Matt Alt and Hiroko Yoda know Japanese ghost folklore and scary stories – the depth of knowledge for their popular YUREI Attack book.
This talk was so much fun- great Halloween topic this year as we can’t go out and enjoy costumes and events as usual. There are so many detailed stories here of YUREI ghosts, spirits, hell, demons, devils and all the related creatures that Matt and Hiroko know so well from researching their popular YUREI (ghost) Attack book. There is such a depth of knowledge here, so I transcribed it for you to read.
This is one of the 3 books in the Attack series. We talked about the Yokai series in September, this time we are talking about the YUREI in October for Halloween, and in November we will discuss stories from their Ninja Attack book.
YUREI Ghost Tales with Matt and Hiroko Transcript
JJ Walsh 0:00
Japanese ghost, so stay tuned.
Hi, everyone. I wish I could keep that mask on the whole time. But there’s no way I could do this interview. We have the amazing the wonderful Hiroko and Matt, thank you guys so much again for joining. So this is the third one with you matt, Is that right? And then the second one with you. Hiroko.
Matt Alt 0:58
Yes, variable regulars now
JJ Walsh 1:00
I am loving it. And then I hope next month we can talk about ninjas maybe?
Hiroko Yoda 1:04
Yes, actually, I was thinking that too.
Matt Alt 1:09
Because November is ninja month.
JJ Walsh 1:16
Perfect. Okay, so just briefly, for people who don’t know, do you want to introduce the book series?
Matt Alt 1:21
Sure. So I’m Matt Alt. And this is Hiroko Yoda. And we are the co authors of a series of books called the ATTACK series. And the first one is Yokai attack, the Japanese monster survival guide which for some reason, Hiroko is showing the Vietnamese one of, but this is (also) available in English- we wrote it in English. And also YUREI Attack, the Japanese ghost Survival Guide. And I’ll let Hiroko get into this herself. But you know, she’s been into Japanese tales of terror since her childhood. And we decided to kind of compile information about Japanese monsters and Japanese ghosts into some readable and easy to access guidebooks so that people can understand the references to them in Japanese literature and folklore and maybe even in their own homes. Yes.
JJ Walsh 2:19
Yeah, that’s awesome. So do you want to start with this really scary picture about what YUREI is?
Hiroko Yoda 2:30
Ooh, this is a YUREI moment…
Matt Alt 2:33
[because] the screen froze on that picture.
JJ Walsh 2:38
It’s really scary in like a white kimono.
Hiroko Yoda 2:41
Yeah, yes. Okay. Also, this illustration is from our book YUREI attack. Illustrator, Shinkichi. It’s a nice one and (haha) this is scary YUREI! So this is a stereotypical Japanese ghost. Well, the things are got changed. But if you talk to just people in general, this is a YUREI Japanese ghost looks like. Basically what it looks like. It’s how people used to get buried so yes, in a white robe. If you pay attention to the right, what was it called? The neckline (collar) the left is on the front if you’re alive but..
JJ Walsh 3:44
Right! I have been corrected when I’ve done that when I’ve dressed myself in Kimono or Yukata and then go to a festival and then some very nice Obaachans come over and say no, no, no. Do not do it that way. That is the dead way. And I’m like, aaaaaahhhh!
Matt Alt 4:07
yes. It’s actually really common for Cosplayers. Oh, gosh, you know, they watch anime and they and they they’re kind of watching the screen when they get dressed, so it’s the wrong way.
Hiroko Yoda 4:17
In classic manga, it’s copied and often flipped..
So, anyway, so yeah, and then has it some triangle square thingy? Well, we don’t use that anymore. But yeah,
Matt Alt 4:31
Yea, that triangular head-dress..
JJ Walsh 4:31
I thought that was just a headband under her bangs but it’s it’s actually a triangle?
Matt Alt 4:41
Yeah, so like in America, for instance, the stereotypical ghost is like a sheet with two eyes cutout in it right? Like if you draw that everybody knows it’s a ghost in Japan that triangular head dress even though it’s not used in modern funerals, is just instantly – Oh a ghost, so you know, or a dead person or whatever. So it Just kind of the stereotype
Hiroko Yoda 5:01
Yes and then another characteristics are the hands! – dangling..
JJ Walsh 5:09
Why is that because the wrist breaks when you die?
Hiroko Yoda 5:15
Actually that’s a good point um I mean depends on the locals depends on it it’s more more to folklore the territory now but you know in order to to note the for the burial back in time, is like no cremation, it just buried
Matt Alt 5:34
Or like in a barrel I thought right?!
Hiroko Yoda 5:37
So, in order to fit in a barrel you have to break it maybe break the bones and that’s part of it maybe?! We don’t know but this is typical
JJ Walsh 5:47
That is really scary. I visited a Jomon-era site and they had ceramic pots that they buried people in and I was thinking they would have to break people to get them in there. They’re pretty small.
Matt Alt 6:07
Yes, what actually if you’ve ever seen the movie Yojimbo, there’s a scene where Toshiro Mifune’s character has to be snuck around without the bad guy seeing him and they, they basically he has to get into a coffin, which is a barrel and they carry it around. And he’s kind of peering out he, you know, he’s hiding in it. So obviously, they’re not forcing him in, but you can actually see one of those old funeral barrels in that movie.
JJ Walsh 6:28
Wow- and then you have another picture here like an orange background. Is that is that another?
Hiroko Yoda 6:35
So for another YUREI, the characteristics of Japanese YUREI is no legs, no feet, just floating. And they say it may be the drawing of Oukyo. What you are seeing right now that
Matt Alt 6:52
It’s Maruyama Oukyo, who is a famous Edo-era painter who kind of originated YUREI art in Japan.
