Kyle Johnson
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Japan’s Drive-In Haunted House is Bloody Wonderful

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Kowagarasetai drive-in haunted house Tokyo Japan
Ghouls wait to greet you at the drive-in haunted house in Japan
Photo: Kowagarasetai

Drive-thru haunted attractions are popping up all across the United States, hoping to keep Halloween on course despite COVID-19. But before The Haunted Road was announced in July, the concept of getting scared senseless from the safety of your car was given life (or unlife as it were) in Tokyo, Japan, thanks to Kowagarasetai and its drive-in haunted house.

Kowagarasetai — which roughly translates to Scare Squad — specializes in producing immersive haunted attractions and horror events. Founder and producer Kenta Iwana is well-versed in the art of the scare, having produced everything from escape rooms to Japan’s first hide-and-seek-style haunted house. Iwana told CNN Travel that a news story on the resurgence of the drive-in theater gave him the idea to apply the concept to haunted attractions.

“With the virus, I knew there would be no way we could have a traditional haunted house, with all that screaming in a small, confined space,” Iwana said.

Rather than force guests to scream inside their hearts, Kowagarasetai’s drive-in haunted house gives guests a whole car to scream in.

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Feel the fear from the safety of your vehicle

Kowagarasetai drive-in haunted house Tokyo Japan
There is no shortage of scares at the Kowagarasetai drive-in haunted house
Photo: Kowagarasetai

The experience starts when you pull into a seemingly desolate parking garage in the Higashi-Azabu district of Minato, Tokyo. Once the shutter slams shut behind you, you’ll receive a pair of speakers that deliver the story of the drive-in haunt.

“Around these parts, there’s a legend that the ghosts attack humans,” a voice says over the speakers. “Honk your horn three times if you want to hear more.”

You can imagine what happens if you honk three times.

The entire experience takes roughly 15 minutes and is intense. Guests can expect the ghouls and ghosts in Kowagarasetai’s employ to be very hands-on, unlike The Haunted Road where performers don’t touch your vehicle. This approach results in a not-insignificant number of bloody handprints on the exterior of the vehicle. You can get it extra bloody, too, if you pay an additional 1,000 yen ($9).

Fortunately, the process includes a post-haunt cleaning where the ghosts and ghouls wipe the blood off your vehicle. (Most of it, anyway. No promises that it will be spotless.) This and a pre-event wipe-down with alcohol helps ensure the health and safety of the guests and actors. So committed to their craft are Iwana and Kowagarasetai President and CEO Ayaka Imade, who also worked on the highly underrated game Shadows of the Damned, that they both take part in the experience as performers.

If you’re lucky enough to be in a position to check out the Kowagarasetai haunted drive-in, the waiting list sits at around 1,000 people ahead of its fall relaunch. (The attraction took August off due to the heat.) Admission will set you back 8,000 yen ($75) if you have your own vehicle or 9,000 yen ($85) to use a rental car.

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Photos: Inside the Kowagarasetai drive-in haunted house

  • Kowagarasetai drive-in haunted house Tokyo Japan
  • Kowagarasetai drive-in haunted house Tokyo Japan
  • Kowagarasetai drive-in haunted house Tokyo Japan
  • Kowagarasetai drive-in haunted house Tokyo Japan