Long ago, in the samurai days, battles were frequent and warlords ruled the country. In those days, Oiwa was a beautiful woman, upper-class and comfortable in her father's fortune. Meanwhile, Tamiya Iemon was a destitute ronin (a masterless samurai), with an eye for luxuries his lifestyle had previously afforded him and a taste for pretty girls. It was an unfortunate match when Oiwa began to fall in love with the brutish but powerful Iemon. This is the tale of their undoing:
(cut for trigger warnings: murder, ghosts)
In order to marry Oiwa, Iemon had to gain permission from the girl's father. However, Oiwa's father, Yotsuya Samon, was not going to give his beautiful daughter away to just anyone; he wanted to ensure a partner that was faithful, and who was stable enough to care for the girl. Iemon was neither. Poor, without a job or solidly-defined place in the world, and possibly after Oiwa simply because she had connections, Iemon was regarded with suspicion and perhaps disdain. Iemon was rejected as a suitor. In a fit of rage, Iemon murders Samon, and claiming innocence, woos Oiwa by promising to hunt down her father's murderer.
Wealth obtained, beautiful and loyal wife acquired, Iemon was moving up in society. But it wasn't to last long. Already, Oiwa began to lose his interest, and once she became pregnant, he had no desire for her at all. A child got in the way, would take up money, would cry late at night when he wanted to sleep... Soon enough, he met another wealthy, beautiful, single and childless woman named Oume. After some months, he was successful again at playing to his new prospect's emotions, and Oume agreed to marry him- yet, he would have to gain her grandfather's permission to do so.
Oume's grandfather was more than happy to give a fine man permission to marry Oume, but alas! Iemon was already married! If he could obtain a divorce, then things would be settled, but until then, it was not possible. But Iemon was devious- he had a plan. Oume was jealous of Oiwa, believing herself to be ugly by comparison. Together, they conspired to poison the woman, allowing him to be free to marry Oume and gain her wealth combined with his inheritance from Oiwa's estate!
When he returns, he finds that Oiwa was only unconscious. Feigning happiness that she is alive, he takes her out to walk in the fresh air. How beautiful the scenery! Look out over this ledge- you can see the world from here! He shoves Oiwa off of a cliff and into a rushing ravine, killing her. It was an accident! She was sick, and she fell! The mourning period was shortened by his marriage to Oume.
Everything was perfect. No one suspected him of killing his wife- after all, she had not been seen socially for some time, due to her well-known illness. He now had access to all of her money, her large home, everything; and now, he had a new, beautiful wife, who had a wealthy, influential grandfather- how could he wish for more? But the night of the wedding, things began to go wrong.
|The Ghost of Oiwa - Hokusai, 1831|
Iemon runs blindly until he comes to a shack. When he bursts inside, he collapses, fatigued from the horrors of the wedding. A knocking sounds at the door. Panting and bewildered, he gets up to answer- and again, stares into Oiwa's eyes, her voice accusing him of her betrayal. She shrieks as he runs forward, gutting her and cutting off her head. Exhausted from running and from the fight, he looks out to see the mutilated body of Oume's grandfather.
Driven mad, he runs to the cliff where Oiwa was murdered. Surely, she could not have survived the fall! He stops and stares down into the ravine before stumbling over. Some say they say a woman standing behind him when he went over the ledge...