Hiroko Yoda 7:00
But the thing is like when you see the title of this art, and he said Hangongkongzu. That means that the drawing of insence that brings back the dead soul. So that means this painting has a incense (She’s probalbly rising out of it)
So, maybe it is hiding is hiding under the smoke. We don’t know. Yeah. But but that’s it. So we don’t know. But the typical Japanese ghost has no legs.
Matt Alt 7:39
And just to add to that, so HunGongKo which is what this that long illustration is called backing up nowadays, we have all sorts of ways to remember our loved ones, you know, photographs, videos, you know, whatever. But back in time, when somebody passed away, you know, they were gone and you didn’t have even any like memento or keepsake to remember what they look like. So in Chinese and Japanese literature, they came up with this concept of HunGongKo which is spirit returning incense this very, very rare, rare rarer than rare, like you had to be like an emperor to afford it. incense and if you burned it and wished in front of it, the image of your loved one would coalesce in the smoke of it. And it’s it’s in a lot of old kind of folktales and literature and stuff like that. And so he the Okyou when he painted this seminal, really very old YUREI painting named after that, because everybody would have known what he was referring to.
Hiroko Yoda 8:35
Yeah, and it’s very sad because it’s a smoke after all, so it disappears in the air can’t hug them, you know, disappears in the air and it’s you know, it’s it’s really sad feeling and it’s good story,
JJ Walsh 8:48
but that’s kind of perfect for ghosts, right to be disappearing. And yeah, and then you have like a modern version.
Hiroko Yoda 8:56
But the thing is because of J-Horror, everybody knows Sadako today
Unknown Speaker 9:05
From The Ring
Hiroko Yoda 9:06
movie ring. Um, so the typical ghost figure, but more physical, more feet.
Matt Alt 9:16
But notice, notice the weird hands and like kind of the stringy, unkempt hair. Those are even though Sonico is a modern sort of ghost. She’s definitely kind of evocative this Edo-era. Here, the white clothing, you know very much so. So this is, you know, in the late 90s, early 2000s there was this boom for J-horror and it’s been really interesting to Hiroko and I that there was a boom for imported Japanese movies like Ring, you know, Juwan there’s a whole bunch of them, the Grudge. And it’s, it’s interesting because those kind of rewrote what horror is in the West and now you see all of these kind of homages and influences from Sadoko in western movies have nothing to do with Japan. So that’s a kind of interesting way the Japanese fantasies have kind of filtered into our lives.
Hiroko Yoda 10:08
Yeah, it’s, it’s interesting to see because before the movie Ring, and Grudge came in, and went to the west, the, you know, the stereotypical of Western scary creatures are monsters. or human humanoid.
Matt Alt 10:29
Yeah, like Jason
Hiroko Yoda 10:35
Matt Alt 10:38
But he’s a friendly ghost!
Hiroko Yoda 10:42
So it’s a it’s a very interesting, um, to to change it. But also I still I also I vividly remember it..
haha that’s a very western ghost you know [looking at JJWalsh wearing a Ghostbuster mask]
Matt Alt 11:00
This is what the Ghostbusters ghost
Hiroko Yoda 11:02
yeah, it’s very physical you can touch it. I mean,
Matt Alt 11:09
yeah, by the way, we’re so we’re so in awe of your costume collection. I had no idea you had this many costumes!
Hiroko Yoda 11:24
The reasons I suggested to talk about hell, is because you know that in the West. The ghost visit you in Halloween time. But in Japan, the YUREI is visiting you in July in August.
Matt Alt 11:45
Hiroko Yoda 11:46
Yeah, Obon holidays because that the lid, they say the lid of Hell’s cauldron opens in July and August. But the thing is, I mean, it sounds so scary. But the thing is, that goes from Hell, including your dead families and loved ones.
Matt Alt 12:12
And we should take a moment here to note that H ell is being used in a kind of broad sense like the underworld like it’s not people are punished in Japanese Jigoku or Onoyo and people are punished there for their sins of course, but it’s not like the place that incorrigible horrible people go and there’s no redemption for them like it’s a cycle that you have to pass through on your way to you know, achieving a higher state of being. So the fact is that hell or the underworld, or Jigoku as Japanese know it, is full of all sorts of creepy, terrible horrifying things, but it’s also where we go where everybody goes when they pass away. And it’s actually quite documented in Japanese folklore. What happens down there
Hiroko Yoda 12:58
Okay, so yeah, like he said, unlike Western the Christian image of hell, in Japanese hell, almost everybody goes. So, yes, the illustrations from the YUREI attack is actually perfect. The first.. Yeah. Can you blow up the one at the bottom corner?
Matt Alt 13:22
Yeah, the one of the kind of cartoony Okay, so this is Shinkichi’s illustration and Hiroko and Shinkichi worked this out. I didn’t even see this until it was done.
Hiroko Yoda 13:34
Oh man did we enjoy! So the first you know there’s on the corner, there’s a grave that means you’re dead.
Matt Alt 13:43
So, this is the path through hell
Hiroko Yoda 13:47
So at first, you walk to climb really high mountains. And then the first person that you encounter is old hag from hell, her name is Datsueba. And she stripps off your clothes and then hang your clothes over the tree and then if you’re life was full of bad acts and behavior, your clothes goes really far down – they’re heavily weighted. So the old hag measures you for how your life is spent. Then you have to go over the river, but if you are the holiest person- or if you have a really good life, you can walk on the bridge. But most likely, everybody has to swim. Because everybody that some kind of wrong doing it. So you go across the river. And then after that, you meet the judge (called) Emma.
Yeah, we will look at him later.
