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Okiku

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Okiku
Yoshitoshi Ogiku

Real Name

Yoshitoshi Okiku

First Appearance

Unknown

Original Publisher

Japanese Folklore

Created by

Unknown

Origin

The story of Okiku is an old one, whose true origins are unknown.

Folk Version

Once there was a beautiful servant named Okiku. She worked for the samurai Aoyama Tessan. Okiku often refused his amorous advances, so he tricked her into believing that she had carelessly lost one of the family's ten precious delft plates. Such a crime would normally result in her death. In a frenzy, she counted and recounted the nine plates many times. However, she could not find the tenth and went to Aoyama in guilty tears. The samurai offered to overlook the matter if she finally became his lover, but again she refused. Enraged, Aoyama threw her down a well to her death.

It is said that Okiku became a vengeful spirit who tormented her murderer by counting to nine and then making a terrible shriek to represent the missing tenth plate – or perhaps she had tormented herself and was still trying to find the tenth plate but cried out in agony when she never could. In some versions of the story, this torment continued until an exorcist or neighbor shouted "ten" in a loud voice at the end of her count. Her ghost, finally relieved that someone had found the plate for her, haunted the samurai no more.

Ningyō Jōruri Version

Hosokawa Katsumoto, the lord of Himeji Castle, has fallen seriously ill.

Katsumoto's heir, Tomonosuke, plans to give a set of 10 precious plates to the Shogun to ensure his succession. However, chief retainer Asayama Tetsuzan plots to take over. Tomonosuke's retainer, Funase Sampei Taketsune is engaged to marry a lady in waiting, Okiku. Tetsuzan plans to force Okiku to help him murder Tomonosuke.

Tetsuzan, through the help of a spy, steals one of the 10 plates and summons Okiku to bring the box containing the plates to his chamber. There, he attempts to seduce Okiku. She refuses due to her love for Taketsune. Rejected, Tetsuzan then has Okiku count the plates to find only nine. He blames her for the theft and offers to lie for her if she will be his mistress. Okiku again refuses and Tetsuzan has her beaten with a wooden sword.

Tetsuzan then has her suspended over a well and, erotically enjoying her torture, has her lowered into the well several times, beating her himself when she is raised. He demands that she become his lover and assist in the murder of Tomonosuke. She refuses again, whereupon Tetsuzan strikes her with his sword, sending her body into the well.

While wiping clean his sword, the sound of a voice counting plates comes from the well. Tetsuzan realizes that it is the ghost of Okiku but is entirely unmoved. The play ends with the ghost of Okiku rising from the well, Tetsuzan staring at her contemptuously.

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