Kashima-san

There was once a woman named Kashima Reiko. She suffered abuse at home and was bullied at school. With no place to go, the girl considered suicide and threw herself onto the railway tracks. Her lower body was severed, but she didn’t die straight away. Her upper torso spent some time crawling around looking for the lower half of her body that had been cut off.

To all who hear this story, Kashima Reiko will appear to them within three days, late in the night. She will try to take your lower body, but there is an incantation you can recite to drive her away.

On the first day you can chant “Kashima-san” three times to make her disappear.

On the second day you can chant “Ka wa kamen no chikara (ka is for the ka of mask), shi wa shibito no shi (shi is for the shi of dead person), ma wa mamono no ma (ma is for the ma of goblin)” and she will disappear.

But on the third day, no matter what you chant, nothing will work.

To completely drive Kashima Reiko away you must share this story with someone within three days. That is the only way to break her spell.

ABOUT

Kashima Reiko, or Kashima-san, is an urban legend that’s most commonly tied to either Kuchisake-onna or Teketeke. The origins of Teketeke appear to lie in the legend of Kashima-san, while Kashima-san and Kuchisake-onna both became popular around the same time. There are some versions of the Kuchisake-onna legend that claim her real name is Kashima Reiko, or that Kashima-san is her daughter instead. While there are many variations of Kashima-san’s origin, the one presented above is almost word-for-word what happens to Teketeke, so it’s not difficult to see why they are often related.

At heart, Kashima-san is a ghost who appears to people while they are sleeping. She is generally depicted as missing the lower half of her body, and her uniqueness lies in the fact that if you don’t pass her story on within three days, she will appear to claim you as well. This allows her story to spread, much like Sadako’s ring virus in Ringu. If you want to save yourself, you need to pass her curse on to someone else. There are methods to make her disappear on the first and second nights, but if you haven’t shared her story by the third night, you’re all out of options and it’s game over.

Many versions of Kashima-san’s story involve her appearing to take a person’s legs, such as in the following:

There’s a female ghost with no legs that will appear during the night while you sleep who will ask you the following.

“Do you need legs?”

If you answer “no” she will pluck off your legs, and the only way to survive is to chant “Kashima-san” three times.

Kashima-san will appear to all who hear this story within three days, so whatever you do, don’t forget how to survive.

HISTORY

Kashima-san’s legend lies in two different stories. The first, a ghost story called “The ghost who appears once you hear its story,” and the second, “The ghost who comes to steal your legs.” Over the years these two stories combined to become a ghost tale called “The Ghastly Creature.” The story of “The Ghastly Creature” was retold in Matsuyama Hiroshi’s book Chasing the Cursed Legend of Kashima-san:

“When Ms Aoyama was a child, she heard the story of “The Ghastly Creature” who appears in the doorway from a friend.

She was told that on a rainy night the creature will visit by rapping “ton ton” on the front door. The friend did not pain in detail who this figure was, just that it was “a ghastly creature.”

The ghastly creature will then question whoever opens the door.

“Do you require legs?”

To those who answer “no” it will cut off and carry away one leg. To those who answer “yes,” an extra leg will begin to grow on the body.

If you ask the ghastly creature, “Where are you from?” it will answer as follows.

“Kaa shii maa…”

Those who hear of this story will find one rainy night that the ghastly creature will come to visit them, too.”

“The Ghastly Creature” later came to be known as “Kashima” in 1972 in Sapporo City, Hokkaido. A legend began to spread of a one armed, one legged disabled person called “Kashima-sama.”

There’s a shrine in Kashima City, Ibaraki Prefecture dedicated to the god of war, Takemikazuchi. Many soldiers visited the Kashima Jingu shrine to pray for victory during times of war. Folklorist Yanagita Kunio claimed that many yokai were simply gods who had fallen into ruin. With Japan’s great loss in WWII, the existing story of “The Ghastly Creature” lead to the creation of an unidentified yokai named “Kashima-sama,” the yokai-ification of the downfallen god of war from Kashima Jingu. Takemikazuchi was even called “Kashima-sama” by the locals of Kashima before the legends began.

Kashima Jingu has branch shrines all over Japan, including one in Hokkaido that was relocated due to traffic congestion in 1972, the same year the Kashima-san legend was born. Coincidence? Perhaps, but perhaps not.

After the word “Kashima” was applied to “The Ghastly Creature,” the yokai became a ghost, and further aspects were added to the story, such as the need to answer the ghost’s question correctly. It was here that the first steps towards the legend of Kashima Reiko were taken.

