and much less at the price that is being offered to you. It sounds too good to be true, and it probably is. Unlike cities like New York City, where people will swarm a suddenly available property like vultures without caring about the circumstances that left that place vacant, Tokyoites don’t like when properties are linked to someone’s death, particularly when the reasons were not natural.
In fact, this attitude towards this type of real estate is spread across Japan, making properties where gruesome deaths took place incredibly cheaper than what they should be. Depending on you, of course, this can be either a blessing or a curse. There are many people who will avoid these properties like the plague, feeling extremely uncomfortable and uneasy at the thought of what happened inside that house or apartment. On the other hand, there are others who would gladly take advantage of that stigma and rent a property they would usually be unable to afford.
This particular situation is what bring us to Oshima Teru a website whose owner and creator has been updating since 2005. Oshima Teru is like no other website in Japan. Its content is truly unique, and perhaps unusual; and some would even go so far as to say that its morbidity is absolutely tasteless. Whatever the case, Oshima Teru serves a very important purpose, and it can be an incredibly useful tool when looking for houses and apartments in Japan; especially if you want to find out whether yours is a stigmatized property. However, if topics surrounding “death” make you uncomfortable, it’s better to stop right here.
In a nutshell, Oshima Teru shows places in Japan (mostly in bigger cities) where unusual deaths occurred. By “unusual” we are talking about murders, suicides, accidents, lonely deaths, and unsolved mysteries like the finding of body parts. The website shows a map provided by Yahoo! Japan, and as you zoom in, yellow fire icons start popping up in all cities and towns. Inside the fire icons, there are numbers that indicate how many deaths took place in each area. As you continue to zoom in, the fires start splitting up to indicate the deaths per neighborhood, until they finally show the specific properties linked to those deaths. Once you click on each “fire”, you will come to find what exactly happened there, and when such event happened. Some of the descriptions can be a bit ambiguous, though, so you’ll have to read between the lines if you want to guess what kind of unnatural death it was. Additionally, the descriptions are not in English, but you can always use Google Translate. The site has been increasing in popularity quite rapidly, having more than 45,000 fire icons in Japan and attracting between 700,000 to 800,000 users a day.
As mentioned before, depending on the person, Oshima Teru can help you either avoid certain properties, or get one at a very good price. When a gruesome death has tainted a house or apartment, the property will usually see a 20 percent discount. Famously, Urban Renaissance Agency can give up to 50 percent discounts for one or two years if the property’s former tenants were found dead there. People living in big cities like Tokyo and Osaka, famed for their tiny and rather expensive apartments, can benefit from such discount while apartment hunting. If you are one of those individuals looking for a cheaper property without minding the reasons behind the lower-than-normal rent, then Oshima Teru can be an exceptional tool, particularly when a landlord doesn’t want to disclose all that information (though that’s normally not the case, since realtors are required to disclose important information regarding a property and its former occupants; else they risk liabilities). If for some reason the apartment you are interested in does not have a price that reflects it’s a stigmatized property, you can always negotiate so you can see the discount that such place should have. Once you have acquired your new home, make sure you tell you are living in a stigmatized property only to those you know won’t mind that type of information. After all, there are those who will feel discomfort if having to visit you, and those who might be very superstitious and see tormented ghosts in every corner of what they would now consider to be a haunted property.
Talking about that discomfort, there are those who would never want to live in a home that was the scene of a horrible death, in which case Oshima Teru can help them get rid of properties they would have been interested in prior to knowing the secrets behind their walls. For that same reason, if you are someone who would not like to live in a stigmatized property and have no idea if something happened in the place you are calling home right now, then by all means do not use the website. Sometimes it’s better to live without knowing anything. Ignorance is bliss, so don’t go ahead and ruin what has been to this point a very enjoyable life in your house or apartment by finding out that its previous occupant never actually moved out of that place.
