Banchō Sarayashiki

Hear about the Banchō Sarayashiki on Episode 26 of our Podcast, the Japan Archives.

Banchō Sarayashiki
Okiku by Hokusai.

Banchō Sarayashiki

Banchō Sarayashiki (番町皿屋敷, The Dish Mansion at Banchō) is a Japanese Folktale from 1741 involving the woman known as Okiku. There are various versions to this tale.

Harima Province Version

Okiku was from Harima Province, working as a maid servant for the Samurai Aoyama Tessan. Tessan wanted to rule the province and plotted to poison the Lord using Okiku. However, word got out and so the plan was abandoned. The Lord sent a man called Danshiro to find out who had planned this assassination, and he discovered Okiku was to blame.

Danshiro said he would not tell anyone and cover up her act if she became his lover, as he has always held strong emotions for her. However, she refuses him.

Angry at being rejected, he frames Okiku by hiding one of set of ten plates, these being priceless heirlooms. He publicly blames her and so deals with her ‘crime’ by killing her and throwing her down a well.

Her ghost returned after that, counting every night from the well. Reaching nine she would begin again, as their was no tenth plate to count. Eventually the news reached the Lord of the area, who made Tessan commit ritual suicide and dissolved his families assets.

Edo Verion

The tale which is set in Edo varies from the Harima version. There was a mansion owned by Lord Aoyama, who represented Harima Province. He comes to his house in Edo with ten heirloom plates, specifically Delftware from the Netherlands. Okiku was clumsy and accidently dropped one. Aoyama furious, cuts off her middle finger and locks her in the mansions dungeon.

She manages to escape and then throws herself to her death down a well. Again night after night, voices come from the well counting to nine and starting again. Lord Aoyama realises this is not normal and calls an abbot from a nearby temple.

The abbot unable to get the ghost to leave, in frustration one day just shouts ten, and so Okiku’s ghost says ‘finally!’ and leaves.1

Footnotes

1. Yoda, H & Alt, M. (2012) “Yurei Attack: The Japanese Ghost Survival Guide” Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing.

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