Tokyo in Japan has no less ghost stories due to a few centuries of war and unrest. There are many Japanese samurai being buried here and it is believed that many of them have become vengeful restless spirits. Many people still believe that these resentful spirits are still lingering amongst the streets of Tokyo. Amongst those spirits, the most famous one is Taira no Masakado (平將門) of the Heian period (around 10AD). Masakado is also being recognised as the first samurai in Japanese history.
Masakado was a small but very successful warlord during that time. He rebelled against the royal family in Kyoto and pronounced himself as the king of Kanto region. Masakado then proclaimed himself as the new emperor of Japan, raised his army and started rebellion. However, Masakado was defeated in today’s Saitama Prefecture. An arrow hit between Masakado’s eyebrows and he was being executed and beheaded. Masakado’s head was sent to Kyoto where it is displayed and celebrated.
Legend has it that the act of displaying Masakado’s head infuriated his spirit. Consequently, Masakado’s head flew over the Kyoto city and encircled in the air for a few days and then returned to Kanto region to look for his body. But because there were too many people being killed during the war, Masakado’s head failed in its attempt to reunite with his body and it finally fell onto the ground. The locals quickly cleaned this head, buried it and a monument is built. Today, this place is later known as the Hill of Masakado’s head.
Time passed and 1000 years later, this place where Masakado’s head was laid to rest originally a small fishing valley is now a metropolitan city: Tokyo. Apparently, this monument cum grave is the most priced area of Tokyo real estate. The place is only 5 minutes’ walk from the royal palace of Japan.
Even after a thousand or so years, the fame of Masakado remains. The Japanese government tried to reallocate his shrine to Otemachi Station but none of the attempts were successful. Other than engineering and other technical issues, people attributed to the failure to the curse of Masakado causing the piece of land cannot be used.
Many places were destroyed during the disastrous Tokyo earthquake in 1923, the Tokyo finance minister hoped to flatten the hill of Masakado’s head and built a temporary office building nearby. However, within two years’ time, the finance minister together with 14 other staffs were either hurt in undue accidents or felt sick. At the same time other workers also suffered some degree of unaccountable injuries. In order to pacify the rage of Masakado, government officials held a worshipping ceremony prior to the reconstruction of the place. Now it has become an annual event as a remembrance to Masakado.
In 1940, lighting struck onto the building of finance ministry and a fire broke out and destroyed all the buildings on the hill of Masakado’s head. It was coincidentally the millennial anniversary of Masakado’s death. The finance ministry sponsored a special memorial service ceremony to pacify Masakado’s unceasingly wrath, a new monument was also built to express people’s sincerity.
After WWII following the defeat of Japan, American who had just conquered Tokyo were not superstitious, they tried to flatten Masakado’s shrine to build a military carpark. However, one bulldozer accidentally overturned and killed its operator. A series of accidents made local government officials to advise the Americans to cancel their original plans so that Masakado can rest-in-peace.
If you are in Tokyo, why not paying Masakado a visit and hear his side of the story?