This happened when I was in elementary school about 20 years ago. My parents’ family home was on an island in the Seto Sea, and each summer holidays we went back for a visit. As a city kid from Tokyo, I really enjoyed playing in the beautiful ocean and mountains, but the thing I looked forward to the most was catching stag and rhinoceros beetles in the mountains.
There was a large pond up on the mountain and we kids were forbidden to go there alone, but there were no adults who could get up so early during the Obon holidays to join me while I caught bugs. So, one day at around 4 in the morning I went up there with my cousin, who was one year older than me.
We got wrapped up in catching bugs, but then we heard a noise coming from somewhere nearby. At first I thought it was a bug or a bird, but listening closer, it sounded like someone crying.
Was it another kid out catching bugs like us? Maybe they tripped over in the dim light? I went with my cousin in the direction of the sound, and we found a child about three or four years old sitting by the side of the pond. There was nobody else around. A young child up here all alone? It was too strange, but there was something even more odd. The child had a rope tied around his waist like a belt which extended into the water. I followed it with my gaze, and at regular intervals, roughly 1.5 metres apart, the rope was tied to something floating in the water. There were six of them in total.
‘What’s that?’ I thought. Suddenly the rope pulled taut and the kid went flying into the water. ‘Oh no!’ I thought, but I couldn’t move. Out the corner of my eye, I could see my cousin was frozen to the spot as well. I had no concept of what paralysis was, so I began to panic.
Oh no, oh no, what pulled that kid into the water? A crocodile? Did Japan even have crocodiles? A yokai? Help us, Kitaro!
Whatever it was continued dragging the kid into the water while wild thoughts ran through my head. When people walk, they of course move their feet, but this kid wasn’t moving his feet at all. He was sliding slowly towards the lake like he was on ice.
Being a stupid kid, I thought it had to be the work of a yokai, but my cousin, being one year older than me and someone who saw things more rationally, started to recite a chant to Buddha.
By the time the kid had fully disappeared into the lake, I was able to move again and ran down the mountain at full speed. We went home and told the adults about what we’d just seen, but we were so excited that they didn’t understand us. At first they thought a child had drowned and panicked, running to call the fire department, but I screamed, “It was a yokai! A yokai did it!”
After things calmed down, they got the story from me again in more detail. They didn’t appear to believe me, but maybe something rang true. After that they took us out into the garden and began throwing salt at us.
They ended up calling the fire department anyway, just in case, but they were unable to find anyone. When we asked the adults about it later, they said we must have been tired and imagined it.
Many years later I finally asked about what happened there again. Apparently a few decades earlier a family committed suicide by drowning in that pond. It was around 3 or 4 in the morning (those who lived nearby said they heard a child crying around that time). There were seven people in the family, all tied together by a single rope.
The locals had another name for that pond. They called it the “Suicide Seven Pond.”