A haunted house for the information age opens in Tokyo for a limited time
Possibly the most well-lit spook house in the world.
Far from the vampires and Frankenstein monsters of days past, the real monsters of society today dwell in the murky uncertainty that surrounds how we get our information. With the flood of fake news, deep fakes, and unsubstantiated pseudo-science swirling online, it can be hard to know what’s real these days and that can be rather scary in itself.
And with this new form of fear comes a new form of horror being displayed in Shibuya, Tokyo from 17 March to 2 April. Did You Read That Mysterious Document? is a display of over 100 pages of creepy and seemingly nonsensical writing.
In Japanese, the exhibit is called “Sono Kaibunsho wo Yomimashita ka?” where “kaibunsho” means a document of unknown origin making outrageous claims, most easily compared to a paper version of those Q Anon posts that were big a while back. In this case, however, there’s a more supernatural urban legend theme to the mysterious documents plastered all over the windows and walls of the venue.
▼ MyLab Shibuya seen from the outside
The real horror lies in trying to figure out what it all means. No explanations are given as to who wrote these messages, or when or where. The best you can do is read through them all and try to put the puzzle together yourself. For example, in the papers below which include a lost child poster, the message on the left reads:
▼ “For those who always travel on this road, it is coming soon so you’d better not use this road for about a month. If you absolutely have to pass, please face down the same way.”
The papers are all the creation of horror writer Nashi so there would seem to be some underlying story behind them. However, guests are not told what that is at all. It is up to you to figure the answer out if an answer even exists at all, and after you leave you’ll still never really know if you understood the truth.
Granted it’s not the pee-your-pants terror of getting chased through a dark room by a chainsaw-wielding clown, but it intends to create a lingering and unsettling sense of uncertainty which is food for thought when returning to the “real” world of social media. That kind of subtlety must be hard to pull off, but the project is in good hands with “horrortech” specialists of Darkness who have set up a number of popular haunted house attractions in the past such as 2020’s haunted Ferris wheel in Osaka.
In addition to the exhibit there is an area where you can make your own kaibunsho. It’s not clear what is done with it afterward but it would be neat if they just added it to the exhibit just to add to the fog of information on display.
There’s also a capsule machine where you can buy a mysterious document all crumpled up inside…
…and a gift shop with mysterious document T-shirts and copies of Nashi’s books.
Those interested in a more cerebral exercise in fear or an original display of conceptual art ought to head down and check it out. It looks like a neat place to visit for those studying the Japanese language as well since there’s a whole lot of stuff to read that you won’t find in a text book.
Did You Read That Mysterious Document? / その怪文書を読みましたか
Venue: MyLab Shibuya / マイラボ渋谷
Address: Tokyo-to, Shibuya-ku, Utagawacho 21-9, Shibuya Heiwa Quattro Bldg. mineo Shibuya 1st floor
東京都渋⾕区宇⽥川町21-9 渋⾕平和クワトロビル mineo渋谷1F
17 March – 2 April
Open 1 p.m. – 7 p.m. (weekdays), noon – 8 p.m. (weekends, holidays)
Admission: 500 yen