This week, justArts&Culture spoke with Alysa Noda-Hines, the president of the Japanese Student Association, about the  club’s Haunted House event on Oct. 26.

JustArts&Culture: What was your role in putting together this event?

Alysa Noda-Hines: I am the president of JSA, which is the Japanese Student Association. For this event specifically, I was taking charge of the basic layout of the haunted house, the theme and just like the general planning of the entire event.


JAC: What’s the process of putting together the haunted house? 

ANH: Every year the theme changes and we try to make it as authentically Japnaese as we can. Last year our theme was lab. The year before that was hospital, which are typical haunted house themes. But this year we really wanted to make it Japanese.…This year’s theme was Japanese Horror Stories and Urban Legends. We couldn’t give a very specific role to all of our members but a lot of us had a specific character or entity. So the first area of the participants would walk through in the haunted house was the bathroom, and in Japan there’s a really famous story about this girl called Hanako-san that lives in the bathroom … She’s in the third stall. It was really perfect because there’s only one stall in the male bathroom but three stalls in the female bathroom exactly. So we had one of our members, Lisa acts as Hanako-san and she hid in the third stall. We had another member wear a mask and hide behind one of the shower curtains and jump up once the participants trying [sic] to go out. 


JAC: Haunted House has been an annual event for JSA. What is special about haunted houses in Japanese Culture?

ANH: So back about two hundred fifty years ago, back in the Edo period of Japan, the commoners’ lives were thriving and they wanted entertainment somehow. And it gets really hot in the summer in Japan, so I guess that was part of the reason for why this trend was started.The commoners telling each other scary stories at night became the trend. Originally I think it was like you get together one night and light one candle, and each one goes around and tells the story. After you tell a hundred stories something was actually supposed to happen. That was the start of it, but in recent years, since it’s getting hotter and hotter every year, people want to go to haunted houses because like if you’re scared you start shaking and you think you’re cold.


JAC: How was the turnout of the event?

ANH: It was really good actually. It really exceeded our expectations. We put up the sign-up sheet two weeks in advance. We posted it at night and we went back in the morning and it was already almost completely full. I don’t think it ever filled up that fast. So it was a really happy moment. And there were some cancellations so we have a waitlist for people who could just like sign up and add what time work for them. And we will call them when we find an open spot for them. 

JAC: Anything else you want to add?

ANH: I do want to say that our haunted house event, is like, every year it seems like this is when all the members bond… Every year it brings people together because it’s such an exhausting event,... and it takes hours and hours to prep. So by the end of it, you went through so much together. Every year after it, you just feel close with everyone else. It’s my favorite event of the year.

—  Luke Liu