Today’s yokai is actually two yokai that share the same story. Like Gagoze a few days ago, we are looking at a unique legendary yokai rather than a particular type of monster. Today’s yokai comes from Nikko, a city famous for its ancient temples and shrines, in Tochigi prefecture.
Do you remember the adorable kitsune from last year’s yokai project? Well, like the other henge yokai, kitsune, or foxes, are not always cute and cuddly, and not always good. In fact, some time they are downright evil. Today’s legend is about one of those evil foxes.
During the reign of Emperor Konoe (1142-1155), there was a very famous courtesan named Tamamo-no-Mae. She was said to be the most beautiful and most intelligent woman in all of Japan. Her body always smelled beautiful, her clothes never ever wrinkled, and she appeared only 20 years old. There was no question she couldn’t answer, either, whether it be about music, astronomy, or religion. Everybody in the court deeply admired here, and Emperor Konoe even fell in love with her.
The emperor gave all his attention to Tamamo-no-Mae, and after some time he fell very ill. All of the priests and fortune tellers could not tell what was wrong with the emperor, and his prognosis looked very bad. Finally, an astrologer named Abe no Yasuchika informed the emperor that his darling Tamamo-no-Mae was actually an evil 9-tailed fox in disguise! She had taken the form of a beautiful woman in order to trick the emperor into loving her, and her plan was to kill him and seize the throne. Her plot uncovered, Tamamo-no-Mae fled the court.
The emperor sent Kazusa-no-suke and Miura-no-suke, the most powerful warriors in all of Japan, to hunt down the fox and bring her to justice. The chased and chased her but could never catch her. Finally, in a dream, the beautiful Tamamo-no-Mae appeared to Miura-no-suke in a dream. She had prophesied her own death the next day, and she begged him to spare her life. He refused.
Sure enough, the next day Miura-no-suke found the fox and shot her with an arrow. She died where she fell, and her body transformed into a large boulder, which became known as Sessho-seki, “the killing stone,” for anyone or anything which touched the stone would drop dead instantly. The fox’s spirit left her body and became a ghost, who haunted the stone.
She haunted the stone for a long time, until one day a traveling priest name Genno took a rest by the stone and was threatened by the ghost. A good priest, he performed a ritual and asked the ghost to seek salvation, and eventually he convinced her to leave the stone. Since then, Tamamo no Mae’s ghost no longer haunts the stone… but who knows where she could be? Perhaps she finally found peace and salvation, or perhaps she has moved on, haunting other places. The stone still remains where it always was, in the Nasu, Nikko, Tochigi. If you ever visit Nikko, be sure to visit the stone… but touch it at your own risk!
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