Kaidan films - Japanese ghost or horror stories of Edo period.
This information has been taken from wiki, Paghat the Ratgirl site, Japanese Horror Movies Database and imdb mainly.
Kaidan (sometimes transliterated kwaidan) is a Japanese word consisting of two kanji: kai meaning “strange, mysterious, rare or bewitching apparition" and dan meaning “talk” or “recited narrative.” In its broadest sense, kaidan refers to any ghost or horror story, but it has an old-fashioned ring to it that carries the connotation of Edo period Japanese folktales. Kaidan may have been influenced by its Chinese counterpart. The word was popularised in English by Lafcadio Hearn in his book Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things. The spelling kwaidan is a romanization based on an archaic spelling of the word in kana. The revised Hepburn romanization system is spelled kaidan.
Originally based on didactic Buddhist tales, kaidan often involve elements of karma, and especially ghostly vengeance for misdeeds. Japanese vengeful ghosts are far more powerful after death than they were in life, and are often people who were particularly powerless in life, such as women and servants. This vengeance is usually specifically targeted against the tormentor, but can sometimes be a general hatred toward all living humans. Kaidan also frequently involve water as a ghostly element. In Japanese religion, water is a pathway to the underworld as can be seen in the festival of Obon (a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the departed (deceased) spirits of one's ancestors).
Period ghost stories are an important genre in Japanese cinema.
The first world famous kaidan film was Ugetsu monogatari, which means "Tales of the Moon and Rain", sometimes translated "Tales Of The Pale And Silvery Moon After The Rain", directed by Kenji Mizoguchi in 1953. It is one of Mizoguchi's most celebrated films, inspired by two short stories (Asaji Ga Yado and Jasei No In) by Ueda Akinari from his collection of nine independent stories, first published in 1776, adapted from Chinese ghost stories.
In 16th century Japan, amidst the pandemonium of civil war, potter Genjuro (Mori Masayuki) and samurai-aspirant Tobei (Ozawa Sakae) set out with their wives in search of wealth and military glory, respectively. Two parallel tales ensue when the men are lured from their wives: Genjuro by the ghostly charm of Lady Wakasa; Tobei by the dream of military glory.
Ugetsu won the Silver Lion Award for Best Direction at the Venice Film Festival in 1953.
Another famous representative of the genre is Kwaidan directed by Masaki Kobayashi in 1964. It is based on stories from Lafcadio Hearn's collections of Japanese folk tales. The film consists of four separate and unrelated ghost stories.
"The Black Hair" is about a man living in Kyoto divorces his wife. After many yeas he returns to his first wife, who readily accepts him, but later he discovers her to be no more than clothing, hair and a skull. "The Woman of the Snow" depicts the folkloric character of Yuki-onna, a ghostly female figure who inhabits snowy regions. "Hoichi the Earless" depicts the folkloric tale of Hoichi the Earless, a blind musician, or biwa hoshi, who eventually finds himself singing to the ghosts of the very heroes that are the subject of his song. "In a Cup of Tea" is about a man who keep seeing a mysterious face reflected in his cup of tea.
Kwaidan won the Special Jury Prize at the 1965 Cannes Film Festival and an Academy Award nomination.
But the genre of kaidan films is much wider than just several movies, known to common western viewer. From the very beginning of Japanese cinema there were hundreds of kaidan films, but a lot of earlier silent movies was lost.
The conventions of the genre are inherited from traditional storytellers and folklore classic kabuki plays, most famously Tokaido yotsuya kaidan by the classical kabuki playwright Namboku Tsuruya IV (1755-1839), in which a horrific and pitiful murdered woman (Oiwa) returns to avenge herself against her cruel husband (Iemon). So Oiwa is an onryō, a ghost who seeks vengeance. She shares most of the common traits of this style of Japanese ghost, including the white dress representing the burial kimono she would have worn, the long, ragged hair and white/indigo face that marks a ghost in kabuki theater. Most famous is her left eye, which droops down her face due to poison given her by Iemon. She is often shown as partially bald, another effect of the poison. The most famous scene is when the living Oiwa sits before a mirror and combs her hair, which comes falling out. This scene is a subversion of erotically-charged hair combing scenes in kabuki love plays.
The first film adaptation was made in 1912, and it was filmed some 18 times between 1913 and 1937. A notable adaptation was Shimpan Yotsuya Kaidan by Itō Daisuke, one of the foremost Japanese directors of his time. A 1949 adaptation, Yotsuya Kaidan I & II, by Kinoshita Keisuke removed the ghostly elements and presented Oiwa as an apparition of her husband's guilty psyche. The most famous adaptation is Nobuo Nakagawa's 1959 Tōkaidō Yotsuya Kaidan, which is a very faithful version of the original story, updated only to take advantage of modern special effects. The movies about Yotsuya ghost story were adapted also by other famous Japanese directors like Kenji Misumi ,Tai Kato, Shiro Toyoda, Kinji Fukasaku and great Japanese actors like Tatsuya Nakadai, Tomisaburo Wakayama (twice), Kazuo Hasegawa stared as Iemon.
