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A Samurai, a Witch and a Yōkai

The Strange Story of the First Samurai and the Birth of a Vengeful Spirit

By K.R. GreenplatePublished about a month ago 3 min read

Japan has a unique history and rich culture from a universally known group of warriors like the samurai to the diverse spiritual world of yōkai and otherworldy beings. What's most fascinating about places like Japan is when their history and folklore mesh together, making for interesting tales like the story of a man who became the first samurai and how a sorceress brought him back as a vengeful spirit.

The First Samurai


The samurai were a unique class of warriors because not only were they skilled in combat and war strategy, but they were artists, musicians. Much like the European knights, they have earned a reputation for being legendary because of their warrior spirit and Bushidō, their code of honor. This noble, multi-faceted warrior class may have not existed if it was not for one man by the name of Taira no Masakado.

It all began in 935 A.D., when another warrior named Minamoto Tasuku of the Minamoto clan of the Hitachi province ambushed Masakado. From this point, Masakado led the Taira clan in a rebellion known as Tengyō no Ran. During this rebellion, Masakado waged war against several of his own relatives including his uncle Taira Kunika during the Battle of Nomoto. He continued on his path by capturing the governor of the Hitachi Province and conquered both the Kōzuke and Shimotsuke Provinces.

Masakado eventually came to a fork on the road: he could continue to conquer and fight his way to the top or go home and suffer incursion after incursion. Considering the alternative, he takes it to the top by conquering the Kantō region in central Japan and because he was part of an imperial bloodline, he proclaims himself the "new emperor" and puts his clan into power. The peasants under Masakado's rule even thought of him as some kind of savior, taking over and rebuilding a weak centralized government.

However, for Masakdo, his reign would not last for long. Emperor Suzaku placed a bounty on his head and sent an army to put an end to his rebellion. In March of 940 A.D., Suzaku's army caught up with Masakado and his men. Masakado charged on horseback to meet them, but his horse lost its footing on the ground and in a moment, he was shot in the head with an arrow. They then decapitated him and brought back his head as a warning to those who'd dare defy the emperor.

Technically, there two different versions of what happened after Masakado's death, so I will have to follow up this one with the other version.

Masakado's Daughter, the Sorceress


After Masakado died, his daughter, Takiyasha-hime, a princess and supposed sorceress, carried on her father's cause. She lived in her father's former home, a manor-house of the Sōma clan.

According to legend, Takiyasha conjured up a giant skeletal figure from the bodies of Masakado's fallen soldiers to attack Kyoto and avenge her father's death. This is depicted in a famous piece of woodblock art created by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, which he named “Takiyasha the Witch and the Skeleton Spectre”.

At this point, the spectre took on a life of its own ...

A Spectre With a Bloodlust


Gashadokuro or Ōdokuro, as they are sometimes referred to, are a race of yōkai known as yurei, a subclass of malevolent spirits.

These giants are born from the souls of those who died violent deaths on the battlefield or because of famine and have not recieved proper burials. Because of this, their souls cannot rest and they are reborn as spirits with an unfettered rage, which eventually turns into a grudge against the living. Then this supernatural force will gather the bones of hundreds of the dead to create a gashadokuro.

They wander the countryside at midnight in search of weary travelers. If the spectre happens to come across one, it will stalk the traveler silently. When the moment is right, it will grab the unfortunate victim and bite his head off, sucking his body dry of blood. It will then add the fresh body to its mass. In some variations of the legend, the creature can grow multiple arms in order to catch its prey.

There's not much of a chance of escaping from this giant. However, if you listen closely, you may hear it's teeth chatter and bones rattle ("gachi gachi") before it strikes. Other than that, you may spend the rest of your life running from this thing or until it burns the energy and malice stored in its being. Or use common sense and don't wander the streets at midnight.

Does anybody else hear that? That "rattling" sound ...

World HistoryFiguresAncient

About the Creator

K.R. Greenplate

Aspiring philosopher and theologian with a taste for the strange and macabre. Opinions are my own.

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Comments (1)

  • Esala Gunathilakeabout a month ago

    Oh very comprehensive.

K.R. GreenplateWritten by K.R. Greenplate

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