Translated from Nihon no Obake Banashi
In the Northern country, there was a mountain called Mt. Hondo. This is a story of one summer day on that mountain.
Up in Mt. Hondo, there was an old pond, where a lone man came to do some fishing.
“Ho! Today I am going to get some fish for my table!”
The man had no sooner cast his line than he was pulling up more fish than he had ever seen. In mere moments his bag was full to the brim.
“Wow! I wonder if this is because I am up here alone?”
That day was terribly hot and humid, and the man dangled his feet into the pond to cool off.
“Ahhhh….now that feels good…”
The man soon noticed that he was not truly alone. A water spider came dashing at him over the surface of the water. The water spider was covered in black hair and had long spindly legs. While the man idly watched, the water spider began skipping back and forth over the man’s feet.
“Hey, what do you think you are doing down there?”
Wondering what the little creature was up to, the man soon saw that the water spider was busy wrapping his big toe up in a web. Before he noticed, the water spider had wrapped first one thing strand, then ten, then a hundred or more tightly around the man’s big toe.
“Hmmm…it looks like you have some bad plans for me little spider.”
The man got annoyed at the water spider’s activities, and took the binding web from off of his big toe and attached it to the root of a nearby willow tree. Just when he was finished with this, he heard the sounds of a rush of water like a wave from over the pond.
It sounded like something big emerging from the water. The man grew afraid, and hid himself in the banks of the pond. Suddenly, he heard a deep voice coming from the pond.
“Taro…Jiro…Saburo also. Come out, come out!”
The voice was coming from the depths of the pond.
“Is there no one here? Where are Taro and Jiro?”
The man crouched down very small to hide. Without warning, the sides of his bag containing his fish burst wide open.
Batta batta pyon pyon!
With nothing more to restrain them, the fish from the man’s bag flipped and flopped on the shore, making their way back into the pond. Soon, there was not a fish left above water.
“Is it possible that those fish were Taro, Jiro and the others? Whew…this is really something that I am seeing now!”
The man thought that now was a good time to make his escape, when he again heard the deep voice from the pond. He realized that it was no longer a single voice, nor even two voices or a hundred, but countless voices joined in unison.
The voices were chanting together, and it sounded like they were pulling on something.
“Ah! The web of the water spider!”
The web was wrapped around the thick root of the willow tree, which was now being pulled with a tremendous strength.
Slowly, the thick roots of the willow tree began to be pulled and twisted from the ground, and with a sudden shock the tree itself uprooted and was dragged into the pond.
“Ahhh! This is amazing! Amazing!”
The man had never seen anything like this before in his life.
He realized that if he had not taken the web from his big toe and attached it to the willow tree, it would be his own body now being drug under the water of the pond. That thought sent him into a panic, and he sprang from his hiding place and fled swiftly all the way home.
From that time on, no one ever went to that pond alone again, and it gained a reputation as something to fear.
This is a folktale from the Date region of Fukushima prefecture. In old Japan, there were a lot more water spiders, all though they have become rare with the passing of the years. They were able to live in the water by wrapping themselves in a thin layer of air. It is no wonder that such a mysterious creature would give rise to legends such as this.