Japanese summers are hot and humid and because (at least where I live) there is no central air conditioning, it can get pretty miserable. Japanese culture has many clever ways to beat the heat during these sweltering months, but one of my favorites is the tradition of telling and listening to scary stories. I've heard many different reasons why this is done, but the one that might work best is that when you hear a truly frightening tale—one that sends goosebumps prickling your skin—you feel suddenly colder.
I don't know about you, but it's still frighteningly sweltering where I am, so let me introduce you to "Very Scary Story Gum" (Chou Kowai Hanashi Gum), by Top Seika. Now these have been around for awhile, but every summer they get a slightly new package and brand new stories. Every package includes a small slab of non-delicious gum, a folded horror story (white print on black paper) and a fuda or talisman card.
The stories range from haunted stuffed animals to haunted intersections and more. I think I like the talisman cards best. They're a nice touch and seem collectable (I only wish they were printed on two sides). One of mine tells me I'll be twice as scared and the other promises that if I carry it around I won't be harassed by ghosts.
I also discovered a nice touch when reading the package. There is a warning on the back stating that if you are the kind of person who doesn't really like very scary stories then you should open and read this with a friend or under adult supervision.
Chou Kowai Hanashi Gum also has a character. Her name is Reiko, and, yes, she has a Twitter account.
She … Tweets … in a very … spooky … style … too.
Photos: Thersa Matsuura