Ju-on Origins is now airing on Netflix, and the official synopsis claims:
“The J-horror classic franchise ‘Ju-On’ was actually based on real events that occurred over four decades — and the truth is even more terrifying.”
But how true is that? Was Ju-on really based on real events, and was the truth even more terrifying?
Over the years, some have claimed that Kayako from the movies is based on a real life urban legend featuring a woman of the same name, yet… no such legend exists. Much like the claims on the American version of Fatal Frame that the game was “based on a true story,” it’s just not true. Kayako was a character created for The Grudge movies and nothing more. She took inspiration from the many onryo that have existed before her, but Kayako is a purely fictional character created solely for the movies.
Ju-on Origins, in turn, claims to be even more truthful than the many movies that have come before it. It’s not directly connected to them, but rather tells a separate story supposedly based more in reality. But is that true? Let’s take a look.
First of all, the story told in Ju-on Origins is, much like the Ju-on movies before it, complete fiction. Origins does, however, attempt to include far more real life tidbits, references, and Easter eggs than any other Ju-on movie to date, and those make rather interesting additions to the series.
1. The Yellow House.
The original house featured in the first Ju-on movies was said to be somewhat inspired by a real life place and the stories that took place there. Kayako herself may not have been based on an urban legend, but the story was, in the very broadest sense, said to be inspired by tales of this real house. The Yellow House, as it was known, was located in Nagoya and said to be so cursed that anyone who stepped foot inside it would either go mad or, in a worse case scenario, die. The house has since been knocked down and replaced with a parking lot, but its (fictional) stories live on.
You may have noticed while watching Origins that the cursed house is yellow, a nice nod to its (supposed) real-life counterpart.
2. News events.
Origins is set over a period of several years, and the show cleverly provides real life links to each of these years through various background news reports. These news reports featured some of the biggest and most devastating events that took place in Japan for their corresponding years, meaning that Japanese viewers would immediately know when the story was taking place, but some of these events may be lesser known to Western audiences, so let’s take a look:
1988: Furuta Junko’s murder. The news report playing in the background mentions a teenage girl’s body was found in a concrete drum and three teenage boys were arrested for the crime. The show refers to her as “Sakura” because both Furuta and the boys involved were all underage at the time of the crime, thus the show used an alias. Furuta died on January 4, 1989, just after New Year’s.
1994: The Matsumoto sarin gas attack perpetrated by the cult Aum Shinrikyo is mentioned on the TV. This took place on June 27, 1994. Eight people were killed and over 500 injured.
1995: As the show moves into 1995, it starts with a report on the Great Hanshin earthquake, which rocked Japan on January 16, 1995. Over 6,000 people were killed in this disaster, making it the second worst earthquake in Japan during the 20th century (over 105,000 died in the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923).
1995: The Tokyo subway sarin gas attack is also mentioned on a TV news report. This one is focused on more directly by the show as it’s the attack most people are familiar with. It took place on March 20, 1995. 12 people died, 50 were severely injured, and more than 1000 suffered temporary vision problems.
1997: The final year of the series sees the Kobe child murders mentioned on a news report in the background. This took place on March 16, 1997 and saw a 14-year-old boy kill and behead an 11-year-old boy, leaving his head in front of his school gate for students to find as they arrived for school in the morning. The killer later confessed to killing a 10-year-old girl as well.
3. The phone incident.
Something that may be especially confusing for Western viewers is the “phone incident” that took place in episode four. This was also based on a real-life murder that took place in Japan in the late 1980s. A pregnant woman on the verge of giving birth was murdered in Nagoya and her unborn baby cut out of her stomach. Bizarrely, when her body was found, the baby was still alive beside her and a phone had been placed inside her cut womb. The killer was never found. I wrote more about this particular case in Kaihan: Bizarre Crimes that Shook Japan Vol. 1.
4. The child killer “M”.
The child killer referred to as “M” over several episodes is based on the real life “Little Girl Murderer” Miyazaki Tsutomu. He killed four young girls during the late 80s, much like M, by first getting them into his car and then killing them. Miyazaki was eventually arrested after an abduction attempt went wrong and the girl’s father called the police. He was convicted of killing all four girls and then sentenced to death, which was carried out in Tokyo on June 17, 2008.
And there you have it. While the story featured in Ju-on Origins is indeed fiction, the show does attempt to incorporate several real life incidents into its storyline. It’s a bit of a stretch to say the story is based on real events, but it does include some as framing devices for the setting, as well as a few Easter eggs for Japanese horror fans to latch onto as well.
Did you notice any other Easter eggs or real life references? Then let us know in the comments below!