Visiting a place for supernatural tales

HyakuMonogatari; Inara Pey, April 2015, on Flickr HyakuMonogatari (Flickr) – click any image for full size

Hyakumonogatari is one of two regions designed by 兇 (Merurun), the other being its neighbour Heinakyo. I was drawn to them after reading a blog post by Abinoam Nørgaard recording his explorations of both.

Hyakumonogatari in particular attracted me because of the apparent link with the ancient parlour game Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai (百物語怪談会) or A Gathering of One Hundred Supernatural Tales, which was popular in Edo period Japan and may have started as a game of courage played by  the samurai class.

HyakuMonogatari; Inara Pey, April 2015, on Flickr HyakuMonogatari (Flickr)

Given that Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai was a game played at night, involving the possible evocation of spirits, ghouls and demons, it should come as no surprise that the region bearing its name (at least in part) has a dark, heavy atmosphere occasionally split by flashes of lightning (note that other than the topmost image in this piece, I’ve used lighter windlights in my pictures to help show some of the details of the region).

The main landing point is a temple courtyard, huddled at the foot of a tall mountain. Crows caw from the trees and paper lamps strung between wooden poles provide the main illumination. Follow the path around to the imposing bulk of the gate house standing before the temple’s shrine, and you’ll see a wooden bridge passing eastwards over a narrow gorge to a small town beyond which straddles the two regions, Heinakyo offering more of a retail environment as one travels through it.

HyakuMonogatari; Inara Pey, April 2015, on Flickr HyakuMonogatari (Flickr)

For the intrepid, however, it is the route north and west which is the one to take, following the path and steps up the mountain and under a train of torii gates. Here the mist lies heavy and the default lighting is dim, adding to the atmosphere. As shines to honoured ancestors appear, so to does the path become increasingly unpredictable.

There are two routes here. One will take the traveller directly up to a high shoulder on the mountain. The other, which might take a little bit of finding, leads into the heart of the mountain, although the fact it has done so might not at first be obvious. Here you’ll find an old, careworn temple, the home of a couple of additional stores, and which plays on the idea of the Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai. Keen-eyed will find an alternative route back down to the main temple, while those careless of foot may find themselves taking a fall or two…

HyakuMonogatari; Inara Pey, April 2015, on Flickr HyakuMonogatari (Flickr)

Taken together, HyakuMonogatari and Heinakyo make for an interesting visit. both look as if work on them might still be in progress in places, but the village and temple are photogenic. And should you fancy getting a group of friends together and lighting a series of andon in one room, ready to tell supernatural tales in another, this is the place to do so.

And to keep to the tradition of Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai, just make sure you bring a mirror and a table on which to lay it…

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