Translated from Mizuki Shigeru’s Mujyara
Long ago in Koshu (Modern day Yamanashi prefecture), on the base of Mt. Minobu, there was a dark forest where great trees lined up in a row. Inside the forest was an ancient Japanese Pagoda Tree. The tree was worshiped as a spirit, and a shrine had been built near the tree. However, anyone who passed by that tree after sundown had to leave an offering of silver and gold, or fine clothing, or anything of monetary value. Those who ignored this custom would suffer a terrifying curse. Now, I say that the tree was a spirit, but those in the town called it the mori no jyashin, the Evil God of the Forest.
At one time, a poor but hardworking farmer heard that his mother was dreadfully ill. He fled back home to see her, but the quickest path to her house took him right in front of the tree, and he had nothing to leave as an offering. There was nothing to be done, and as the famer rushed by the tree he prayed to the evil god, making a promise that he would come back later with an appeasement. But from the tree an empty suit of armor appeared and followed the man. The farmer dropped to the ground, bowing his head against the ground and begging the evil god for forgiveness. Appearing to accept the promise, the armor disappeared.
The following day, because the farmer terribly poor, he could only muster 500 mon in coins for an offering. Apparently this amount did not please the evil god, who cast the farmer into a giant pot and set him to fire preparing to make a dinner of him. The farmer prayed most solemnly for his life, and his prayers were heard. The son of the diety Fudo Myo appeared, and dispensed with the evil god. Not only that, all of the money and goods that had been paid to the evil god by the village was returned.
Although the villagers called the entity in the tree a spirit, I think it is more likely that some kind of yokai had settled down there.
The name of this story is Enju no Jashin (槐の邪神). The enjyu tree is a species called Sophora japonica, and is known in English as either the Japanese Pagoda Tree or the Chinese Scholar.
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