Gatagata Bashi – The Rattling Bridge

Masasumi Tateyama Gatagata Bashi

Translated and Sourced from the Kyoka Hyakumonogatari and Japanese Wikipedia

In the village of Ozaka in the province of Hida (Modern day Gifu prefecture) there lived a man named Kane’emon. In front of his house was an old wooden suspension bridge that lead across a mountain valley to the neighboring village.

One night, while Kane’emon was in his house, he heard the distinct rattling sound of someone crossing the bridge, accompanied by whispering voices. Making the crossing was far too dangerous at night, so Kane’emon rushed out of his house to warn the travelers whoever they might be. He saw nothing.

This continued for night after night, always the rattling of the bridge and the whispering. On some nights he even heard cries of sorrow and people weeping.

Unsure of what to do, Kane’emon consulted a fortune teller who told him that what he was hearing was a parade of the dead on their way to Tachiyama (Modern day Toyama prefecture). It was known that there were several entrances to Hell located in Tachiyama and that the mojya (亡者; dead people) must have recently discovered his bridge as an expedient path.

Hearing that, Kane’emon resolved to move his entire household as far away from the bridge as possible, and also arranged to have a memorial service held at the bridge, praying to ease the sentence of those poor spirits cast into Hell. He had a permanent memorial posted at the bridge, and from that time no more strange sounds were heard. However, that bridge is still known to this day by the name of Gatagata Bashi, meaning Rattling Bridge.

Translator’s Note:

Another short yurei tale for Halloween. This story of the Gatagata Bashi comes from Masasumi Ryūsaikanjin’s 1853 kaidanshu Kyoka Hyakumonogatari (狂歌百物語; 100 Tales of Kyoka Poetry), where it appeared under the much longer name of “The Sound of the Dead Traveling to Tachiyama Hell as They Crossed the Suspension Bridge.” (立山地獄へ向かう亡者たちが境に架けられた橋の上をわたる音) It has been collected in several kaidanshu and yurei books over the years. Although it refers to小坂, there are old bridges across Japan colloquially called Gatagata Bashi with “gatagata” being an onomonopia for the sound of rattling wooden boards.

Many of these Gatagata Bashi have legends attached. Bridges—being a method of spanning boundaries—are often found in yokai and yurei tales. In many of these cases the nickname of “gatagata bashi” was applied first, and then an appropriate legend dreamed up to add some romance to the name. This one with the parade of the dead making their way to Hell is one of the best.

Tachiyama as the entrance to Hell features in several yurei stories of this period. There will be more about it in my next post.

Further Reading:

For more yurei tales, check out:

Chikaramochi Yurei – The Strong Japanese Ghost

The Ghost of Oyuki

The Dead Wife Who Didn’t Leave

Two Tales of Ubume

Shorokaze – The Ghost Wind

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