Kimodameshi – See how a Test of Courage is done in Japan

Do you know what Kimodameshi (肝試し) is? Kimo (肝) means liver and dameshi (試し) means “test”. However, it is commonly known as the “Courage Test”. In Japan, the liver in this case can refer to the phrase “Kimo ga Suwaru”, which would be something like, show your courage or show yourself brave.

Kimodameshi can be considered a child's play, but in fact, adults also play, and even feel scared as their children or children close to them, it is usually done during the summer, at the Obon festival in August. The date can be considered special for the test, as it is said that during the festival, the dead or spirits return to this world in order to visit their relatives and loved ones.

It is very simple to play in Kimodameshi. Participants launch a challenge, usually visiting abandoned sites and rumored to have apparitions, ghosts, among other paranormal events, and whoever stays the longest wins.

Usually in anime, the characters play kimodameshi to unite couples, that is, the characters go two by two, for who knows arise a romance.

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Kimodameshi – see how a test of courage is done in japan - kimodameshi test of courage

Where Kimodameshi was born

Kimodameshi, like almost all Japanese legends and practices, does not have a certain origin, but there are two stories that can give you an idea of where it came from.

The first is that it would have appeared at the end of the Heian period, during the reign of Emperor Shirakawa (1073-1087) because of a book called "O-kagami" (大鏡; “Large mirror”), written by an unknown author.

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The book tells the story of Fujiwara Kaneie's three children. In the story, the 3 children challenge each other to see who has more courage to go to a nearby house, known for being the home of a Oni (demon). The story reports that 3 am is the time for spiritual portals open and appear various demons and ghosts.

It is not known if it is a legend or a true story, but it is said that it may have been created by the samurai as a way to train their children against fear. You Edo period samurai they also played at telling real horror stories, the game was known as “The 100 Ghost Stories” (百物語怪談会 – Hyaku monogatari kaidankai).

Kimodameshi - see how a test of courage is done in japan - kimodameshi test
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How do you play Kimodameshi?

There are no rules in Kimodameshi, but of course they can be imposed before you start, the way of playing varies from region to region, of course the goal will always be to give a good scare, the game can be a weapon, where a group of friends get together to challenge each other or it can be a school or family event, with rules and with enough participants.

Usually, the first contact Japanese people have with Kimodameshi is at camps or school events. US school events, it is normal for teachers and volunteers to dress in costumes of monsters, ghosts and hide in strategic places, objects can also be used, such as skulls, and the like.

In the original, children gather in places such as cemeteries, shrines, tunnels, abandoned and haunted houses, parks or buildings, with the challenge being done in pairs or individually. They go at night in the marked place, so that everyone is afraid, the owner of the game usually leaves objects scattered in these places, and you will have the objective of picking up the objects, as proof that you passed the place.

Japanese haunted house

Kimodameshi is very similar to the haunted houses of amusement parks. Something common both in the West and in the East, these houses present in the parks are also meeting places for couples and possible romantic scenes.

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In fact, these tests of courage can be taken in places like abandoned houses and buildings. Before these events take place, there is always a scary story about the place.

You can get arrested if you don't play properly

The teachers and students responsible for the event usually do things correctly. But if the event is invading someone else's land, this can cause problems in justice.

If you get lost and invade a restricted area, you don't need to be responsible, but if a warning is given and you don't leave the site, you could end up being fined up to 100,000 yen or be jailed for 3 years.

You must be very careful not to graffiti or paint other people's properties, or play too much and cause physical harm to others. The Japanese penal code is quite serious and doesn't accept bardens like some countries.