Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A Haunted Samurai Head and Ancient Curse, Part ll

Taira no Masakado was a ruthless samurai warrior in Japan in the 10th century. His acquisition of several provinces and power threatened the emperor who placed a bounty on his head.

Masakado dressed
for battle.
He was finally defeated and beheaded. His head was brought to Kyoto the seat of power at that time and placed on display as a warning that no one was allowed to oppose the emperor.

Shortly after his death, Masakado’s head seemed to be possessed by his spirit and started to act strangely. If angered this vengeful spirit caused great suffering. This story is shared in Part l of this post.

For centuries it was believed if Masakado's spirit was displeased he would curse the living. In 1874, Emperor Meji had his head moved from a shrine that honored him as a deity to a less prestigious shrine.

His vicious spirit had been dormant for centuries but with this move he awakened once more.

The Great Kanto Earthquake struck Tokyo in 1923. It laid waste to the region with its tremors and ensuring fires. Many believed this disaster was the result of Masakado’s head being moved. This quake destroyed the Ministry of Finance building. 

A decision was made to build a temporary ministry building atop the mound were Masakado’s head was now buried. This proved to be an unfortunate choice.

Several employees including the Finance Minister, Seiji Hayami died untimely deaths under suspicious circumstances. Many other employees that worked in this new building fell mysteriously ill or suffered freak accidents while at work.

When his grave is disturbed
he becomes angry and curse's people.
Most believed Masakado had cursed the building. With so many accidents and deaths occurring the ministry in 1928 decided to remove the building. They then began to hold an annual purification ritual to calm down the furious samurai ghost.

At the onset of World War ll Masakado’s spirit was neglected and in 1940 he became active again.

Exactly 1,000 years after Masakado’s death a bolt of lightning struck the new Ministry of Finance building near the grave. It was destroyed along with several other government structures.

After this, the ministry placed a stone monument with great fanfare in order to honor the fallen samurai Taira no Masakado. They then relocated their offices to a new location.

This new monument stands in Tokyo’s Otemachi district to this day.

Before this monument was built, just after the war ended in 1945 the American occupying forces had their own encounter with this angry ghost.

They held control of the land where the fallen samurai’s grave was located. The Americans started to level the area to make space for military vehicles. Immediately, weird accidents began to plague the project.

A bulldozer that was set to raze Masakado’s stone monument inexplicably flipped over killing the driver. Local officials explained to the US military the historical significance of the site and requested they halt their construction.

The Americans left the parking lot unfinished and eventually cancelled the project. The land was turned over to the Japanese government in 1961. For a while the samurai’s spirit seemed to be at peace--that is until the area underwent a new development in the late 1960s.

Again, a series of freak accidents and illnesses plagued the workers as well as reports of a mysterious shadow figure appearing in photographs near the site.

Once more the locals started to perform monthly purification rituals in order to restrain this restless spirit.

In 1984, as mentioned above Taira no Masakado’s spirit was officially reinstated to deity statue when his remains were placed under the new monument at Otemachi, Tokyo.

Masakado's tomb at Otemachi.
Masakado’s curse has lasted well into the 20th century with a series of disasters being blamed on this samurai’s spirit.

Recent connections involve production companies that plan to make films about Masakado. These crews and actors have experienced a variety of setbacks including accidents and illnesses.

Because of this it is now customary for film and TV production companies to first conduct purification rituals and pay their respects to the dead samurai’s grave in order to appease his spirit.

Today, a bustling financial district, skyscrapers and an Imperial Palace surround Masakado’s monument. It is located on prime real estate in Tokyo. But the plot of land where Masakado’s skull lies remains untouched.

Nearby businesses continue to hold purification rituals to calm Masakado’s spirit. Every May a festival is held to honor this samurai.

It is widely believed to be bad luck to turn one’s back on the shrine or to face it head on.

So is the belief in Masakado’s haunting and curse just a superstition or does this angry spirit exist? Many who live in Tokyo would answer this question with a resounding “yes.” They believe this evil spirit from the past is still a threat.

In Part l of A Haunted Samurai Head and Ancient Curse information is shared about Masakado’s haunting.

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