This happened two years ago during the summer vacation.
My friend lived way out in the countryside of Shikoku, so four of us from our university club went to stay with him. His house sat on the tip of a small peninsula facing the Inland Sea, like, right next to the ocean. We went swimming, hung out at the beach and overall had a great time.
We were always up all night long, messing around and having fun. One night someone suggested, “Hey, I’m bored, let’s go outside for a bit!” and so we snuck out of the house to the beach nearby.
The Inland Sea at night is really quiet and calm. We could see tiny lights on the opposing shore, and while the darkness between the waves facing the main island of Honshuu were beautiful, there was something gloomy and eerie about them that made me want to run away.
With nothing to do, one of the guys suggested we go for a walk along the coast. With only a flashlight in hand, we started walking along the dark, rocky cliffs. We asked the guy who lived there what it was like up ahead, and after 10 minutes we’d circled around his house and ended up at a big beach on the other side.
We continued down the pitch-black cape. As we got used to the darkness and the waves our sense of adventure grew, and feeling the peacefulness of the ocean deep inside, we made good progress.
Then someone shone the flashlight over the beach.
“Oh, that was quick, we’re back to the other side already.”
But as we made our way down the beach, it was surrounded by rock walls and behind us was a large concrete breakwater, so it was like a small abandoned piece of beach, a vacant lot.
“Let’s take a break.”
We sat down and finished the drinks we brought with us. After 10 or 20 minutes someone suddenly whispered, “Shit, turn the light off!”
I was confused, but he grabbed the flashlight and turned it off.
“There’s a boat or something over there,” he whispered again in the darkness. Everyone fell silent.
When I looked for any sign of it, I could see there was definitely something like a small fishing boat out on the waves, but it was difficult to tell exactly. No-one said a word or moved a muscle, we were too scared that if someone saw us walking around on a potentially private beach that we’d get in trouble.
“There’s someone there.”
Everyone started to whisper as the silence dragged on.
“There’s a boat right there.”
Then we started to hear this strange noise, like kii, kii. The small boat on the waves was creaking. The noise floated towards us, never-ending. Someone had definitely noticed us and was coming to talk to us, so we turned to the boat and yelled out.
“Um, excuse me. We’re just staying at that house over there and came out for a walk. Sorry for disturbing you!”
But there was no reply, and that sound continued to fill up the beach.
“Maybe the boat’s just floating by itself?” One of the guys stood up. “Hey, is anyone there?” he yelled out.
Again there was no response. We all got up, and with a look we turned the flashlight back on and went towards the ocean. At that very moment we all screamed and fell back. The boat was right in front of us, sitting on the beach, but more than that, what was on it terrified us. Someone, an old man or woman, it was hard to tell, was standing with their back to us, pointing to the ocean ahead of us in complete silence.
I don’t know what exactly we were afraid of, but we took off running in the direction we came from. Behind us was silent but for the sound of the creaking boat.
The next morning it all seemed like a dream.
“What the hell was that?”
We joked around like it was a ghost story and kept talking about it all day. Then our friend’s mother came running over, “I’m sorry, I can’t prepare lunch for you today. OO-san’s grandmother passed away last night, so I have to go over and help.”
That night everyone in the neighbourhood was busy preparing for the wake. We sat outside with all the children and handed out rice balls to them on the veranda. We exchanged strange glances, but said nothing. In the Buddhist altar behind us was a picture of the deceased. She looked just like the person we saw standing on the boat the night before.
We didn’t say a thing to anyone, just quietly ate dinner with the picture in the background behind us.