The tale of the ‘first samurai’ whose severed head still terrorises Tokyoites today is the story of the city itself
A Tokyo bank once opened an account in the name of a man who had been dead for 1,000 years.
The bank was a branch of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ (now part of MUFG, the largest bank in Japan), which looked out over a neighbouring lot that contained the grave where the man was buried. The bank employees were reportedly instructed not to open any windows to the man’s grave, nor to turn their backs on it, even when at their desks; the account was set up to placate him.
The figure? Taira no Masakado, a rebellious warrior who was killed in 940AD but whose spirit has terrorised the region ever since. How Masakado became such a malevolent symbol to ordinary Tokyoites is the story of the city itself, and its centuries of violence, superstition and coincidence.
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