Location: Shakujii Park, Shakujiidai, Nerima, Tokyo, 177-0045
Shakujii Park is located in the west of Tokyo and is one of the largest parks in the city. It houses two ponds, several small Shinto shrines and the remains of Shakujii castle. If you believe the rumours, it’s also home to several ghosts.
Shakujii castle was ruled by the Toshima clan in the 1400s. In 1477, the then-leader Toshima Yasutsune fought against the armies of Ota Dokan in the Kyotoku Rebellion. Toshima lost, however, and retreated to his castle as the Ota armies advanced. Seeing that his time was near, it’s said Toshima grabbed his family treasure, the Golden Saddle, and fled from the back of the castle on his white horse. The Ota soldiers watched him as both Toshima and the horse went over a cliff and into the Sanpoji Pond.
Toshima’s daughter, the beautiful Teruhime, was so sad at her father’s death that she followed him into the pond and drowned as well. Ota felt pity for her and held a memorial service for her death, building a burial mound that came to be known as “Himetsuka” (princess mound), which you can still visit in the park today. It was said back in the day that if you climbed the old pine tree by the side of the mound, you could see both Toshima and his Golden Saddle radiating brilliantly at the bottom of the pond. A festival is now held in the area each year called Teruhime Matsuri, which includes processions around the park and stage plays of the above story.
But that isn’t where the story ends. In modern times, people claim that you can see the face of a woman floating in the pond, perhaps Teruhime herself. If you stare into the surface of the water, before long you’ll find a woman’s face staring back at you. In addition, if you point your camera towards the pond to take a picture, it’s said that a woman will appear in the photo, not quite human, not quite mist, but something in-between.
But that’s still not all. Legend goes that ever since the Edo period, lovers who meet by the lake will meet a disastrous end. A beautiful woman on a white horse (sound familiar?) appears out of the water, beckoning the man to her. Unable to resist her lure, the man follows her into the water, disappearing forever. The next day the woman finds herself drawn to the pond, and can be heard muttering, “The Golden Saddle calls. There’s a castle in the pond,” before she too disappears, never to be seen again.
Rumours then spread in the 1980s that a police officer was killed by the pond, and that a crazy old man jumped into the pond in the middle of winter and drowned, just like Toshima and Teruhime before him. The area has since become a famous hot spot for ghost sightings and even people looking for the lost treasure of the Toshima clan. Residents of the area also claim that if you walk around the pond at night, you can feel a presence following you.
As an aside and entirely unrelated to the story of Toshima and his daughter Teruhime, in 1993 there were eyewitness reports of a giant crocodile in the Sanpoji Pond. Quite a bit of fuss was kicked up, but in the end the giant crocodile was never found. Maybe it was looking for the Toshima family gold as well.