Do you believe in ghosts or spirits in the woods? Maybe this story will change your mind…or maybe not. A couple of summers ago, I was doing a long day-hike up to Yubari-dake, a two-to-three-hour drive out of Sapporo. It was a beautiful, but hot and muggy, summer weekday, and I had the trail to myself (or so I thought).
Yubari-dake is an interesting mountain. Way back when, even before the war, Yubari-dake was mined for coal and, as the story goes, there were a lot of deaths in the criss-crossing underground tunnels. A number of locals would have you believe some of these poor souls are still there.
About three hours into the five-hour hike to the peak, I stopped to have a bite and chill out. As I was taking in the day, I could hear people talking not too far off and decided to wait and let them catch up. I waited and waited and waited, but nothing. I stayed there for about 45 minutes but no one came. The funny thing was that I could still hear people talking.
I went back down the trail to make sure the people weren’t having a problem, thinking perhaps that’s why they hadn’t turned up. I went back about a kilometer and found no one and no tracks but mine. Starting to get ticked off with myself, I decided to forget everything and head for the peak.
With a few choice words under my breath, I set off again, and again heard what sounded like a woman and children laughing. It was coming from behind a group of rocks. I ran over and didn’t find a soul.
Suddenly, I heard the laughing again behind another group of rocks, but the rocks weren't big enough to hide anyone, let alone a group of people, and there was no way they could have moved without me seeing them. All of a sudden, I got a real strange feeling all over my body and thought to myself, “I’m out of here!”
You might think that was the end of the story, but think again. A month or so later I ran into a friend in Sapporo, and we got to talking about things we had done over the summer. I told him about what happened on Yubari-dake and, as I was recalling my story, his face got pale.
I asked what was wrong, and he told me he and a couple of friends were camping one night at the trailhead to Yubari-dake, hoping to get an early start the next day. While they were sleeping, they heard a very loud, sharp shriek that sounded like a woman screaming her head off. The sound was all around their tent, over the top, and it went on for about an hour or so.
He said they were so freaked out by it all that, at first light, they got out of there and gave up on the mountain. I mentioned that, perhaps, it was some kind of bird or animal. He just fixed me with a serious glare and confessed the scream turned his bones to ice, and there was no way it was any bird or animal.
Whether you believe in the spirit world or not, you must admit it makes you think. If you’ve had similar experiences, e-mail me or post them at www.outdoorjapanforums.com.