The term ‘Okiku’s Well’ refers to one of the most well known legends in Japanese lore, as well as the alleged location where it took place.
Even though, over time, the story itself has suffered many changes, and there seems to be even some legitimate doubt as to the actual site of the well, it is a very well established ghost story and haunting that resonates to this day.
It centers around a castle, known as Himeji Castle, which stands above the city of Himeji on top of a hill and dates back to the 14th century, later having been widely amplified and expanded upon.
The well is located at the base of the castle, close to what has become known as the Suicide Gates (this is the place where those who had fallen from grace where compelled to take their lives to restore their lost honor), and is thought to have been used for cleaning up after various Hara-Kiri ceremonies that likely took place right next to it.
However, the haunting we are going to talk about here has nothing to do with the poor souls who met their demise at the point of their own sword at the Suicide Gates.
The Tale of Okiku´s Well Goes Something Like This…
A long time ago (the story has sometimes been dated to somewhere around the 18th century, but this is disputable) there was a servant girl living in the Himeji Castle, named Okiku.
She served the master of the Castle, a powerful and wealthy lord, whose most valued treasure Okiku was entrusted with guarding.
This treasure consisted of ten gilded plates, of incalculable value and great beauty.
Apparently, over time the servant girl development feelings for the lord of the castle; however, because of her position and difference of status with respect to him, she did not make there feelings known.
On one occasion, Okiku accidentally overhead a conversation between a couple of the lord’s chiefs, where they appeared to be making plans and conspiring to take his life.
Naturally, she became fearful for the life of her beloved superior, so she decided to tell him about the plans she had just overheard.
However, the chief in question somehow learned about the fact that Okiku had revealed his plans to the lord, and therefore turned his murderous intentions towards her, instead.
So the chief, who had managed to escape the dominions of Himoji, began to plot against Okiku.
To accomplish this, he decided to steal one the precious gilded plates that Okiku was entrusted with. Because of the confidence the lord had placed upon her to guard his most valued treasure, once it became clear that one of the plates had been stolen, the lord was convinced that Okiku stole it.
Consequently, she was tried and found guilty, not only of the theft, but also of fabricating a plot against the person of the chief (the actual thief and mastermind).
As punishment for her alleged crimes, and contrary to the more commonplace practice of forcing her to commit ritual suicide by the Gates, she was actually murdered, via gruesome torture mutilation, and her lifeless remains were thrown into the well.
It is even said that the horrendous punishments were inflicted on Okiku by none other than the chief himself.
Now, at this point, we should point out the well known fact (especially among paranormal researchers and aficionados) that it is quite common for hauntings, in particular those that are strictly attached to a specific location or item, to originate when a sequence of events takes place in close proximity to the location in question, and when the events have been of an extremely distasteful, painful and/or unjust nature.
It is fair to say, then, that the case of Okiku’s Well does indeed fulfill all the characteristics of a potential haunted site, regardless of the lore attached to it. But let’s get back to the story…
The tale of Okiku’s Well then goes on to explain that, every night between the hours of two and three, the restless and deeply troubled soul of the servant girl rises from within the well, that had become her watery grave for crimes she did not commit.
And what she does when once risen is what truly makes this haunted location so compelling: her soul begins screaming, meticulously counting the the gilded plates, starting at ONE, and gradually getting louder and louder as she gets to TEN.
It is undeniable how powerful of an archetype this is, how poignant, touching and at the same time bone-chilling this scene is, even to imagine. Let alone to witness.
The interesting part, however, is that it seems that this ghostly behavior started almost immediately after the events of her death took place.
Every night she would rise and scream the numbers, and every night she would wake up the lord from his sleep, inside the castle.
Ultimately, it would appear that the lord eventually learned about what had actually happened, and understood that a great injustice had been committed upon an innocent and honest servant girl.
This knowledge, combined with the persistent haunting at the well, ended up driving him insane.
We do not have any more facts about this story, or about what may have occurred in its aftermath. However, it is widely accepted by the local people that Okiku’s soul does indeed, to this day, come out of the well at night to scream the number of gilded plates.
Forever in a state of desperate unrest, unable to forgive or forget the terrible wrongdoings of her murderer, and the unrequited love she was forced to hold to herself, even in death.
If you have any thoughts or opinions on the subject we have covered here today, please feel free to leave them in the comment section below.