Hidden deep within the mountains of Aomori Prefecture there exists a village called Sugisawa. One day a man from the village went crazy. Within a single day he killed everyone living in the village and then took his own life.
Nobody knows why he went crazy, nor why he went on such a violent crime spree. But the end result of this horrific crime remained the same: Sugisawa Village became empty.
The events of that day were so cruel that the local government decided to leave the village abandoned, and at the same time deny anything ever took place. They then erased all trace of the village from the local maps.
Luckily the village was deep in the mountains, so it was easy to cover the events up. But, of course, they couldn’t erase the fact that the horrific crime did take place in the first place.
There were rumours of thick bloodstains all over the village, and those who approached the village would undoubtedly be cursed by the evil spirits that lived there.
Furthermore, according to the legend, it’s impossible to reach Sugisawa unless you leave the straight path that leads further into the mountains. Then you will find a sign with a warning standing at the entrance. That sign states, “You may enter, but do so at your own risk.”
You can also find an old red shrine gate at the entrance, and a stone shaped like a skull sitting at its feet.
The legend of Sugisawa Village first appeared in the 1990s, although the events mentioned in the legend itself are purported to take place early in the Showa era (the late 1920s and early 30s). The story was one of the first and biggest to be spread through the internet in a time when it was just starting to take off. The story became so popular that several media outlets picked up on it, and it was through the TV show Kiseki Taiken Unbelievable in 2000 that it truly reached the masses. The episode set out to find this fabled village and determine whether it actually existed or not. They searched throughout not just Aomori Prefecture but similar stories all over Japan, but in the end they never found it. The program then claimed that Sugisawa Village must exist in a space-time warp, able to appear and disappear at will. After the program aired many people set out to find the village themselves, uploading blog entries and later YouTube videos on their findings, many of which you can still watch on the internet today. Despite claims to the contrary, nobody has ever found the ‘real’ Sugisawa Village of legend, and it’s unlikely anyone ever will.
The legend of Sugisawa Village began in Aomori, the place the village is supposed to be located. There was a real village call Kosugi. It was a small village in the Obatakezawa district of Aomori City. This area received its name because of “a mountain stream that flows through the cedar forest.” Sugi means cedar and sawa means marsh or mountain stream. People would say they were going to ‘the cedar,’ which sounded a lot like the word ‘Sugisawa’ in Japanese, and thus it came to be affectionately called that. However, the village was only accessible by foot, and as the years passed it became abandoned because of depopulation, not a murderous crime spree. So how did the benign village of Sugisawa become the fabled site of such a horrific crime?
There was an actual crime in 1938, the same time the Sugisawa legend is supposed to have happened, that took place in the small village of Kamo, close to Tsuyama in Okayama Prefecture. A man, Mutsuo Toi (21 at the time) killed 30 people and injured three before killing himself. Toi had tuberculosis, and in his suicide note claimed that the villagers treated him cruelly, so he wished to extract revenge. He snuck into people’s homes over the course of a single night and using a shotgun, katana and axe killed over half the village’s occupants, before killing himself at dawn. Although Okayama and Aomori are separated by quite a distance, somehow the story of this crime in Okayama was adapted to the abandoned village in Aomori and became the modern day legend of Sugisawa Village.
FINDING THE VILLAGE
There are several key signs that you have stumbled upon Sugisawa Village:
- There is a sign at the entrance that states, “You must not proceed past this point. There can be no guarantee for your life if you do.” There are variations on the exact wording, but in every version the sign states that if you go past it, you will be in big trouble.
- There is an old, red shrine gate at the entrance to the village, beneath which you’ll find a stone that’s shaped like a skull.
- Upon entering the village you’ll find several abandoned buildings with bloodstains on the walls.
There have been several documentaries and even a movie made about Sugisawa Village over the years. It’s featured in several manga, multiple TV shows, and you can even play a game on your mobile phone where you try to escape from the village. You can find a full list of all these at the Japanese Wikipedia site.