Of course, Oshima Teru can be used for other purposes as well, including to feed one’s morbid curiosity. Sure, some will feel a sense of guilt and judgment if doing so; but in all trueness and despite one’s feelings about using this website, it can be very entertaining to find out what kind of secrets your neighborhood is hiding. Back when I used to live in Kanda, I was returning home after buying some groceries when I came to find that the street I usually took was closed. A yellow police ribbon was blocking the street while some police officers stood across from one another. It was evident that something terrible had happened, and this being Japan, such event was indeed very rare. To add more mystery and uncertainty, the next day a police officer came to my apartment to ask for my personal information. Apparently, after whatever had happened just a few blocks away, the police had decided to compile information about all those living in that area. Of course, all my neighbors and I were still left without knowing what had happened, and the police officer’s demeanor had just ended up scaring people even further. Without hesitating, I checked Oshima Teru to see if the website had been able to obtain more information on what had happened; and soon enough, I found out that someone had been stabbed inside their apartment. A very gruesome and uncommon crime, but I could finally understand why the police were acting like that. They probably had never had to deal with such a terrifying event.
The discovery of a murder taking place so close to my apartment had also made some of my friends feel both frightened and interested. That’s the thing about these types of stories; as much as we feel that there is something immoral in enjoying learning about someone’s horrible death, the topic still pulls people in like a fly zapper. There is a reason stories like The Amityville Horror and the ones surrounding Borley Rectory continue to fascinate people even if reasoning dictates that there is no such thing as a haunted location. Nevertheless, the same thing that may make someone feel compelled to listen to or read ghost stories, can incite interest in the macabre.
As stated above, haunted locations continue to feed people’s creativity and curiosity, and Tokyo is a city prone to these spots as well. For example, Sunshine 60, the tallest skyscraper in Ikebukuro and the former site of Sugamon Prison (where several war criminals and even a Russian spy were hanged) is rumored to be haunted. Another spot is Toyama Park, which is said to have been on of the sites where the infamous Unit 731 conducted some of their lethal human experimentations. The exact events that took place in what’s now a beautiful urban park are still wrapped in mystery, but they have already propelled claims of hauntings and frightening sightings taking place at night. Perhaps the most talked about spot in Tokyo is Masakado’s grave in Otemachi, which is said to be haunted by the decapitated head of the famed samurai. Additionally, it is said that if the grave is neglected, natural disasters will follow.
Due to this high interest in haunted places regardless of their historical context, Oshima Teru can also be used when needing to explain something strange happening inside your home. There is nothing remotely practical and logical about reaching a conclusion linking unexplainable phenomena to the paranormal. That’s why Occam’s razor stipulates that the simplest solution tends to be the correct one. However, this can certainly be one of those “whatever floats your boat” kind of situations. If you are into ghost stories and like incorporating them into your life and the things you experience, then go for it.
We all have friends who like to share some anecdotes where supernatural events are the center of the story. The encounters with the paranormal are in fact what makes those stories so appealing, making those who are listening pay close attention to what is being said and even shiver towards the end despite their usual skepticism. I can still recall some of my friends’ most memorable stories, and how the ghosts in them later played with my mind and imagination, often times even tormenting it. This obsession with the supernatural is what makes some people find Oshima Teru as a “spooky” website because the information contained there reminds them of haunted houses and ghosts. For that reason, and if you are looking for explanations behind the strange events happening around your home, Oshima Teru might give you more evidence to support your claims and even elaborate stories. Who knows, maybe your accounts will one day become modern folklore.
There is indeed some controversy surrounding the usage of a website like Oshima Teru due to what some would consider to be a lack of respect for the dead, and a tasteless interest in morbid topics. However, whether you want to avoid renting a stigmatized property, get a cheaper apartment, or are simply interested in the situations recorded there, Oshima Teru is a website that serves its purpose. If you happen to find yourself using this website for whatever reason, try to enjoy it without feeling ashamed. It can always be your guilty pleasure.