Truth Behind the Drowning

By Abe Shigeyasu (1784-1868), Jitsujitsu Kidan

Around 1796 or 97, a man by the name of Wada Kikuemon from Awa Province made his way to Edo. He walked around town, applying to various families to become a foot soldier. This is a story about that man.

It was the end of June, and the days exceedingly hot. Still in his hometown, Kikuemon went swimming with some friends in a nearby river, but as they rose from the water, they noticed one of their number suddenly missing.

They looked for him everywhere, but while they were searching, he suddenly appeared on the opposite shore.

‘Ah, so he’s just showing off,’ they thought, but then his body began to float towards them.

‘Perhaps he drowned?’ They swam over to him, and he appeared to be on the edge of death. They quickly dragged his body towards the bank and pulled him up. “Perhaps something pulled him under?” one of his friends mused, and they pumped the water from his chest and tried to breathe life back into him, but it was too late. He was gone.

There was little else they could do, so the friends discussed his funeral arrangements, and one of them ran to his family temple to organise everything. The drowned man was single with no family, so they would have to do everything themselves.

They placed his corpse in a coffin, bound it with straw rope, and two of them carried it with sticks towards the temple as the sun went down.

By the time they held the funeral, the sun had disappeared, and their only light was that of the offerings and incense at the temple. As his chief mourners, the man’s friends waited, and soon the chief priest arrived with his disciple, and they began chanting and carried out the service.

They were just about to start the requiem for the dead when they heard the rope around the coffin begin to snap. Everyone turned to look at it, and the remaining ropes snapped. The young man inside the coffin suddenly stood upright. Everyone screamed, and a snake crawled out of the dead man’s mouth.

Everyone watched in horror as the snake, black and roughly two feet long, continued to curl around the man before finally disappearing into the darkness of the temple garden.

The body returned to the coffin and nothing untoward happened again, and they continued with the requiem.

“No doubt about it,” Kikuemon said. “That snake must have crawled up his anus while he was swimming.”

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