The Yoshida Mansion sits in the fifth ward of Ushigome-Gomon. The lot on which it was built was once the home to the palace of Lady Sen1 before she made her journey to Akasaka in Edo in 1626. After that, another building once stood in that lot which was burned down to the ground—the home of the minor lord Aoyama Harima.
In the house of Aoyama a young girl named Okiku worked as a maidservant. On the second day of the second year of Joo (Jan 2, 1653), Okiku accidently broke one of the ten precious plates that were the heirloom of the Aoyama clan. Harima’s wife was furious and said that since Okiku had broken one of the ten plates, it was fair to cut off one of Okiku’s ten fingers in return. The middle finger on her right hand was chosen, and Okiku was confined to a cell until the punishment was to be administered.
During the night, Okiku managed to slip her bonds and escape from her cell. She ran outside and threw herself into an unused well, drowning at the bottom.
The next night, from the bottom of the well came a woman’s voice: “One… Two…“ Soon, the sound of her voice could be heard echoing throughout the mansion, counting the plates. Everyone was so terrified that their hair stood up all over their bodies.
Harima’s wife was pregnant and when she gave birth, her child was missing the middle finger on its right hand. News of this made it back to the Imperial Court, and the cursed Aoyama family was forced to forfeit their territories and holdings.
The sound of the counting of the plates continued. The Imperial Court held special ceremonies to calm Okiku’s spirit, but all in vain. At last, they sent a holy man to cleanse her. That night, the holy man waited inside the house. He listened patiently as the voice counted, “Eight… Nine…” And then he suddenly shouted, “Ten!”
Okiku’s yurei was heard to whisper, “Oh, how glad I am,” before she disappeared.
- Translated from Sarayashiki Bengiroku by Baba Bunko (1758).
- Lady Sen was the eldest daughter of the shogun Hidetaka Tokugawa and the wife of Hideyori Toyotomi. Her adventurous life produced many legends and she remains a popular figure in Japan. Her shrine is in Himeji city.