And, and then he he basically telling you, he has everything he has book, he has a book that beaten your all life, all the details, and then judge you. But the thing is, most likely everybody goes to hell. Because, you know, so you kill mosquitoes, right? So you will go to hell.
Matt Alt 15:36
Because you took a life,
Hiroko Yoda 15:37
it’s a life. You know, if you walk you walk on the shoes outside and maybe you step on ants you may kill it, even though without thinking, you got to hell. Um, you know, if you I’m not vegetarian, I you know, I eat meat barbecue, so definitely I’m go to hell. So the things like that. And it depends on the theory. But that there, we took the shortest number of the spots of hell, which is eight. But there’s some theory says that there are 136 spots in hell you have to go through, or 64,000 spots in the hell to go through. Of course, YUREI attack our book cannot cover 64,000 hells…
Matt Alt 16:38
Hiroko Yoda 16:41
Well. I mean, it’s one theory.
Matt Alt 16:44
You can see in there like each You know, they’re they’re different. If you ever get the book and you look through you can see there’s just basically different punishments given to you. Did you did you crush bugs, maybe some giant bugs are gonna crush you like that kind of thing.
Hiroko Yoda 16:56
The typical one is if you lie, your tongue will (be) pulled out- this is a typical conversation that you had when you were a kid with grandma, you know, it’s like, Don’t lie. The Emma is going to take your tongue now! So, don’t lie! It’s that kind of thing.
Matt Alt 17:19
And you can see at the top center of the of the photos that you have on there is a photograph Hiroko took of Lord Emma, where the red face and the big headdress. This wasn’t taken in a hell of a statue. We haven’t gone yet. But that’s what Emma traditionally looks like. And Emma is like references to Lord anmar all over Japanese culture like for instance, the school teachers grade book is called an Emma-cho in Japanese, so Emma’s notebook, because that’s how you’re being judged by your teacher. So these kind of, just like Judeo Christian folklore, like really, even if you’re not a Christian, or you’re a practicing Jew, you’re kind of influenced by that, by those beliefs. And, and it kind of percolates through, you know, Western culture. And same thing with this sort of Buddhists inflected, you know, underworld view and Japan, which is why you see references to it just unconsciously in Japanese culture as a whole.
Hiroko Yoda 18:23
Yeah, and it’s another thing I’d like to add, is that Japanese hell, it’s not like a totally opposite, or far away of the spectrum. Emma, for example, he’s very scary. You know, he’s a judge of hell he’s a powerful figure. But they say that he has actually so many faces. And in one of the faces is JIZO. It’s another Buddhist deity, you often see as a little statue
JJ Walsh 19:03
with the Red Hats.
Hiroko Yoda 19:05
Yes, actually, this that’s another face of Emma. It’s watching over the kids. And so it’s not like just you, oh, you are so sick. You have such a bad life and go to hell. It’s not like that. You just you have to make up for what you did. And then go to this other place, and then all the deities, the spiritual figures, in different forms, and in a watch over you even in hell and that’s Japanese Hell.
Matt Alt 19:42
So we’ve been to hell.
JJ Walsh 19:46
We have a comment from Reka on Facebook. Thanks, Reka. She says, “So cool. It’s definitely true that me and most of my mates think Japanese horror is scarier than most Western ones I mean I’m legit scared of the umbrella monster. Thanks Japan”
Matt Alt 20:11
look at your background it’s all umbrellas – you know you’re really freaking out your viewers
JJ Walsh 20:16
I didn’t know about the umbrella monster,
Matt Alt 20:19
we’ll get to the umbrella. I don’t know if you include any pictures of the umbrella monster but it’s it’s in Japan, there’s a belief that certain objects that have been used by humans for long periods of time can re animate as kind of haunted forms, especially if they’re discarded or thrown away. Kind of needlessly, and one of the most popular forms of that is a haunted umbrella, kind of vague dangling tongue. And you know, the first time Westerners see this, they’re like, what? A haunted umbrella? But you know, if you’re looking at a kind of Japanese polytheistic animistic tradition again, this is like kind of the Japanese parallel to the Judeo Christian worldview of the West, you that’s kind of a fertile ground for creating all sorts of these characters and monsters and creatures and things like that. The umbrella monster, just to be clear is more of a Yokai, which is more of a monster than a YUREI, which is “someone” who has passed away, but they’re, you know, they’re all kind of hanging out together in haunted creepy places. Yes. So anyway, where were we?
JJ Walsh 21:18
Let’s talk about Osorezan
Hiroko Yoda 21:21
Yes. So that we, our book, Yurei Attack covers Osorezan as a haunted place. But it’s Mt.Fear. It’s a real place. It’s in north island – Aomori.
Matt Alt 21:51
While you’re alive. You can’t go to hell. I mean, it’s just a kind of given. But you can go to Osorezan which is actually has long been venerated as one of the closest places to the underworld in the real world that you can get to. And even today, it’s a it’s a temple. And it is built over a very volcanically active patch of ground that’s full of fumaroles, which are those little holes where like volcanic gases are coming out of and like you can see bubbling water and stuff. And it’s kind of it smells like sulfur. And it’s not dangerous. It’s not like you can walk around it as long as you don’t fall into one of those boiling water holes. And people have kind of turned that the or the temple has kind of turned that into a sort of, I don’t want to say like a virtual hell. Where you can go around to the spots, and hopefully by praying at them, bring yourself closer to actual loved ones who have passed over to the other side. So it sounds kind of almost silly when you describe it in English like this. But it is very, very emotional place for people who have lost loved ones and are just desperate to rekindle a connection or, or maybe they leave offerings and stuff. And Hiroko and I have been many times.
