Yuubetsu Coal Mine

Location: Road 667, Yuubetsu 22 Sen, Akan-cho, Kushiro City, Hokkaido Prefecture, 085-0000

It was October. The nights were starting to get longer, and the weather colder. A young man from Obihiro, in Hokkaido, decided to head towards the abandoned Yuubetsu Coal Mine with three of his friends for a little test of courage. Who would prove to be the manliest of them all? They were about to find out.

They piled into the car and drank merrily on the way. By the time they reached the mine late that night, the men were well and truly drunk.

Of course, the group of young friends were entirely alone, not another soul in sight. Laughing and telling jokes, they approached the abandoned mining town in high spirits. Their goal was the infamous hospital, said to be the most dangerous spot of all.

They shone their torches as they stepped inside the building. It was covered in graffiti, a sign of all who had ventured there before them. The pitch black building was creepy. So creepy that the young man felt himself sober up rather quickly.

They reached a terrace inside the building when suddenly they heard a high-pitched scream. It was a woman’s scream. The group consisted of four men, and they didn’t sense anyone else inside the building when they entered. The young man panicked and fled, his friends hot on his heels.

Once they were safely outside, the young man turned and shone his torch on the entrance. He could hear the sound of countless footsteps running around inside, but he couldn’t see anyone in the light of his torch. The group ran back to their car as fast as their feet would carry them, unable to withstand it any longer.

As soon as they got in, the young man’s phone rang. ‘Who could that be?’ he wondered and took the phone out of his pocket. The caller said “Unknown number.” He looked up to the corner of the screen. The phone was out of range.

It continued to ring.

His friends pleaded with the young man to get the hell out of there. He pressed ‘answer’ on his phone and put the receiver to his ear. What sounded like a strong wind was blowing on the other end, but somewhere, deep in the distance, he could hear voices talking.

Then, suddenly, he heard that shriek again. The one from the hospital. It was so loud that everyone in the car heard it. The young man hung up.

Everyone else’s phones rang all at once. They took off in the car, back towards town. The phones continued to ring the entire way, and it wasn’t until they reached civilisation that they all stopped at the same time.

The group never went back to the mining town again, but immediately after, the young man changed his phone for a new one. Just in case…

 

In 2007, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) in Japan designated the Yuubetsu Coal Mine in Hokkaido as a “Heritage of Industrial Modernisation.” The mine and its nearby railroad opened on January 17, 1923, and by 1964, it was seeing record coal production that helped propel Japanese industry to new heights. A town was built around the prosperous mine with its own hospital, school, and even theatre. Over 10,000 people lived there at its height.

However, accident after accident gutted the mine, and in 1970 it was closed for good. These days, it sits abandoned deep in the mountains of Hokkaido, nature reclaiming what was once hers. But thanks to the METI designation, efforts are being undertaken to preserve this important piece of Japanese history.

As you might expect from its inclusion in this book, and the opening story, these days the Yuubetsu Coal Mine is also said to be haunted.

The once proud buildings that stood tall and strong by the coal mine, full of life and laughter, now stand empty and abandoned. Shells of their former selves. Now little more than a dumping ground for unwanted rubbish, the once clean walls are now marked with graffiti by local teenagers who use the site for their kimodameshi, or tests of courage, during the night.

It was a series of horrific accidents over the years that eventually brought the coal mine to an end.

  • 1933: Gas explosion (5 dead, several injured)
  • 1935: Gas explosion (95 dead)
  • 1955: Gas explosion (60 dead, 77 injured)
  • 1967: Cave-in (6 dead)
  • 1968: Collapse (4 dead)
  • 1969: Gas explosion (19 dead, 24 injured)

The mine saw 189 people die inside its walls over the 47 years it was in operation, and a memorial stone to those who lost their lives on the job can now be found in the forest outside. As the mine closed and people moved away, the city that had once thrived became a ghost town. Literally, according to some.

The hospital in particular is said to be the most haunted area in town, and consequently, the most dangerous. Merely stepping foot inside the building can result in sudden and inexplicable dizziness, migraines, and uncontrollable shivering. It doesn’t matter how strong your reikan, or ability to sense the supernatural, is. The spiritual energy trapped inside the hospital is so strong, and so violent, that even ordinary folk who’ve never seen a ghost in their lives can be afflicted by it. The operating room and morgue are said to be the worst… if you can make it that far.

The hospital was completed only two years before the mine went out of operation. It was brand new. It wasn’t built on the ruins of an old hospital, nor another building that might have transferred its angry spirits over. Some have questioned the validity of the hospital being the most violent of all buildings in the abandoned town, considering its lack of history. But it was in operation for two gas explosions, serving all who were killed and injured inside. Hospitals have been haunted for less.

Whether the hospital, the town, or even the mine itself are actually haunted is up to each person to decide for him or herself. But thanks to the METI designation of Yuubetsu Coal Mine as a Heritage of Industrial Modernisation, at the very least, if any spirits do remain in the area today, they can rest well knowing their home will soon be well protected.

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