Tall Tales

Tokyo Sky Tree is the world’s third tallest building. I don’t know how I always forget I am afraid of heights, but going up in an elevator that is one side glass quickly reminds me. It’s a feeling in my body, of animal panic – tingling limbs and sweatiness – plus the odd thought/feeling that I am about to spin off/out of the lift, into the air, and dash to the ground. Perhaps it’s this that’s most terrifying – the thought of slipping, spinning, falling – rather than being high up itself.

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When I get up to the platform, I soon find myself becoming used to the awful height, and begin to feel less anxious. It turns out I have come up into the wrong building anyway – this skyscraper, 31 floors high, is simply a place for viewing the sky tree itself. GAH!!!

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I guess we all have our fears. In the Edo History Museum I read how traditional Japanese houses were made of paper and wood, and went up in flame so often that they were nicknamed ‘fire houses’. This reminded me of a house I had read about in Kyoto which caught fire – the ladies inside it could only escape by jumping across to another building. However, they were too embarrassed to risk going over people’s heads in their yukata (daytime kimono) and for everyone potentially seeing up their skirts (I guess this was in a time before under-things) – and so they preferred to be burnt to death.

This seems strange, especially in a culture where people bathe communally in onsen (hot springs) and at the sento (public baths), but I guess it’s a case of etiquette. I worry quite often about doing the right thing, both in our own culture as well as over here; but of course I don’t think I would literally want to die of (because of) embarrassment!

The rakugo story I am learning is a ghost tale, about one of the most frightening spirits in all of Japanese literature and folk history – the nopperabo, a ghost, often female (although it can be either gender) without any facial features. You might have seen this popularised in the Japanese and American films entitled ‘Ring’ (and which I, being a Japan nut, saw on first release at a film festival – of course I recommend you watch this original version, too. But, be warned – it’s super scary!).

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Ghosts are another thing I used to be scared of, until I encountered them directly myself. In healing work, I have felt the hands of the dead upon me, offering energy healing and guidance/support. This was a fair few years ago; at that same time, I lived in a flat with another spirit which caused all kinds of supernatural and poltergeist activity. The bad dreams, scratching, whispering, lights which turned themselves on and off, footsteps, and moving furniture, all seemed to stem from a spot near the front door, which gave a strong feeling of depression when you entered it.

Eventually I found out that the previous occupant had committed suicide. A witch friend kindly offered to clear the flat for me, but not before a healing session in the place enabled me to connect with the harassing spirit and feel the means of their demise. ‘They hung themself,’ I said as I ‘connected’, and instantly felt emanations of anger from the watching spirit. I tasted blood in my mouth; felt a rope choking my neck; my legs shook uncontrollably; and then it was over.

The feeling from the spirit, after, was one of sadness and regret. My friend successfully led him on to the next place. And in every spirit I’ve encountered since, regret, regret seems to be the feeling which has bound them here…

Ghosts can be good or bad, it seems, just like people. The nopperabo wishes to cause harm; this Cardiff ghost was simply a lost soul. However, dealing with the dead isn’t my particular purpose in this lifetime. Entertaining, and enlightening, with literature, seems to be. Not all the tales I’ll tell with be tall, though. Truth finds its way into ‘fiction’ and, in a sense, we can only ever write what we know, you know…

Tall tales. Tall buildings. Living without leaving regret when we die… These are my thoughts for the day, anyway. So, perhaps I will try the sky tree again before I leave.

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