Feeling like a good scare this Halloween? Need a way to propel your crush into your waiting arms? The way to combine the two is a Kimodameshi, or a test of courage. This is a course set up in a scary location for the participants to traverse.
The general atmosphere and specially set up scare stations, often with people dressed as monsters or crafted spooky decorations, are guaranteed to give all involved a fright. Or maybe not... But even if you don’t get a scare at least you get to spend time with the object of your affection.
They can be held in an outdoors location such as a cemetery or forest, in a handy abandoned school or hospital, or even in a purpose-built haunted house.
With their ability to create some of the most terrifying horror films, it is not too much of a surprise that the Japanese love haunted houses. There are a rich range of different houses available to visit, using both Japanese lore and international themes.
Some may use a local legend, and focus on one ghost and the story of their death, sometimes with brutally graphic scenes. These haunted houses are not cartoonish with unrealistic masks and outfits, but genuinely terrifying with professional actors and make-up, and well-designed props.
The modern father of these realistic haunted houses is Gomi Hirofumi, whose signature concept is to make the experience as immersive as possible.
Visitors will be given a role and a backstory, and they need to complete a mission in the haunted house before leaving. There is even now a drive-through haunted house in Tokyo, so horror fans can still enjoy a scare in the pandemic.
The group will usually go around the Kimodameshi course in pairs, so couples will try to get together, or it can be arranged for those who need a little push in the romance department to be put together. Even though rigging the pairing system can be difficult and this often goes awry.
There’s also plenty of opportunities for lucky sukebe, with falling down in the dark, clinging in fear and not being able to see properly in dim light.
Scary activities are often associated with summer in Japan, possibly as this is the time for school camp activities, and in the winter temperatures drop considerably so doesn’t lend itself to prolonged outdoors activities. But the many examples of a test of courage in anime can be enjoyed anytime, here are a few -
The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. - episode 22 contains a brilliant example of the pairing system going wrong, but the disappointed couple actually have a rather exciting time together.
GTO - The Animation - In Great Teacher Onozaki the test of courage episode contains many references to horror films, and cements the bond of an unlikely couple. The majority of the class are also in swimwear.
Toradora! - In this classic anime there’s a test of courage with a twist while on summer vacation in episode 10 along with many swimsuit scenes.
Fruits Basket - in the second season from 2020, the gang visit a commercial haunted house, although a rather cartoonish example, in episode 5.
Go forth and scare and be scared this Halloween! Who knows, something good could happen.