Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A Haunted Samurai Head and Ancient Curse, Part l

Today Tokyo, Japan is a proud center for science and technology but this modern city was once the site where vicious feudal conflicts resulted in bloodshed.

Taira no Masakado's tomb.
Surrounded by modern skyscrapers and an Imperial Palace sits a small shrine in Otemachi Tokyo that even today the locals fear.

This shrine contains the head of Taira no Masakado a powerful and rebellious samurai who made a name for himself in the 10th century Heian period.

This samurai’s legacy has resulted in one of the most bizarre and creepy hauntings in Tokyo.

Born into privilege between 800 and 900 AD Masakado was descended from Emperor Kanmu. After his father died, Masakado’s uncles tried to steal part of his land--they plotted to ambush and kill Masakado.

But Masakado proved to be a formable foe. He single-handedly defeated their attempt sending them into a hasty retreat.

Masakodo’s revenge was swift and merciless. He descended on his relatives’ lands, burning and demolishing everything in his path. He and his warriors brutally killed thousands.

The families dispute was brought before Emperor Suzaku, but Masakado actions were deemed just, and he was pardoned.

The family dispute continued. Masakado’s father-in-law and cousin attacked him. He again prevailed driving his enemies back. Wanting revenge, he raised a force to invade their lands in Hitachi province.

Masakado ended up acquiring eight different provinces.

This time the nobles condemned his actions, but Masakado was now powerful. He treated the peasants under his rule justly, and they viewed him as their savior. He also was considered a fierce and skilled warrior who could not be defeated.

Gaining even more power, Masakado boldly proclaimed himself the new Emperor of Japan, the real emperor in Kyoto did not agree. He declared Masakado a rebel and traitor and a hefty bounty was placed on the samurai’s head.

Fujiwara no Hidesato
A large force in 940 AD, which included many of Masakado’s own relatives and his closest ally, Fujiwara no Hidesato marched to the Kanto region to bring back the head of the rogue samurai.

Masakado’s forces fought valiantly but they were outnumbered 10 to 1 and fell before the onslaught. Masakado was killed when an arrow pierced his skull.

His enemies removed his head from his body and sent it to Kyoto so it could be displayed as a warning to anyone who dared to oppose the emperor.

Once the head was displayed, a strange phenomenon was noted. The head did not decompose or draw flies even after months. Its expression did change-the head’s eyes looked fiercer with each passing day.

The head then started to speak. Every night its disembodied voice would call out, often screaming for someone to bring its body so it could continue to fight.

Then it began to take on an eerie glow and started to float through the air. One night it took off and landed screeching in a fishing village called Shibazaki near the samurai’s home. The locals cleaned it and buried it. Eventually, a shrine was built atop the grave.

Strange phenomenon continued to occur at this site. Tremors shook the area, and an inexplicable light flashed around the grave. The villagers began to see the ghost of a faceless samurai wandering around the area.

The frightened villagers prayed the spirit would rest--they placed a monument and headstone to honor the fallen samurai. For a time everything settled down but then a Tendai Buddhist temple was built nearby, and the dormant spirit of Masakado awoke once more.

It appears this temple angered him for a series of natural disasters, disease and accidents started to plague the area. By the early 1300s a terrible plague hit which caused many deaths. These tragedies were all attributed to Masakado’s vengeful spirit.

To appease his spiteful spirit and end the suffering a ritual was performed, and his head was moved to a more prestigious shrine in hopes he would calm down.

This worked for several centuries then in 1874, Emperor Meiji visited the shrine. He deemed it unacceptable that an enemy of the Imperial family should be revered--so Masakado’s deity status was revoked. His head was moved to a less prestigious shrine.

Masakado’s vengeful spirit was awakened once more.

In Part ll of A Haunted Samurai Head and Ancient Curse, the Samurai's spirit continues to wreak havoc on the unfortunate humans that disturb his grave.

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