• About this Yokai •
The spirit of a ginkgo tree that haunts the grounds surrounding large old ginkgo trees and rings a gong. It’s another yokai from one of my favourite scrolls: 1928’s Busons Yokai Emaki – Supposedly, Buson drew this one on a trip to Kamakura’s “Tsurugaoka Hachimangūs shrine” which was famous for its gigantic Ginkgo tree. – Although Buson didnt leave much information about the yokai in his scroll. the tree in question at the time was famously known for an urban legend about an assassin who carried out his attempt from behind the tree many decades ago…
The legend goes that on February 12, 1219, Minamoto no Yoshinari, also known by his monk name Kugyo, hid behind this tree next to the stairs: planning to assassinate his uncle Minamoto no Sanetomo, the third Shogun of the Kamakura Shogunate. Kugyō hid under the staircase then murdered Sanetomo when he took the 13th step downwards. Then he fled the scene and hid behind the giant Ginko tree – in some variations of the story: the assassin flinched when the mysterious ringing of a gong rang out from behind the very tree which he was already hiding behind!! –supposedly, the man lost his cool, was captured and later executed.
– [please note: theres actually very little recorded information about the actual timeline of this event, so its unknown if this is factually what happened or not. I’m going off what I’ve read before and been told by friends living in the area.] —The tree came to be known as the “Hiding ginkgo” kakure-ichō (隠れ銀杏)
– so, if you ever wondered why this yokai holds a gong: this is likely the reason why!! – Although Busons actual description of the monster wasn’t very detailed – The urban legend (which took place centuries prior) and variants would have still been well known at the time, all the scroll mentions is that “the spirit appears when a gong is struck” and well, because the monster itself holds the gong, I’d say it’s safe to assume that its related to this version of the story.
Sadly the tree in question fell down in March 18th 2010 due to rotting from the inside: but the bark and branches where chopped up and used as temple souvenirs! Today smaller trees have taken root where it once stood. I wonder if anyone has seen the spirit since...
Mizuki Shigeru later elaborated on this yokai in his yokai encyclopedias, colouring it yellow, and connected it to even older superstitions about ginkgo trees (all he said about the story was at all but saying that the yokai “rings a gong” for unknown reasons near the trees.) – Mostly going on to mention that the trees are bad luck and that its sacriligious to plant them in private residencies. (Don’t tell that to my neighbours haha) they’re a huge tree and get in the way, so they’re best enjoyed in public spaces.
- Incidentally, ginkgo fruit turn red in the late fall and are only dropped by the rarer female trees, they are a delicacy, but they smell horrible! (I wonder if female version of this yokai would smell rank too...)
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