Japanese killing stone splits open

Before scientific discoveries were first made, natural phenomena were explained using mythology and divine beings. It seems like nothing has changed in modern times, based on the recent splitting of a Japanese killing stone. 

Crack in the Japanese killing stone

In March 2022, a Japanese sessho-seki (killing stone; ​​殺生石) was found cracked in half at the Nikko National Park in Tochigi, a prefecture just north of Tokyo. 

japanese killing stone - killing stone site
Image adapted from:

No one is entirely certain as to why the Japanese killing stone split open, but local media assert that there have been cracks in the rock in the past few years, which may have allowed water to seep in. Compounded by the cold weather, the integrity of the stone may have been weakened and hence became crack-prone.

This sounds plausible, but some locals believe that the rock splitting has a supernatural explanation. More specifically, they think it has something to do with Tamamo-no-Mae, an evil nine-tailed fox spirit (kyuubi no kitsune; 九尾の狐).

The legend behind Tamamo-no-Mae

Tamamo-no-Mae was a kitsune (fox spirit) who was trapped inside the killing stone for almost 900 years, having been sealed there since the time of Emperor Toba (1107 – 1123). 

japanese killing stone - Kitsuke
A nine-tailed fox as illustrated by Japanese artist Kuniyoshi.

Image credit: @ukiyoeota

She was a known shapeshifter who morphed into a beautiful woman to catch the eye of the emperor. And catch his eye she did – the emperor was smitten with her. But the closer she got to the emperor, the more ill-stricken he became. 

japanese killing stone - emperor
A painting of Emperor Toba

Image credit: WikimediaCommons

Using divination, a court astrologer determined that Tamamo-no-Mae was the cause of the emperor’s ailing health and ordered her to be captured.

The fox spirit tried to escape into the wilderness, but was eventually caught. Tamamo-no-Mae was shot with an arrow, which destroyed her physical form and turned her spirit into stone.

Legend has it that once someone touches the stone, they will die, hence the name “killing stone”.

The truth about the Japanese killing stone

Although there is no actual proof of the stone’s supernatural assassination abilities, some believe that the stone’s location could have contributed to the legend. 

It’s situated near a volcano, as well as sulfurous hot springs, so toxins in the gases that are released might have contributed to people dying or feeling unwell near the spot.

The stone’s resting site was turned into a tourist sightseeing spot, where people could gawk at the evil entity that’s sealed with a rope. 

japanese killing stone - killing stone before
The stone prior to being cracked

Image credit: @kinokopusyu

With the stone now split into two, people who have since visited the site say that they feel unsettled gazing upon such an unholy sight. 

Aftermath of the split

Some locals took the cracking of the stone as a bad omen, citing the recent war between Ukraine and Russia. Others believe that the spirit was released in order to stop the said war. 

Regardless, local officials decided that they were going to conduct a purification ritual for the stone, just to be safe. An elaborate affair was held, complete with a detailed folding paper screen with a kitsune design, as well as an actual kitsune figure present at the ceremony.

japanese killing stone - ritualImage credit: @makinot119

Japanese killing stone releases 900-year-old evil spirit

With the alleged release of Tamamo-no-Mae, we can only hope with all our hearts that nothing horrible will happen, and that the purification ritual of the Japanese killing stone was effective. 

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Cover image adapted from (left to right): @ukiyoeota and @kinmokusei_pso2

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