Rokurokubi Mound

By Jippensha Ikku (1765-1831)

There was a monk from Mount Chiba in Totomi Province named Kaishin with an extremely lustful heart. He was involved with Oyotsu, the daughter of a countryside samurai, and as they were on the verge of being discovered, they eloped at his suggestion.

The pair made their way towards Kanto, but the young woman was not used to travelling and grew exhausted. They barely proceeded at all, and soon used up all the money they had saved as well.

“We cannot continue like this,” Kaishin thought. “Nor do I know when she will recover. If I continue to accompany this woman, I will become no more than a beggar. It is unfortunate, but I must get rid of her.”

As they approached the mountains between the border of Suruga and Kai provinces, Kaishin took his chance and pushed the girl down to the bottom of the ravine, escaping before anyone could see him.

When Kaishin reached Edo, he returned to secular life and changed his name to Fujioka Uzen, becoming a vassal for a certain household. Once, when Uzen made his way towards Osaka on business for his master, the Fuji River on the Tokaido road was flooded, so he was forced to pass through the mountains bordering Kai. He soon reached the valley where he had pushed Oyotsu to her death. Of course, he remembered that fateful day and thought, “Come to think of it, this year is the seventeenth anniversary of her death.” Sadness claimed his heart, and choked up, he was unable to continue any further. He decided to spend the night at a lodging at the base of the mountain.

The daughter of the lodging was roughly 15 or 16 years of age, and not only had she been born beautiful, but seductive and charming as well. Uzen took one look at her and fell head over heels. He wondered if there might be a way to seduce her that night as he lay in bed, when the wooden doors by the window opened and someone slid into his bed.

Surprised, he saw it was the young woman herself. Her charming features, turned downwards with embarrassment, drove the already lecherous Uzen wild. They spoke their hearts’ desires to one another, and then shared a bed…

The girl’s face that he was supposed to be sharing a bed with gradually seemed to be getting further away. Finding it strange, Uzen sat up to get a better look. The girl’s body was nestled close to his, while her neck swiftly and smoothly stretched out above him. Her face looked down at him with an expression of rage, and then transformed into that of Oyotsu.

“How bitter. You fooled me and then pushed me into the ravine, leaving me to wander through the other side alone. How sad. I will not allow you to say you forgot the promise you made to me. You will now taste the pain of hell with me.”

She grabbed the scruff of his neck and attempted to force him up. Uzen grabbed the katana by his pillow and swung. The master of the lodging came running at these sounds. “What the?” he asked, but the girl had already escaped.

At this point, Uzen keenly felt the regret of his past misdeeds, and explained everything to the master. Then the master, in turn, spoke to him.

“The most fearsome thing in this world is a person’s tenacity. In reality, the same thing has also happened to me. Please listen.

“I used to be a woodcutter in these here mountains. 16 years ago, I discovered an unconscious woman in the ravine. When I shook her, her body was still limp, so I thought she might still be saved. I took her in and cared for her, and from the open seam of her kimono, some money fell out. Surprised, I looked for the source and discovered a large amount of money sewn into the neck. At this point her breathing finally returned, but I was suddenly overcome with malicious thought, and I strangled her to death to steal the money. I used it to start this lodging.

“That year, my wife became pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl. The girl you saw just before. She was born as what this world calls a rokurokubi. I have accepted that this is undoubtedly my recompense for the evil I committed, and I held a memorial service for the girl I secretly killed, but today marks the 17th anniversary of her death. The fact that you are here tonight can surely only be the turning of fate, and the result of that woman’s grudge.”

To this, Uzen replied, “That Oyotsu had money when I killed her, I was unaware, and must surely also be karma from a previous life. Oh dear, how frightening.” He sighed, and cut off his topknot on the spot.

Uzen once more returned to the priesthood, and after travelling around the country, erected a grave for Oyotsu. He called it the “Rokurokubi Mound,” and even now it sits in the mountains on the border of Suruga and Kai provinces.

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