Part Two: Yoshitoshi’s New Forms of 36 Ghosts – A Karuizawa Whisky Feature

To continue our series of the “New Forms of Thirty-Six Ghosts,” we’re back with Part Two to give you the next 12 ghosts and the tales behind each of these woodblock prints by the famous Yoshitoshi. If you haven’t read Part One yet, you can read it on our blog and read the first 12 ghost stories we’ve shared! Here are the next 12 ghosts from Yoshitoshi’s last masterpiece series:

  1. Shoki Capturing a Demon in a Dream

The emperor has a dream about Shoki, a demon hunter, defeating the fever demon. This resulted in the emperor recovering from his illness and returning to full health.

  1. Fujiwara no Sanekata’s Obsession with the Sparrows

As punishment for arguing with a high-class calligrapher in public, Sanekata, a nobleman, was sent from Kyoto in exile by the emperor and was appointed to the position of the governor of Aomori, a not-so-well-known place. One day, Sanekata saw a host of sparrows cheerfully flying around his mansion, which reminded him of his loneliness and misery and his desire to be free from his duties and lonely life. (In a Noh play, Sanekata was transformed into a sparrow.)

  1. Fujiwara no Hidesato Shooting the Centipede at the Dragon King’s Palace

One day, Hidesato crosses a bridge and a dragon blocks his path. But, unfazed by the dragon’s threatening appearance, Hidesato walks past the dragon and continues on his way. What Hidesato didn’t know was that the dragon was the Dragon King in disguise, and the Dragon King was looking for someone to kill the giant centipede in his palace under the sea. Hidesato follows the Dragon King to his realm and defeats the giant centipede by shooting it in the eye with his arrows. This woodblock print shows Hidesato in attack mode while the Dragon King’s daughter (Princess Otohime) hides behind Hidesato.

  1. Taira no Koremochi Vanquishing the Demon of Mount Togakushi

A nobleman wakes up from a nap and notices a demon girl in the reflection of a liquid-filled bowl. The print depicts him preparing to slay the demon with his magic sword, and, in the story, he succeeds in doing so.

  1. The Ghost of Okiku at Sarayashiki

One of the most well-known ghost stories in Japan, the Ghost of Okiku is about a young maid who worked at a samurai’s mansion. The samurai, Tessan Aoyama, pursued the girl, but she rejected his advances. To get Okiku to become his mistress, Aoyama hides one of 10 treasured Dutch dishes and threatens Okiku to confess that she stole the plate unless she agrees to be Aoyama’s mistress. Out of desperation, Okiku jumps into a well and drowns. (Some say she was murdered and thrown in the well for supposedly stealing a plate.) After her death, Okiku’s spirit comes out of the well. She counts nine dishes, but sobs and screams because she can’t find the 10th plate. Aoyama eventually goes insane because of Okiku’s spirit’s daily appearances.

  1. Kiyomori Sees Hundreds of Skulls at Fukuhara

In the winter of 1180, Kiyomori suffers from insanity because he reached the highest position of nobility in Japan through his ruthless methods of killing many people. He faces the reality and consequences of his actions and sees hundreds of skulls haunting him, which represent the people he has killed.

  1. Tametomo’s Ferocity Drives Away the Smallpox Demons

Smallpox demons terrorized the people, but Tametomo’s fierce energy scares away these demons. Tametomo was a skilled archer.

  1. Nitta Tadatsune Seeing an Apparition in a Cave

A samurai named Nitta Tadatsune goes inside a cave and notices that the Goddess of Mercy, Kannon, is inside the cave as well. They talk while they’re both inside the cave.

  1. Ii no Hayata Killing a Nue at the Imperial Palace

A Nue is a beast that has the head of a monkey, limbs of a tiger, scales of a dragon, body of a badger, and a tail of a snake. Hayata defeats the beast with his sword when the Nue lands on the roof of the Imperial Palace.

  1. The Fox-Woman Kuzunoha Leaving Her Child

A nobleman named Abe saved a fox that was being hunted for its liver (which was said and believed to have been a highly effective medicinal ingredient). Some time later, Abe met a beautiful woman named Kuzunoha, and they had a son. They lived happily together for three years. Kuzunoha was actually the fox Abe saved, and Kuzunoha transformed into a human to be with Abe. However, after those three years, she left home and decided to go back to her former life as a fox. This print shows her leaving the house while her young son follows her and tries to get her to stay. The shadow reflected on the screen of the door shows the face of a fox, which reveals that Kuzunoha is originally a fox. Some stories say that Kuzunoha died from an illness and consoles her husband in a dream.

  1. The autumn wind blows, there is nothing more to say, grass grows through the eye-sockets of Ono’s skull. – Narihara

Narihara was a famous poet and nobleman. He fled to the east with his mistress, Fujiwara no Takaiko. He stayed at a lodging area where a popular and beautiful poetess, Ono no Komachi, died. Narihara was gazing outside and thought he saw Ono’s skull with grass growing through the eye sockets, hence the poem verse in the title of this print.

  1. Priest Raigo of Mii Temple Transformed by Wicked Thoughts into a Rat

The Priest Raigo of Mii Temple is shown in this print as a monstrous human-rat destroying sacred scrolls in the temple. In return for prayers to give him a son for an heir, the emperor promised to give the Priest Raigo anything he desired. Priest Raigo wanted a raised platform for warrior monks, but the emperor did not fulfill this request. Priest Raigo starved himself in his fury. Because of the thoughts of vengeance that consumed him, Priest Raigo’s spirit changed into thousands of rats that tore the scrolls of temple, which were the treasures of the emperor.


The Karuizawa Ghost Whisky Collection

Here at Dekanta, we have an exclusive 7-bottle collection of the Karuizawa Ghost Series. The labels on each bottle has a print from Yoshitoshi’s collection, and the pieces chosen for these seven bottles are:

    • The Ghost of Seigen Haunting Sakurahime
    • Kiyohime Changing into a Serpent at Hidaka River
    • Oniwaka Observing the Great Carp in the Pool
    • The Enlightenment of Jigoku-dayu
    • The Ghost of Taira no Tomomori Appearing at Daimotsu Bay
    • The Lucky Tea Kettle of Morin Temple
    • The Yotsuya Ghost Story

Be sure to check out the Karuizawa Ghost Series 7 Bottles to get a close-up look at Yoshitoshi’s masterpieces on these luxury and ultra-rare whisky bottles.  

Come back for Part Three (last one!) of the Yoshitoshi “New Forms of 36 Ghosts” blog posts for more Japanese ghost stories!