Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai: 100 Japanese ghost stories

Image © Hanna Liden

Image © Hanna Liden

Tonight the old year ends; the day of the dead is coming. Halloween is not just All Hallows’ Eve, it’s also the eve of winter in the Celtic calendar; the gate of the darker half of the year.

It’s time to tell ghost stories.

The masters of ghost-story-telling seem to be the Japanese; they light 100 candles and blow one out for every story, told. I heard about this tradition from Cirque Tsuki at the Edinburgh Festival this summer; in their version, all the dead spirits are summoned when the last candle is extinguished. No wonder the practice was supposed to have started among the fearless samurai.

Translator and folklorist Zack Davisson has been collecting kaidan and translating them into English. His birthday is the Japanese Day of the Dead, which, to be fair, is not today but 15th August, but if you start collecting now too, you might have a hundred ghost stories to tell by then. These are two of my favourites: follow the links to find out the ending(s)…

The woman with the black hair was the wife of a samurai who was far away serving his lord for many years, and with another woman. He finally came home one night and found her waiting for him in the moonlight, but when he woke…

Tsuara onna, the icicle woman, is a chilling version of a story told in many cultures, like the Welsh Blodeuwedd (a woman made of flowers in the Mabinogion). A man was amazed at the beauty of an icicle hanging from his roof, and wished that he can meet a woman just as beautiful. Then he did – she arrived in a snowstorm, they fell in love and married, yet she wouldl never take a hot bath, until…

Are you brave enough to stick around until the last candle is blown out?

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Posted in Edinburgh Festival, Folklore, international, short stories, translation

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