Japan’s Mythic “Killing Stone” Splits in Half, Potentially Releasing the Spirit of a Fox Demon

When word gets out that something called the “Killing Stone” has broken in half, it can't be a good sign. And it's an even worse omen when one discovers that this Killing Stone is believed to hold the spirit of a demonic fox. Unfortunately, the news is true and Japan's Sessho-seki, also known as the Killing Stone, has split.

Located near a hot spring in Nasu, Japan, Sessho-seki is a stone set into volcanic mountains. Viewable only from a distance due to toxic sulfur fumes, a legend states that the stone has been used to trap a vengeful spirit of Tamamo-no-Mae. The story states that Tamamo-no-Mae was a nine-tailed fox disguising herself as a beautiful woman in order to kill Emperor Toba (1107 – 1123) and take his throne. Once the fox was killed by a warrior named Miura-no-sake, its body became Sessho-seki. It was believed that it was the fox who began emitting a poison that killed anyone who approached the stone.

The spirit continued to haunt the area until a Buddhist priest named Genno stopped to rest near the stone. Bothered by the spirit, he performed a ritual that trapped the demon inside Sessho-seki. However, if one believes the legend, the fox might have broken loose.

Local officials have confirmed that a small crack has been forming over the years and now it's actually split in half. Images posted on Twitter clearly show a large chunk of the rock lying on the ground. So beware, there's a nine-tailed fox spirit on the loose.

Sessho-seki, or the Killing Stone, is said to hold the spirit of Tamamo-no-Mae.

Tamamo-no-Mae woodblock print

Tamamo-no-Mae woodblock print from “New Forms of Thirty-Six Ghosts” series (1889-1892) (Photo: Yoshitoshi, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

She was a nine-tailed fox disguised as a beautiful woman that tried to kill the emperor.

Fleeing fox spirit as Lady Kayō depicted in Hokusai's Sangoku Yōko-den

Fleeing fox spirit as Lady Kayō depicted in Hokusai's “Sangoku Yōko-den” (Photo: Katsushika Hokusai, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

After being killed, the legend states that the demon-haunted Sessho-seki— until it was trapped inside.

Sessho seki

Sessho-seki in 2016. (Photo: ウィキ太郎 Wiki Taro, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

h/t: [IFL Science!, Spoon & Tamago]

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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