Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Princess Centipede :: ムカデの姫

Princess Centipede Grave and Sign
[The grave of Princess Centipede with the sign]

The grave of princess Centipede is located in Morioka City in Nasukawa-cho. The stones making up the current grave do not at all appear to be in their original configuration. Some of the stones and inscriptions appear to be newish while others seem quite old. I could easily imagine that at one time there was quite an assemblage of elegant shrines, temples, gardens and whatnot here. But then an earthquake or other disaster knocked them down and jumbled the stones together in hopeless confusion. What to do! One solution would be to gather a group of small boys together and tell them to gather all the stones together and make whatever they want!

Princess Centipede Grave from the Side
[The grave with Koudai-ji in the background]

The story of the grave reads as follows from the sign -


This is the grave of the wife of Toshinao, twenty-seventh lord of the Nanbu Clan. When she married in March 1594, one of the gifts which she took to the Nanbu Clan was an arrowhead which had been used to kill a huge centipede. But soon the princess died and was buried here.

An arched bridge was planned to be built over a pond in front of her grave and was completed. But when the day arrived on which the opening ceremony was to be held, the bridge had, by some unknown means, been destroyed. After that the bridge was rebuilt several times and each time it was destroyed by something unknown. A rumor spread that a big centipede was the source of the bridge's destruction. So the lord stationed many masters of martial arts about the area from early morning and employing thousands of laborers completed the bridge in a single day.

But the rumor never completely disappeared, and after that it was said that hundreds of avenging spirits of centipedes could be seen appearing around the site. And so the grave came to be called, "The grave of Princess Centipede."

:: :: ::

I have heard that this same story, or one similar to it, occurs in other places around the world. Whatever the case may be, I think Hayao Miyazaki must have known this story and used it for the opening sequence of his movie "Princess Mononoke."

The Japanese story on the same sign seems to be a bit longer and contain some differences. For one thing I noticed a snake in it down near the end. I will try and translate it and report back!

Princess Centipede Sign - Japanese
[The text in Japanese - click to see larger versions]

光台寺 :: こうだいじ :: Koudai-ji
盛岡市 :: Morioka City
名須川町八ー四 :: Nasukawa-cho 4-8
This temple was established in 1573 and belongs to the Pure Land Sect of Buddhism.


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