Senryu : ghost stories and pottery

broken teapot cap senryu & photo by M. LaFreniere, all rights reservedbroken pottery
ghost story at an old well
make a mosaic?

senryu & photo by M. LaFreniere, all rights reserved

Speaking of old senryu, this one is of a ghost story

Okiku demands a repairman to help her fix the tenth plate. お菊と焼継屋 O-Kiku and the Yakitsugiya by Utagawa Hiroshige 歌川広重

banchoo no furu ido de yobu yakitsugiya

from Bancho’s old well
the ghost summoned
the wandering tinker

Okiku and the nine plates is a famous ghost story in Japan.  As in many stories a beautiful girl, Okiku, worked for a lecherous aristocrat, Aoyama Tessan. One of her duties was to take care of a beautiful and extremely valuable set of ten plates.  Tessan wanted to sleep with her but she refused.  He hid the plate and blackmailed her that she would be blamed for the missing plate, a crime for which she would be executed.

Okiku and the nine plates ukiyo-e by Hokusai, Wikipedia.

As in many folk tales, there are different versions.  One version was since she could not find the 10th plate, she committed suicide throwing herself into the well due to the shame of failing in her duty.

Another version is that when Tessan told her she had to sleep with him to get the plate back, she refused, preferring to remain a virgin or true to her fiance.  In a burst of anger, Tessan killed her and threw her down the well.  Some versions have him beating her to change her mind and when that failed, then killing her off with his sword.

An alternative version has  Okiku breaking the 10th dish while she is washing it.  In a fit of anger at her clumsiness, Tessan killed her.

A final version is Tessan’s wife breaks the dish accidentally. Knowing her husband’s temper, she hides the broken pieces and the maid gets blamed. In a fit of anger, Tessan kills Okiku.

In all of these versions, as you can see there is a common theme, she is the innocent victim of an unscrupulous master.

Bunraku puppet
Bunraku puppet, notice the tall dark hooded person to the right. That is the puppet master. Photo by Ivan Fourie. Copyright Creative Commons 2.0. On his post, Fourie noted “In Japan, Bunraku (puppet play) developed over a period of more than twelve centuries as the popular entertainment of the people.”

All stories agree that after Okiku died, her ghost would rise nightly from the well still looking for the 10 plate (or accusing her murderer of having the 10th late).  She would count loudly one though nine and then wail instead of saying ten. It drove Tessan insane which served him right. In one Kabuki version though, he didn’t give a shit when her ghost rose; he was too callous to care.

Some stories have a monk or a wise friend end Okiku’s haunting by waiting for her to rise.  When she counts to nine, before she starts wailing, they yell 10, completing her count.  Satisifed the 10th plate has been found, she disappears forever.

There are rumors, she still haunts Himeji castle, one of the reputed sites of the ghost story.

The story became a puppet show in 1741.  As it became very popular, a Kabuki version followed in 1824.  In Japan, there have been manga and television adaptions. Rin Chupeco’s 2014 horror novel “The Girl From the Well” featured a vengeful Okiku punishing child murderers.

This you-tube video claimed that the Ring is a new reiteration of the legend. I do think it’s a bit of a stretch as all they have in common is a ghost and a well but the video relates the Okiku’s story and shows a lot of the ukiyo-e commemorating the ghost story.


お菊と焼継屋 O-Kiku and the Yakitsugiya
Edo – Edopedia

Banchō Sarayashiki

The Japanese Ghost Story of Okiku
Artelino (shows several different scenes of the ghost story by ukiyo-e artist Yoshitaki Utagawa)

Traditional Japanese Ghost Story: Okiku
Seeks Ghosts


You can use the Amazon search bar to do any search at Amazon like I did with “Japanese ghost stories”. Now I want that Okinawan ghost story book that popped up. I don’t any.

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