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What does Yūrei-zaka mean?

In Japanese History on October 22, 2015 at 6:11 am

幽霊坂
Yūrei-zaka (Ghost Hill)

If you spend any amount of time in Tōkyō, you will notice that it’s a hilly city. The Japanese themselves often refer to the country as 島国 shimaguni an island country (implying isolation from the rest of the world) but also as 山国 yamaguni a country of mountains (implying, well, um, it has a lot of hills and mountains).

Tōkyō’s 港区 Minto-ku Minato Ward has both the budget and ballz to commemorate famous hills that had names in the Edo Period. At the bottom and top of many hills, you can find 4-sided wooden poles announcing the hills’ names and brief explanations behind the names. In Tōkyō, references to locations such as 鳥居坂下 Toriizakashita the bottom of Torii Hill or 中野坂上 Nakano-sakaue the top of Nakano Hill are commonplace. These references may be crystallized in train station or bus top names, postal code designations, or just in the day-to-day parlance of the people in the neighborhood. For me, the most beautiful thing about this is that Japanese streets traditionally don’t have names. This reflects the Pre-WWII necessity for giving directions or identifying with your neighborhood by means of landmarks[i].

Yūrei - a Japanese ghost

Yūrei – a Japanese ghost

Ghost Hill

There are 幽霊坂 Yūrei-zaka “ghost hills” all over Japan – and at least 8 in modern day Tōkyō – and all of them have different etymologies. However, today I want to focus on Edo-Tōkyō’s most famous “Ghost Hill.” It’s located in 港区三田四丁目 Minato-ku Mita 4-chōme, the 4th block of Mita’s Minato Ward. It’s probably most famous because it lays on some of the former shōgunate’s most important lands. Many of the nearby estates were occupied by 大名 daimyō feudal lords performing service to the shōgun. Much of the area was heavily wooded which made it dark in the daytime and even darker at night. In the Edo Period the name was written as 幽霊坂 Yūrei-zaka literally “ghost hill” or ゆうれい坂 Yūrei-zaka which was not literally “ghost hill[ii].”

It’s said that in 1635, when the 3rd shōgun, 徳川家光 Tokugawa Iemitsu carried out a massive expansion of 江戸城 Edo-jō Edo Castle, a number of temples and shrines were moved from castle’s periphery to make way for daimyō residences and military installations. A handful of these were relocated along a new hillside road (or by some accounts a minor road dating back to the Kamakura Period) near Edo Bay in the 三田 Mita area. In the early Edo Period, the place was said to be quite rustic and had lush vegetation and many tall trees. Unless the moon was particularly bright that night, the road more or less couldn’t be traversed at night – and even bright nights were risky because thieves and 妖怪 yōkai supernatural beings were said to haunt the woods waiting for unsuspecting passersby. The wealthy, including samurai, could only pass through with lantern bearers to light the way.

This is a famous photo of the lower residence of Shimabara Domain on nearby Tsuna-zaka (Tsuna Hill). It's not Yūrei-zaka, but it gives you an idea of how wooded the area was at that time. Even a street like this would have been scary at night.

This is a famous photo of the lower residence of Shimabara Domain on nearby Tsuna-zaka (Tsuna Hill). It’s not Yūrei-zaka, but it gives you an idea of how wooded the area was at that time. Even a street like this would have been scary at night.

Moving Lanterns Cast Moving Shadows, Don’t They?

Temples and shrines generally held large swaths of land and much of it was wooded with old trees. Yūrei-zaka was said to be so desolate and dark that even in the afternoon ghosts would show themselves. Others say that because in the early days, there were only temples and shrines and no bustling commoner districts with shops and restaurants, the area was particularly 寂しい sabishii lonely/desolate. Passing through there, especially at night, was a scary thing. Whether you saw a ghost there or not, it seemed like the sort of place you would most likely see a ghost.

