Photo/IllutrationThe Asahi Shimbun

Hundreds of living corpses, many wearing tattered clothes splattered with blood or with rotting flesh hanging from their faces, lumber after potential prey on the streets of Osaka.

Shrieks ring out. Victims are overtaken. Selfies are taken. And in the end, the Zombie Run road race proves a monster success.

The latest wave of the undead rising up in Japan started years ago, and their numbers have since multiplied.

Zombies now appear prominently on TV dramas, movies and commercials as well as at theme parks and other events. They are even featured in a novel written by a winner of Japan’s prestigious Akutagawa Prize.

Japan is no stranger to the horror genre or escapism. And with the growing popularity of Halloween activities on top of the cosplay culture, as well as a desire to experience something extraordinary for social media postings, the country has been fertile ground for a zombie apocalypse.

Like in other countries, many Japanese simply enjoy the thrill of being terrified.

“Women especially tend to cry out loudly,” said an employee in charge of a virtual reality attraction featuring zombies at Tokyo Joypolis, an amusement facility in Tokyo’s Odaiba waterfront district.

Wearing special goggles, visitors at the attraction, which is usually nearly fully booked on holidays, can experience being chased and surrounded by zombies.

Tokyo Joypolis started introducing a number of zombie attractions about four years ago.

“Zombies still look like human beings, which creates a feeling of familiarity,” the Tokyo Joypolis employee said. “Visitors may enjoy being scared together.”

The origin of zombies can be traced to voodoo rituals in Central America that are believed to reanimate corpses.

Through literature and film, zombies have taken on various incarnations, but they are generally portrayed as mindless corpses driven by hunger for human flesh, especially brains, whose bites turn the victims into zombies.

That image was cemented by the 1968 U.S. horror movie “Night of the Living Dead,” directed by George A. Romero.

Japan has also helped to spread zombie fever around the world.

Capcom Co.’s popular “Biohazard” videogames have been made into a six-movie Hollywood series starting in 2002.

The zombie genre is also common in Japanese films.

“Depicting human psychology in extreme situations is the secret of zombie-related works that fascinate movie-goers,” said an official at Fox Networks Group Japan.

The official is in charge of broadcasting the U.S. TV series “The Walking Dead” in Japan.

In “The Walking Dead” and many other zombie works, a common theme is how far humans will go, including killing each other, to live another day.

In real life in Japan, the objective is enjoyment, not dismemberment.

“During the Halloween season, many people dress up as zombies with spooky makeup and costumes,” said the Fox Networks official. “Zombies even appear in TV commercials and have gained such popularity that they are now largely accepted.”

Writer Keisuke Hata, who was awarded the Akutagawa Prize in July 2015 for his novel “Scrap and Build,” published a novel in November 2016 titled “Context of the Dead.” The story revolves around novelists trying to survive in a world infested with zombies.

“Those who like zombies will be captivated by works featuring zombies, but it’s difficult to convey the fascinating aspects of zombies to those with no interest. The same thing can be said about serious literature” Hata said.

In the Zombie Run, an event that originated in the United States, runners in zombie costumes chase runners in plain clothes.

The Zombie Run held in Osaka in September 2015 was organized by Tokyo-based event planner Sportsone Co.

About 2,000 runners participated, despite the relatively high entry fee: 7,200 yen ($64.65).

The number of participants rose to about 3,000 when the event was held in Tokyo at the end of 2015.

The majority of runners were in their teens or 20s, and 70 percent of them were female.

Many of the runners stopped to take selfies during the event.

A Zombie Run official said social networking services, such as Twitter and Facebook, that provide online connections between friends and family are feeding the zombie fad.

“Young people (in costume) may want to go through extraordinary experiences and portray themselves as ‘state of the art’ by posting photos of the events on Twitter or Instagram,” the event official said. “Their desire to collect as many ‘likes’ on Facebook as possible could also be promoting the current Zombie craze.”

(This article was written by Kazutaka Ito and Kazuyo Nakamura.)