There are three types of ghost in Japan: obake, youkai and yuurei. Obake literally means “transforming thing” and it can be used to generally refer to anything weird or grotesque. Yokai literally means “bewitching apparition” and they include monsters, goblins and ghouls. Unlike yuurei, which are souls of the dead and “downright scary”, yokai are comical, bizarre and michievous in some way.
Yuurei, is the soul(reikon) of someone wandering around seeking revenge.
This is because the person died either by murder, slain in battle, suicide, or
the person hasn’t been given an appropriate funeral.
Often said to be haunted by the ghost of Okiku. She is supposed to rise from the
well at night and count to nine before shrieking and returning to the well. The
ghost story of Okiku, an unfortunate servant maid, is one of the best known and
was transformed into a Kabuki play and numerous novels.
Some stories, however, locate the haunted well in the Canadian embassy in
There are different versions of the ghost story of Okiku. What they all
have in common is the description of her ghost coming out of the well and
counting from one to nine and then breaking out into a heart-rendering sobbing.
In another version, Okiku really breaks a plate and is killed by her master and
her corpse is thrown into the well.
In yet another version, it is the wife of Aoyama, who breaks the plate. To hide
her guilt, she throws the broken plate into the well and accuses Okiku of having
it stolen. In this version she is also killed by her master for punishment and
thrown into the well.
There is also an alternate version for the end of the story. To stop the nightly
sobbing, a friend of the family of Aoyama is hired. He is hiding at the well
during the night and after Okiku had counted from one to nine, he is stepping
forward shouting loudly "ten". From then on the ghost of Okiku was never
In Japanese culture, ghosts take on many different forms. Yuurei are
ghosts whose deaths came about so suddenly that they did not have time to
make their peace, either because they were murdered or committed suicide rashly
(defeated warriors in Japan were often forced to commit suicide). This is the
tale of a woman who was so deeply wronged in life that, after more than four
hundred years, her soul remains hostage to the agony of the betrayal that killed
her. Himeji Castle is an imposing wooden structure, extremely well preserved
despite its age. It stands on an elevated position in the center of town of
Himeji, thirty miles west of Kobe. The castle's earliest origins are in the
early fourteenth century, but it is in the seventeenth century, at a time when
the local Shogun government commissioned the tower to be built to its five-story
height, that this story is set. At the foot of the tower, known as the Donjon,
and located next to the Hara-kiri Maru (the Suicide Gate), where people were
forced to commit ritual disembowelment stands the castle well. Its proximity to
the gate is no mere coincidence; it was not a source of drinking water, but a
means of washing away the blood of a hara-kiri suicide. Today it is known as
The story also forms the basis for a number of books and movies. Most notably the story is also the inspiration for the 1998 Japanese horror mystery film, Ring (リング Ringu) adapted from the novel of the same name.