Okiku Ido (Okiku Well), in the grounds of Himeji Castle, is said to be the well that features in the ghost story known as Banshō Sarayashiki. There are various versions of the legend of Okiku, one of which is portrayed in the well-known kabuki play.
As one version goes, around the year 1500, Aoyama Tetsuzan, the regent to the lord of Himeji Castle, Kodera Norimoto, plotted with Chānotsubo Danshirā to kill Norimoto and take over the castle. Norimoto’s loyal retainer, Kinshasa Motonobu, arranged for a young girl named Okiku to serve as a maid in Tetsuzan’s house in order to ascertain his plans.
Having learned of the would-be assassin’s plot to kill Norimoto, Okiku passed word to Motobonu. Norimoto escaped death by fleeing to the island of Ieshima, but Tetsuzan seized control of the castle.
After learning of Okiku’s actions, Danshirā forced her into marriage in exchange for sparing her life but Okiku turned Danshirā down. Unable to bear Okiku’s rejection, Danshirā hid one of the ten plates that were treasured posessions of the Aoyama family, and framed Okiku for the theft. Nevertheless, Okiku still failed to accept his advances and so Danshirā slew her and threw her body down a well.
Legend tells that ever since, the voice of Oikiku counting the plates over and over again could be heard coming from this well. It is said that Tetsuzan went insane from the haunting.
Monotobu and his companions eventually destroyed Tetsuzan and his conspirators, and Okiku was enshrined in Jānisho Shrine as Okiku Daimyājin.
- Information signs at Himeji Castle