Hiroko Yoda 22:59
Yes. So um, so Mount fear, temple is there. But the first I have to clarify is that there’s no such specific mountain called mount fear. Mount Fear is a name for the entire place. If you go there, it’s amazing, because you have to go up. Back in time people walked now we drive. You go to the peak of the mountain, but when you reach the top, actually you see a Caldera. And then it’s surrounded by the many mountains. And it looks like that it’s on the lotus leaf. I mean, it’s I’m sorry, lotus flower. It is in another the symbol of the Buddhism and and also the paradise.
I know, it sounds silly, but it’s actually very important because, when you have you lost your loved ones or family members, and if you think that you cut the ties right away, but but if you go to the place like that, it makes you feel that still you can feel it (lost ones). And then as I said before you know about the hell, most likely anybody goes to hell. So, Mount Fear temple has the theory of 136 spots in hell. So you can actually walk on 136 spots in the mount fear temple and then in each area. There’s a Buddhist deity and you you know you should give an offering and pray for the dead ones that if they suffer in hell, to please, please help them.
Matt Alt 25:15
It’s all kind of cheering them on a little bit. And you know you notice in these photographs you can see Hiroko is actually shooting there’s a lot of you can see the pinwheels which are meant for kids that have children who passed away and you leave a pinwheel there and it’s actually a quite eerie sort of sound when you walk into mount the kind of Mount fear hell complex because all you can hear is really the wind and the spinning of those of those pinwheels.
In Confucianism you’re not supposed to
Hiroko Yoda 25:53
You have to live longer than your parents. But many of them get sick or whatever accident you know, if you know that, but still it’s considered to be sin. So the dead children go to the place before the river, the hanging out at the riverbank.
Matt Alt 26:14
They don’t have to cross.
Hiroko Yoda 26:15
They don’t have to cross but still they have sinned because they died too young. So what they have to do is pile stones. But there’s a lot of ghouls around them, that kick the stones and so the kids have to do that again. So, when he you go to the temple area, not just Mt.Fear temple, anywhere. If it’s a Buddhist temple or maybe you know the some Jizo diety located along the riverbank? If you see the piles of stones, basically people try to help the dead children who who’s doing it in Hell. So when you so if you go to the Mount fear, you will see that the you know that a lot of the piles of the stones
Matt Alt 27:12
Yeah, and people add to them and stuff. Yeah. And another really interesting aspect of Mount fear is that it’s home, why not home, but it’s a place where you can visit Itako, which are spirit mediums, and who can put you in touch with your loved ones they will speak and you can see in the top center, delivering a speech of the loved one, you’ve asked them to contact. And often when we’ve been there, they’ve been long lines, they’re set up in Yatai kind of huts, and people line up and they go and they said, Well, you know, I’ve lost my grandfather, or I’ve lost my mother or you know, or whatever. And then the Itako will channel them. Whether you believe in this or not is immaterial, it’s actually been demonstrated through studies, that this sort of service brings a lot of comfort to locals, at least in the area. So it’s it’s a really kind of fascinating aspect of Japanese folklore. And that’s still going on today.
Hiroko Yoda 28:22
Yes, that he tackled the medium. They have nothing to do with the mountain temple. But twice a year, when the temple has the ritual ceremonies, they provide a place within within the Mt.Fear temple area. And in Yes, like Matt says that it doesn’t matter, you believe in a ghost or not, you can still have some kind of comfort to talk to the loved ones, you really, really, really, really want to talk to and that saves a lot of people. And then of course, it’s a dying tradition. And someday in the future, those mediums are going to go disappear.
Matt Alt 29:13
So it’s a really fascinating way to be able to go there and still experience this traditional culture. But Wow, this got serious! hahaha
Do you have a new costume?
JJ Walsh 29:28
I do? I do.
I just want to say I just want to lighten the mood a little bit. So a very favorite costume of kids in terms of ghosts, of course, is….
Matt Alt 29:47
Hahaha you know, this is actually really interesting, right? So
in the West, those are known as ghosts. Yeah. But in Japan, the Pac Man enemies I guess you’d call them are known as OBAKE Which is much more like Yokai. Ghost or YUREI is someone right? But like OBAKE are more of a some thing and I don’t think anybody believes the Pac Man ghosts are like the spirits of dead people
Hiroko Yoda 30:13
to say I never thought that they are ghosts.
Matt Alt 30:17
Yeah, well they think they look like a sheet. You know, like with the eyes in it. I think that’s why Western I
Hiroko Yoda 30:21
see it. That’s the western. Yeah, because we don’t have that sheet figure it’s just the PAC MAN enemy.Yeah, that’s it for me.
Matt Alt 30:30
Just a total digression. There’s this new Casey Affleck movie. It’s not that new came out about two years ago called ghost where he actually portrays like a real ghost in the movie where he’s just in the sheet with the eyes punched out, you know, and it’s really well done as a movie. But it’s just so funny to see somebody actually made a movie of a ghost in a sheet with the eye-holes.
JJ Walsh 30:54
That’s the typical American quick costume.
Hiroko Yoda 30:58
Typical of the ghost figure. Cuz I remember when I was when I went to America for the first time… sheets?!
Matt Alt 31:10
We also called the tissue paper ghosts, you know, that you make in kindergarten with like cotton? So we call those ghosts in English, but in Japan, they are
Hiroko Yoda 31:19
TERU TERU BOZU
JJ Walsh 31:22
Yeah to bring the sun back on the rainy day, right?
Matt Alt 31:26
Right! But they’re not ghosts. You know?
