Matsue is one of my favorite places in Japan.
The city is loved by my favorite author, Lafcadio Hearn, who lived in Matsue in the last decade of the 19th century and met some storytellers of oral ghost stories.
His important works are based on such fieldwork in Matsue.
Even now, Matue city has such storytellers.
These days the Matsue Tourism Society sometimes hold a special walking tour called ‘MATSUE’S GHOST TOUR’. The tour guides are local storytellers of ghost stories. The tour starts in the evening, and ends late at night. We walk through the oldest part of the city containing the castle, old temples, cemeteries, and listen to a local ghost story told by the storyteller in the darkness with only hand-held lights.
I participated in the tour in the summer of 2015.
The tour started at Matue-castle park.
The storyteller told the legend of a girl who was killed as a sacrifice for local Gods when the castle was built in the 17th century. The storyteller said that even today BON-ODORI(a festival dance that is common in the summer festivals in Japan) is forbidden in Matsue in order not to make the girl’s ghost angry.
After leaving the castle, we went to the old temple and an old cemetery.
Contrary to the impression from the name of the tour, ‘ghost tour’, the stories which we listened to were not so scary but significant:
The story about a sacrificed girl.
The story about a miserable geisha-girl who was killed by her wicked lover.
And the story about a moving statue of a giant tortoise! (I saw the statue of the tortoise and took a photo of it. The tour guide said that it’s safe for today’s tourists because it seems not to be able to move by itself today…probably).
I was satisfied with the quality of the tour, listening to local legends and ghost stories which reflected the spirits of this old city, even though the stories were not so scary.
…However, at the end of the tour, something very scary happened.
Suddenly, a man who disguised as a ghost appeared in front of us and surprised us (he may be a part-time worker of the tourist company, I guess. Because he was very young). Of course, after that, all of us were laughing. However, when the man frightened us we were really surprised, and some young girls screamed seriously…
※I participated in this tour in 2015. I’m not sure whether the tour still exists or not. If you are interested in this tour, google the word “the Matsue Tourism Society”.
※I found an article about the tour on THE JAPAN TIMES!↓