Japan’s ‘Killing Stone,’ Rumored To House an Evil Spirit, Has Split in Half

While we can't speak to the existence of the supposed evil spirit, Sessho-seki (the "Killing Stone") truly did split in two in March 2022.

  • Published
Rock, Rubble, Soil
Image via Wikipedia

Claim

A photograph shows Japan's Sessho-seki ("Killing Stone) after it broke in half in March 2022.

Origin

In March 2022, a photograph was circulated on social media of a famous rock in Japan called Sessho-seki, or Killing Stone, that supposedly housed an evil spirit. This picture was often attached to a caption claiming that it was recently found split in half, and that the spirit, named “Tamomo-No-Mae,” or “Nine-Tailed Fox,” had been released:
 

As for the facts, while we have nothing too concerning about the existence of the evil spirit — which is, after all, a mythical entity — we can say that the Killing Stone truly split in half in March 2022. 

Sessho-seki is located near volcanic mountains in Nasu, Japan. According to Japanese mythology, the spirit of an evil nine-tailed fox, who walked the earth in the body of Tamamo-no-Mae, a beautiful woman who attempted to kill Emperor Toba in the 1100s. Jisho, a Japanese-English dictionary, writes:

“The Sessho-seki, or “Killing Stone,” is an object in Japanese mythology. It is said that the stone kills anyone who comes into contact with it. The stone is believed to be the transformed corpse of Tamamo no Mae, a beautiful woman who was exposed to be a kind nine-tailed fox working for an evil daimyo plotting to kill the Japanese Emperor Konoe and take his throne. As told in the Otogizoshi, when the nine-tailed fox was killed by the famous warrior Miura-nosuke, its body became the Sessho-seki.”

The Japanese news website Yomiuri Shimbun reported that the Killing Stone split in two in March 2022. The news outlet talked to the Nasu Town Tourist Information Center who confirmed that the stone really cracked in half. Officials said there had been a crack in the stone for some time and that rain and freezing temperatures may have led to the splitting of the stone. 

According to the Nasu Town Tourist Information Center, on the afternoon of the 5th, tourists posted a photo of sesshoseki cracking on SNS, and officials of the association confirmed it locally. The stone may have been cracked for some time, and the soaked water may have cracked due to freezing.

Masaharu Sugawara (83), chairman of the Nasu Kogen Yumoto Guide Club, a volunteer organization that provides tourist information in the surrounding area, said, “It’s natural, so it can’t be helped, but it’s a shame because it’s a symbol of the local area.”

Nick Sapur, a historian of Japan and East Asia, posted a thread on Twitter about the splitting of Sessho-seki:


Sources:

Eastern Folklore and the Nine-Tailed Fox. https://sites.psu.edu/frasscrclblog/2014/10/16/eastern-folklore-and-the-nine-tailed-fox/. Accessed 7 Mar. 2022.

Jisho.Org: Japanese Dictionary. https://jisho.org/word/%E6%AE%BA%E7%94%9F%E7%9F%B3. Accessed 7 Mar. 2022.

McCurry, Justin. “Japan’s ‘Killing Stone’ Splits in Two, Releasing Superstitions amid the Sulphur Springs.” The Guardian, 7 Mar. 2022. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/mar/07/japans-killing-stone-splits-in-two-releasing-superstitions-and-toxic-gases.

“Sesshōseki (Killing Stone).” Atlas Obscura, http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/sesshoseki-killing-stone. Accessed 7 Mar. 2022.

“九尾の狐伝説の‘殺生石’が真っ二つに割れる 自然現象か(ABEMA TIMES).” Yahoo!ニュース, https://news.yahoo.co.jp/articles/1b809ae915101c0f0f48f3cf3028f873a495e692. Accessed 7 Mar. 2022.

“真っ二つに割れた殺生石(5日午後、那須町湯本で)=那須町観光協会提供 : 「九尾の狐」伝説の「殺生石」が真っ二つ…SNSでは「狐が復活しないといいけど」:写真.” 読売新聞オンライン, https://www.yomiuri.co.jp/pluralphoto/20220306-OYT1I50075/. Accessed 7 Mar. 2022.