yureizaka ghost

Another Etymology

In the Meiji Period, a certain 森有礼 Mori Arinori is said to have had a residence here. His given name 有礼 Arinori is the 名乗り nanori name reading his kanji. But according to this theory, the local Edoites read the name as  有礼Yūrei the 音読み onyomi Chinese reading for names. The story goes that the locals felt the original writing was inauspicious and unenlightened. It reflected Edo Period superstitions. For the locals, Arinori was an example of the new enlightenment. In the Meiji Government, he served as the first 文部大臣 Monbu Daijin Minister of Education. Forget the “ghost street,” let’s have an “enlightenment street!”

mori arinori

Never Heard of the Guy

Arinori is an interesting character. Longtime readers will remember that there was an elite transfer from 薩摩藩 Satsuma Han Satsuma Domain and 長州藩 Chōshū Han Chōshū Domain to the newly renamed 東京 Tōkyō Eastern Capital after the Meiji Coup. The 江戸っ子 Edokko Edoites – now forced to be called 東京人 Tōkyō no hito or Tōkyō-jin Tōkyōites – resented the “uncouth” outsiders from the south[iii]. The jagoffs from Satsuma were particularly despised by the people of the capital[iv].

Despite local prejudices and perhaps in line with the revolutionary and modern cultural shift begun during the Bakumatsu and amped up during the early Meiji Era, the Edoites (now Tōkyōites) found that not all of their new ruling class from the south consisted of assholes hell bent on taking over the city for personal gain. Some truly enlightened people were determined to drag Japan kicking and screaming into “modernity.” Some of them just so happened to be from Satsuma. Mori Arinori is one of those people and the locals seemed to like the guy.

arinori

So who was this Mori Arinori guy and why should we know him?

Well, he was born in Satsuma in 1847 to the 森家 Mori-ke Mori Clan. This meant he was 6 years old at the time of Commodore Perry’s arrival and he was 21 years old when the shōgunate actually fell in the 1868 Meiji Coup. In 1865, he went to University College London to study western mathematics, physics, and naval surveying. He became enamored with western thought – in particular, that of the British Empire and the “Anglosphere[v].”

After the collapse of the Tokugawa Shōgunate, he served as the first Japanese ambassador to the United States (1871-1873). At that time, he became fascinated with the American education system and came back to Japan with an intention to reform education. Oh, and he had big plans.

He returned as an Americanophile. He advocated for freedom of religion – in particular secularism and humanism in education. The 1870’s was the peak of discussion about women’s rights in the US. Arinori naturally pushed for women’s rights in Japan, but ironically never advocated their right to vote[vi]. Most surprisingly, he recognized English as not only a lingua franca (international language), but as the language of the future. In his education reforms, he pushed for Japan to abandon the Japanese language in order to compete on a global scale. No joke. He and a large number of supporters wanted to replace the Japanese language with the English language.

These were some of the most radical ideas interjected into the Japanese socio-political conversations of the time. But perhaps he had “gone too native” during his time abroad. His time in England and America affected his sense of spirituality and he became a Christian. His western secularist, humanist, proto-feminist, and monotheistic Christian values were sending out mixed messages to the Japanese statesmen of his day. And the average Japanese person of the day was still used to the so-called “closed country policy.” They’d never studied a foreign language or seen a map of the world. Outside of Edo or the major port cities, they’d mostly likely never even seen a non-Japanese person. FFS, Christianity was more or less verboten since the time of Toyotomi Hideyoshi (late 1500’s).

Arinori made friends and enemies on both the left and the right, but unfortunately his progressive views ultimately got him killed. On the same day the 大日本帝國憲法 Dai-Nippon Teikoku Kenpō Meiji Constitution was promulgated, he was assassinated. The killer’s rationale was that he rudely entered 伊勢神宮 Ise Jingū Ise Grand Shrine[vii] without taking off his shoes and used other western mannerisms[viii].

ghost cemetery

Mori Arinori is an unfortunate example of how the Meiji Coup of 1868 didn’t usher in a new age of peace overnight. People on both sides of the revolution fought for change and “modernization,” but a spirit of terrorism that arose during the Bakumatsu was bound to plague Japan for at least another 100 years[ix]. Even after Japan’s defeat in WWII, humiliating occupation, and haphazard reconstruction, the country was plagued with internal political strife – much of which can be traced back to the great cultural upheaval of the Bakumatsu and the disproportionate advances in the urban centers and the decades’ long lag in the suburban and rural areas.

