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Junji Ito : Den of the Sleep Demon

Japanese Horror: Contains elements of horror that may be unsettling for some readers

By Mika OkaPublished 10 months ago 4 min read

Yuji, a troubled author, met up with his friend Mari, visibly exhausted and distressed. He confided in her, revealing a perplexing problem he couldn't share with anyone else. In his dreams, there existed a living entity desperately attempting to break free into the real world. 

Each time Yuji fell asleep, this mysterious being awakened and tried to lure him into its realm, with the intention of taking his place in reality. The constant fear had driven Yuji to deprive himself of sleep for three consecutive days.

Mari was initially skeptical. She playfully suggested that the situation sounded like one of Yuji's own fictional tales and encouraged him to seek professional help. However, Yuji became upset by her response and stormed out, feeling unsupported. Realizing her mistake, Mari quickly chased after him, assuring him that she was only joking. She offered her assistance and asked how she could help him cope with his predicament.

Determined to aid her friend, Mari concocted a cover story for her parents, pretending to go on a trip while actually intending to support Yuji. Despite her doubts about his story, she believed his distress stemmed from his struggles as a writer rather than a genuine supernatural threat.

Upon arriving at Yuji's place, he confessed that he was on the verge of succumbing to exhaustion. Yuji requested that Mari bind his ankles and wrists with tape, preventing the dream entity from escaping. Reluctantly, she complied, and as soon as Yuji fell asleep, Mari tenderly removed the tape and covered him with a blanket. Unbeknownst to her, she too fell asleep shortly afterward.

Mari awoke later to peculiar scuffling noises, only to witness a horrifying sight. Yuji's right arm appeared to have been sucked into his body, while another arm forcefully emerged from his mouth, clawing at the floor in an attempt to break free.

Frightened, Mari screamed for Yuji to wake up, but she became ensnared as the arm grabbed hold of her ankle. Just in time, Yuji awakened, using his left arm to catch the intruding arm from his mouth and forcefully push it back into his body. He then proceeded to readjust his inverted fingers with Mari's help, chastising her for removing the tape.

Witnessing the surreal events firsthand, Mari reluctantly acknowledged the validity of Yuji's claims. The dream entity's escape would result in Yuji's entire body turning inside out. When Mari questioned what would happen to his bones and intestines in such a scenario, Yuji speculated that his body was either born empty or became hollow after his family's tragic demise.

He reflected on past dreams, noting their uncanny realism compared to his waking life. Yuji recalled his childhood desire to fly and his futile attempts, such as attaching feathers to his arms. 

Yet, within his dreams, his dream self would mock him for attempting something so foolish. His dreams often felt more vivid and authentic than reality itself. Perplexed, Mari wondered why the dream entity yearned to leave the dream world when anything seemed possible within it.

Undeterred, Yuji and Mari persisted in their efforts to prevent the dream entity's escape. However, neither taping nor clamping Yuji's mouth shut could thwart its relentless advance. 

Eventually, Yuji surrendered, unwilling to subject Mari to further trouble. He admitted that the dream entity's unwavering determination stemmed from its desire for Mari and confessed his own feelings for her. Having revealed his emotions, Yuji finally succumbed to sleep.

Reluctant to let him go, Mari decided to tape her own arm to Yuji's, hoping to serve as an anchor and protect him. Unfortunately, when Yuji's arm began to be drawn into his body, it pulled Mari's arm along with it.

Two arms emerged from Yuji's mouth, struggling to escape. Instead of fighting against this disturbing force, Mari made the decision to accompany Yuji.

Some time later, the landlord of Yuji's apartment complex arrived with the police, seeking answers regarding Mari's disappearance. As they entered, they noticed a human figure seated against the wall, inviting them inside. The police inquired about Mari's whereabouts, and upon seeing her tote bag on the floor, they grew suspicious.

Yuji calmly declared that searching for Mari would be futile, as she had become a part of him - specifically, his intestine.

Taken aback, the police questioned if he had consumed her, to which the shadowed figure responded that he had granted her a one-way ticket to his dream world.

My Interpretative Reflection

Junji Ito's horror story, "Where the Sandman Lives," delves into the depths of the human psyche and explores themes of obsession, sacrifice, and the blurred boundaries between dreams and reality.

Yuji's intense focus on his dreams and the sinister presence within them symbolizes how strong obsessions can be all-consuming. His unrelenting determination to protect himself, even if it harms him, shows how fixations on ideas or people can lead to self-destruction.

Yuji's readiness to give up everything, including Mari, to stop the dream entity's escape highlights selflessness and the sacrifices people make for loved ones.

This story also reflects how obsessions can distort reality, leading to a loss of control.

The dream entity's desire to enter the real world and Yuji's admission of feelings for Mari reveal the complexity of human desires. It suggests that our wants, whether for love, freedom, or something else, can push us to extremes, blinding us to the possible outcomes.

The surreal and disturbing events, like Yuji's arm being pulled into his body and Mari's decision to go with him, raise questions about identity and transformation. It challenges the idea of a fixed self and explores how circumstances can lead people to change, both physically and mentally.

It serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of unchecked fixation and the lengths to which people might go to protect the ones they love.


Previously published on Medium


About the Creator

Mika Oka

Sharing her unique perspective on the world as a hearing-impaired autistic person with bipolar disorder despite the challenges.


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    Mika OkaWritten by Mika Oka

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