JJ Walsh 31:31
That is interesting. comparison. Is that like, how? How have we internalize these stories of ghosts from around the world? And Japanese ghosts, like you said, are very integrated with actual people who died? Like not just a any ghost, but a haunting?
Hiroko Yoda 31:50
Yeah. That’s basically why we make when we wrote YUREI Attack. We made sure to stick to a historical, cultural, and old one. Because if you talk about a modern ghost, it is just too much to handle. Yeah. So we stick to the cultural figure. And and that’s the fun part.
Matt Alt 32:12
you know, definitely, but you know, it’s interesting, the person who just chatted with the question, saying they found Japanese horror, much scarier than Western horror. I think one of the reasons for that is in a Western horror, there’s much more of a cause and effect, like you kills me, I’m going to kill you, you know what I mean? Like, are your family killed me? So I’m going to haunt your family. I mean, even even kind of, you know, silly or fair, like Freddy Krueger, the Nightmare on Elm Street is about that kind of direct curse on people who hurt him. Whereas in Japan, ghosts are kind of indiscriminate haunters. Like if you just encounter them, you’re screwed, even if you had nothing to do with why that ghost became a ghost. And, you know, it famously is portrayed in The RING that happened.
Hiroko Yoda 32:55
Yeah. So I, I’m glad you pointed out because I really wanted to talk about it. So when the Ring came out, just before that being was translated into the English movie, I saw that video, and it was very scary. So I had to share it with Matt. And it but I brought it in, like, let’s you have to see that you have to see this. But he didn’t get it and actually he was angry. Why on earth, I have to be cursed by watching stupid videotape. But then that made me think, Wow, that’s a cultural difference. And then I started to remember what I saw in America? You know, the Nightmare on Elm street, or Friday 13th? Yes. There’s always cost.
JJ Walsh 33:46
(black cat jumps into the frame) A witch’s hat? I know right? I have a black cat. This is perfect for Halloween. You wanna say Hi? this is Lani.
Matt Alt 34:08
Wow, Lani’s really hanging out in the camera. Huh? What a camera girl.
JJ Walsh 34:15
Yes, so you wanted to lighten the mood. But I think the next title is “severed head?!”
Hiroko Yoda 34:21
Ha haa haa. No, no no, but this is this is a good one! Okay, he is one of the most powerful, angry ghost in Japan is she’s my one of my favorite, huh? Uh huh. His name is Taira no Masakado, and he lived in the 10th century. He was considered to be the first Japanese SAMURAI.
Matt Alt 34:59
The issue was that Masakado, who acquired quite a bit of power and followers, declared himself Emperor but that was news to the existing emperor who hadn’t heard about this, and was none too pleased when they heard about it. So, basically sent out his own forces who decapitated Masakado. So, they killed him and decapitated him and brought his head..
Hiroko Yoda 35:28
..to Kyoto. Back in time, Kyoto was the capital. Kyoto was the place where the Royal Palace located, so they displayed Masakado’s head at the Kamagawa river bank.
Matt Alt 35:46
Back then you couldn’t take a photograph- you had to show, hey I killed this guy, you know? And then to just show the other people of course,
Hiroko Yoda 35:52
Yes, of course because it was a major no no to go against the Emperor! The Emperor is a symbol of Japan. But back in time, it’s a powerful figure. So just you don’t rebel.
But the the thing is, Masakado is so angry, even though he’s you know, his head cut off. But he’s eyes wide open. And then you know, his eyes were open and basically his head was basically alive for several months. And in the end, even his head flew. His head flew from the Kanto region, which is Tokyo and Chiba, and this area. It flew to find his body. Anyway, to make the story short?
Matt Alt 36:49
There’s a stone pillar. It’s a grave. right corner of this. I don’t know what corner of the screen it is for the people watching. But that is Masakado’s head’s grave and it’s in Tokyo. It’s in downtown Tokyo Marunouchi areas, surrounded by office buildings. And skyscrapers. And this plot of land has never been touched. We’ll get into this in a minute. It’s what is it worth?
Hiroko Yoda 37:14
So the area is walking distance from Tokyo Station. So you can tell how central that is! (It’s prime real estate) I mean, it’s surrounded by skyscrapers. But I checked it. So 136 square meters land in net worth more than 38 million US dollars as of March 2020. Anyway. So never touched it, even though it’s prime land. And then why? Because if anybody dare to touch or move his grave, they get injured or die. And there’s so many stories..
Matt Alt 38:11
Even some of the modern times the GHQ. Yeah, so GHQ actually famously tried to bulldoze it. And you can see an illustration here from YUREI attack. This is what we’re talking about. GHQ decided after they were occupying Tokyo Well, this is some prime real estate we’re gonna build I think they wanted to build like a parking lot like a depot part of their depot. And so they hired locals to bulldoze the the mound and flatten it. And the bulldozer, according to urban legend, hit it and flipped over and killed the driver. And then there were all sorts of rumors of
Hiroko Yoda 38:42
Yes, but that’s very modern. The first thing I wanted to talk about is yes, the Yamanote line. So Masakado, his latest shrines are actually multiple- actually more than eight. But if you are in Tokyo, but if you connect the seven out of eight shrines on the map, the formation is shaped like Big Dipper, like the constellation. So they say that maybe someone designed the location of those shrines to make some kind of seal to keep in an angry, angry ghost, Masakado. But then the Tokugawa Shogunate came to power and when the Edo-era of today’s Tokyo became the capital of the Tokugawa (government) who may have used it as a formation for protection.
Matt Alt 39:52
So he used the Big Dipper as his kind of symbol.
