A-Yokai-A-Day: The Bakemono of Iga Province During the Keichō Era

Tonight’s story is a short and strange collection of happenings that occurred at the house of “a certain samurai” in Iga Province during the Keichō era. Iga was located on the famous Tōkaidō highway running east-west linking Kyōto with Edo, and due to its location right on the border of the capital, it was a major thoroughfare and a gateway to the east. During the Heian period it was under control of the Taira clan, but in the middle ages it changed hands many times and was owned by several different families. In 1608, after Tokugawa Iyeyasu united the country, Iga was put under the control of Tōdō Takatora.

Takatora was a skilled and clever warrior who rose rapidly from the ranks of a mere foot soldier all the way to become a daimyō. He was also a brilliant engineer and is especially known for designing twenty different castles. So why would such weird hauntings take place under his rule? The storyteller doesn’t bother to speculate, but the question lingers on my mind. One …possibility… is that it was some kind of supernatural punishment or cause-and-effect. You see, Takatora was not just a great warrior, he was also politically smart. Over his career, he changed his allegiance often, serving under several different lords until finally remaining loyal to Tokugawa Iyeyasu for the remainder of his life. Swapping sides that often might be good politics (and certainly it’s better for your health!), but that’s the kind of treachery that might just get one’s lands haunted!

The Bakemono of Iga Province During the Keichō Era

During the Keichō era (1596 – 1615 CE), strange things happened at the residence of a certain samurai in Iga Province. At dusk, a beautiful woman wearing a fine silk katsugi would walk by his front door, and sometimes she would be headless, and only her body would walk by. One time, at noon, the woman and a giant monk were up on the roof peeking out of the chimney. And once, four or five emaciated women, with disheveled hair and wearing thin white kimono, danced around.

There were so many dreadful things like this that nobody would live in this residence. Nowadays such things do not happen anymore, but people hear stories about the old days and still will not live there.

a headless woman wearing a katsugi appears on the other side of a door

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