Mar 10, 2022 I Paul Seaburn

Japan’s Legendary ‘Killing Stone’ Breaks in Two and Releases its Evil Spirit

As if world leaders don’t have enough to worry about these days, government officials in Japan are dealing with an escaped evil spirit and whether they should attempt to restore the broken boulder she (yes. It’s a she) escaped from. Why are many Japanese citizens worried? The so-called “killing stone” was actually the transformed corpse of the vengeful demon who may be out to avenge being trapped for 1,000 years. Are you more worried about inflation or killer demons on the loose?

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Fleeing fox spirit as Lady Kayō depicted in Hokusai's Sangoku Yōko-den (Public domain)

“I came alone to Sesshoseki, where the legend of the nine-tailed fox remains. The big rock in the middle wrapped around with a rope should be that ... but the rock was split in half and the rope was also off. If it's a manga, it's a pattern that the seal is broken and it's possessed by the nine-tailed fox, and I feel like I've seen something that shouldn't be seen.”

The demise of Sessho-seki, the ‘killing stone’, and the escape of Tamamo-no-Mae, a nine-tailed, shape-shifting fox spirit, was reported on March 5th on Twitter by a person who seemed pretty concerned that she was the first to see and report the broken rock. According to the most popular version of the legend, the nine-tail fox first appeared in China where it possessed the concubine of a king and caused a reign of terror that led to the end of the Shang dynasty. The fox spirit then went to India and became Lady Kayō, concubine of a crown prince and causing him to cut off the heads of 1,000 men. It then went back to China and possessed – you guessed it – another royal concubine.

How did it get into a rock in Japan?

Good question, oh impatient one. After that last possession, the nine-tail fox disappeared for a time, but arose again in Japan as Tamamo-no-Mae, the most favored – no surprise here -- courtesan of Emperor Toba. The beautiful yet evil Tamamo-no-Mae made the emperor ill before being exposed by an astrologer/doctor. The emperor attempted to kill Tamamo-no-Mae, but she eventually escaped by transforming into the Sessho-seki, a volcanic rock near the volcanic mountains of Nasu, which was said to kill anyone who approached it with a poisonous gas. In the 1300s, a Buddhist monk was said to have exorcised the repentant nine-tail fox spirit, but the legend of Tamamo-no-Mae and the killing stone lived on to modern times – as Japanese officials found out on March 5th when the broken rock caused panic among believers.

“Images of the stone's remains reportedly caused some visitors to the area to recoil "in horror", while one social media user even tweeted about the spectacle: "I feel like I’ve seen something that shouldn’t be seen."”

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"The Death Stone of Nasu Moor". The Ukiyo-e (woodblock print) depicts Tamamo-no-Mae (the evil Japanese kitsune), a concubine, standing by the Death Stone of Nasu Moor. (Public domain)

Social media spread the panic, even though Japanese media provided evidence that the killing stone had been slowly dying by erosion for several years, with visible cracks growing as rainwater seeped in and caused them to spread to the breaking point. Recent photos before it broke even showed it with a rope tied around it. Nonetheless, something must be done, as The Guardian reports.

“Local and national government officials will meet to discuss the stone’s fate, according to the Shimotsuke Shimbun. The newspaper quoted a Nasu tourism official as saying he would like to see the Sessho-seki restored to its original form – presumably with its demonic inhabitant sealed within.”

The key word in that sentence is “tourism” – money talks, even when dealing with a mythical nine-tailed shape-shifting, concubine-possessing, regime-toppling, killing-stone-occupying demon.

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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