As I’ve mentioned in the past, I work in Otemachi in Tokyo. It’s like the Wall Street, business and financial district in the city. There are other parts of Tokyo that ALSO handle a lot of business, like Shinjuku and Roppongi, but they aren’t located next to the Imperial Palace, at the center of the city. Or considered ‘the Japanese Wall Street’.
Otemachi isn’t the most exciting place to be on a Sunday, as most of the shops are closed. The Marunouchi area just south of it is great for shopping, as is the nearby Tokyo station. But basically, it’s a ghost town once the workers go home.
Pretty appropriate, since one of Tokyo’s ‘scariest places’ is here: the head mound of Taira no Masakado, the renegade Samurai who led an insurrection against the central government during the Heian period.
It’s a long story and I won’t retell all of it. However, in the end, he died. As all men do. From Wikipedia:
… the court had issued edicts calling for Masakado’s destruction and commissioned several warrior notables for this task, including Sadamori and a sometime ally of Masakado’s, Fujiwara no Hidesato (dates unknown). On the fourteenth day of the second month of 940, the government army caught up with Masakado in northwestern Shimōsa province. Outnumbered more than ten to one, Masakado’s troops were routed and he was killed. On the tenth day of the fifth month, Hidesato and Sadamori delivered Masakado’s head to the capital, where it was hung for display outside the east market.
According to legend, the head later took flight on its own, landing in Shibasaki, a small fishing village on the edge of the ocean and the future site of Edo, which later became Tokyo. It was buried. The kubizuka, lit. “grave of the head”, located in the present day Ōtemachi section of Tokyo, was on a hill rising out of Tokyo Bay at the time. Through land reclamation over the centuries, the bay has receded some three kilometers to the south.
From then, some crazy shit went down. The place was labeled as ‘cursed’ and numerous incidents occurred there. Most notably, whenever buildings or construction were planned for the location and work began, things went wrong and people died or got really sick.
Eventually, people gave up hope and made it into a tiny shrine to ‘celebrate’ him. Except maybe celebrate isn’t the right word, since everyone is afraid of him.
Sadly, he is seen as an angry and vengeful spirit, and many people believe this space to be haunted, or cursed. My students refuse to go there at night, saying it’s scary, or dangerous. You can read about the shrine and some of the things that happened before it was finally left in peace HERE.
This is actually one of my favorite places. And I think Masakado is a badass. I think we get along well. I go to visit this shrine and talk to him when I need help achieving some very specific things, and am always sure to bring my tools for work (pens, unused) and my favorite drinks (whatever is in season) as offerings. It’s such a nice, quiet little spot that not many people know about, and not many people visit.
And who wouldn’t want THAT guy on their side? The legend goes that his head picked itself up and just flew across the country to land here. That guy’s not fucking around.
I don’t pray and am not the religious type, but whenever I go to the shrine with something very specific in mind, it works. It might be like how if you fill in the eye of a daruma when you set a goal, you’re more likely to accomplish it. Maybe I only go to see him when it’s important.
It’s about a block from one of the Imperial Palace gates, and if you’re not looking for it, you’ll probably miss it. It’s not a very big space, and is squeezed in between some tall buildings as the only green space on the block. Except right now there’s construction going on all around it, so it stands out just a little bit.
I think it’s definitely worth a visit, since it is apparently so feared by the locals. Just don’t turn your back on him as you walk away… I’ve heard that’s bad luck!