Kotoribako

Preface

I’m the type of guy that likes to look at blogs in my free time. Personally, I don’t have any ability to see ghosts whatsoever. I never thought I’d be here writing anything like this, but I’ve come to tell you about something that happened to me last month. I have the permission of all those involved to tell this story, just in case. I think the people here are more likely to believe what I have to say, so please listen.

Main Story

The protagonist of this story is one of my friends who has a strong ability to sense the supernatural. We’ve been friends since junior high school and we still frequently go drinking together, even though we’re on the cusp of turning thirty.

His family have been working as Shinto priests in a rather large shrine where we live for many generations now. Usually they have regular jobs, but at times like New Year’s or wedding ceremonies they work as Shinto priests as a kind of side job (or perhaps it’s their main job). The family tends to live close to the shrine.

So, one day we decided to go out drinking and met up at my house first. My friend and his girlfriend arrived first, and we played some video games while waiting for another lady to show up. I’m gonna call my friend from the shrine M, the girl who came late S, and myself A. M’s girlfriend I’ll call K.

We played games for a while as we waited, and then I got a phone call from S-chan.

S-chan: “Sorry, I’m gonna be a little late. We found something interesting in the shed and the family’s been wrapped up in it. You’re good at quizzes and puzzles, right? I’m gonna bring something interesting. I’ll be there in a bit!”

About 40 minutes later, S-chan arrived. Then, at that moment… or rather I should say the moment that S-chan’s car pulled into the lot outside, M said, “No way, this can’t be. No way… what should I do… dad’s out today.”

Me: “What’s wrong? Can you see something again?”

K: “Again?”

M: “It’s not that… A, this is not good. S-chan… are you for real?”

M can see ghosts, but he doesn’t usually bring up when he sees them or anything about his shrine work. But every now and then, he starts to tremble like this. We all knew that, but because I didn’t want M to be forced into such conversations we tried not to bring it up.

S-chan came inside and M’s face turned pale.

M: “S-chan… what did you bring? Show me…”

S: “Huh? Huh? Are you trying to tell me I brought something dangerous…? The shed is being destroyed next week, so we found this while cleaning…”

Having said that, S-chan took out a wooden box. It was a cube about 20 cm long. So this was what she meant on the phone when she mentioned puzzles. It was made up of small wooden blocks, like Tetris pieces.

M: “Don’t touch it! Don’t touch it!”

At that moment, M ran off to the toilet. We could hear him throwing up. K followed him and rubbed his back as he leant over the toilet bowl. When he was done, M returned and shakily pulled out his phone to call someone.

M: “Dad… it’s the kotoribako. My friend brought the kotoribako… I’m scared. I’m not like grandpa, I can’t do it like him…”

M started crying. What S-chan brought was so terrifying that this 29-year-old was on the phone crying to his father…

M: “Yeah, it’s not there. I can’t see anything but the box. There’s evidence it was there, but it seems to be gone now… Yeah, there’s something in there, in my friend’s belly. I think it’s the shape of a shippou. Shippou, right? There’s a triangle inside… It’s a shippou, there’s no doubt about it… I already said I don’t know! I’m not like that!”

I heard a lot of technical terms I didn’t understand, but what stuck out most were the words kotoribako and shippou.

M: “Okay, I’ll do it. I’ll do it. If it goes wrong, you’ll need to perform the purification. I’m counting on you.”

M hung up the phone, then bawled his eyes out for the next few minutes. With his chest heaving from the sobs he sat down seiza-style and said, “Okay, let’s do this,” and slapped his own knees. He was no longer crying. He was ready to do whatever he needed to do.

M: “A… Get me a box cutter or knife, would you?”

Me: “W-what are you gonna do?”

M: “I’m not gonna kill anyone. I need to cleanse S-chan. S-chan, look at me. It’s probably futile to tell you not to be scared, but don’t be scared, okay. K and A, you need to be strong as well! There’s nothing to be scared of! I’m not gonna lose! You think I’m gonna lose, huh?! Don’t be afraid! Don’t be afraid! Don’t underestimate me! I’m gonna do it! Grandpa, I’m gonna do it! Just you watch! God dammittttt!”

M screamed out loud, trying to blow away his own fears. S-chan was on the verge of tears… She was scared to death. Both myself and K were about to cry. Honestly, I was about to wet myself…

S: “Okay… okay. I’ll do my best.”