Anyways, Arinori was pushing for reforms that some intellectuals were ready for but the average person of the street, farmer, ex-samurai, merchant, or ex-outcast couldn’t even begin to wrap their heads around. And on the day the Meiji Constitution was proclaimed in 1889 (Meiji 22), he was murdered.

graves

Yūrei-zaka Today

Edo Period forests had taken a toll in the 1923 関東大震災 Kantō Daishinsai Great Kantō Earfquake and like much of the bay area; this neighborhood took a beating in the firebombing of Tōkyō by American forces in 1945. Today it looks nothing like its Edo Era self. But many of the temples that characterized the area during the time of the Shōgunate are still there.

I don’t know if this is an exhaustive list, some temples seem to have moved over the years. Today, most of these temples are pretty minor. But, in those days, 2 of them were pretty major (I’m looking at you 實相寺 Jissō-ji and 正泉寺 Shōsen-ji).

長松寺
Chōshō-ji

Fairly minor temple, but is home to the grave of 荻生徂徠 Ogyū Sorai who some consider the most influential Confucian scholar of the Edo Period. I don’t know much about Confucianism, so here’s a link to an article about him. Knock yourself out.

玉鳳寺
Gyokuhō-ji

A minor temple, barely famous for its 白粉地蔵 oshiroi jizō white faced jizō[x].

實相寺
Jissō-ji

保科正之 Hoshina Masayuki[xi] chose this temple to be a 菩提寺 bodai-ji funerary temple of his family in Edo[xii]. Masayuki was the 3rd son of 2nd shōgun 徳川秀忠 Tokugawa Hidetada by a concubine. Long story short, he was given control of 会津藩 Aizu Han Aizu Domain with a stipend of 230,000 石 koku.  As a senior member of the 老中 rōjū council of elders at Edo Castle, he was appointed regent of his nephew, the 4th shōgun, 徳川家綱 Tokugawa Ietsuna.  To legitimize his position, the shōgunate granted him a new family name 松平 Matsudaira and so he is often referred to as 松平正之 Matsudaira Masayuki. (Update: I spoke with a member of the family maintaining this temple, she said the grave is Masayuki’s wife’s grave and that Masayuki’s grave is in Aizu.)

仙翁寺
Senshō-ji

A super-minor temple.

正覚院
Shōkaku-in

Yet another super-minor temple.

称讃寺
Shōsan-ji

Minor, minor, minor…

正泉寺
Shōsen-ji

Shōsen-ji was established sometime in the first 5 years of the 1650’s near 赤坂溜池 Akasaka Tameike the Akasaka Reservoir[xiii], but later transferred to 三田 Mita[xiv].  The Mita location served as the first フランス公使館 Furansu Kōshikan French Embassy. It also provided housing to the Swiss representative. British citizen and very well-connected interpreter, Ernest Satow also stayed here for a while. In 1911 (Meiji 44), the temple was transferred to its current location in 目黒 Meguro[xv].

随応寺
Zuiō-ji

Totally minor.

Other Yūrei-zaka in Edo-Tōkyō

At the beginning of the article, I mentioned that there were Yūrei-zaka all over Japan. Compiling a comprehensive list would take forever, but luckily Japanese Wikipedia has a list of the 8 major ones in Tōkyō. That said, there were at least 14 Yūrei-zaka in Edo. The 坂学会 Saka Gakkai Society of Hill Nerds[xvi] lists all of hills in Edo on their website. The site is pretty freaking amazing, but it’s Japanese only.

