Samurai Dave: The Roving Ronin Report

Rambling Narrative of Travels, Thoughts, and Embellishments

Japanese Ghost Stories – The Demon’s Arm (Ogre of Rashomon)

Summertime is ghost-time in Japan. It’s time to tell scary stories in order combat the summer’s heat with the cold chill that only ghost stories can bring.

This story is a version of the Ogre of Rashomon as the story is named in Yei Theodora Ozaki’s Japanese Fairy Tales. I however refer to the titular creature as a demon based on the Japanese word “oni” which is demon/devil.

Hirosaki Neputa Festival shows Watanabe fighting the Demon of Rashomon Gate

Rashomon is a gate that once stood in Kyoto that lapsed into disrepair and became a place of ill repute. According to legend a demon took up residence there and snatched up passer-bys. Eventually it bit off more than it could chew when it tried to grab a samurai.

The photos were taken by me of the temple gate of Zojo-ji Temple in Tokyo, a shot of a float from the Nebuta festival of Aomori showing a samurai fighting a demon (Raiko and Shuten-doji), and a depiction of the story on a float at the Neputa Festival in Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture. The other images are 19th Century woodblock (ukiyoe) prints.

Check out my other ghost stories:

Japanese Ghost Stories

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July 29, 2011 Posted by | demons, devils, folklore, Ghost Stories, Ghosts, japan, japanese culture, japanese folklore, japanese ghost stories, Japanese Ghosts, Japanese Horror, Storytelling, supernatural, weird | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Haunted Noodles in Tokyo!

Dare you face the dreaded Haunted Noodles of Tokyo? WARNING: Not for the faint of heart!

While walking around in Tokyo I came across a “haunted” bowl of noodles where disembodied chopsticks continuously lifted noodles up and down no doubt remembering a former life full of happiness and ramen noodles.

July 29, 2011 Posted by | comedy, Ghosts, japan, tokyo, weird, WTF | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gods, Devils, and Geisha – Setsubun in Kyoto and Nara

Gods, Devils, and Geisha
Setsubun in Kyoto and Nara



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A Devil arrives with sword and torch at a Buddhist Temple in Kyoto

Setsubun (Feb 3rd) is a Japanese Spring ritual where Japanese drive bad luck in the form of Oni (devils) out of their homes with a handful of tossed beans. At temples and shrines, they do mame maki which is throwing beans and other things to gathered crowds. 

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Mame Maki (bean-throwing) with Geisha

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Setsubun is one of my favorite Japanese holidays and I’ve been celebrating it for the past 6 years or more. In the past I always celebrated it at temples and shrines in or around Tokyo. This year I headed for Kyoto taking in Nara in the evening as well. I started Setsubun on the 2nd with some Geisha mame maki (geisha were throwing beans that is, not that they were throwing geisha). 

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On February 2nd, while Americans watch groundhogs watching for their shadows, Japanese, or at least those in Kyoto, watch Geisha throw beans to gathered crowds at Yasaka Shrine. The Geisha actually are maiko who are Geisha apprentices. There were two groups of maiko, one from the Pontocho district and the other from the Miyagawacho district. Before doing mame maki they graced us with a brief dance performance – a rare treat.

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In the evening I went to Mibu-dera, a temple famous for its association with the Shinsengumi, a militaristic police group for the old Shogunate in the mid-19th Century, and for kyogen plays. Kyogen is type of comical play which was often performed as intermission pieces of more serious Noh dramas. Unfortunately for the visitor, no photography or video making was allowed. This was either to protect the performance or to keep away the distraction of camera shutters clicking, video cameras beeping, and those idiots who don’t know how to turn off the flash on their pocket cameras.

