The confined area in Chiba

In Ichikawa City, Chiba Prefecture, there is an area you must not enter called “Yawata no Yabu Shirazu.” The reason you must not go inside is because it’s a confined area.

A confined area is a term that’s been around for many years. It indicates a special place just for a god. There are cases where a mountain that is worshipped as a god may became a confined area itself. The entire mountain.

This may make you think of an extremely holy place, but if you visit Yawata no Yabu Shirazu for real, you’ll be surprised. You can find it just a four minute walk from the JR Moto-Yawata Station. Head towards the city office, facing the heavily trafficked national highway, and you’ll find a tightly compacted forest. That’s it.

It’s about 17 metres wide and long, and it’s said that part of it was destroyed in order to widen the highway, but the size hasn’t changed that much since it was recorded in the Edo Period. You may feel disappointed upon seeing that it looks like a mere forest, but a certain legend has been passed down here since the times of Edo. That legend states that if you step foot inside the thicket, you’ll never step out again.

There’s a reason that this particular confined zone is famous, even amongst all others. But even so, while it is a forest, it’s not exactly large enough to get lost in. Even if you have no sense of direction, there’s no way you could get lost inside. Regardless, people still strongly believe today that if you go inside, you’ll never come back out. A large fence has even been placed around the forest to keep people from getting in.

So why is this place worshipped as a confined area? Many stories have been passed down since the Edo Period; for example, it’s said that the area was once used by a nobleman, or perhaps it was a graveyard. Some theories suggest that the area was used as Yamato Takeru’s encampment, and thus it is awe-inspiring. Other theories suggest that Taira no Masakado, or even his father, Taira no Yoshimasa’s graves are located here. Some say that Taira no Masakado’s vassal defended his cut-off head here until there was nothing left of him but mud. Others suggest that the area was once so dangerous that it was a matter of life or death.

For example, inside the thicket is a swamp with no bottom, or the middle contains a basin from which poisonous gas escapes. Both suggestions are recorded in the local history book Chiba Prefecture Higashi Katsushika District Magazine, but these days there’s no swamp to be found, nor is there poisonous gas.

Nearby you can find the Katsushika Hachiman Temple, and it’s thought that perhaps there was once a pond here that was used for divine work, but over the years, that tradition has been forgotten.

In any case, the legend that “once you enter, you will never leave” that has been passed down since the Edo Period, along with various reasons why, continues to this day, although there are no definite answers as to why.

Once thing is for certain, however, and that is that over the years, many people have entered the forest to put their courage to the test. Mito Komon, who you may know from the historical play, even stepped foot inside the forest. It’s unknown why he did, but inside he was faced with yokai after yokai. Although he was brave, just like the legend states, he was unable to find the exit. Then, a white haired aristocrat appeared before him and said, “This is not a place for humans to enter.” Next thing he knew, Mito was outside the forest. Is it true that if you step inside, you’ll face the same dangers that Mito did? Young people often go to ghost spots to test their courage, and yet, there’s not a single report of anyone going inside Yawata no Yabu Shirazu and coming back out alive.

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