Weekly Yuputka: Try to Smile

Yuputka (n.): the phantom sensation of something crawling on your skin. 


For this week’s true scary story, I returned to the archives of Jezebel. This story is about a woman teaching English in Japan, and soon finds out she is not alone in her apartment.


Untitled, from user Olympia Binewski

So, I lived in Japan for 2 years, waaaaaay out on the island of Kyushu, in a really rural town. I was teaching English there, and I lived in an apartment complex with 9 other English teachers and a handful of Japanese families. All of our apartments were 2 story, townhouse style. My apartment was the newest of the bunch, and before me, there had been one other English teacher that lived there for 2 years, and before her, as far as I had been told, the apartment had been empty.

I first moved in at the beginning of August, which is brutally hot and humid in Japan. Literally, it’s so humid that papers inside of your apartment get wet and curl, as does your wallpaper. And to top it off, there was only air-conditioning downstairs. And the bedrooms were upstairs. Truly unpleasant. From the time I moved in until about November of that first year, I had to sleep downstairs to avoid melting in my bedroom. And this is where everything started.

First, one day, I came home to find my backdoor, which was a sliding glass door, wide open. Before I left for school, I had bolted it. The front door was locked as well. At first, I thought maybe someone had broken in, except that nothing had been touched or taken. Not a single thing was out of place. And I would have known at this point, since I had very little due to just moving in with nothing but 2 suitcases full of clothes. One of my friends came over and looked everywhere with me, and we found nothing out of place. Strange, I thought, but probably no big deal. Probably just curious kids who thought it would be fun to come in and look at what a foreigner’s house was like.

Fast forward to that night. I’m downstairs, and I’ve just laid down on my futon to go to sleep. Suddenly, I hear footsteps upstairs. At first, it sounds like someone pacing back and forth between the 2 bedrooms. And then they suddenly stopped. Mind you, at this point, I’m shaking in my futon, holding my breath, terrified that whoever broke in had managed to hide upstairs in the crawl space. After about a minute of silence, I hear an incredibly loud bang, as though something huge and heavy just fell and hit the floor above me. This causes me to book it right the fuck out of my apartment to my neighbor’s house, who then comes over, goes upstairs and finds nothing.

This continues to happen every night. One night, I’m at the local bar with one of the other English teachers, the resident veteran who had lived there for 5 years. I start telling him about this and how I haven’t been able to sleep because this keeps happening, every night, like clockwork. At this point, he tells me “Well, there’s a reason for that. Before your predecessor, that apartment was empty because a woman hung herself upstairs after her husband left her. Japanese people wouldn’t rent it because they thought the place was cursed, so it was empty until our Board of Education decided to rent it.”

Now, I, at the time, thought he was fucking with me just to keep me scared, as that was his sense of humor. But one day I asked my boss about it. And he, no joke, turned white and said that my friend shouldn’t be telling me things like that. But he would neither confirm nor deny it. And one day, while cleaning upstairs, I noticed that someone had carved, on the underside of the windowsill (which was wooden, and jutted out from the wall) “Try to smile”, in Japanese, about 10 times. I think that my blood literally ran cold at that moment.

I still do not know what actually happened in that apartment, but every night during the summer, until I would start sleeping upstairs again, those noises happened without fail.


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