Saturday, December 5, 2009

The History of Yotsuya

Nope, I'm not dead. Shocking, I know, lol. I've had the worst week ever and I've been doing nothing but non-stop school work and... I actually don't even have time to be blogging but... I'm doing it anyways because... well, it's not like I'm gonna leave the house this weekend anyways, lol.

Anyways, part of the reason I've been buried under work is because my friends Elena and David and I had to do a project on Yotsuya for our Japanese class. We couldn't for the life of us figure out what the hell you'd say about Yotsuya. I mean, it's the neighborhood our university is in but... there's nothing but restaurants and really crappy little shops. In fact, the sample projects we saw from last year seemed as perplexed as we were. So we decided to one-up everybody else and actually explore Yotsuya from a historical standpoint to see what was interesting about it. We uncovered all sorts of crap, so I'll post about it here so you can see it! This will mostly be a "pretty picture" post, lol.

Well, first of all, there were some great assassinations in Yotsuya of famous writers and stuff. But that's more recent. Let's go waaaaaay back, shall we?

Do you remember this guy from Kill Bill? Hattori Hanzo? He's the master swordsman who trained Bill and made the katana for Beatrix to exact her revenge upon Bill.

Well, as it turns out, Hattori Hanzo was a real person. He's one of Japan's most famous samurai who fought battles for the Tokugawa during the 1500's. The Hattori Hanzo of Kill Bill is, I believe, intended to be a descendant of the samurai. Well, as it also turns out, Hattori Hanzo's tomb is only a five minute walk from our university! Let's check it out, shall we?

Here at the shrine, we find some lovely graves...

Here's the temple itself. Hattori Hanzo's spear is inside!

More big tombs. We weren't sure who some of these people were but... they seemed important!

Ah, here we go! Here's Hattori Hanzo's tomb below!

And some statues guarding it:

We got up the nerve to ring the bell and be allowed inside the shrine to see the spear. The woman seemed stand-off-ish at first, but when she realized we could converse in Japanese with some amount of honorific speech, she suddenly found us more adorable than anything else and invited us inside. Here's the inside of the temple:

And here's the Buddha overlooking Hattori Hanzo's spear! Sorry I didn't take a closer picture of the spear. I could have but... for some reason I didn't. Anyways, the woman explained to us that this long spear is, in fact, not even the original length. Almost half of it was chopped off during battle. Pretty impressive though, isn't it?

After leaving the cemetary, we also found a place down the street that makes taiyaki! Taiyaki is where they fill fried dough with sweet bean paste and shape it all like a fish. It's quite tasty! But this place is really cool because there's a big window and you can watch them make the taiyaki right in front of you. The place seemed ridiculously popular and, although it was tiny, people were coming in and out the whole time. I think it might be because it's inexpensive. One taiyaki was only a little over a dollar. We even saw construction workers taking a break and eating taiyaki, lol. Here's a picture of Elena and David and I holding out our taiyaki:

Anyways, moving on! We waited until after dark to do the spooky part of our journey! In Japan, the most famous ghost story of all time is the Yotsuya Kaidan (literally, Yotsuya Ghost Story). The Yotsuya Kaidan was originally a kabuki play, but it has since been adapted to film over thirty times and inspired the popular seiyuu ghosts you see in spooky Japanese films. The girl from The Ring was a direct homage to the Yotsuya Kaidan. But what made the Yotsuya Kaidan play so scary for audiences was that it was a combination of two real-life murders dramatized into theater - and one of those stories has a piece of history still in Yotsuya.

The real story is no longer exactly known, and whatever version you hear, it's not pleasant. Basically, a samurai decided to poison his wife Oiwa's food slowly over time. I'm not sure why, exactly. I believe he was unemployed and depressed and he thought killing her would help. Well, either way, as the poison grew worse, her hair fell out and the left side of her face grew disfigured. Eventually, she died, and a shrine was erected in her honor. Of course, in all story versions or theater/movie versions, Oiwa comes back as a vengeful spirit, tormenting her husband with terrible visions of her disfigured face. Her image was known to appear in lanterns. Here's a famous woodblock print of Oiwa (she's carrying a baby cuz she also happened to be pregnant when she died. Lovely):

Well, it just so happens that Oiwa's shrine is less than a ten minute walk from my university! There were actually two shrines, but I'm not sure what one of them was for. Anyways, theater and film productions of the Yotsuya Kaidan have been plagued by mysterious injuries and deaths, so it's a requirement that, before a production of the story is made, everyone involved makes a pilgrimage to this shrine and asks Oiwa's spirit for permission. It's also said that if you go to the shrine for no reason other than curiosity, your left eye will swell and droop just like Oiwa's. As such, my friends and I didn't want to dally here too long, lol. It was pretty creepy at night. Here, enjoy a bunch of pretty pictures (it was almost pitch-black, by the way, but my flash was on):

This one comes complete with a crazy, twisted tree!

The shrine was guarded by two dog statues, which is common at Japanese Shinto shrines:

Interesting? I thought it was. I hope Oiwa wasn't mad I took pictures, lol. We're preserving her history, damnit! Still, it would be interesting to see a modern kabuki play of the Yotsuya Kaidan. I've heard Oiwa is depicted pretty gruesomely.

Anyways, because I'm incapable of not doing this... I have to say something in regards to JRock, lol. I GOT TICKETS FOR MERRY'S TOUR FINAL!!! WHOO!!! They're ending their Underworld tour at Shibuya O-East on December 24th and I'm totally going! Wow... I have four upcoming concerts, lol. So yeah, I'm pretty geeked about that.

See you all soon if I don't die a homework-induced death!

1 comment:

  1. *pffffftttt* WHAT?! You wanna fling something?! I have to admit that I haven't had that urge, lol. God, you have no idea how jealous I am that you're gonna see that song live! Shinya is a fucking beast in that song. I swear he must go through 30+ unique beats and rhythms to get through that song. I just sat down and tried really hard to tune everything out except for the drums... and it just blew my mind. I could tell the song was gonna rock drum-wise from the previews we were given, but.. DAMN! Shinya is just THE MAN, and that's all there is to it. Lol, I gotta go watch the making of again :-DD Oh, and your story was funny btw. Me likey :-) You should make a comic of it!

    And dude, that history stuff you found was really interesting! Thanks for sharing!