Hiroko Yoda 39:55
Yeah, because Because, the Shogun because you know Masakado is the first Samurai, that going against the powerful figure Emperor. So Tokugawa, the Shogun, you know, he wanted to have protection. Then the Meiji Restoration came in 1868 and Japan modernized, and they were building the Yamanote line was part of that. Bearing in mind, the Meiji Restoration means the end of Shogunate. The Yamanote line strangely enough, it cut off the formation. So, right before the Yamanote line construction was completed, the Kanto earthquake happened!
Matt Alt 40:55
1923. devastating earthquake
Hiroko Yoda 40:57
devastating earthquake. And then so they say is like, Oh, my face Mexico anger to cut off his his shrines. And then that’s that’s one. And then the second was religion is that that condo earthquake big earthquake knocked down the his mother’s head grave? Yeah, head, Greg. So the academics used that opportunity to make research and started digging, but they didn’t find anything except just to cave because all the important stuff got stolen. And then all the typical thing looting. Yeah, looting. So um, so the thought the minister Ministry of Finance, because you know, it’s a prime land for doke in at the center of Tokyo. So, Ah, that’s just removed it just forget about head grave, and in a day built the temporary building over it. But the thing is that the Minister of Finance passed away right after that. And then 14 officials, top officials died in next two years. And in many of the, the walkers are injured, but injured. It’s mainly for defeat. So they said, Oh, this is just too much. So they removed it. We’re talking about the Minister of Finance, I mean, government figure, they live their building, and then apologize, they’d be built it.
Matt Alt 42:31
But then then then
Hiroko Yoda 42:32
then, but even even, even they build it. But then again, several years later, they got struck by lightning. The whole Ministry of Finance, completely burned down. So if you go to the if you go to the the hidden grave, there’s actually a sign describing all the cases. So it’s a major deal!
Matt Alt 43:01
So, this is a really interesting thing. Masakado grave is very visible! Just go to Tokyo Station, it’s a five minute basically walk away, open all the time, I would recommend venerating it and not doing anything strange to it. And because look what happened the last time the Americans tried bulldozing it.
JJ Walsh 43:27
so, we’re looking at like a festival is that at the same location or
Hiroko Yoda 43:32
the it’s a shrine? It’s like, yeah, that’s, that’s the Kanda shrine. And then that’s in my mind, the major Masakado’s Shrine, I wanted to share the pictures that I took there, that the every two years of the huge festival.
Matt Alt 43:52
That festival was really big!
Hiroko Yoda 43:54
It is really big. Japanese people love the three biggest blah, blah, and the Kanda festival is one of the three biggest festivals in Japan. That’s what we say it’s a huge, so that shows you that um,
Matt Alt 44:15
Hiroko Yoda 44:18
Yeah, so they say that its Masakado’s body KARADA = KANDA because KARADA is the body and so KANDA
JJ Walsh 44:28
So his his head is supposedly in a different location.
Matt Alt 44:32
It was actually the thing like Tokyo Station.
JJ Walsh 44:34
Oh, that little little area. You should never knock down. Yeah, that’s his head
Matt Alt 44:40
Hiroko Yoda 44:43
Kanda shrine. It’s close to that area (it’s his body).
Matt Alt 44:48
They say they say they’re venerating his body
JJ Walsh 44:50
and then his feet are somewhere else?
Matt Alt 44:53
No, his feet are still attached to his body.
JJ Walsh 44:56
But wait, he’s a ghost. He doesn’t have feet, right?
Matt Alt 44:59
Yeah. Well, you But that’s the thing so like Masakado is what’s typically known in Japanese as an ONRIO which is an angry ghost and they’re a little bit different from the the kind of Edo-style cartoony is kind of the wrong word but like the Edo style ghost more as seen in like entertainment and then portrayed that way he’s angry ghosts are not nearly as stereotypical and they tend to be typically traditionally people who went against the Emperor and were killed. And kind of stayed behind on our earthly plane because of their anger or their you know frustration or something.
Hiroko Yoda 45:40
Basically like you said that you know, the umbrella monster that we just talked about he you know, the he said that it’s more like YOKAI not YUREI but the dividing line is so you know, ambiguous. The same thing for YUREI. And then the Shinto deities KAMI, you know, I don’t want to do Gods because it’s just all over the sun, the Judeo Christian, you know, the meanings that comes into play. I like to use Kami. So Kami, and angry YUREI, their ONRYO, the dividing line is ambiguous, too. And then I don’t want to go into deeper than that. But you know, when you are killed, the way someone’s died in anger- you feel so terribly bad, and then that creates fear. So whenever an accident, like lightning hits or any kind of disaster plague, then people started backing down, and start interpreting it is like, Oh, that is a curse. Yeah. We must venerate them. And then, Masakado is one example. But it they love it. People love it. I love it.
Matt Alt 47:02
He’s a character. But I think the really key thing is that in Japan, there’s this concept called ONNEN. Right? Yeah. Which is this kind of, it’s tough to translate into English. It’s this mix of like, anger and jealousy and, frustration that drives rage. And like, if you take you need a lot of words in English to describe it, but Japanese only need one – ONNEN. And that is kind of the fuel for ghosts here. That kind of, like concoction of ferocious emotions. And that’s what drives the creation of because nobody’s like, Oh, you know, I live to age 95. And I’m surrounded by my family and I died quietly at home with like, you know, my cat here or whatever that does. Those people do not turn into YUREI They just don’t, you know, because they’re, you know, living and dying. Like, quote unquote, “you should”. It’s these kind of unusual cases, and especially where people were either tried to do something and were blocked or were horribly mistreated, like in the case of – should we move on to..- Lady Oiwa? She is the superstar ghost of the Edo period. And today, and if you walk away from this chat with anyone ghost in your mind, I think it should be lady Oiwa. And this is her shrine in Yotsuya.
