Did You Know? Tokyo's Urban Legend
Oct 28 2015
Otemachi is a prestigious business district located between the Imperial Palace and Tokyo Station.
The area is experiencing further development right now with new skyscrapers springing up like "bamboo shoots after rain (a proverbial phrase in Japanese!)."
Do you know that there is a plot of land in Otemachi that has remained untouched over the years?
That is Masakadozuka (Masakado Kubizuka) where Masakado's head is enshrined.
Taira no Masakado was a wealthy warlord in the Kanto region (a geographical area including Tokyo) in around the tenth century in the mid Heian Period.
Masakado was decapitated for the insurrection against the Emperor. His head was exposed to public view at Sanjo-gawara Riverside in Kyoto. The head didn't rot and kept shouting "where is my body?" It flew back to Kanto in search for his missing body. This Masakadozuka is said to be the place where the head finally crashed.
Even today, hundreds of years later, his anger is not pacified. Word has it that some companies in adjacent buildings make it a rule not to arrange desks in a way the employees' backs are shown to Kubizuka to show respect to Masakado.
After the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, the monument was removed to build a new office for the Finance Ministry. The officials of the ministry suddenly started getting injured, sick even died one after another. To console the soul of Masakado, the office was demolished to restore the Kubizuka.
That is not the end of the story. GHQ (General Headquarters of the Allied Forces) that had come to Tokyo after the World War II had to give up their plan to utilise the land: a driver was killed in an accident as he tried to bulldoze the area to make a parking lot.
Is the area cursed by Masakado?
That remains a mystery. And Masakado's head still slumbers in prime location undisturbed.
Today a volunteer group takes care of the monument, burning incense sticks and placing flowers.
Such feeling of respect may have contributed to the further development of Otemachi.
Share if you are interested in urban legends!