A hunk of lava known as Sessho-seki or “killing stone” sits on the slopes of Mount Nasu, located in Nikko National Park about 100 miles north of Tokyo. Mount Nasu is famous for its sulphurous hot springs and the stone, according to folklore, continually spews poisonous gas – hence its name. The stone became a registered historical landmark in 1957 and is a popular tourist destination.
The stone has long been associated with a Japanese legend that an evil spirit is embedded in the stone making it lethal to humans who dare to approach.
According to the mythology, the spirit is a creature named Tamamo-no-Mae, a malicious nine-tailed fox spirit who could change into an alluring woman. After an assassination attempt on the emperor, her spirit has been trapped within the Sessho-seki stone for 1,000 years.
Although it is said that the stone had been destroyed, its pieces being scattered around Japan, and its spirit exorcised by a Buddhist monk, many Japanese prefer to believe that it has remained trapped on Mount Nasu.
Earlier this month it was discovered that the rock had been found split in two. The news triggered fears that the spirit had escaped from the stone!
A more plausible explanation is that nature had simply taken its course, the split caused by cracks formed over the years had allowed moisture from recent rains and freezing temperatures to seep inside and weaken its structure.
Notwithstanding, the incident is another example of Japanese culture being a never-ending source of world-wide interest. It has sparked an international social media debate about whether the fracture was a good or bad omen.
Some have speculated that the nine-tailed Tamamo-no-Mae will “tame the coronavirus and the current world situation.” Others draw more ominous conclusions.