Hiroko Yoda 48:22
Yeah, so lady Oiwa, she is the scariest, the most famous, and the most respected in Japan. So that’s why in our YUREI attack book, she is the first.
Matt Alt 48:40
and she got really popular as a Kabuki play. It’s called the horror of Yotsuya kaidan. It has a longer name, but that’s basically it. And it was based on a true story. It’s said to be a true story. You don’t like a based on a true story, just like Fargo was just like so many other things,
Hiroko Yoda 48:57
Because there’s so many theories, but you know the incidents that they used were old, like we talked about 1700 here
Matt Alt 49:08
and then play came out in the 1800s almost 100 years old when this came out.
Hiroko Yoda 49:12
So there are many versions such as this Kabuki
Matt Alt 49:21
like spoken word performances,wood-block prints, all sorts of other stuff. Describe her, describe the situation
Hiroko Yoda 49:29
So there are different versions, but it’s fiction, based on their story, whatever, but they always the backbone story is the same. It’s the lady Oiwa betrayed by her husband, and killed by the husband, and came back as a ghost, and takes revenge.
Matt Alt 49:55
Can we see that image from YUREI Attack?
JJ Walsh 50:08
Yeah, yeah, I’ve got that on the screen now.
Matt Alt 50:15
Okay, so she begins haunting His name is Iemon and like he’s just a rat bastard like he’s cheating on her and then like he tries to take up with his mistress and then they both like kind of try to poison Oiwa because it’s easier that way you know because you can’t divorce easily back then. But the poison doesn’t work
Hiroko Yoda 50:35
So, the poison doesn’t work and then the poison makes half of her face horribly scarred and then the hair started falling apart. And then so when when she saw herself it was total fear! I mean if you’re female that’s horrifying! From my husband! So, she killed herself and so her figure with the scarred half face is typical.
Matt Alt 51:08
the husband thinks he got away scot free great she killed herself but she doesn’t go away remember we’re talking about that fuel the rage the jealousy the impotence the the frustration that fuels her coming back as a really angry ghost and she basically starts manifesting everywhere he looks he starts seeing her ruin face and there’s a really famous HOKUSAI print of a paper lantern with a woman’s face on it with the eyes on it? That’s actually Oiwa, she turns into lanterns.. like everywhere he looks he sees her and finally he kind of escapes into the countryside to get away and then she just she starts appearing everywhere inside the room and basically that’s the illustration. Shinkichi is is a really talented Illustrator, but she works alone. And so like she’d have to work late at night or these illustrations!
Hiroko Yoda 52:01
All this research stuff. It’s scary. Of course, I have to send it to her but I feel so bad!
Matt Alt 52:08
She was like this 20 something up and coming artists at the time when I was like, man, like, you know, late at night, you have to draw these horrible images. But she did such a great job!
Hiroko Yoda 52:16
I had to give her a background story with the old ghost stories. Yeah, it’s just bad.
Matt Alt 52:22
Anyway, so you’ll see, there’s a shrine to Oiwa in Yotsuya. And every time a Kabuki performance, the actors and the crew always go there to get a ritual purification. And you can see Hiroko and I actually got a ritual purification there after writing YUREI attack. We’re sitting there with a Dutch artist.
Hiroko Yoda 52:53
But the so the the reasons on why I wanted to share lady Oiwa with you is that, Lady Oiwa is not just a good powerful ghost figure, she’s also loved and respected. The shrine is actually not venerating her, but it’s venerating the Shinto deity, that Lady Oiwa would go to pray at.
Matt Alt 53:28
It was like her shrine that she was a shrine was the one she would pray at when she was alive and healthy.
Hiroko Yoda 53:33
Yes, that’s the shrine. But the thing is, like, you know, when it comes in the Kabuki shows, there’s a lot of accidents. So, that the people started going to especially ghost stories like you know, the horror of Yotsuya, scary things. So, the people actors and started paying a visit to the respect the shrine for safety, and that actually became a huge trend. Even today, so, whenever, you know whenever you create the mood or all the horror of Yotsuya or Lady Oiwa, it is related to movie or books. Like YUREI Attack and the TV show, Kabuki the the spoken word, performances and people go there in the paid respect, and even at a kabuki theater, because the Kabuki actors go there so many times, they actually created their own shrine under the permit. They created a shrine right next to the Kabuki theater with you can still see today. Yeah, and the people still do pray there and show respect. It’s very interesting.
Matt Alt 55:03
I feel bad. You haven’t said a word. This is your podcast!
JJ Walsh 55:08
No. Are you kidding? I love it. You guys are doing a great job.
Matt Alt 55:13
Any questions? Any ghosts at your house, maybe we can help?!
JJ Walsh 55:20
No, I don’t think I’m being haunted at the moment. But this is a great background. Yeah. And we haven’t had many comments or questions from people watching as well. I think people are just taking it in enjoying all the information.
Matt Alt 55:35
So sorry if you have to sleep with the lights on tonight.
JJ Walsh 55:40
We have a few more minutes. Do you want to talk about Hachiyoji?
Hiroko Yoda 55:43
Yeah, so Hachiyoji it’s a suburb of Tokyo is located in west of Tokyo, and Hachiyoji castle ruin.
Matt Alt 55:56
Used to be a castle there.
Hiroko Yoda 55:59
Yeah, 16th century,
Matt Alt 56:01
just the base is there now.
Hiroko Yoda 56:02
But yeah, castle ruins. But how does the castle right is is one of the famous haunted places in Tokyo. And that’s why I wanted to share with you. So we of course, we visited it there! The story is that castle, even though there was only a one-day battle, but it’s so bloody! And then the waterfall..