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Setsubun Devils are distinguishable by their horns and fetching tiger pants

Mibu-dera put on a special Setsubun kyogen for the occasion about a widow who encounters a Setsubun devil. The widow is visited by a devil in the guise of a traveler. He has a magic hammer which he makes an expensive kimono for himself and the widow. They begin drinking sake and the devil drinking too much falls asleep. The widow gets greedy and decides to make off with the hammer and kimono. As she strips away the “traveler’s” kimono she sees his true self and screams. The devil awakes and comes after her. Panicked, the widow reaches for the first thing to defend herself and throws it at the devil. What she threw at him was dried soybeans, the traditional beans of Setsubun. Devils hate beans for some reason and so the widow was able to drive the devil away. It was easy to understand the story despite my limited Japanese because it was all done through pantomime. 

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Setsubun Devils often wield huge iron-studded clubs

On the next day, Setsubun proper, I went to six places starting with Yasaka Shrine for a brief mame maki by people in old court costumes from the Heian Era (794-1192). The men wore a kariginu, the everyday wear of a court noble, which would later become the formal wear of the samurai in later ages. The women wore the costume of a Shirabyoshi dancer. Shirabyoshi were female dancers who wore men’s clothing and performed slow rhythmic dances that influenced later Noh performers. The Shirabyoshi tradition began in 12th Century, the last century of the Heian Period and until 1868 the last century in which governmental power would reside within the Imperial Court.

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Mame Maki participants wearing old court costumes

From Yasaka, I made use of my all day bus pass and leapt onto a northbound bus to Heian Shrine. Heian Shrine was built just over a hundred years ago as a replica of the old Imperial Palace. There I got a snatch of a Kyogen performance which thankfully allowed photography and video. What caught my attention was that one of the performers was female. Traditionally Kyogen like Kabuki and Noh was performed solely by males including the female roles. As this was a festival performance perhaps the rules were relaxed.

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Kyogen performers

From Heian Shrine I went to Shogo-In, a temple which normally lies off of the tourist trail as there is not much to lend itself to fame amongst so many other temples. However, this small temple puts on one of the more interesting Setsubun rituals. The priests dress as Yamabushi, which are a type of ascetic hermit who are known for often living in the mountains following a creed which is a blend of Buddhism and the native Shintoism.

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A brief snow flurry at Shogo-In Temple prior to the Setsubun exorcism

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Yamabushi were mysterious hermits credited with having supernatural power

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Yamabushi playing seashell horn

After a lengthy but catchy chanting ritual, three devils arrived wielding their massive iron-studded clubs. They were quickly subdued by bean-throwing Yamabushi and tamed into submission. Later the devils participated in mami maki by throwing the beans at us instead.

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An elderly Yamabushi confronts a devil with courage and beans

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Setsubun Devil throwing beans rather than having them thrown at him

At another small temple Rozan-ji, a temple far too small to accommodate the number of visitors that Setsubun brings, three devils arrived bearing weapons while another gave blessings to visitors.

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A Setsubun Devil Bestowing Blessings

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The weapon-bearing devils danced around before going into the temple. An archer came out sometime later to do a kind of archery exorcism ritual in which he shot untipped arrows in the four cardinal directions. Soon after the three devils emerged from the temple sans their weapons. They were staggering about reeling from the effects of the Setsubun exorcism rituals. After that mame maki was done and here they threw hard-shelled sweets and small mochi rice cakes.

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Archer performing archery exorcism ritual

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A Devil going down for the count

After that I took a train to Nara and got there in time to see yet another Setsubun exorcism demonstration in the evening. Nara was the first capital of Japan from 710-784. At Kofuku-ji Temple another lengthy exorcism ritual took place while the crowd shifted restlessly waiting for the main event namely the devils. The crowd was silently shouting in their minds “Get on with it! Bring on the Devils!” as the priests droned on. Finally after an eternity of waiting, the devils arrived both big and small. They pranced about the stage under the night sky waving torches and weapons. 

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A l’il devil

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Here the devils were apparently too tough to be defeated by just mere beans. At Kofuku-ji, they brought out the big guns in the form of Bishamonten or Bishamon, a Buddhist deity and Guardian of the North. Bishamon battles all kinds of evils. North is the direction where Japanese traditionally believe evils come from so the Northern Guardian has to be pretty stout to deal with them. Bishamon took on all the devils by himself. It was like spiritual pro-wrestling with (plastic) weapons.