Name

Location
(some have links to previous articles)

幽霊坂
Yūrei-zaka

Mejiro-dai

幽霊坂
Yūrei-zaka

Mejiro-dai

幽霊坂
Yūrei-zaka

Tabata

幽霊坂
Yūrei-zaka

Kanda-Awaji-chō

幽霊坂
Yūrei-zaka

Kanda-Suruga-dai (near Akihabara)

幽霊坂
Yūrei-zaka

Fujimi-chō (Chiyoda Ward)

幽霊坂
Yūrei-zaka

Ushigome

ゆうれい坂
Yūrei-zaka

Shinagawa

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[i] A tradition that is very much alive in Tōkyō. “When you see x, turn right. Go straight until you see y. At y there is a 3 way intersection. When you see shop z, take that street one block. I’ll meet you there.” This is how directions are given in Tōkyō.
[ii] Well, let’s be honest. This means “ghost hill,” but this ambiguous spelling would lead to a later folk etymology.
[iii] It seems to me the Edokko (native Edoites) always regarded outsiders – even those on sankin-kōtai duty – with a bit of disdain. This is not unlike modern Kyōto, where geisha districts view outsiders with distrust and have a system of vetting prospective customers. That style isn’t a Kyōto thing. It’s an old Japan thing. Kyōto is famous for this because it’s one of places where the tradition carries on traditionally.
[iv] Again, they were outsiders since the Battle of Sekigahara, so the prejudice against Satsuma was probably ingrained in the culture of Edo. They were one of many embodiments of 田舎侍 inaka-zamurai country samurai – elites who didn’t understand the manners of Edo or Kyōto. Whether this is true or not, the Satsuma men had a reputation in the early Meiji Period for still practicing 衆道 shūdō a somewhat ritualized form of man-on-man sex among samurai – something that had fallen in disfavor since the coming of the foreigners and was actually made illegal in 1872 (Meiji 5).
[v] The English-speaking world.
[vi] Dick!!
[vii] Ise Grand Shrine claims to house the 神 kami deity of mother of the imperial family and therefore all of Japan. It is without a doubt one of the most important Shintō institutions in Japan. The shrine’s traditional establishment is 4 BCE (about 2000 years ago) making this one of the most important shrines in all of Japanese history – especially in regards to the imperial family. Yet right wing politicians insist on going to 靖国神社 Yasukuni Jinja Yasukuni Shrine with the express purpose of pissing of Korean and China. Yasukuni was established in 1869 (Meiji 2) to honor the war dead of the illegal coup Satsuma and Chōshū waged against the shōgunate. The Meiji Coup established the 大日本帝国 Dai-Nippon Teikoku Empire of Japan and Yasuki Shrine became the government’s repository for the veneration of 神 kami of those who died in service of the newly established Meiji State (and by extension, imperial Japan in general).
[viii] Just for the record, the “official story” is generally believed to be a bunch of horse shit. What got him killed was his radical political view and his attempt to change the education system.
[ix] I’m looking at you, 三島由紀夫 Mishima Yukio.
[x] What is a jizō? Read here.
[xi] Read more about him in this article at Samurai Archives.
[xii] Masayuki himself is buried in 福島 Fukushima, once part of Aizu Domain. My understanding is that the graves at Shōsen-ji are those of the concubines, unmarried daughters, and sons who died before coming of age. The daimyō and most important members of the Aizu Matsudaira who died in Edo were interred at 広徳寺 Kōtoku-ji in present day 練馬区 Nerima-ku Nerima Ward. I haven’t visited, but I was just checking out some pictures and the cemetery looks spectacular. By the way, I have an article on Nerima.
[xiii] Guess what, I have an article about Tameike. It’s old, but the information is good.
[xiv] I have an article about Mita. It’s also old, but the information is good.
[xv] Surprise, surprise! I have an article about Meguro.
[xvi] My translation.

Dōryō-dō – the Haunted Temple of Hachiōji

In Japanese History on October 15, 2015 at 5:47 am

道了堂
Dōryō-dō (Dōryō Temple)

Dōryō-dō. Just a note about pix. Due to Japanese privacy laws, the public doesn't have access to a lot of pictures related to this story so I had to get creative. Anyways, hope you still enjoy.

