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Botan Doro (The Peony Lantern): Otsuyu bewitches Ogiwara in famous ghost story

Botan Doro (The Peony Lantern): Otsuyu bewitches Ogiwara in famous ghost story

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The time is hundreds of years ago in old Japan when the forces of Buddhism and Shintoism were strong.  Therefore, the supernatural and the real world were often connected and in the dead of night, where shadows went unseen but the feeling of coldness could be felt, people would tell ghost stories and while some were pure myths, others held grains of truth or deep mystery.

The setting for my story, which is based on Japanese ghost stories, begins in Koyasan where the local Buddhist priest was telling the story of Botan Doro (The Peony Lantern).   People had been waiting ages because they knew that he could tell ghost stories with passion and the setting was very mysterious.

Fog was descending on Mount Koya and the sound of a rumbling storm led to enormous anticipation and inner-fear because the darkness of night meant that the walk home would be nervous.

Twelve people had gathered and the Buddhist priest welcomed them one by one before he began.  The backdrop was also dramatic because the local graveyard was visible to the gathering place despite the closing fog. 

Koyasan – Modern Tokyo Times image

Then he began to tell the story of Botan Doro by beckoning them even closer and this added to the suspense and feel of the occasion. He then spoke in a softly voice and told them about Ogiwara Shinnojo.

Ogiwara Shinnojo was a samurai warrior but his heart was full of woe because he was a widow.  At night he felt so alone and memories of the past came back to haunt him and it appeared that he would never feel the fluttering heart of love again.

His place of abode was surrounded by the countryside and in each room you could feel emptiness and no longer could the sound of happiness be heard by locals who would visit from time to time.

Each night Ogiwara would sit on his porch and he would enter the dream world of his past on a good night. However, he mainly felt little because of daily silence all around him apart from the noises of nature, which was the only sign of real life in his world. Therefore, in time even this became like a hollow reality because the more he looked and waited for something to happen the more it seemed that nothing would happen.

Then one night, when his heart felt so low, he saw a stunning young lady with lovely long black hair and features which melted his heart.  She was not alone because her loyal maid was carrying a lantern which was significant by the feature of a pony crest.

Ogiwara, despite being a samurai, was caught off guard because he did not think to ask where she came from or what she was doing in the dead of night.  Instead her deep brown eyes and long hair silenced all caution and soon he was smitten by Otsuyu and she in turn could feel the passion of Ogiwara.

The Buddhist priest stated “Ogiwara was vulnerable and all logic left his soul and instead he was tempted by the flesh and firm breasts of Otsuyu.” He continued “that with each night Ogiwara was being drawn into the world of the unknown but he could only see the mirror that he desired and yearned.”

After a short time Ogiwara and Otsuyu became lovers after he invited her in and seduced Otsuyu.  The maid was always patient and carrying the peony lantern during the nighttime. Therefore, she would just wait while Ogiwara and Otsuyu embraced in passion which went on throughout the night.

The day time now became a time of rest and sleeping for Ogiwara but he felt at peace with the world and lusted for the body and lips of Otsuyu.

Each time Ogiwara entered her when they made love he would feel more alive and his passion and love blinded him to all reality.  Therefore, the heated passion and looking at her naked body drew Ogiwara into a new world which he could not see or understand.

The priest then told the listening crowd that one day “A passing neighbor was concerned about Ogiwara and when he did not respond he looked through the small whole in the wall.  Immediately the old man felt sick because all he could see was Ogiwara fondling rotting flesh and this sent a shudder down his spine.”

The neighbor was elderly and the sight was revolting but Ogiwara had been bewitched by the beauty of Otsuyu and because of his own broken heart he was easily fooled.  The tender body and firm breasts were real to Ogiwara but little did he know that this had empowered Otsuyu and enabled her to appear like she once had been.

After this, the elderly neighbor got help from the local Buddhist priest and they both went together and chastised Ogiwara.  The priest warned that his soul was in mortal danger because he was being taken to the other world and the living world must not enter this environment because untold misery would happen and he would be damned and become like her.

At first Ogiwara was in shock because all logic had left him because he was besotted by Otsuyu.  However, he respected the Buddhist priest and knew that something didn’t make sense but his lonely heart was weak and crying out for the feel of passion, and the warmth of a beautiful lady.

After some time all agreed and Buddhist sutras called ofuda were placed around his home because no ghost could breakthrough these sutras. The ofuda sutras were special because they had magical powers.

For a short time Ogiwara could resist but the sobbing tears of Otsuyu and the maid was breaking his heart.  Ogiwara understood now that both belonged to the world of the dead but he felt that his life was like the living dead.

Despite all the warnings, and the sutras which would protect him, he could not resist their pleas because they were driving him mad with anguish and confusion.  After all, since being a widow he felt nothing in his heart until Otsuyu

The Buddhist priest who was telling the story stated that “Otsuyu and the maid would cry……please meet us, please Ogiwara, we miss you and you know Otsuyu loves you… not listen to others for it us who care for you.”

This created great pain inside the heart of Ogiwara and one night he could no longer resist their temptation and of course he yearned to touch Otsuyu all over because his mind was confused and trapped between two worlds. Therefore, he followed them and rejoined with Otsuyu and the maid.

The following day neighbors who had been distant decided to make a rare visit to see if Ogiwara was in good condition. However, it soon became apparent that he was not at home.  This set off alarm bells and the Buddhist priest feared the worse and after searching endlessly, but without any luck, it dawned on the old man to search the place where the dead were buried.

After searching the graveyard they found a crypt with the name Otsuyu on it and the same crypt held a maid inside because they had both been laid to rest together.  On opening the crypt they could see the peony crest and the worse was feared.

The Buddhist priest telling the story then said that “Their eyes gazed on Ogiwara because his corpse was entangled with Otsuyu for the last time but it appeared that the final minutes were full of fear judging by the face of Ogiwara.”  The priest continued by commenting that “After Ogiwara entered the crypt it shut by itself once he embraced Otsuyu to make love but this time she would never let him go and the last few minutes of his life were ended in a perverse and panic stricken nature.”

The fog had got stronger and an owl could be heard in the graveyard close to where the Buddhist was telling the story.  Then the priest told everyone to blow out the candles and that it was time to go home alone. However, he told everyone to be vigilant and to seek guidance when unsure.

With this, everybody set off home and while the Buddhist priest did not fear the dead of night and the closing fog.  The others walked home nervously and were looking around often when a slight noise could be heard.

They all slept that night but it was a restless night sleep.  However, in the morning they all met and thanked the Buddhist priest for telling the story.

Before they parted the priest commented that “Some ghost stories are based on myths but others have elements of truth. Therefore, never be off guard like Ogiwara because some in the spirit world can’t rest because they are trapped and others are lonely and desire the weak in order to finally rest.”



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