At first the legend claimed you needed to tell five people within three days, or Kashima-san would appear, and it was here that the legend blew up. The legend quickly spread from Hokkaido down to Niigata Prefecture and caused widespread panic. The story made it all the way to Tokyo where the addition of the railway tracks version was created. It then spread further to Kansai, giving birth to a version where Kashima-san bears burn scars thanks to the Sennichi Department Store building fire of the 1970s. From Kansai it spread to Hiroshima, birthing a version where Kashima-san was a wounded soldier from the atomic blast of WWII who went around various areas of the country begging to survive. By the time the legend made its way to Okinawa, having conquered the entire country, several variations existed as to who Kashima-san was and why he or she existed.

The railway tracks version is considered the standard of the Kashima-san legend in modern times, and it’s thought this was based on the actual suicide of a woman at Akabana Station in Tokyo in 1935. The woman threw herself in front of a train and her legs were cut off, but because she was crushed under the train wheels, this then stopped her from hemorrhaging. For better or worse, the woman remained alive and was even lucid enough to answer the train conductor’s questions. She was eventually taken to the hospital where she died, but the event was so shocking that it eventually became an urban legend in its own right.

In this legend there was a girl who was cut in half by a train and yet didn’t die. She crawled towards the train conductor to ask for help. The conductor, consumed with fear, climbed a telegraph pole, but the girl crawled up after him. The next morning his dead body was found on top of the telegraph pole, the girl clinging to him.

While this was a complete legend in its own right, the addition of elements from the Kashima-san legend, predominately “She will appear to all who hear this story” took it to another level, and once again the story of Kashima-san transformed.

KEY ELEMENTS

With so many variations on the one legend, the following are the key elements that appear across all versions:

1. A ghost missing body parts. While some versions of Kashima-san feature a soldier looking for his lost limbs, most involve a female ghost who is missing either one or both legs, and very occasionally her arms and even head as well. She appears at night while you are sleeping, or in the toilet during the night as well.

2. The ghost will ask you a question. The most common question is “Do you need legs?” There are cases where she may ask “Where are my legs?” however, and other times where she may ask about each limb in order; “Do you need your left leg?” “Do you need your left arm?” etc.

3. If you answer her question incorrectly, she will remove one or all of your limbs. There’s no consensus on how to answer her questions, however. If she asks “Do you need your legs?” there are versions of the legend where you must answer “yes” and versions where you must answer “no.”

4. Once you hear her story, Kashima-san will appear before you within a certain time limit. This is generally three days, but in some versions it can be as short as one day and as long as a week. If you pass the story on, however, she may skip you entirely.

MAIN VARIATIONS

There are endless variations of the Kashima-san legend which we have seen so far. Yet out of all of these stories, the following three can be considered the main standards of how Kashima-san came to be:

1. A woman hit by a bomb.
Kashima-san is a woman who loses her legs in a bomb attack (in some versions an atomic bomb) during the war. Although she has lost her legs, her upper torso is able to crawl around for a while before she dies. After death she spends her time looking for her lost legs.

2. A woman who suffered abuse.
Kashima-san is a woman who is assaulted by several American soldiers after the second world war. Enjoying her slow, painful death, the soldiers shoot off both her arms and legs and leave her on a highway. She escapes with her life in exchange for her limbs, but unable to live in such a state any longer she throws herself in front of a train from her wheelchair.

3. A woman hit by a train.
Kashima-san is a woman from Hokkaido who is involved in an accident at a railway crossing during winter. Her legs are cut off, but due to the cold her blood freezes and delays her death. She spends her last moments crawling around, looking for the rest of her body.

DEALING WITH KASHIMA-SAN

Like all good urban legends, there are ways to deal with Kashima-san should she ever appear. The first in the one stated right in the legend; tell someone else about the story. Much like Sadako’s ring curse, this will pass her on to become somebody else’s problem. But supposing you forget and find Kashima-san leaning over your bed one night, asking you a bunch of questions, here is how you should answer her.

1. If she asks “Hand over your arms” answer with “I’m using them right now.”

2. If she asks “Hand over your legs” answer with “I need them right now.”

3. If she asks “Who did you hear this story from?” answer with “Kashima-san.” Another way to answer this question is presented in the original legend above, with a little addition at the end. You can chant “Ka wa kamen no chikara (ka is for the ka of mask), shi wa shibito no shi (shi is for the shi of dead person), ma wa mamono no ma (ma is for the ma of goblin), rei wa rei no rei (rei is for the rei of ghost), ko wa jiko no ko (ko is for the ko of accident).” This of course spells out Kashima Reiko, her full name.

If all of this is too much to remember, you can fall back on the failsafe of chanting “Kashima-san, Kashima-san, Kashima-san,” but according to who you want to believe, this may only work on the first night, so best to memorise something else for the next time she appears. Or better yet, pass the story on right now! She can’t get you if you share her story with someone else, after all.

 

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