Hitobashira The Human Pillar

Hitobashira or Hitomi-goku (Human Pillar) is a human sacrifice in Japan, usually buried alive under massive buildings such as bridges, castles, dams as an offering to the gods. Living people could be sealed into buildings which would apparently please the gods and ensure stability and longevity of the construction in question. Bones and other remains have been found on-site of several different locations, at least raises the possibility that some human sacrifice may have been involved in the making of these buildings.

According to Nihon Shoki or The Chronicles of Japan", the Kitakawa and Mamuta rivers overflowed in the 11th year of the reign of the Emperor Nintoku (323 A.D.) Meanwhile the Emperor had a divine revelation in his dream that he must sacrifice two persons to the deities of the two rivers respectively, then the construction of embankments would be easily achieved. One in the province of Musashi named Kowakubi and another one from the province of Kawachi named Koromono-ko. Soonafter, Kowakubi was subsequently thrown into the torrent of the Kitakawa river, with a prayer offered to the deity of river. Through the sacrifice it was possible to construct the embankment completely, however Koromono-ko able to escape being sacrificed. At that time, Koromono-ko, brought out 2 gourds, and throwing them into the torrent he addresses the deity of the river and saids that he came to the river to sacrifice himself and stop the calamity that inflict the villagers. If the deity of the river can sink the gourds, then he will gladly sacrifice himself however if the deity can't sink them, then the deity is not the true god of the river. After he said that, a whirling wind blew as though trying to submerge the gourds. But the gourds keep floating on top of the waves, they did not sink and Koromono-ko had saved his life.

The Nihon Shoki which contains this tradition was compiled by Prince Toneri and Ono Yasumaro and completed in the fourth year of Yoro (720 A.D.), the work being entrusted to them by the Empress Gensho. It contains the mythological ages and the early historic times of Japan, from the accession of the Emperor Jimmu (660 B.C.) to the abdication of the Empress Jito (697 A.D.), being one of the most important works for the student of ancient Japan.

The tradition of human sacrifices is also concerned with the building of large bridges. For example, in the Yasiitomi-ki, a diary of the fifteenth century, a famous tradition is contained, called Nagara-no Hitobashira (hitobashira, "human pillar"). According to the tradition, a woman who was carrying a boy on her back was caught while she was passing along the river Nagara, and was buried at the place where a large bridge was then to be built.

Maruoka castle
Another legend called "O-shizu, Hitobashira" also involving human sacrifice. When Shibata Katsutoyo, the nephew of Shibata Katsuie, was building Maruoka castle (also known as Kasumiga Castle), the stone wall of the castle keep collapsed no matter how many times it was piled up. There was one vassal who suggested that they should make someone a human sacrifice (Hitobashira). O-shizu, a one-eyed woman who had two children and lived a poor life, was selected as the "Hitobashira." She resolved to become one on the condition that one of her children should be made a samurai. She was buried under the central pillar of the castle keep. Soon after the construction of the castle keep was successfully completed. However Katsutoyo was transferred to another province, and he was not become a samurai. Her spirit felt resentful, and made the moat overflow with spring rain when the season cutting algae came in April every year. People called the rain as "the rain caused by the tears of O-shizu's sorrow," and local villagers erected a small tomb to soothe her spirit. Later it has been suggested that the instability of the walls of Maruoka Castle was likely caused by the design of the castle.

At the Sakato-no shrine at Sakato-ichiba in the province of Kazusa, there is a service which also has some relation with human sacrifice. A person is selected from among the parishioners of this shrine by lot, and he is brought before the shrine and there he is put to a chopping-block. A person called Hitotsu-mono performs a mimic ceremony as though to kill him. The rite is said to be the relic of a human sacrifice which it was once a rule to offer to the god of this shrine.

There is also a ritual at the annual festival of the Juzo shrine at Wajima-cho in the province of Noto, which is symbolic of a human sacrifice. The essential offering in this ritual consists in the so-called sacred water kept in a chest covered with a shoulder costume and a rosary, and this offering is carried to the shrine at midnight.

Based on local legend, Matsue Castle is also said to have been constructed using human sacrifice that was buried under the castle's stone walls. During construction, the stone wall of the central tower collapsed on multiple occasions. The builders decided to look for a suitable person at the local Bon festival because they Convinced that a Hitobashira would stabilize the structure. From the crowd, they selected a beautiful young maiden who demonstrated superb Bon dancing skills. After whisking her away from the festival and sealing her in the wall, the builders were able to complete the castle without incident. After the castle was built, a law was passed forbidding any girl to dance in the streets of Matsue because the hill Oshiroyama would shudder and the castle would shake from "top to bottom"

According to Pinktentacle.com, there are Other notable structures rumored to make use of human pillars include:

- Fukushima bridge in Tokushima prefecture
- Gujo-Hachiman castle in Gifu prefecture
- Hattori-Oike reservoir in Hiroshima prefecture
- Imogawa irrigation channel in Nagano prefecture
- Itsukushima shrine in Hiroshima prefecture
- Karigane embankment in Shizuoka prefecture
- Kintaikyou bridge in Yamaguchi prefecture
- Komine castle in Fukushima prefecture
- Manda levee in Osaka prefecture
- Maruoka castle in Fukui prefecture
- Nagahama castle in Shiga prefecture
- Ozu castle in Ehime prefecture

Jomon tunnel, which constructed in 1914, located on the Sekihoku Main Line also possibly use human sacrifice. In 1968, in the aftermath of an earthquake, a number of skeletons were discovered sealed into the walls of the tunnel, standing upright. A large quantity of human bones were also unearthed near the tunnel. The discovery fueled beliefs that the tunnel was constructed with human pillars, and many people -including train conductors- came to fear that the tunnel was haunted by the ghosts of the victims.

Sources:
Human Sacrifices In Japan by Noritake Tsuda;
The English Found on Signs in the Maruoka Castle Complex Containing the Castle Keep Designated an Important Cultural Property" by Kazundo Fukushima;
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hitobashira;
http://www.cracked.com/funny-7186-8-scary-japanese-urban-legends/;
http://pinktentacle.com/2010/03/human-pillars/

Pic Source:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Maruoka_Castle_20100529-01.jpg
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