Interesting, that several productions of Yotsuya Kaidan, including television and movie adaptations, have reported mysterious accidents, injuries and even deaths. It is now a tradition, before staging an adaptation of Yotsuya Kaidan, for the principal actors and the director to make a pilgrimage to Oiwa's grave at and ask her permission and blessing for their production. This is considered especially important of the actor assuming the role of Oiwa. Nevertheless Yotsuya Kaidan is the most often filmed Japanese ghost story.
The second most often filmed kaidan is Kaidan Botan Dōrō, most commonly translated as Tales of the Peony Lantern. It is a Japanese ghost story that is both romantic and horrific; it involves sex with the dead and the consequences of loving a ghost.
One day, Shinzaburō Hagiwara, a young samurai, met a beautiful girl named Otsuyu. Though Otsuyu fell in love with Shinzaburou at first sight, she was dead a few days after. Otsuyu can't forget Shinzaburou, so she visited to him night and night with her nurse Oyone.
Botan Dōrō entered the Japanese psyche in the 1600s, through a translation of a book of Chinese ghost stories. In 1884, Botan Dōrō was adapted by famous storyteller Sanyutei Encho into a rakugo (Japanese verbal entertainment), which increased the popularity of the tale.
Boton Doro was the first Japanese ghost story to be put to film, with a silent version in 1910. Six further adaptations were made between 1911 and 1937, although all of these have been lost to time and only the titles are still known. Notable is Satsuo Yamamoto's 1968 version, filmed for Daiei Studios. It is variously known as Bride from Hell, Haunted Lantern, Ghost Beauty, My Bride is a Ghost, Bride from Hades, or Peony Lanterns. Yamamoto's film is one of the darkest of Daiei's kaidan films from the late 60s. In 1972, director Chūsei Sone made a pink film version, entitled Hellish Love (Seidan botan doro), which places emphasis on the sexual nature of the relationship between the protagonist and Otsuyu. A massive change in the story is made in Masaru Tsushima's 1996 Otsuyu: Kaidan botan doro (Haunted Lantern). Shinzaburo meets a girl named Tsuya who is the reincarnation of his past beloved, but Shinzaburo's father arranges a marriage for him with Tsuya's sister, Suzu, who also falls in love with Shinzaburo. The two sisters commit suicide together.
There are several other films based on other ghost stories of Sanyutei Encho, including his most often filmed Kaidan Kasane-ga-fuchi (Ghost Story of Kasane Swamp) with versions from 1926, 1930, 1957, 1959, 1960, 1968, 1970 and 2007 from well-known modern J-Horor director Hideo Nakata. A convoluted plot follows the murder of a money-lending masseur by an impoverished samurai. The slain masseur's daughter will also fall victim to his curse, so that she can become empowered as an agent of her father's vengeance. Kaidan Kagami-ga-fuchi (Ghosts of Kagami Pond aka Depth of Kagami, Shin Toho, 1959) directed by Masaki Mori, regards a murderous store manager Kinbei who has discarded a girl's corpse in Kagami Pond, where Kinbei's fate and a ghost's revenge will eventually destroy him. Kaidan chibusa enoki (Ghost Story of the Mother Tree) had been filmed several times from the start of the silent era, the most famous version was directed by Goro Kitano (1958). A ronin, Isogai, becomes a painter's apprentice, kills the painter and takes the wife, but the ghost of the painter is avenged upon the ronin.
Another popular kind of Japanese ghost stories regards a supernatural cat. If a cat lick the blood of owner, when owner is dead, mainly at political disturbances, this cat becomes a cat monster. It can disguise (bakeru) and possesse person. This cat-monster is known as bakeneko or kaibyou. There were sufficient numbers of plays & tales of this sort transformed into a cinematic and television films. The most famous example in the west is Kuroneko (Yabu no Naka no Kuroneko) directed by Kaneto Shindō (1968). The title means "Black Cat" in English and it is about woman and her daughter, who were raped and murdered by soldiers during a time of civil war. Afterwards, a series of samurai returning from the war through that area are found mysteriously dead with their throats torn out. The governor calls in a wild and fierce young hero to quell what is evidently a Onryō ghost… Kuroneko was placed in competition at the 1968 Cannes Film Festival, but the festival was cancelled.
Among others outstanding films of this genre can be mentioned Tokuza Tanaka's Hiroku Kaibyoden (Haunted Castle), 1969; Nobuo Nakagawa’s Borei kaibyo yashiki (Black Cat Mansion), 1958; and Yoshiro Ishikawa’s Kaibyo noroi numa (Bakeneko: A Vengeful Spirit), 1968.
There are a lot of various kaidan films beyond this very short description. Among them a beautiful and mystical Tokuzo Tanaka’s Kaidan Yuki Joro (Ghost Story of the Snow Witch aka The Snow Woman), 1968, based on the same novel as the second part of Kobayashi’s film; Shiro Toyoda’s Byaku fujin no yoren (Madame White Snake), 1956– Japanese adaptation of Chinese famous legend, and many, many others.
In the conclusion I would like to notice that J-Horror films such as Ju-on and Ring would more likely be labelled by the katakana horā ("horror") or the standard Japanese kowai hanashi ("scary story"). Kaidan is only used if the author/director wishes to specifically bring an old fashioned air into the story.