Dōryō-dō.
Just a note about pix. Due to Japanese privacy laws, the public doesn’t have access to a lot of pictures related to this story so I had to get creative. Anyways, hope you still enjoy.

I’ve never shied away from the darker side of the history of Edo-Tōkyō. I’ve always been forthright in my lack of a belief in the supernatural. But I have to admit, dark stories about ghosts and things that go “bump” in the night fascinate me. Today we’re going to stay in 八王子 Hachiōji and talk about ghosts. And why not? Halloween is right around the corner!

Wanna read my article on Hachiōji?

Road leading to Hachiōji village during the bakumatsu.

Road leading to Hachiōji village during the bakumatsu.

An Inauspicious Name

Hachiōji is home to the remains of a demolished temple that Japanese ghost hunters can’t get enough of. It’s called 道了堂 Dōryō-dō. The name means “Temple of the kami named Dōryō,” but it can also be read as “End of the Road Temple.” It was located on a well-traveled highway in the Edo Period, so “end of the road” could have been Edo branding for “stop and eat something or lodge here.” But since 1983, it’s conveyed the nuance that “this is the last place you will be alive.”

Let’s Look at the Kanji

道了
dōryō

end of the road


temple
The so-called

The so-called “Silk Road” in its present state.

Shall We Look at the Timeline of the Temple?

This haunted spot is located on an Edo Period highway that was colloquially called  絹之道 Kinu no Michi the Silk Road.  The route connected 八王子 Hachiōji with 横浜 Yokohama. In the late Edo Period it became a very active trade route.

Dōryō-dō isn’t a very ancient temple. Surprisingly, it was established in 1874 (Meiji 7)[i], when a wealthy merchant named 大塚吾郎吉 Ōtsuka Gorōkichi wanted to split and transfer the syncretic 神 kami deity named 道了尊 Dōryō-son[ii] from another temple in Hachiōji called 永泉寺 Eisen-ji[iii]. The kami was installed into a new sub-temple in the merchant town of 八王子鑓水村 Hachiōji Yarimizu Mura Yarimizu Village, Hachiōji. That temple was named 道了堂 Dōryō-dō and it prospered as a relay point on the so-called Silk Road. In 1890 (Meiji 23), 2 groups of stone lanterns were set up at the top of the stairs. This was to be the last major addition to the temple. The temple flourished briefly and then nosedived due to economic changes.

Yarimizu during the bakumatsu.

Yarimizu during the bakumatsu. I assume this picture was taken from the Kōshū Kaidō or the “Silk Road,” but I’m not sure.

Decline of the Silk Road and Dōryō-dō

In 1908 (Meiji 41), the 横浜鉄道 Yokohama Tetsudō Yokohama Railway (today the JR 横浜線 JR Yokohama-sen JR Yokohama Line) opened and connected Hachiōji and Yokohama by faster, western technology. The railroad essentially killed off foot traffic along the Silk Road. Temples and shrines were often built on main roads because travelers and pilgrims would stop by and patronize the religious institutions. This provided a constant source of income[iv], but the rise of the railroads meant that shrines and temples located far from stations saw a sharp decrease in revenue. Relatively unknown temples like Dōryō-dō suffered in particular. People just didn’t know about them.

The once popular temple faded into obscurity. It experienced 3 事件 jiken “incidents” that ghost hunters say resulted in its demise – 1963, 1973, and 1983[v]. We’ll talk about those in a second, but for now the ruins rest in modern 大塚山公園 Ōtsuka-yama Kōen Ōtsukayama Park. For most people, the park is famous for its large population of 兎 usagi cute widdle bunny wabbits. But for those of more macabre interests, the park has a much more sinister claim to fame.

doryodo hachioji

They Say You Can Hear Women Crying in the Park

Maybe it’s because of the legacy of 八王子城 Hachiōji-jō Hachiōji Castle which dates back to the 1590’s, but Hachiōji is apparently ground zero for aficionados of so-called 心霊スポット shinrei supotto haunted places in Tōkyō. Maybe the tradition started there. Who knows. But believe it or not, the ruins of Hachiōji Castle are not the epicenter of “Haunted Hachiōji.” That great honor goes to Dōryō-dō.

