Photo/IllutrationNoriyuki Hamada, head of Koshin Taxi Co., gently pats a stuffed yokai goblin “nurarihyon” on the head, which is sitting in the front passenger seat of his taxi in Kyoto’s Minami Ward, on Aug. 3. (Ryutaro Abe)

  • Photo/Illustraion

KYOTO--A Kyoto taxi firm is offering an unusual way to escape the sweltering summer heat with an experience that not so much cools down passengers as gives them the chills--a “yokai” ghost story ride.

The spooky journeys involve being driven around mysterious spots associated with the legendary monsters, spirits and demons of Japanese folklore in the city.

“Welcome to a journey to the realm of the supernatural!” said Noriyuki Hamada, 57, head of Koshin Taxi Co., in the city’s Minami Ward.

While not aiming to chill passengers to the bone, “I want people to at least feel cooler,” said Hamada, with a stuffed “nurarihyon” yokai goblin sitting in the front passenger seat of his taxi.

The grotesque, yet charming Nurarihyon, which has the appearance of a monk with a large, elongated head, is often described as the “command in chief” of yokai.

Focusing on spine-chilling legends as well as tales of the supernatural that have been told in this ancient capital, the company came up with the idea of touring fabled sites of yokai goblins.

On the way to five spots including temples where spooky “kaidan” ghost stories have been traditionally been told, visitors can listen to eerie tales of the supernatural related to those sites they are going to visit.

The tales are read by a group called "Hyakumonogatari no yakata" (Mansion of one hundred tales) comprising students of Kyoto Seika University in the city’s Sakyo Ward, who study kaidan.

Four taxi drivers who are in charge of guiding passengers have also learned kaidan and held a purification ceremony for their vehicles.

The company launched the service in June, and bookings have been made for everyday this month, mainly by groups. But the tour also draws attention from individual customers. For example, a woman from outside Kyoto was seen one day boarding a taxi alone.

No passengers have requested a ride in the yokai taxi during the daytime so far, presumably because they want to enjoy the eerie atmosphere of after dark.

The yokai taxi service is expected to be available through Oct. 15.

The taxi tour lasts about four hours. Charges are 20,400 yen ($181) for a standard-sized vehicle that can carry four to six passengers, and 24,000 yen for a jumbo-sized hired car that can carry nine passengers. Parking fees, entrance fees for sites and toll road fees should be paid separately.

Reservations are required at least two days prior to the preferred pick-up date.