Aizuwakamatsu no Yurei – The Yurei of Aizuwakamatsu

Aizuwakamatsu_no_Yurei_Mizuki_Shigeru

Translated from Mizuki Shigeru’s Mujyara

Long ago, in the town of Aizuwakamatsu (modern day Fukushima prefecture) lived a man named Iyo lived with his wife. One night the yurei of a woman appeared in their house.

At first the dead woman—who was completely unknown to Iyo—appeared outside in the garden. She knocked on the closed door and called out the name of Iyo’s wife, who was sleeping beside him. Now, Iyo’s wife was a no-nonsense type of woman. When she heard the yurei calling her name, she shouted back “Who the hell are you and what do you want?” There was no answer other than the yurei again calling her name.

Being prepared for such a thing, Iyo’s wife reached into a special box she kept near their futon and withdrew an ofuda. The ofuda was a strip of paper, prepared by a local monk, with a charm of exorcism against ghosts. Iyo’s wife hurled the ofuda at the yurei, who disappeared like smoke blown away by a fan.

However, this yurei was not finished with Iyo and his wife. The next night she appeared in the kitchen, coming out of the fires of the burning stove. After that, she was in the garden again, walking the perimeter and pounding a bell with a wooden mallet. This went on for four days.

The wife knew when she was outmatched, and went to the local shrine to enlist the help of the kami and Buddhist spirits to protect their house. She reverently prayed to anyone who would listen, and as a result their house was quiet for the night. The yurei did not appear.

It was the eighth day since the haunting began. Apparently the protection Iyo’s wife was good for one night only. This time the woman’s yurei appeared directly in their bedroom, hovering over them near their pillows. Slowly she made her way to the foot of the bed, where she began to caress Iyo’s wife’s feet with her cold, dead hands.

That was enough for Iyo and his wife, who promptly moved out of the house. The ghostly woman remained a mystery; No one in the Iyo household had ever seen her before, or knew what she wanted, or why she had appeared.

Translator’s Note:

Another yurei story for Halloween. This one comes from Mizuki Shigeru’s Mujyara, and I have not been able to discover his source. As seen in Chikaramochi Yurei, Mizuki has no problem renaming stories when he thinks he has a better title, which can make it difficult to track down the originals. This may possibly just be a story he was told once.

This story is interesting because it illustrates one of the main trademarks of yurei (Japanese ghosts)—They want something. The people in the story may not always know what the yurei wants, and it can be something as simple as wanting to say thank you to someone that you didn’t get a chance to when you were alive (The Gratitude Expressing Yurei) to keeping a promised appointment (The Chrysanthemum Vow).

Mizuki makes a point in the story to reinforce the point that Iyo and his wife did not know the woman’s ghost nor what she wanted, which makes the haunting all the more bizarre from the Japanese perspective. Because they don’t know what she wants, they don’t know how to appease her.

(Of course, I think the wife in this story knew EXACTLY what the woman’s yurei wanted, and was just hiding it from her husband. The yurei is clearly only interested in Iyo’s unnamed wife, but her attentions seem like more of a sorrowful companion than a vengeful mistress. That makes me think Iyo’s wife was the one with the secret lover.)

Further Reading:

For more yurei tales of lost love and obligation, check out:

The Ghost of Oyuki

The Gratitude-Expressing Yurei

The Chrysanthemum Vow

The Black Hair

The Yurei Child

The Smoking Husband

13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. nzumel
    Oct 08, 2013 @ 23:03:37

    You do have to wonder why Iyo’s wife was so well prepared with the ofuda.

    Reply

    • Michelle
      Jan 04, 2017 @ 12:03:46

      probably know that something like this was going to happen (could she have killed her? or saw how she died?. Who knows)

      Reply

  2. Zack Davisson
    Oct 08, 2013 @ 23:07:34

    Right? She knew something was coming! Why else would she have an exorcism strip just sitting in her bedside box … suspicious!

    Reply

  3. angryscholar
    Oct 09, 2013 @ 07:38:34

    You mean you guys don’t have charms against evil spirits beside your bed? I must be doing something wrong.

    Reply

  4. Richard Wells
    Oct 09, 2013 @ 08:09:37

    Thanks for fb’ing this. Somehow I missed that you had a blog. OK, bookmarked.

    Question: I’m reading Basho’s, The Narrow Road… translated by Yuasa. It’s really clunky, as witness the famous frog poem: “Breaking the silence/of an ancient pond/A frog jumped into the water/A deep resonance.” What in the hell is a “deep resonance?” Anyway, do you know any other translations of the work?

    Reply

  5. Zack Davisson
    Oct 09, 2013 @ 12:45:28

    Hey Richard!

    I hate people who try to “fancy up” Basho’s poetry. He used simple but beautiful words. I personally think a literal translation works best. The final line is “The Sound of Water.”

    I go with:

    A frog leaps
    into an ancient pond.
    The sound of water

    Or you could go with Ginsberg’s translation:

    The old pond
    A frog jumped in,
    Kerplunk!

    Reply

  6. carlotspeak
    Oct 09, 2013 @ 18:01:01

    Oh wow! I enjoy these two stories a lot. Both let me to imagine strong hard working women (especially fisherman’s wives..who could be stronger). The first story did not mention how her husband participated in helping getting rid of the malevolent spirit so she should be commended. Perhaps it is Japanese tradition that domestic problems belong solely to wives. ^)^ In second story I was amused when I read about the breast swinging way over to the back and I do believe that it could ALMOST happen because there also was a poem in my birth country (Thailand) and it was very much similar.*** As to the authors’ wondering why she was having a grudge against her husband, that was an easy one for reader(s) I think as well. Clues like how hard she could work ..worked the work of 4-5 men while breast feeding a child on her back etc.. Her husband at sea while she worked that hard..grudge? come on people..haha..not to difficult to imagine, plus they said she was not pretty.. Not too pretty, must not be too cherished.. Theory is this, men who are not needed, women who are not cherished made for unhappy people. =) Unfortunate stuff….

    We are VERY lucky to have you spending your time on your research and sharing these wonderful writings (and paintings) with us!!!! Thank you so much!!!!!!!

    ***It was about an old women who own a very delicious mango tree which you could guess naughty children always came in to steal mangoes. When she ran out to try to catch them (turning left and right) her long breasts swung knocking them very famously and they made a song about it..=)

    Reply

  7. Zack Davisson
    Oct 09, 2013 @ 18:30:14

    Thank you! And I think you are right about the unappreciated woman. Thank you for the Thailand story also!

    Reply

  8. Trackback: Konjaku Monogatari selections | gaikokumaniakku
  9. Anonymous
    Oct 23, 2014 @ 07:47:44

    Does anyone know where i can find the Japanese version to this story?

    Reply

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