Translated from Nihon no Yurei Banashi
Long ago, in a village deep in the mountains, there was a large hexagonal rock. The rock was cut in two diagonally, starting from the top. It looked exactly as if it had been cut by a sword. Everyone in the village called it the yurei rock. The reason behind this name is the story to follow.
When we say “long ago,” in this instance we mean about a hundred years ago. At that time, the monk at the village temple would gather the young men of the village together after dusk to teach them reading and writing.
Amongst these young men, there was a boy named Horiishi Kage
One night, as he always did, Kage went home from the lessons alone. It was a lonely village road.
The path home took Kage by the village cemetery. Illuminated by the moonlight, Kage saw a beautiful young woman in an elegant kimono making mysterious gestures before the graves.
“Eh? What is she doing?”
Kage stopped in his tracks, and stared at the young woman. She didn’t seem to notice Kage, and with a flick of her wrist threw a small stone into a hole that she had dug near a grave.
“Listen to this! Here what I am asking of you!”
What she was doing was an old style of prayer, where you dug a small hole in the dirt and flung in a small stone. If it was done well and with true intention, it was said that your prayer would succeed.
Kage has been standing and watching this the whole time. He watched until the very end then silently slipped away. But the next night when walking home, he saw the young woman perform the same ceremony, and she did it again the next night, and the next night again.
Kage wondered about the mystery, and decided to ask the young woman what she was doing.
“Miss, why do you do this night after night?”
“You are Horiishi Kage. I know that you come here every night to watch me. To tell the truth, I have been praying night after night that you would someday speak to me.”
“Eh? That I would speak to you….?”
“Yes. That was my prayer. And now it has come true. Come this way. There are many things I wish to talk to you about.
With that said, the young woman stood up and walked into the darkness. Kage was intrigued by the mysterious beauty, and so he followed her.
As the young woman walked in front of him, Kage noticed that she glowed with a pale light.
“Ah, this is no ordinary girl. Indeed. Meeting her in a cemetery this way…she must be a yurei.”
Thinking this, Kage began to shiver with fear. So afraid, so afraid was Kage that he felt that this must be a dream. In a trembling weak voice, he said to her:
“My lady, I…I must be going home now.”
Just as he said that, the young woman turned to face him. She was still beautiful, but her face was pale, drained of all color, she stared at him with glowing eyes.
Overcome with fear, Kage drew his sword from his sheath and in a panic screamed loudly and slashed blindly at the young woman.
“Whoosh!” “Whoosh!” “Whoosh!”
In the darkness, the sound of the slashing sword rent the air.
After slicing wildly with his sword, Kage returned to his senses and fled home without looking back.
The next day, Kage snuck back to the cemetary where he had met the young woman. But instead of her slashed body, as has he had feared, he found nothing. Instead, he saw the hexagonal rock that had always been there, only now it had been cleaved as if by a slashing sword.
When he thought he had been cutting the young woman, in truth he had cut the rock. From that time on, whenever the villagers saw the rock they said:
“Ah…that is the yurei rock.”
“It’s true. That rock is cursed by some young woman. That is the yurei rock.”
From that time, more than a hundred years have passed. But the villages never forgot the story of the yurei rock.
But there was once a rich man who was building a magnificent garden. He found what he felt was the perfect rock to place in his garden, but when he tried to move the rock, it split in two.
“No problem! I will just fix the rock back together!”
He summoned a local stone cutter, who used his skills to put the rock back together, where it was placed in the garden.
“Good…good…this is a fine garden for me.”
The rich man went and enjoyed his garden every day. But one evening a young woman who was a servant in his household came rushing up to him, her face pale.
“My lord! Your rock…your rock…it is glowing with some terrible light!”
She was shaking with fear. It was then that the rich man remembered that he had found that perfect stone in a cemetery.
“I seem to remember that rock was had some sort of old scary story about it…they called it the yurei rock or something…with a rock like that in my garden, who knows what will happen!! I had better return it to the cemetery where I found it!”
Without delay, the rich man had the rock returned to the cemetery. He then had the local temple monk hold services for the lingering spirit.
This is a folktale from Fukushima prefecture. At sometime the yurei became connected to that rock. There is a similar story in Gifu prefecture as well.