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Monday, 4 November 2013

Dreaming of Hide-and-Seek

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This is a story about my little brother. At the time, my little brother was 10,  I was 14, and my older brother 16. *1
My older brother was living at boarding school so he was often away from home.
I was a member of the school athletic club so I went jogging every morning.

One summer day, I got up early as usual but my little brother, who was supposed to be sleeping on the lower bunk bed beneath me, wasn't there.
I thought he'd just gone to the toilet, and went out of the house without being a least bit worried: but then I saw my little brother sleeping outside.
I woke him up and went jogging.  When I think about it now, the front door was locked when I came out.

From that day onward, my little brother sometimes disappeared, and every time he did so he was found somewhere inside the house.
He never went outside after the first time but he was often found hiding underneath a desk, a table or in the dark narrow space behind a wardrobe.

We had pretty much forgotten all about it when around new year this year, while we were talking about family memories, our mother started saying, "all of you used to sleepwalk."
I couldn't remember I ever sleepwalked and I never knew my older brother sleepwalked either.

But then I remembered something. I asked my older brother:
Me "When you were a kid, did you ever have the same dream over and over again? A dream about hide-and-seek?"
Brother "Yeah, come to think of it, I did have a dream like that a few times when I was an elementary schooler."
Me "The kid who was with you, didn't he often ask you to come with him?"
Brother "You mean, to the riverbank? I never went with him."
Me "Me too. I said no. But didn't he say something at the end?"
Me, Brother "Ok, never mind. I'll take your little brother with me then."
I think it was at that point that I stopped having the dream.

Next month it will have been 13 years since our little brother passed away.
One morning in December, I came back home from jogging to find an ambulance parked in front of our house.
My mother had found my little brother in bed, his body stone cold.

I don't know if my little brother ever had the same dream as us. Did he follow the kid to the riverbank? Or was it simply because he was the youngest among us? Or did he just die from unknown illness?

I decided I will never tell my parents about this. It's a secret only known to me and my older brother.

*1 the original text here says, "the little brother was a fourth-grader at elementary school, I  was a sophomore at junior high school, and my older brother was a freshman at high school," which correspond to 10, 14, and 16 years of age respectively. I thought leaving them as they were would be confusing to the readers who don't know the Japanese educational system, so I decided to simplify this part.

The Legend of River Sanzu

The picture at the top shows River Sanzu (三途の川 sanzu-no-kawa)  near the sacred Mount Osore (恐山 osore-zan) which bears the same name as the mythological river that divides this world and the world of the dead (Wikipedia).  Once a person crosses this river, he or she can never come back to life. 

Click "Read More" below to find out more about River Sanzu!

There are a lot of reports of near-death experiences in which people see this underworld river. They find themselves standing on the riverbank, and espy someone standing on the other side of the river. That someone is often a deceased loved one or ancestor, or sometimes a stranger. Often the people standing on the other side tell them to turn back and don't cross the river. Other reports say that those people waved at them and told them to cross the river, but an unknown power held them back and forced them to wake up.

The legend says that the riverbank of Sanzu (called "the Riverbank of Sai" 賽の河原 sai-no-kawara) is where the souls of the children --- who died before their parents and therefore are too sinful to go to heaven, yet too innocent to go to hell --- gather. They are told by Oni (demon) to use the stones lying around on the riverbank to build a stone tower to atone for their sins; yet, every time a child manages to build a tower, Oni comes along and destroys it, so that the child has to build it all over again. This means that the children are trapped in the never-ending circle of building the stone towers only to have them destroyed by Oni and building them again. Thus their sad atonement goes on for eternity.

I'm not sure "the riverbank" that appears in this story is the Riverbank of Sai, but I thought it might be. It's my personal interpretation.

*Photos curtesy of this site. and this site.


  1. mossy hemisphere4 November 2013 at 15:10

    what a creepy dream

  2. Oh, Saya. I'm so glad you're back with a regular dose of creepiness to add to my day.

  3. = ___ =? I am utterly confused...

  4. I wonder who that kid in the dream could have been. And it's kind of like every time they had that dream, they weren't dreaming at all, but rather were having near-death experiences....Pretty eerie, at that. o_O

    Halloween's over, but the creepiness never stops, hey? Thanks for bringing us another intriguing story, Saya! ^_^

  5. Have you ever been to Osore-zan? Doesn't 'Osore' translate into 'Fear'? I've read a lot about it, it looks really creepy. But, isn't there a temple there to a Buddha that helps the children on the riverbank escape the Oni by hiding them in his robes?

    I could be completely off, but either way this story is so creepy. Thank you so much for translating it!!

  6. the river is beautiful! I remember the stone tower story being told on an episode of Gakkou no Kaidan, and I also remember how much I don't want to die at such young age because of that haha

    I think the 'kid' has something related to the family in the past? because if he doesn't, asking innocent children from random family to 'go with him to the riverbank' is really......

  7. Helo Saya-san. I wonder if the little brother could've been saved if the narrator and his older brother warned him?
    Or the evil kid would still find a way to get him.

  8. That Oni....doesnt seem t bad, i mean they are just assholes, well super natural but still

  9. 子供の幽霊も普通悪意を持っていますか? 怖いですね。今度の橋の写真も素晴らしいです。四ヶ月前に行ったのですが、又日本に行きたいです。ありがとうございました。

  10. Saya-sama~

    Wow, very intriguing! Thanks! :)

  11. Wow. Poor little bro. He was doomed from the start.
    The part on the legends of Sanzu River was quite interesting! Thanks for sharing that too!

  12. This is so sad... Perhaps the boy in the dream is another brother who died in his sleep and now wants a companion? He does not want to take his brother by force, so he asks first. But still, for a child to die is always sad.

  13. Hi Saya! I've been following your blog for a while ^^
    I'm so glad you updated! Anyways, may I narrate this (and possibly more of your stories) and post it on social networking sites? Just like MrCreepyPasta from Youtube. Thank you!

  14. Ah, to sleep, perchance to dream...and then accidently sacrifice your brother to some creepy ghost kid. Them's the brakes. lol.


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