In the age of the samurai, feudal Japan was ruled by stern lords that exuded their will with an iron fist. Like modern times, common people actually owned very little, with the elite being able to impose harsh taxes on the peasants. Farmers were legally taxed in advance if feudal lords needed cash, which according to the law did have to be paid back within twenty years with interest. However, in practice, this rarely occurred, with the impoverished farmers forced to suffer an existence where they toiled constantly, yet actually had little to show for it.
The lord of Sakura Castle was no different, and Katsuke no Suke imposed even more taxes on an already impoverished people that left many farmers unable to support their own family, much less farm enough to please their lord. It got so bad many farmers abandoned their land and looked towards begging in other provinces as the superior option. The farms became barren, and the land left to rot, and all this ignored by the lord of Sakura and the elite that relished in debauchery.
A brave chief of the village of Iwahshashi named Sogoro organized a council of other commoners and together they planned to take their plight to the lord in the capital city of Edo. Though this was punishable by death, there seemed to be no other option.
However, on the day they were to go to the capital, Sogoro fell ill, and the other villagers failed without him. When they returned Sogoro said their only option now was to petition the Shogun himself. Luckily they encountered high ranking officials on the way to the palace who accepted the petition of Sogoro and the farmers, and said the Shogun would know of their situation. But this did not happen and instead, the government officials told them to leave and go through the proper channels and that they’d be spared arrest this one time.
So, Sogoro sent the others home and vowed to wait and give the petition to the Shogun himself. He waited two weeks, and when the Shogun left the palace, he waited over a bridge with the petition tied to a stick and shoved it into the Shogun’s carriage as it passed by. She Shogun took it and decreed that the lord of Sakura Castle, Katsuke no Suke, must repay all he had taken to the peasants and farmers that was above the ordinary taxes.
Enraged, Katsuke no Suke executed the transgressors with crucifixion, beheading, and the elders with banishment. Sogoro’s family especially suffered a horrible fate. When the vile deeds were done, Sogoro and his family’s corpses were desecrated on display for all to see. Yet before he and his large family were executed Sogoro cursed the lord of Sakura Castle, and vowed to hunt him, his eyes shifting to that of the Buddhist demon Razetsu. Something from beyond was watching, and empowered the farmer’s hex.
Lord Kotsuke no Suke laughed and mocked the gesture, not allowing any of his councilors to make amends for such a foul and unjust deed. And the lord’s wrath was not over, he then attacked his own councilors, as well as his tax collectors, or anyone who spoke against his actions. He had been humiliated, and all would pay for their disrespect towards their sovereign.
Soon after all this evil the lord’s wife got pregnant, but her pregnancy had abnormal pain throughout the duration. After seven months ghostly lights appeared in her sleeping quarters with the sound of otherworldy laughter. Phantom weeping and wailing began to be heard in the castle steadily more common, and ghostly footsteps were heard walking up and down the halls of Sakura.
One night Katsuke no Suke stayed with his wife and in the darkness manifested Sogoro and his wife, and they grabbed the pregnant woman’s hand saying, “We have come to meet you. The pains you are suffering are terrible, but they are nothing in comparison with those of the hell to which we are about to lead you.” The lord pulled out his katana and swung it at the apparitions. However, the blade went right through them as they laughed maniacally in otherworldy vibrations, then vanished.
Lord Katsuke no Suke did everything he could to banish the phantoms, but nothing worked, and the hauntings grew steadily more horrifying. Eventually, the lord’s wife grew so traumatized she sickened and died. But the ghosts had just begun their torent of the evil sovereign, continually haunted him day and night floating about with red glowing eyes mocking him.
In an attempt to ease the wrath of the spirits Katsuke no Suke canonized Sogoro and his ilk, even making a shrine and paying honors. This seemed to ease the Ghost of Sakura, but it was not the end. The corrupt Lord would fall out of favor with other high lords and commit actions that led to him losing his title, lands, and castle. He was then imprisoned for treason and left to rot in a cell and dwell on his many misfortunes.
He prayed constantly to Sogoro and the spirits that he’d make things right if they only lifted their curse. He’d make the worship Sogoro and all he ruled even greater to that of deity, and make good all the wrong he’d done to his peasantry, and forevermore ruled with virtue.
Eventually Katsuke no Suke was pardoned and given rulership of a castle with even greater revenue than Sakura. He made true on all his promises to Sogoro and the spirits, and peasants from all over would come to his shrine to pray for good fortune, and the redeemed one time tyrant treated all his people justly until the end of his days. There were no more hauntings by the Ghost of Sakura, and the spirits were at last able to rest.