Oiwa is one of the most famous Japanese ghost stories ever written. In Japan, it is known as “Yotsuya Kaidan” and it tells the story of a woman who is poisoned by her unfaithful husband. Her disfigured ghost returns from the dead to exact revenge.
Oiwa – Yotsuya Kaidan
Oiwa was a beautiful young woman who lived in a small town in Japan. Her boyfriend’s name was Iemon and although he didn’t have much money, Oiwa loved him very much. She was overjoyed when her childhood sweetheart asked her to marry him. After the wedding, they moved in together and the happy couple were soon expecting a baby. Oiwa didn’t care that Iemon was poor, but, as time went on, he became angry and depressed about his lack of prospects.
Iemon soon grew to hate his happy young wife and started an affair with a rich young woman named Oume. He romanced her for months and eventually, she fell in love with him, despite his poverty and the fact that he was already married.
One day, Oume’s father came to see Iemon. He told Iemon what a shame it was that he was already married, because his daughter loved him very much. The father went on to tell him all the ways that he could ensure his future son in law’s wealth and success. Iemon listened intently.
Iemon spent a great deal of time thinking about what Oume’s father had told him. An evil plot began to form in his mind. He decided that the only way he could marry Oume was to somehow get rid of Oiwa and her unborn child. He thought that the easiest way to do this was to secretly poison Oiwa and make it look like she had died of natural causes. Poor Oiwa was totally ignorant of her husband’s murderous plans. Blissfully unaware of the fate that was about to befall her, she continued to happily prepare for the birth of their baby.
One evening, when Oiwa and Iemon were sitting down to eat dinner, she noticed her husband was strangely quiet and nervous. She encouraged him to eat his dinner, but he would not touch his food. He yelled at Oiwa and told her to stop fretting and eat her own meal. She needed to be strong for the baby, he said. Oiwa finally gave up trying to tempt Iemon’s appetite and started to eat her dinner. It wasn’t long before she felt very sick.
Iemon watched her coldly as the poison did its work, not offering her any help or comfort. But Oiwa did not die right away. Her beautiful face became disfigured from the poison first. Then she slipped into unconsciousness. Iemon was too much of a coward to finish the job he started, so he put Oiwa’s lifeless body in bed. Eventually Oiwa woke from her coma, remembering nothing of the poisoning. She had lost her baby, and her face was ugly and terrible, but Oiwa lived.
Iemon was desperate. He played the part of the concerned husband, but he was looking for any way possible to rid himself of his wife. One evening he took Oiwa for a long walk. They made their way to a cliff, and Iemon looked around to see if anyone was nearby. No one was in sight.
Iemon pushed Oiwa off the ledge. Her broken body was recovered and Iemon gave her the best funeral he could afford, spending all of his money in a great show of marital devotion. Of course, Iemon knew his money troubles were only temporary now that Oiwa was gone.
Thinking his worries were over, Iemon planned his wedding to Oume. The night before the marriage was to take place, Iemon noticed his bedside lamp was dimming. He looked at it curiously, as it seemed to be changing. The disfigured face of Oiwa suddenly replaced the lamp, growing larger and larger in the room. “Betrayal!” it hissed.
Iemon grabbed a stick and swung at the face, but Oiwa disappeared and the lamp smashed and fell to the floor. Iemon thought he heard the faint laughter of a woman from outside. Shaken, Iemon convinced himself that the vision was simply the result of drinking too much alcohol earlier in the evening, and went to bed.
The next day, Iemon had forgotten all about the specter from the night before. He and Oume were wed. When he lifted her veil, however, her beautiful young face was replaced with Oiwa’s horrible visage. “Betrayal!” she hissed.
The horrified Iemon drew his sword and swung it at the ghostly apparition, cutting Oiwa’s head off. The severed head rolled down the aisle of the church, but when it came to a stop, it had Oume’s face and not Oiwa’s. He heard the faint sound of laughter again.
Iemon ran to his tiny house, looking for a place to hide. There was a pounding at the door, and Oume’s grandfather demanded that he open it. When Iemon did so, Oiwa was standing there. “Betrayal!” she hissed.
Once again, Iemon tried to decapitate her, but when his sword finished its work, it was Oume’s grandfather that lay dead.
Iemon ran for the cliffs, Oiwa’s laughter following him. He stopped at the edge and looked down, perhaps changing his mind.
It didn’t matter. Passersby reported seeing a woman push Iemon off the cliff before she jumped after him, laughing all the way down.