“So you want to know how that house on Ban Street came to be haunted. It all started when Tessan, the master of the house, fell madly in love with a fair handmaid called Okiku. Despite the ardent attempts of the samurai to woo her, Okiku never succumbed, for she already had a loving husband. Wounded, Tessan’s love soon took a venomous turn. One day, he instructed Okiku to bring to him the plates of hollyhock crest which had been in her keeping. Bestowed upon the family by the Shogun himself, the plates were an honorable heirloom to be cherished like no other. But lo! However many times Okiku counted, she could only find but nine of the plates of the ten piece set. Tessan enraged, accused Okiku of pilfering and punished her with death by his sword, when all the while it was he who had hidden the ‘missing’ plate; her body was abandoned in a water well. And so the ghost of Okiku came to haunt the night, counting the plates that never reached entirety, piercing the heart of any mortal who dared listen to her count to nine.”
Upon hearing the elder’s tale, a gang of daredevil youths decided that it would be cool to go on an escapade. They made their way to the haunted residence, gathered around the well and waited. When the midnight toll of a temple bell broke the silence of monotony, the moon faded and there she was, glowing in the flares of devil’s fire, poised in front of them. Shaken to the bone on seeing a real ghost, the gang fled with a zoom before Okiku even had time to utter a count.
But it was too late. The beauty of Okiku had seared the hearts of the verdant youths. To them, she became a vision of hotness too great to ignore. So the following day they tottered off to the house again, and this time with a couple more friends in tow. Within a week, their company swelled to a hundred. Unperturbed by the chattering crowd, Okiku politely made her appearance.
“One, two, cough,” she counted. When a caring spectator inquired as to her health, she replied, “I have a cold. Must be the damp inside the well.”
On the count of six, the crowd dispersed.
News of the beautiful ghost spread quickly, and on the next day the haunted residence drew a full house. Okiku made her appearance as diligent as ever, and began her count.
“One, two, cough cough,” said Okiku.
“Poor thing, she hasn’t gotten well at all,” babbled the crowd.
“Three, four, cough, ” said Okiku, grimly.
“Get ready to run,” said the leader of the gang.
“Five, six, cough” said Okiku, spilling blood.
“I can’t get out! There’s too many people!” whined a gang member.
“Seven, eight, ” said Okiku, gritting her teeth.
“Someone do something!” cried another.
“Nine, ten,” continued Okiku.
“Eh? Did she say ten? Wait, …thirteen, fourteen, ..she’s up to seventeen!” voiced yet another.
Upon reaching eighteen, Okiku halted and muttered, “Well, that’s all for today,” and got ready to slip into the well.
“Whoa, lady!” the crowd shouted out reproachfully; “Ain’t you only supposed to go up to nine?”
With this Okiku snapped, and doing a volte-face from the neck up she shrieked, “Can’t you see I need to rest tomorrow!?”
#The above is a classic comic story told in Rakugo, a very old form of stand-up comedy that exist here in Japan. In Rakugo, a storyteller delivers a monologue in seiza (sitting down) position, using a handkerchief and a fan to aid them with their impressive mime acts. It is widely believed that Rakugo originated from small talks of Buddhist monks who needed to keep the followers awake during their sermons.
#If you found the above story of ‘Sarayashiki (House of the plates)’ rather flat, please take note that that is probably just me and my writing. The performers really do draw you into the story, and you must go see live performance of Rakugo to understand its appeal.