I couldn't find any pix of Dōryō-dō and then I found this gem. I was sad when I realized it's a Dōryō-dō in Gunma Prefecture, not Hachiōji.

I couldn’t find any pix of Dōryō-dō and then I found this gem. I was sad when I realized it’s a Dōryō-dō in Gunma Prefecture, not Hachiōji.

In 1963[vi], an 82 year old woman who was in charge of maintaining the premises was approached by a robber. The woman resisted the criminal and was killed as a result. The temple’s meager savings were stolen and the old woman’s body lay where it fell. Almost from the beginning, rumors began to spread among the locals that if you listened closely, you could hear the ghost of the old woman sobbing in the forest. Some say she was crying because she didn’t want to die. Others say she was sobbing because she failed to protect the temple’s money – the temple would only last another 13 years, the structure itself exactly 20.

old lady

Exactly 10 years later, in 1973, a 4th year female university student had an unfortunate affair with the wrong professor at 立教大学 Rikkyō Daigaku Saint Paul’s University. The professor’s name was 大場啓仁 Ōba Hiroshi. He was a 38 year old professor of 19th century British & American Literature, married with 2 small children[vii] – completely normal by most accounts. He apparently stuttered, but was in good shape and had a cool, brooding look about him that girls who study literature loved.

Their relationship appears to have been genuine, however at the time Saint Paul’s University had a strict policy against sexual relations between teaching staff and students. When word of the relationship got to the university administration, an inquest was begun – one that could have resulted in very strong disciplinary action.

Rikkyō Daigaku (St. Paul's University)

Rikkyō Daigaku (St. Paul’s University)

This was all very complicated. When the 24 year old undergrad[viii] confided in private to Hiroshi that she was pregnant, he wasn’t sure what to do. She began to beg him to divorce his wife so she could marry her instead. Hiroshi’s wife, who was also employed at St. Paul’s, started to get suspicious that he was banging a student and soon became despondent. She started to act out rashly and even attempted suicide in an order to force her husband to break off the relationship. The suicide attempt got his attention and he apparently wanted to reconcile with his wife, yet he continued to stay in contact with the girl[ix].

All of this stress, combined with a medical condition[x], took a toll on the poor girl who temporarily moved back in with her parents in 静岡県甲府市 Shizuoka-ken Kōfu-shi Kōfu City, Shizuoka Prefecture. She returned to Tōkyō for scheduled medical treatment at 慶応大学病院 Keiō Daigaku Byōin Keiō University Hospital. She met some Tōkyō family and friends, stayed in contact with her family in Shizuoka, and then suddenly – no one heard from her again[xi].

ghost

On 7/20/1973, Hiroshi met her at 新宿駅 Shinjuku Eki Shinjuku Station to take her to his country home in Yarimizu, Hachiōji. His plan seems to have been “remove the girl from the equation and everything goes back to normal[xii].” After they arrived at the house, he strangled the poor girl to death. Then, he took her lifeless body up the obscure wooded path near the precincts of Dōryō-dō, dug a very shallow grave, dumped the body, kicked a little dirt and some leaves over it and headed back to central Tōkyō to meet a colleague.

Once he was back in Tōkyō, he met his colleague. But like a dipshit he hinted at the fact that he had murdered the 24 year old. He was vague, but when he asked his friend to tell everyone that they’d been together all day, she knew he was looking for an alibi for something. Ōba began asking other people to swear they’d been together the other day[xiii]. His interactions with other people became increasingly suspicious. He supposedly returned to Yarimizu once more to make sure the body was hidden well and covered it up a little more.

This is the Headless Jizō. People gave it a new head. It's said to curse anyone who touches it and anyone who drives to the site in a white car. People move the head and body around the temple ruins so it's rarely in the correct place... or in one piece.

This is the Headless Jizō. People gave it a new head. It’s said to curse anyone who touches it and anyone who drives to the site in a white car. People move the head and body around the temple ruins so it’s rarely in the correct place… or in one piece.