Matt Alt 56:31
there’s a river that runs through it.
Hiroko Yoda 56:33
really small but the story is that the according to the story about the battle is that there’s so many even women and children died, it’s been many of them committed SEPPUKU suicide. And then they jumped from the waterfall. And then so they say that that waterfall was stained with blood for three day in three nights. So that tells you it’s vicious battle and then even haunted today.
Matt Alt 57:13
But there’s a really nice park there!
Hiroko Yoda 57:14
We went there. It’s a nice hiking place. We enjoyed it. And then actually, you can learn a lot about the the castle and also the stone. The stone that the picture is that red mark is not just a stone mark, it’s actually the flame.
Matt Alt 57:37
Yeah, the burn marks the battle. So this kind of history, it really it really lingers here in Japan. But you know, there’s so many places that are called haunted in Japan, but are actually really fun to like, hike.
Hiroko Yoda 57:49
Wild monkey there!
Matt Alt 57:50
Yeah, we saw wild monkeys here, you know, everybody knows the Aoki Gahara, the JUKAI, which is this. It’s known as the Suicide Forest colloquially, but it’s a really beautiful place to hike in. And especially if you stick to the trails and don’t follow any strange, you know, paths off into the forest, because people really do sometimes, you know, yeah, it’s easy to get lost. It’s a very strange forest because it’s on the suicide forest. This isn’t Hachiyoji. Now we’re talking about we’re talking about the Suicide Forest, which is at the base of Mount Fuji. It’s a forest growing on top of volcanic rock. So the terrain is really odd and the trees are very dense. But you know, if you’re hiking, it’s great. It’s like really interesting to look around and see. Yeah, so but that’s another story. But I guess the point is, if you hear a place as haunted in Japan, maybe it’s actually kind of a cool place to go hiking, especially if it was a long time ago.
JJ Walsh 58:49
It looks so beautiful. It’s in like a bamboo forest.
Watch the video talking about the YUREI with Matt and Hiroko
Matt Alt 58:52
So Hachiyoji, is nice. It’s up on a hill, obviously. Because that’s, you know, you built your castle up on a high piece of ground. And you can just hike around there. And they’ve kind of preserved the walls and like built bridges, so you can easily walk around the spot. So there’s like signs showing what it was. But yeah, it’s surrounded by bamboo and forests and stuff. And it’s like there’s wild boars and monkeys and stuff around there.
Hiroko Yoda 59:14
Of course, this is Japan. So I give you a character mascot. Oh, yeah. That’s actually the Samurai, the former owner of the castle. So he committed suicide to take responsibility, for the castle burned down. But then it’s just a cute little character Ujiteru-kun.
Matt Alt 59:44
Can you imagine like if this guy can time travel back like how many It was 500 years back. If you can time travel back in time see the ruins of his castle and now he is like a little Smurf.
JJ Walsh 59:55
But maybe the YUREI ghosts are appeased if you make them into a mascot character maybe that appeases them?
Matt Alt 1:00:04
Well yeah, you appreciate them and also like yeah, they’re taking really good care of the grounds. Like they didn’t create that to make fun of him or that or the castle, they did it as outreach to people.
Hiroko Yoda 1:00:14
Yeah and then actually that’s the one of the photo that you just said about the bamboo forest. That’s that’s actually the memorial grave. The people you know people that take care of all the dead ones and never forget, even though we’re over 500 years then. So even though it’s old, but it’s well taken care of and nice forest
Matt Alt 1:00:54
from downtown it’s no more than an hour away.
JJ Walsh 1:01:00
If you’re going from Tokyo Station it’s probably no more than an hour
Hiroko Yoda 1:01:21
but in order to go to the castle, you have to go through the graveyard. Yes. That’s modern. So maybe is it you know, maybe the graveyard is scarier than castle.
JJ Walsh 1:01:45
So it’s it’s time Yeah, our time is up. But I have to show you my last mask. I don’t know what you think about it. Is it a ghost or no?
Hiroko Yoda 1:01:55
Matt Alt 1:02:02
It’s very trollish. Yeah.
JJ Walsh 1:02:06
I can see a little bit.
Matt Alt 1:02:08
I think well, he will make you an honorary ghost
Hiroko Yoda 1:02:12
This is perfect for Halloween.
Matt Alt 1:02:15
Trick or Treating in
JJ Walsh 1:02:16
that mask? Oh, my kids for years were so scared of those masks. They wouldn’t let me even have them in the same if they knew where it was being stored. That was scary for that. So yeah.
Matt Alt 1:02:28
You going trick or treating? Don’t sell yourself short, come on!
JJ Walsh 1:02:36
I should This is not the time to do trick-or-treating door to door. Yeah, not COVID friendly. But we can we can have fun at home and I look forward to wearing those masks and hiding in the Genkan when my kids come home today?
Hiroko Yoda 1:02:50
JJ Walsh 1:02:55
Now they’re teenagers. So it’s okay.
Anyway, thank you so much, Matt + HIroko. That was so fun. And everyone listening, you will want to check out YUREI Attack, you can find it on …
Matt Alt 1:03:16
JJ Walsh 1:03:19
or Amazon JP I it’s a great series and maybe next month we can talk about NINJA
Hiroko Yoda 1:03:25
Yeah, complete the series.
Matt Alt 1:03:28
Complete. Exactly. Yes. We’ve already we’ve done YOKAI now we’ve done YUREI so it’s time for the ninja. Yeah. Thanks for having us.
JJ Walsh 1:03:38
Yeah, Happy Halloween. Everyone. Take care.
Listen to the podcast version of the YUREI talk here: