the online database of Japanese folkore

Kame hime


Translation: turtle princess
Habitat: Inawashiro Castle

Appearance: Kame hime is a spirit who haunted Inawashiro Castle, in present-day Fukushima Prefecture.

Interactions: Kame hime is a reclusive yōkai and very little is known about her. When she does communicate with people, she does so through other yōkai in her service such as shunobon and shitanaga uba.

Kame hime is said to be the younger sister of Osakabe hime, the spirit who haunts Himeji Castle. In the play Tenshu monogatari, Kame hime is depicted visiting her older sister at Himeji Castle and bringing a severed man’s head as a souvenir.

Origin: The name Kame hime comes from Inawashiro Castle’s nickname: Kame shiro (“Turtle Castle”).

Legends: Kame hime’s story takes place in 1640. Inawashiro Castle was owned by Katō Akinari, lord of Aizu Domain. The chamberlain—the person in charge of the castle’s defence— was Horibe Shuzen.

One day in December, Horibe Shuzen noticed a child who he had never seen before running about the castle. The child turned to Shuzen and said, “Hey you! You have not introduced yourself to the ruler of this castle yet. My lord is receiving visitors today, so hurry up and prepare to pay your respects!”

Shuzen was flabbergasted. “Why you…! Katō Akinari is the only lord of this castle, and I, Horibe Shizen, am his chamberlain! How dare you!”

The child just laughed at him. “So you haven’t heard of Osakabe hime of Himeji and Kame hime of Inawashiro? Then you are already doomed!” Upon saying this, the child vanished.

There was no sign of the child for some time. However, on New Year’s morning, Shuzen joined the other retainers in the castle’s hall only to see that a coffin and funerary tools had been placed before his seat at the table. He demanded to know who had put them there, but none of the other retainers had any idea.

That night, Shuzen was haunted by the sound of many people pounding mochi echoing throughout the castle.

Not long after that, Shuzen collapsed in the castle’s toilet. Two days later he was dead.

Later that summer, a seven shaku (2.1 meters) tall ōnyūdō was sighted collecting water near the rice fields surrounding the castle. The castle’s soldiers rushed out and cut the monster down in a single stroke. When they examined the body, it turned out to be a very large mujina. Henceforth, there were no more strange occurrences at Inawashiro Castle.

Inawashiro Castle was destroyed in 1868 during the Bōshin War. Today, all that remains are the castle’s stone foundations.

Alphabetical list of yōkai