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Himeji in Glimpses

“There is one place in Japan where it is thought unlucky to cultivate chrysanthemums, for reasons which shall presently appear; and that place is in the pretty little city of Himeji, in the province of Harima. Himeji contains the ruins of a great castle of thirty turrets; and a daimyō used to dwell therein whose revenue was one hundred and fifty-six thousand koku of rice. Now, in the house of one of that daimyō’s chief retainers there was a maid-servant, of good family, whose name was O-Kiku; and the name “Kiku” signifies a chrysanthemum flower. Many precious things were entrusted to her charge, and among others ten costly dishes of gold. One of these was suddenly missed, and could not be found; and the girl, being responsible therefor, and knowing not how otherwise to prove her innocence, drowned herself in a well. But ever thereafter her ghost, returning nightly, could be heard counting the dishes slowly, with sobs…

Her spirit passed into the body of a strange little insect, whose head faintly resembles that of a ghost with long disheveled hair; and it is called O-Kiku-mushi, or “the fly of O-Kiku;” and it is found, they say, nowhere save in Himeji…

…the people of Himeji say that part of their city now called Go-Ken-Yashiki is identical with the site of the ancient manor. What is certainly true is that to cultivate chrysanthemum flowers in the part of Himeji called Go-Ken-Yashiki is deemed unlucky, because the name of O-Kiku signifies “Chrysanthemum.” Therefore, nobody, I am told, ever cultivates chrysanthemums there.” (Lafcadio Hearn, 1894, Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan, p. 363)

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