The Scared Yurei

Translated from Nihon no Yurei

In a certain house an old woman lived alone. One night, as she was sitting down to her dinner, she spied a young woman’s downhearted face peering out at her from the darkness of a corner.   Looking closer, she could see that the face was that of a young  girl of the next-door geisha house who had recently passed away.

This young girl had been the protégé of the madam of that house, calling her “older sister” in the style of the geisha.  However, their relationship was not good and it had been the talk of the town that the madam had badly mistreated this girl when she had been alive.  The madam devised such mischief as waiting until the young girl was just about to bring her chopsticks to her lips, before letting loose a torrent of chastisment to which the she must endure, thus leaving her with barely a morsel eaten.  The madam also covered the girl’s body with bruises to such an extent that the color of her beatings never faded. Finally, it was said, she killed the girl. 

Before the abused girl had died, this old woman of the next-door house had pitied her. Sometimes, the old woman would stealthily enter the geisha house in order to slip the young woman candies and bites to eat.  Because of this, when that girl’s lost spirit appeared at the old woman’s house, that old woman was quite vexed.  Always stout-hearted in nature, the old woman scolded the yurei who had mistakenly appeared in her home.

 “Hey you!  You have absolutely no reason to hold a grudge against me!  If you are going to haunt someone, go next door to your older sister!  You are here by mistake!”

The old woman had no doubt that the yurei, who had mistakenly appeared in the wrong house, would soon leave and so she lightly pummeled the spirit with her fists.

 Now if the yurei had replied something along the lines of how she had meant to go straight to her older sister’s house but felt she couldn’t do the job properly because she was too hungry and so she had dropped by the house of the kind old woman who had fed her when she was alive, the story would have more of a comedic feel to it.  But instead the yurei sadly replied with her downcast face:

“I am too scared to go to my older sister’s house.”

This answer is what marks this story as unusual for the yurei genre. In the normal way of things, a person who has transformed into a yurei is usually an object of terror to the person who harassed them in life.  But even though she has died, the young girl still fears her older sister, and this twist ending  is what lends the story its interest.

What the old woman said in reply, and how the story continued after that moment, has never been told, and in fact if the story had continued with all the loose ends properly tied up it would have given the story the stink of a literary creation. 

Instead, the story remains how it was told by the old woman, who lived in that area until around the start of the war.  She would often tell the tale of the young girl yurei, forever adding at the end “Say it is stupid if you want, but it just goes to show you can’t be thoughtlessly kind to people. “ 

I heard this story from my father, who had spent his whole life in Ginza until he died after the war.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: The Chrysanthemum Vow « 百物語怪談会 Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai

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