Arts & Culture

Haunted house inspired by Japanese history enlivens Halloween

Annual JCA event takes over Sayles Hall for Japanese cultural experience and fright

Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 4, 2015

RISD first-year Young-Eon Kim , Hiromi Komorita ’17 and Yuko Miyawaki ’19 dress up as spooky geishas for the JCA Haunted House Saturday.

This year’s Halloween was filled with fright and amusement as the Brown Japanese Cultural Association hosted its annual haunted house reenactment, filling the basement of Sayles Hall with screams of terror Saturday night.

The haunted house functions as a reenactment of a short horror video that JCA produces each year. The video itself often directly relates to some aspect of Japanese history, folklore or culture and is filmed by a student cinematographer, said Seito Yamamoto ’16, co-president of JCA.

This year, Yohei Okada, a Wesleyan University student, created the video, said Martin Carlsen ’16, co-president of JCA. The reenactment night serves as a hands-on experience of the film.

“It’s quite the spook-tacular night,” Carlsen added.

This year’s theme was “Feudal Japan,” and Japanese folklore inspired the reenactment, including “Kuchisake-onna,” also known as the “slit-mouthed woman,” and most importantly, the geisha. “A geisha is an entertainer, a feudal performance artist,” Yamamoto said. “Her appeal is the fact that there is a mystery behind her.” 

Japanese history does not always serve as the subject matter for the theme — last year’s was “Doll Factory” — but the event itself is inspired by Japanese culture. “Getting spooked, knowing about the folklore, the spirits — it’s all a big part of our culture. It’s embedded in our history,” Yamamoto said.

The event itself is the one of the two biggest events hosted by JCA each year, the other being Matsuri, the Japanese spring festival, Carlsen said. The preparation for the haunted house reenactment began an entire month prior to Halloween, Yamamoto said. JCA worked with a $150 budget, involved the efforts of 30 students and required many hours of preparation.

JCA organized the event across five rooms: The first was dedicated to the video that inspired the reenactment. Fright seekers then traveled down the stairs and into the basement, where they experienced three rooms of scares and squeals with spooky characters popping out of bathroom stalls. Participants stumbled through mazes and crawled through tunnels. The reenactment culminated in a final spooky maze that left many students delightfully petrified.

Keith Radler ’19 said he thought the rooms provided a great build-up to the final maze, and the reenactment was a great start to his Halloween night.

The haunted house served as a “glimpse into Japanese culture,” Yamamoto said. “We want other students to partake in the cultural experience and learn about Japanese history and folklore.”