OKIKU- The ghost inspiration for The ring

The cursed video tape that kills you within 7 days, one of the most well known horror movies of Japanese origin, but did you know The Ring's main character was an inspiration from an old Japanese folktale?

Okiku- the inspiration for the girl in the movie The ring. Okiku’s story is one of Japan’s 3 great ghost stories making her one of the 3 great Japanese ghosts. The other 2 are Otsuyu and Oiwa. Folk tales are told and passed down through people and generations, something your grandmother told you to go to sleep early and you might tell your child to put them to sleep early. Because there are no written documents to folk tales, the tales can be changed as times pass. So here is one version of the story.

Oikiku was a servant who washed dishes in the Himeji castle, when she entered the castle’s service, she saw all kinds of treasures that the lord had, one of the most valuable were a set of 10 expensive plates. These plates were used by the king to entertain his high ranking guests. Okiku was warned that if the plates even chipped while washing, the lord would have her head. The dishwasher Okiku was a very beautiful woman who caught the eye of many samurai in the palace. One samurai called Aoyama very obsessed by Okiku and would do anything to get her. He made his intentions clear to her but she refused to be convinced. Every day he tried, every day she rejected.

Aoyama decided, if charm didn’t work then he would try trickery. Aoyama stole one of the plates from the Lord and confronted Okiku to reveal where it was. Okiku was terrified, she began counting the plates, One, two, three, four….., nine. She kept recounting and arrive at nine. Now she was sure the Lord would kill her. Aoyama came to the rescue and told her that he would tell the king that the plate wasn’t stolen by Okiku but conditioned that she marry him. Even in the face of death Okiku rejected this proposal. Aoyama went crazy, ordered his men to beat her up and tie her suspended over a well, dunked her, beat her and asked her to become his woman (looks like men could never take rejection properly even in those times) Okiku kept refusing ( You go Okiku!), Finally Aoyama dropped her into the well, he knew no one would miss a servant girl.

The Japanese believe that spirits pass on to the other side, but spirits with strong emotions keep these spirits in the mortal world until their murderer is killed. These types of spirits are called ONRYO 怨霊 a vengeful spirit, which was what became of Okiku.

Okiku’s mutilated form arose from the well in search of the missing plate, counting the plate every night. Those who heard her fell sick or died. The samurai Aoyama was tormented by her screams every night. The lord asked to rid of her ghost through a Buddhist priest. The priest was clever, he waited for okiku and her nightly haunts and listened to her count, one, two, three……., nine…, the priest yelled ten! Okiku was relieved that someone had finally found the final plate. She walked back to the well, never to return again.

Some say it wasn’t the end of Okiku’s curse, some say she was reborn bringing infestation to the wells etc.If you ever visit the Himeji castle, there is indeed a well that says Okiku was real and you can hear her count plates every night. Maybe a tourist attraction maybe not.

If you had to choose between marrying a person you hate or die, which would you choose?