We had no idea what was happening, but S kept saying over and over that she understood.

M: “A, bring me the box cutter or knife.”

I handed M a knife with shaking hands.

M: “A, I want you to pinch the inside of my thigh, as hard as you can! As hard as you can!”

I didn’t know what was going on, all I could do was what M said. I pinched the inside of his thigh, and while I was doing this M cut his fingertip and the palm of his hand with the knife. He probably had me pinch him to try to mask that pain.

M: “S-chan! Open your mouth!”

M stuck his blood-covered finger inside her mouth.

M: “S-chan, drink. Even if it tastes awful, you need to drink it.”

S: “Ah… gu…”

S-chan was bawling. She couldn’t speak.

M: “… notenjou, norio, shinmeiiwato akemashita, kashikomikanshikomimomamousu…”

It sounded like some kind of prayer or incantation, but he repeated it five or six times. It sounded more like a recitation than an incantation.

S: “Uweeeeeeeeee.”

As soon as M pulled his finger out of S-chan’s mouth, she threw up something that was covered in his blood.

M: “It’s out! It’s out! Alright! You’re gonna be okay! S-chan, you’re gonna be okay! … Next…!”

M put his blood-covered hand over the box that S-chan had brought.

M: “Kotoribako kotoribako… It’s no good… It’s no good… Should have done it properly.”

M looked like he was going to cry again.

M: “A! Call my father for me.”

I grabbed his phone and called his father like he asked, then put the phone to his ear.

M: “Dad, I’m sorry, I forgot it. Will you do the incantation with me?”

With the phone by his ear he put his right hand beside the box, and four or five times he chanted something like an incantation again. It really did sound like he was reciting a poem or something. M repeated everything slowly, like he was being instructed. Then, finally he said, “It’s done. It’s finished. It’s all ov… errrrrr.”

M broke down in tears. K tried to console him, but for 20 minutes he cried his eyes out. The four of us all ended up crying together, but the whole time M made sure not to make contact with that box.

After everyone calmed down, M asked me if I had a towel or something that he could tie the box to his hand with. I gave him a thin bath towel, and he wrapped it around the box.

M: “…right. So where are we going to drink?”

Everyone: “What?”

M: “I’m joking. We’ll have to call it a night. A, can you take me home?”

(Just how strong was this guy? He had nerves of steel.)

Everyone was exhausted, so I took them home and we parted ways for the night.

Then, about eight days later M apparently took the day off work. I met with him yesterday and we spoke about what happened that time.

M: “Uhh let’s see. S-chan’s family probably won’t like what I have to say, but there’s this village up on Mt O. They have things like that box up there. My dad took it there and they’ve taken care of it. You’re better of not knowing anything else about it.”

He looked like he didn’t want to talk about it anymore. No matter how much I asked him about it, he wouldn’t tell me any more.

He just said one final thing.

M: “Inside that box is hatred itself. But yeah, there were quite a few things in there, like fingertips and umbilical cords… We absolutely cannot discriminate, people’s grudges are a terrifying thing. They can go and make something like that, you know? Whenever something like that box appeared, my grandfather was the one who dealt with it. He dealt with a lot of things like that during his time, but I never thought I’d have to as well. I’ve just been screwing around and never really took part in the family business, so I was spooked. I really need to study more, but hey, doesn’t really look like I have a talent for it either. And yeah, I mentioned the village and such… but S-chan is all good now, same as before. We don’t live in those times anymore. How stupid.”

Me: “Of course! But putting that aside, do you mind if I tell this fun story to other people?”

M: “You really like these kinds of stories, huh? Even though you can’t see ghosts yourself, haha.”

Me: “It’s because I can’t see ghosts that I like these kinds of stories.”

M: “Yeah, I don’t mind. It’s not like people are gonna be haunted just because you spoke about it. No-one will believe you anyway, they’re just gonna call you a liar and I’m just gonna feign ignorance.”

So, that’s the end of the strange experience I had.

Later Developments

[After posting his story, the thread became extremely popular, so the original poster added to his story]

Sorry for keeping you all waiting. Well well, this certainly blew up, didn’t it? It even became an independent thread. I live way out in the countryside, so please stop trying to find where I live. If a huge influx of tourists came now, it would be terrifying.

