Sessho-seki

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Sessho-seki, Nasu, Tochigi

The Sessho-seki (殺生石 Sesshōseki?), or "Killing Stone", is an object in Japanese mythology. It is said that the stone kills anyone who comes into contact with it. The stone is believed to be the transformed corpse of Tamamo no Mae, a beautiful woman who was exposed to be a kind nine-tailed fox working for an evil daimyo plotting to kill the Japanese Emperor Konoe and take his throne. As told in the Otogizoshi, when the nine-tailed fox was killed by the famous warrior Miura-no-suke, its body became the Sessho-seki.

The Sessho-seki was said to be haunted by Hoji, the transformed spirit of the kind fox, until a Buddhist priest called Genno stopped for a rest near the stone, and was threatened by Hoji. Genno performed certain spiritual rituals, and begged the spirit to consider her spiritual salvation, until finally Hoji relented and swore to never haunt the stone again.

In Matsuo Bashō's famous book, The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Oku no Hosomichi), Bashō tells of visiting the stone in Nasu, located in modern-day Tochigi Prefecture. Today, an area in the volcanic mountains of Nasu (famous for their sulfur hot springs) commemorates the myth.

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