Monday, July 23, 2007

The haunted fishing spot of Tokyo

[I'm gradually brining posts over here from the soon-to-be-defunct "new" site. Apologies to those who've already seen it. —MM]

In the days of the Shogun and his samurai, the area of Tokyo known as Honjo, in Sumida Ward, was an eerie, desolate place. Lonely farmhouses were scattered among vast fields that transformed into oceans of darkness at night. This famously creepy landscape gave birth to various scary tales, each usually tied to a particular place. The most renowned of these folktales came to be known as the "Seven Mysteries of Honjo."

Over time, some of the original seven tales were replaced with different ones, and new renditions of old tales also evolved, so in the end the final count exceeded seven, although the "Seven Mysteries" name was retained. One of the most well-known of these Honjo mysteries is about a haunted fishing spot known as the Oiteke-Bori.

Oiteke-Bori was a secluded spot on the banks of a canal where fish could be caught with amazing ease. In the evening, fishermen would drop their lines into the water and start pulling out fish, one after another. A fishermen would keep his catch alive in a closed wicker basket hung in the water, but just as he was about to go home with his fish, a disembodied voice from out of nowhere would angrily command, "Leave them here! Leave them here!" ("Oiteke! Oiteke!"). Anyone who heard the voice would flee in terror, but sometimes a fisherman would grab his basket of fish before running off.

On the way home, however, he would suddenly find himself feeling weak at the knees—and realize that the fish had mysteriously vanished from his basket. Soon word began to spread about the haunted fishing spot, and the voice's command became the location's name—Oiteke-Bori, the Leave-Them-Here Fishing Spot. So popular was this legend that a slight variation of the name, oitekibori, became part of the Japanese language, meaning to be suddenly abandoned or left behind.

A depiction of the spirit that was said to haunt the "Leave Them Here" fishing spot in the Sumida district of Tokyo hundreds of years ago.

The supposedly haunted canal, now filled in, once flowed along the road in front of the Tsugaru Inari Shrine, located near Kinshicho Station in Tokyo.

—Mellow Monk

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