Of course, since this all blew up I got a little worried, so I called M and S earlier and let them know what was going on. M said, “Even if they do know where we live, it’s not like they know the details, so quit worrying about it.”

I took the chance to ask M a few things I’d forgotten while we were on the phone yesterday as well.

1. Aside from S, were those at the scene (meaning myself and K) going to be okay?
2. Were the rest of the family who touched the box before it reached my house okay?
3. Just what the hell was that box?

M’s answers are below.

Regarding 1 and 2

“The box only affects children and women of child-bearing age. S’s father and younger brother would be fine, but as for her mother… isn’t she going through menopause, anyway? S’s grandmother would be the same. Of course you (myself) will be fine, and I was a little worried about K, but she didn’t touch the box for very long so she should be fine. If push comes to shove, I can take her to see my father, so it’s all good.”

Regarding 3

M doesn’t know the finer details of the box either, apparently. Just that kotoribako means ‘child stealing box.’ I don’t know whether that’s really true or not. He could be lying to try to get me to turn back on everything… From the way he was talking yesterday, it was like he thinks the less I know, the better. But he probably thought there was no point in hiding that much. The whole thing scares me, but now I want to know even more.

My phone call with S-chan

In short, after what happened some contractors came around to dismantle the shed and there was a kerfuffle with the old guy next door. She wanted the tell the three of us about it the next day. According to S, she was more curious than scared. As someone who was involved, she wanted to know what happened and just what that box was.

So, after speaking to M, the four of us are going to meet tomorrow, but I don’t know if K will actually come.

Of course, hearing about it directly from M’s father would be best, but of course M is hesitant so it’s a little difficult to ask. If there’s a chance to ask him however, I will.

Having come this far, I want to know more. But I don’t want to do anything to lose my friends, so if one of them wants me to stop posting about it, I will. At the present time I’m drowning in curiosity, but I also have some feelings of guilt.

The whole story

I’m gonna write about what happened yesterday. It’s going to be disgustingly long. I wasn’t sure what to do, but after talking to the four of them I’ve decided to publish what happened. I have a request for you all at the end as well.

It was a rather long conversation, so summing it all up will take some time. I also heard a few things that really shocked me, so I’m a bit confused. We spoke for close to five hours, and I’m relying on my memory for the finer details so I’ve filled a few things in and made it more conversation-like, so please understand. There are also a few areas I’ll keep to myself.

On the night of the sixth we were going to meet at my house, but with everything that happened with S and her family and the disturbance with her neighbour, we ended up going to her place instead.

There was M, S, K, A (myself), then S’s father, S’s mother, S’s grandmother and S’s grandfather. We’ll call the old guy next door J. Below is what happened.

When the contractors came to demolish the shed

This happened two days after the events at my house.

The contractors arrived on May 23rd with their equipment and as they tried to enter the yard, J approached S’s father.

When he told J that they were demolishing the shed, he began to protest. The two men argued and when S heard them she thought that perhaps he knew something about the box. She went outside to ask J about it. At this point she hadn’t spoken to her family yet about what had happened.

“Don’t demolish that shed!” J yelled.

“Is the reason you don’t want it destroyed because of that box?” S asked. J looked very, very surprised and in a panic asked her, “Did you find a box?” “What happened to the box?” “Are you okay?” When she told him what happened, J blamed himself and apologised to her.

“It’s because I didn’t say anything that this happened. There’s something I need to talk to your family about soon,” he said and then returned home.

S then told her flabbergasted father about what happened. Then, when she heard about J’s story she wanted to tell us what happened, but he showed no signs of actually coming to talk to her, so she was getting pissed off. Then yesterday she got the phone call from me.

With M coming as well she thought today would be the only chance for us to hear that story he had to tell, so she convinced her father to invite J over.

M’s story

S’s father asked J if he could tell us the story, but with us being outsiders he appeared hesitant. Then M said, “Do you mind if I tell a story first?”

M: “J-san, the box was originally in your possession, yes? If you mentioned the word ‘curse’ to someone these days they’d probably just think of horror stories, but that box is something else. I’ve heard a lot from my father and grandfather and seen them dispose of several boxes. When either of them speaks of the boxes, they are seriousness itself. They even have a ledger that details all of their dealings with them. And while it may have been an accident, people have died because of that box, as you well know.

My father had his doubts, and the fact that this time I was directly involved in what happened made us both check the ledger last night. It showed the location of the shippou to be J-san’s house. If that’s correct, then something isn’t right. ‘Of course,’ my father said. Our family has a rule not to get involved with the boxes, but this time we had no choice. My father wanted to come, but seeing as I was the one to purify the box, I’m the one who’s here today.”

J-san fell silent, along with everyone else. This was something between M and J after all.

M: “Now, J-san. If the box was in your house, of course there’s no way that S’s father would know about it. That I can understand. S’s grandfather received the box from the T household, and then died shortly thereafter, right?

According to the ledger, within one year the box moved from T’s house to S’s house to J’s house. S’s grandfather didn’t have time to tell his son about the box, that we can understand. Moreover, considering the number of years in the arrangement, it’s a little hard to think that it was now S’s father’s turn. Chances are, it was either your house or T’s house. But, this time the box appeared in S’s house. That’s a little strange, isn’t it? I haven’t taken part in my family’s line of work much, so I haven’t taken a good, hard look at the ledger, but I looked over it yesterday with my father and was surprised. Until I heard S’s story, I thought perhaps there had just been a mistake, and that you didn’t know of the existence of the box, but you did know, didn’t you? Even though you knew of the box you didn’t take it on. Then, even though you knew it was in S’s house, you kept quiet about it.

This time I was able to purify the box, and if you’d just played dumb during questioning, that would have been the end of it. If by some mistake no-one knew the box was in S’s house, then that would have been fine… But you were impatient, and you were scared… I wouldn’t even be here today if we hadn’t looked at the ledger last night. We have a rule, it is forbidden for us to come here, so I want you to look passed the fact that I’m here today. I had to come.

I’m angry. So is my father. But we understand that having to follow an arrangement made by ancestors you’ve never met is also harsh. You want to run away from it; I get it. I was the same. When I saw the box that day, all I wanted to do was run away. It was only a short period of time, but I wanted nothing more than to get away from it.

Having to keep that for ten years, or tens of years, I can’t imagine how scary that must be. But if this sort of thing is happening here, then there will be problems when dealing with all the other boxes. S barely ever went near the box, and it was only by coincidence that we met that day… if we hadn’t, S would probably have died. And now the other boxes might be causing damage too. So, I want you to tell me, why did this happen?

Not only that, K was there too, and she’s a woman. Of course, she’s able to give birth as well. She’s not an outsider, she’s a victim. And that guy (me), he might be an outsider, but he might also might not be. His name is OO. It’s a fairly common surname around these parts, isn’t it?”

I had no idea what was going on. But J-san looked at me and went, “Ah… right…”

J-san’s story

J: “I should explain about the box first, I guess. Both the S, J and the T house across from us have been looking after the Chippou (I thought it was Shippou but apparently it’s Chippou). The box has been divided between our three houses. We take turns looking after it, and after the head of the household dies, the next household receives it from the previous owner’s heir, and then they keep it until they die, when it passes on to the next household again, over and over.

The head of the household explains about the box to their next in line. If there is no next in line, they explain after they get an heir. If, for some reason, the head of the household is not blessed with an heir, the box passes on to the next house. It’s the same for all parties. There are three or four other households with boxes. We try not to talk to the others. The reason the box gets passed around is to weaken what’s inside it.

When the head of the household receives the box, they are to keep it away from women and children. Then, the houses that are not in possession of the box are to watch the house that does. Then they receive a paper talisman from M’s household, and they’re to replace the old one that’s affixed to the box. The households keep the box for the designated number of years, and after the insides of the box have been weakened, it’s reported to M’s family to be taken care of. It’s to be taken to M’s family shrine.”

M: “Then, as was my family’s agreement in the past, we take care of the box… a memorial service is held for the dead. This service is held with all the boxes, all the boxes’ current owners and the ledger.”

J: “That’s right. Originally, I was supposed to receive the box after S’s grandfather died. But, to tell you the truth, I was scared. I’m so sorry, please forgive me. After T died, and then S passed on as well, I was scared, even though I knew it had no effect on men. I was terrified of when S’s father would bring me the box. But, after the funeral, several days passed and he never brought it. I went and spoke to the T family about it, and we thought it was possible that S’s father didn’t know about the box, and perhaps it was our chance to get away from it all. The first thing I did was ask in a roundabout way about the box, to confirm whether he knew about it or not. We kept watch on the shed, and after T changed the paper talisman on the box, we planned to move away. Then the other parties would think, ‘Ah, that family is finished with the box now.’

I continued to watch the S household. Then, after the allotted number of years had passed, I would have the box delivered to M’s shrine. Then… I’m so, so sorry. Because the S household didn’t know about the box, even if S or S’s mother died I thought I wouldn’t get caught, because the other parties aren’t allowed to get involved in the other boxes. I discussed this with T. I’m so sorry. I don’t know anything about the other boxes. I never thought it would really happen, I’m so sorry.”

J-san got down on his knees and apologised, over and over. S’s father was apparently told by his father not to go near the shed. And in reality, the shed was so creepy he never thought he would go near it.

Then, when they started talking about finally tearing it down, S found the box when tidying up. S’s father, mother and grandmother couldn’t believe it, but apparently only S’s grandmother understood what it was. She supposedly said, “So that’s why he didn’t want us near the shed.”

M’s story once again

M: “I see, so that’s what happened. Even though you didn’t take the box, you had to monitor it, and in the end you still couldn’t escape it. You had to worry about it for another how many years? Was it 19? If you had taken it, in the end I would have had to purify it, huh?

S’s father, mother, grandmother and S… this story probably makes no sense, and you likely have no idea what’s going on. But this is reality, and you probably think it’s stupid, but it’s real. But I’d like you not to get mad at J-san. Considering he knows what’s inside that box, of course he’d want to run away. But the box is gone now, so it’s okay. Please forgive J and treat it like an interesting story you’ve just heard. I want you to forgive him.”

J-san looked down and dropped his head. Looking at him, he seemed somewhat pitiful.

M: “On top of that, you probably all want to know what was inside the box. Having come this far, I want you to keep listening until the end. I don’t know everything, but I’ll tell you what I do know. The box is finished, so I think it won’t be a problem, but in reality there are still two boxes left that I’ll likely have to deal with at some point, so it’s my decision to tell you. Plus, it’s something S’s father originally should have been told, and A has been persistent in asking me about it as well.

The box is called kotoribako, meaning the ‘child stealing box.’ It was created from the second half of the 1860s to the start of the 80s and was filled with the bodies of children killed by their parents. In the past, this village was the site of terrible discrimination and persecution. And so, because the persecution was so terrible, the children were often killed off. Yoshida Village (a place name alias) was under the control of the Yoshida family, and persecution at their hands was especially awful. Then, when the breadwinners of the household wanted children they would go and have them, but with no decent wages it was difficult to raise them, so they would kill them… you understand what I’m saying so far, right?

So, you know about the uprising in the Oki Islands in the second half of the 1860s, right? It took them about a year to suppress it, but in that time one of the people involved escaped to this village… You learnt about the reason for the revolt at school, right? Oki is a very prosperous land. Well anyway, that guy’s name was OO.”

(It was the same last name as mine, so I’ll call him (A).)

“According to who you ask, when they managed to suppress the revolt and brought (A) here, he supposedly found a chance to escape. He ran all the way to this village. The people of the village were already under a heavy burden and thinking he would bring more trouble they tried to kill him. But then (A) said to them, ‘If you help me, I’ll give you a weapon.’ The weapon was a small box. Or more accurately, how to make the box. When the villagers asked him what type of weapon it was, he explained everything and they agreed to his conditions.

(A) then gave them one more condition. He would show them how to make the box, but he wanted them to turn the first box they made over to him. If they agreed, he would teach them. If they couldn’t agree to that, they may as well kill him. The villagers agreed, and so (A) showed them how to make the box. Apparently (A) said to the villagers that after hearing how to make the box, they could still quit, and they could still choose to kill him. That’s how sinister the box was, and (A) thought so as well. But he also told them, ‘Once we go through with this, my life is forfeit, but there are just some things you have to do.’

The first step was fitting together several complex pieces of wood as a box. This was so it couldn’t be opened so easily and was the hardest part of the process. You guys saw it, right? The box looked like a puzzle. Next, the inside of the box is filled with the blood of a female beast, and then after waiting a week, a lid is put on before the blood has dried out.

Next, is the interior. This is the origin of the name kotoribako. It’s just like you would imagine, I think. They put part of a child they’ve killed inside. From babies that were just born they put in their umbilical cord, the tip of their forefinger up to the first knuckle, and intestines that have been soaked in blood. For children up to seven years, they put in the tip of their forefinger and intestines soaked in blood, and for children up to 10 they put in the tip of their forefinger. Then they close the lid. The number of children inside changes the name of the box. One child is ippou, two is nihou, three is sanpou, four is shippou, five is gohou, six is roppou and seven children is called chippou.

(A) apparently emphasised that they could go no higher than that. Then, each box was to have a seal to indicate what type of box it was. Ippou had a triangle, nihou a square, and so on. But the box (A) himself would bear, the hakkai, needed eight children under the age of seven, and in addition to that, he needed an extra woman and child. He told the villagers that under no circumstances were they to make a hakkai ever again.

Normally you would think that hearing all this you would no longer go through with it, right? Hearing such an awful story from a shady ma No matter how hard your life is, how could you live with not only the pain of killing your own child, but then treating their dead body in such a way… but you see, the villagers agreed, and then they did it. I don’t know what their motives or mental state was, but they must have been under frightful persecution. Persecution so terrible that they would kill their own children in order to have a weapon they could hold in their hands… Then the first box was made. Each house had discussion after terrible discussion of which children to kill. Then they carried out their plans.

Then… finally, the hakkai was finished.

(A) explained what effect the box would have by using the woman and child he had asked for. Their names were (censored). The names of the eight children were (censored). You’ve heard those names before, right? (They were names we know, but I can’t repeat them here.)

So, the effect of the box was like I explained before. The box possessed and killed them, extremely painfully. Somehow their internal organs were torn apart; not from touching the box, just from being near it.

Then, seeing the effects of the box right in front of their eyes, the villagers went ahead with creating their own. The first box they built for themselves was a chippou. The box I purified. A box… filled with seven children… in less than two weeks it killed fifteen children and one woman… how awful… Then, they gave the box to the Yoshida village head for safekeeping, under the pretext of the villagers’ good faith and sincerity. The Yoshida household suffered painfully; the women and children vomited blood before they died in agony.

Then, they explained what happened to the Yoshida family’s superiors and other areas in the vicinity, and warned them not to get involved in the village’s affairs anymore. They wanted to be left alone. They would not forgive what had been done to them, but if they were left alone, they wouldn’t do anything further. If they agreed, those who were in Yoshida for work were to no longer come there. Then, if people wanted to retaliate, they would once again bring out their curse. The box that was given to the village head was also to be returned to the village. As for why they wanted it left there, they never publicised the reason, they just wanted it there. Then… they continued making boxes. Before long there were seven of them. I think that this was just a bluff; they hadn’t really made seven more boxes… that’s what I want to think, anyway… It might be rude to say, but it seems difficult to believe that villagers who couldn’t even read and write would be able to come up with all this… It had to be the work of (A).

The Yoshida family and the surrounding villages agreed to the terms. News of what happened got around, so people immediately stopped meddling in the village’s affairs.

Even so, the villagers continued making boxes, like this one. (A) was already out of the picture, but he apparently told them how to handle the boxes. Women and children were not allowed near them. They were to be stored in dark, damp places. Lastly, the power of the boxes would weaken as time passed. If, by some chance, they no longer needed the boxes, or they had gotten beyond their control, they were to be taken to O shrine to be dealt with. A temple was no good, they needed to be taken to O shrine.

The villagers continued making boxes for another 13 years. Other than the first box, they only made the boxes when they needed to cull the children of the village. When they killed the children, they continued to despise and curse the Yoshida family. They wanted to feel less guilt about the killing, to have Yoshida Village returned to them.

In their thirteenth year of making boxes, they made the sixteenth box. There were six ippou, two nihou, five gohou and three chippou. Looking at it simply, that meant 56 children had… there were rumours of failed boxes as well, so that number was probably even higher.

In the thirteenth year there was an accident. At the time all the boxes were kept in one place to be monitored. Then it happened. An eleven-year-old boy snuck in and stole one of them. The worst part was that it was a chippou. The higher the number of the box, the stronger it was. Not only that, it was a chippou that had just been created. You know what the box looks like, right… just like the box S was playing so carefree with. Thinking he had found an interesting new toy, the boy returned home with the box. Within a day all the women and children in his household died.

