Photo/IllutrationMasami Kinoshita (Photo by Mihoko Takizawa)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

NARA--Masami Kinoshita is in an ideal place to tell her ghost stories.

Nara’s 13-century-long history abounds in folklore on preternatural beings, such as “oni” ogres and “kappa” water spirits.

For three years now, Kinoshita has been publishing the Nara Yokai Shimbun (Nara monster times), a monthly e-newspaper that carries stories about preternatural beings and their folklore in different areas of Nara Prefecture.

“Ghost lore contains lessons and warnings from our predecessors,” Kinoshita, 31, said. “It gives us a glimpse of the history of life and faith in the community where it is from.”

Ghost stories go way back in Nara. For example, a story in “Nihon Ryoiki” (Record of Miraculous Events in Japan), a collection of tales from the early Heian Period (794-1185), says an oni appeared nightly at a belfry at Nara’s Gangoji temple, where it attacked servants.

Kinoshita is a native of Fukuoka Prefecture. As a senior high school student, she read “Oni no Kenkyu” (A treatise on oni) by tanka poet Akiko Baba, and learned that ghosts could be the subject of academic research.

She studied how oni are described in narrative literature at the graduate school of Nara Women’s University.

Kinoshita continued her quest for ghosts even while she was working as a reporter at a local newspaper based in Nara Prefecture.

“I once filled the first three pages of the newspaper with a special feature on Nara’s kappa,” she said. “That was in August, the time of the year when people like telling ghost tales.”

Kinoshita went independent in 2015 and began working under the title “researcher of ghost culture.” She once attended a dialogue session wearing a ghost costume.

The Nara Yokai Shimbun has covered a wide variety of yokai, ranging from oni and “tengu” mountain spirits to “tsuchinoko,” a legendary, snake-like animal that people claimed to have seen in the 1970s and 1980s.

One year’s worth of newspaper’s issues have been published in book format in an “omnibus edition,” with an imprint of the Yamatoseikei News. A third volume of the omnibus series is expected to be released later in April.

In her continuing quest for new ghost stories, Kinoshita visits communities of Nara and the Yoshino area to interview people and collect folklore.

“Ghosts are shapeless,” she said. “They simply evaporate unless someone makes a note of them. I wish to keep records of as many ghosts as possible.”