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Bishamon – the Muhammad Ali of Buddhist Devil Fighters

After that I went to Kasuga Taisha Shrine for a cool down. The shrine’s Setsubun was far more low-key. No gods, devils, geisha, mountain priests, or grasping hands for flying beans. They just had lanterns lit up for the night. It was very beautiful and serene. Whew! After all that I was Setsubuned Out!

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Kasuga Taisha Shrine

February 10, 2010 Posted by | buddhism, devils, Geisha Dance, japan, japanese culture, Kyoto, maiko, Nara, oni, Only in Japan, Setsubun, travel, video, vlog, weird | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tokyo Decadance Pirate Christmas

Tokyo Decadance Pirate Christmas
Have Yourself a Piratey Little Christmas, Maties!

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Santa enjoys a beer with a pirate

Christmas has rolled around once more and Tokyo Decadance that eclectic melting pot of subcultures celebrates the holiday season with Santa and Pirates. One gives while the other takes. Considering the latter have probably been on the naughty list for so long that it’s only natural that Pirates should want a little for themselves.

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Pirate Santa hangs out with a motley crew

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A Goth Pirate

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Pirate Santa with a Pirate Wench

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A Vampiric Nursing Santa Helper

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The Easter Bunny dropped by with a friend

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Pirate wench(?) and Monster enjoying Christmas

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Is that a yule log in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

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Captain Blackbeard Adrien, Captain of the Tokyo Decadance vessel

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Pirate Santa has acquired some precious booty

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A saucy serving wench kept us supplied with sauce

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This Pirate Angel will stick the tree up your ass and you’ll like it – if you know what’s good for you

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A bare chested pirate doesn’t feel the chill laden with rum as he is

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Mrs. Claus lets herself go at Tokyo Decadance this Christmas

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Santa on his day off

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Pirate Santa shanghais a nurse to tend to the wounds in his loins

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Too much rum lays a pirate lad-lass low

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Keeping the Yule Log warm

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A pirate has his hands full with booty and a scurvy confused boarder

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Mrs. Claus getting into the Holiday Spirit with Good Cheer and Kink

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Have yourself a Merry Surreal Christmas!!!

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And suddenly the rum kicked in…

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Santa is a right jolly ole elf

December 24, 2009 Posted by | christmas, clubbing, japan, Japanese subculture, party, pirates, santa claus, sexy, subculture, tokyo, tokyo decadance, travel, video, weird, WTF | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Ghosts Caught on Film at Haunted Inn in UK

This footage actually dates back to 2006 when I visited the Golden Fleece the most haunted inn/pub in York in Northern England.

I’ve held onto it fearing what impact it may have on the world but I can no longer keep it secret so here is proof positive of the existence of ghosts.

Not for the faint of heart!

https://samuraidave.wordpress.com/2006/11/11/staying-a-night-at-yorks-most-haunted-pub/

October 31, 2009 Posted by | England, Ghosts, Golden Fleece, halloween, Haunted, Hauntings, humor, paranormal, supernatural, travel, UK, video, weird, WTF, York | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Halloween Party at Tokyo Glitterball from Metropolis Magazine

This is a mishmash of scenes from two Halloween parties from 2008 and 2009 known as Glitterball. Glitterball is a twice-a-year party hosted by Metropolis magazine, a free weekly english magazine.

An extra feature is my avant-garde arthouse film entitled “Le Morte d’Clown” (The Death of a Clown) starring Pierre Du-Phew as Coco the Suicide Clown. Enjoy!

October 31, 2009 Posted by | 2008, 2009, cosplay, costumes, Glitterball, halloween, japan, Metropolis Magazine, party, tokyo, travel, video, weird, WTF | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rolly Teranishi sings Rocky Horror songs in Japanese

For your surreal entertainment – two songs from the cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show sung in Japanese with a bit of English by ROLLY Teranishi.