For the first time, the villagers felt true fear regarding the boxes. They keenly felt their real power, and how they could come back to bite them if neglected. Having felt their true power, they realised that if they didn’t deal with the boxes, it could happen again. Absolutely. Terrified, they decided to dispose of them.

You know most of what happened after that. Five representatives came to see my family. They asked my ancestors to dispose of the boxes. But they were too strong, so they had to be weakened first. This was done just like J-san explained. Then, after the agreed number of years had passed, the boxes were to be brought back. Our shrine was not to get involved in the meantime. When the previous owner died, they were to alert us. The number of years each box was to be held was probably an approximation by my ancestors… depending on how strong each box was, it could be 110 years, or in the case of a chippou, 140 years. There was a rule that those looking after the boxes were never to run away from them.

After the parties were divided up, one person was chosen from each to be a representative and delivered a box. They then informed our shrine who had what box, and after that person informed my ancestors… they were killed… This way the other parties wouldn’t know who had what box and for how many years they had to look after it. It was forbidden for any of the parties to speak to each other about the boxes. As for why they didn’t look after all the boxes together, this is just what my grandfather said, but the burden for a single person would lessen the responsibility of what had been done. Having a small number of people would make sure the real burden was felt, and that they couldn’t escape from it.

Then, after the allotted number of years had passed, the boxes would be brought to the shrine and disposed of. Unfortunately for him, my grandfather and great grandfather had to deal with quite a lot of them. The number of years was different for each and the rule for deciding it was unknown, but my grandfather dealt with most of the boxes. All but the chippou, which had the longest time limit, and was to be dealt with during my generation. I thought that time was still far ahead of me and hadn’t seriously thought about it yet…

That’s everything about the boxes that I know. That, and the chippou that I cleansed was the very first chippou ever made.”

A request for you all

The above happened last night.

I was honestly troubled over whether I should publish it or not. It’s clearly something taboo, and something the villagers wouldn’t want outsiders to know… But, M said there are still two boxes left. Two chippou. M said he will bear the responsibility of dealing with both of them, and after we listened to his story, we still had a lot of questions, so I thought I would publish it to get people’s help.

At the beginning I said I had a request for you all, and this is it.

After you finish reading this story, if you have any information at all, could you let me know about it? I won’t give concrete details about where we live, and I’m scared to tell you our names, but out of my own interest I want to know more.

After listening to M’s story, there are still a lot of unknown parts to both M and his father. Both S and her family, and also K wishes to know more. M thinks that, in this day and age, we can perhaps fill in some blanks. With occult stories, you don’t know just how much of it is really truth. I wouldn’t believe in the boxes myself if I hadn’t seen one with my own two eyes.

Who was (A), and where did he originally come from?
How did (A) learn to make the boxes?
Why was (A) in the Oki Islands?
Where is the first box, the hakkai?
What happened to (A) after that?
What did (A) do with the hakkai?

I learnt that the government in Kyoto sent prisoners to the Oki Islands, so does the origin of the boxes come from the Kyoto area?

I also have a desire to learn a little more about my roots. When my father was born, he heard that his ancestors came from the Oki Islands, but we don’t know any more than that. I don’t know whether I have any connection to (A). Of course my sister doesn’t know anything about it, and when I ask my mother or grandmother about it they just say there’s no way they would know.

Is there anyone who’s well-versed in history, or perhaps has seen the word hakkai pop up in their local history or folk tales? We don’t know anything about the origin or the boxes or how they got their names. I’m just guessing, but I guess ippou and nihou mean the ‘first sealed’ and ‘second sealed.’ Maybe the hakkai means the ‘eighth opening.’

I won’t reveal our names, especially my last name. I’ve also concealed where we live and any important information about it. It might be silly to ask for information considering how little I’ve given out, and I’m sorry, but if you know anything, please let me know. I intend to go to the library myself and research some local history.

If you know anything, please leave a message.

 

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One thought on “Kotoribako

  • January 28, 2018 at 3:28 pm
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    So I found this story while translating stories for the second volume of Kowabana and this one instantly became my favourite urban legend to date. This story is set where I lived for ten years (Matsue, in Shimane Prefecture) and is a great example of why I love Japanese horror. A curse that you just cannot escape from and that targets indiscriminately. Plus who doesn’t find the idea of creating a curse in a box using the blood and body parts of dead children terrifying?

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