Japan can get pretty hot in the summer and you need to find ways to cool off. You can linger around the frozen goods corner at the supermarket, slurp cold noodles, or jump in the sea. You can go up into the hills and cool off in a mountain stream with a slice of water melon. Alternatively, you can scare yourself stupid, until your blood runs like ice in your veins.
This is the thinking behind Senritsu no kan (戦慄の館), the House of Shivers. This peculiar edifice appears mysteriously and without warning every summer in the Gintengai Shopping Arcade in Matsuyama. It’s a Haunted House, or Chamber of Horrors, or whatever you want to call it. It’s hard to miss—in the middle of the chintzy, spangly shopping arcade, there are suddenly black hoardings emblazoned with ‘shocking’ writing and red and white. Bouncy girls in black T-shirts marked “STAFF” with a bloody “A” call out to the passing throng, “Come on in! It’s really scary!”. When I paused for a moment, one of the girls bounced up and asked, “Are you going in?” I hummed and hahed. “Is it any good?” “It’s absolutely brilliant! It’s really really scary!” Having received such a positive testimonial, it was hard to walk away.
I had my first fright when I saw the price—700 yen for adults, 500 yen for kids. Turning a shade of white, I forked over the cash. The staff took my shoulder bag and kickboard in return for a wristband. Then I was ushered towards a black curtain. To be honest, I was quite excited. My blood was already running a little on the cold side. After waiting a while in a darkened room with a red flashing light, another young lady sent me on my voyage into terror and despair with a cheerful “Dozo!”.
I made my way through a darkened, zig-zagging corridor with blood spattered walls. At intervals there were squishy things underfoot and sometimes crunchy things. It felt like I was walking on beetles. There were plastic streamers hanging from the ceiling. Every now and again there were grotesque tableaux—a bloody head in a sink or a severed foot. Young people in wigs lurched out of doorways saying “Uuuuurrrrgh!”
It has to be said, this isn’t one of those Hollywood-quality attractions that you get in America. The House of Shivers has a definitely homemade quality about it. Adults are probably not going to be terribly impressed. However, the trio of teenage girls who went in before me had a good old scream and a little boy in the line behind me seemed to be terrified witless just at the sight of the black curtain. So if you happen to be in the Gintengai Arcade and you fancy a novel summer experience, the House of Shivers will probably suck you into its ghastly maw.