Rolly Teranishi was a member of the Japanese rock band Scanch before going solo.

Here ROLLY performs “Science Fiction/Double Feature” and “I’m Going Home.” He’s a big fan of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and has played Dr. Frank-N-Furter in Japanese stage versions.

This was at the 2009 Tokyo Decadance Halloween party.

October 30, 2009 Posted by | Blogroll, clubbing, japan, Japanese subculture, music, rock, Rolly Teranishi, Science Fiction/Double Feature, singing, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, tokyo, tokyo decadance, video, weird, WTF, youtube | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tokyo Decadance Halloween 2009

Tokyo Decadance Halloween 2009

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Decadant particpants at Tokyo Decadance Halloween

Another fun-filled Tokyo Decadance event with sexy sirens, wickedly wild witches, ghoulish goblins, devious devils, rollicking robots, newhalf ninja, vicious violinists, plundering pirates, alliterating *ssholes, and god knows what else for Halloween.

Also in attendance was Rolly Teranishi who performed at last year’s Halloween event. Here he sang two songs from the cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show in Japanese with a bit of English.

Rolly Teranishi was a member of the Japanese rock band Scanch before going solo. He’s a big fan of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and has played Dr. Frank-N-Furter in Japanese stage versions.

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Hoichi the Earless(?) and Pretty Devil enjoy Tokyo Decadance

One of my favorite costumes at the event was the girl dressed up as Hoichi the Earless even though she still had her ears. This is from an old ghost story where a blind biwa player unknowingly played for the ghosts of a defeated samurai clan. In order to save him from eventual destruction, Buddhist priests covered his body in sacred texts but they forget to cover his ears. When a ghost came to fetch Hoichi, the sacred writing prevented him from seeing the biwa player save for his two ears which he ripped from Hoichi’s head.

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wickedly sweet witch

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Transformer chick – wearing less than meets the eye

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rollicking robot

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Christon Cafe – a church-themed restaurant and club

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Adrien le Danois – Founder of Tokyo Decadance

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Cap’n Blackjack Dave on the prowl for booty

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pirate with fetish poster

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Is Tokyo Decadance a Biohazard?

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Cutie devil makes going to hell seem fun

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Goth Geisha girl with coffin handbag

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Spooky DJ

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pink petite maid

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french maid

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sleepy devil

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A cake with endowments for Tokyo Decadance’s 4th Anniversary

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Cap’n Blackjack Dave bemused and bewigged

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Cute Cop ready to lay down the law

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The stuff of nightmares…

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Ditto

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Naughty Nurse, Sultry Wednesday, Zombie Bride, and Goth Geisha Vampire

October 30, 2009 Posted by | clubbing, cosplay, costumes, crossdressing, dance, Goth Girls, goth lolita, halloween, japan, Japanese subculture, party, Rolly Teranishi, sexy, subculture, tokyo, tokyo decadance, travel, video, weird, WTF, youtube | , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Welcome to Tokyo Design Festa!

This is a montage of the last Design Festa vol 29.

Design Festa is one wild weird weeked of an eclectic gathering of artistic chaos of artists, musicians, craftsmen, performance artists.

September 26, 2009 Posted by | art, avant-garde, culture, dance, design festa, drums, japan, music, musicians, risque, sexy, taiko, tokyo, Tokyo Design Festa, video, weird, WTF | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Japanese Ghost Stories – The Tree Spirit

Stories of ghosts, monsters, and things that go bump in the night were the favorite past time of Japanese in olden days as a way to cool down on hot summer nights.

This story is about a greedy woodcutter who encounters a tree spirit.

Trees are or were believed to become alive after a thousand years or so.

September 9, 2009 Posted by | folklore, Ghost Stories, Ghosts, japan, japanese culture, japanese folklore, japanese ghost stories, Japanese Ghosts, nature, Storytelling, trees, video, vlog, weird, youtube | Leave a comment