On 9/6, some fishermen in Shizuoka discovered the corpses of 4 bodies. These turned out to be the bodies of the Ōba family: Hiroshi, his wife, and their 2 small children. The police assumed he either coerced them to jump off a cliff together into the sea in an act of 一家心中 ikka shinjū familial suicide or he threw them off one by one and then jumped himself[xiv]. It’s hard to say what went down that day since there were no survivors. But the mother was known to be despondent and Hiroshi had obviously crossed the line. Many suspect that he realized he hadn’t thought through the killing of his undergrad lover very well and knew his colleagues would betray him sooner or later. After all, the co-ed was still missing. No one – except for Hiroshi (and possibly his wife in the end) – knew for a fact that she was dead at this point. Nonetheless, there was a police investigation and he had exposed himself to trusted colleagues. The familial suicide very well may have been agreed upon by both Hiroshi and his wife as a way to avoid the reality of dealing with his big fuck up. After all, if he were arrested, the family would have been disgraced and his wife and children could have been left destitute.

suicide cliff

Here! I’m Here!!

However, the crime wasn’t solved yet. The girl was still missing. No one knew if she was dead or alive.

Ōba Hiroshi and his family’s bodies had been found, but the 24 year old undergrad was still missing. The police had leads from his colleagues because he had hinted to his transgression. They focused on Yarimizu, Hachiōji but were beginning to give up hope. The area is very rural today, but at the time it was much more so. However, about 7 months later, a woman’s partially mummified body was discovered near Dōryō-dō. One month later, it was determined that this was the body of the missing student from St. Paul’s. After her corpse was discovered, newspapers reported that local people had heard a young woman’s voice call out from the woods ここですよ、ここにいます koko desu yo, koko ni imasu “Here! I’m here!” Her remains were begging to be found[xv].

,

hand2

.

One final note about numbers. The ghost hunter types like to bring these up, so I might as well mention them. They say you can still hear voices in the area because there might be another body there. The first 事件 jiken incident was in 1963. The second incident was in 1973. The temple closed in 1983. The Japanese word for death is 死 shi which sounds like 四 shi 4. There might have been a fourth incident that is still crying out to be discovered at Dōryō-dō, begging to find peace.

.

.

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[i] The temple was actually completed in 1875 (Meiji 8).
[ii] That was the Buddhist name. The Shintō name was Dōryō no Mikoto.
[iii] Established in the 1570’s under the rule of the 後北条 Late Hōjō.
[iv] Let’s face it; this was probably Gorōkichi’s actual motive for establishing the temple in the first place.
[v] Ghost hunters are full of shit and… well, the first 2 dates make sense, but the 3rd date wasn’t a criminal anniversary like the others are. Anyways, I’ll get to all these points and more in due time.
[vi] 20 years before the temple’s demise.
[vii] Ages 4 and 6.
[viii] Because of Japanese privacy laws, none of the names of Ōba’s victims or the people affiliated with his crimes are open to the public. So I will refer to his lover by terms like “undergrad.” In the Japanese media, she is referred to as K子さん K-ko-san.
[ix] Again, it seems they did have a genuine connection. Words like “polyamory” didn’t exist in either English or Japanese until quite recently. Which is sad. Now there are constructs for understanding these kinds of feelings. That said, a traditional Japanese woman of the day was not very independent and – even like some traditional women of today – was willing to take male promiscuity for granted.
[x] Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
[xi] Her family knew she was in contact with Hiroshi which made police suspicious.
[xii] This is called “19th century literary thinking.” Dude was an expert in it – not equations.
[xiii] Idiotically, he had set up alibis in different cities with different people so not a single alibi checked out.
[xiv] It’s somewhat implausible that he threw them over the cliff one by one and then killed himself. The victims would have fled or fought him. The family suicide is the most probable scenario. This speaks volumes of the culture at the time. Hiroshi, his wife, and his lover were all from rural Shizuoka, if I’m not mistaken. They were very traditional people.
[xv] Newspapers were reporting that ghosts were real. Ugh.

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