Superstition Abounds After Volcanic 'Killing Stone' Fractures in Japan

Superstitions and concerns are mounting in Japan after the fracturing of a volcanic rock steeped in demonic folklore.

Located in the town of Nasu, roughly 190 kilometers north of Tokyo, the "Killing Stone" is a famed rock that was found to have broken in two on Saturday, Snopes confirmed. This spurred a wave of dread and concern among locals and online, as the stone is long believed to have housed an evil spirit. The split is believed to have occurred within the last month.

According to legends dating back to the 12th century, the Killing Stone houses an evil nine-tailed fox spirit named Tamamo-no-Mae. She supposedly took the form of a courtesan and plotted to kill Emperor Toba, who reigned from 1107 to 1123, but was thwarted and killed by the renowned warrior Miura-nosuke.

Following her defeat, her spirit was either trapped in the Killing Stone or became the chunk of volcanic stone itself, depending on the legend, which stories say kills anyone who touches it. With the stone now broken, some believe the spirit is free once again to wreak havoc.

The sight of the fractured rock, also known as Sessho-seki, caused a scare amongst visitors over the weekend. One Twitter user, going only by "Lillian," shared their story on Saturday.

"I came alone to Sesshoseki, where the legend of the nine-tailed fox remains," the user wrote. "The big rock in the middle wrapped around with a rope is that... It was supposed to be, but the rock was split in half and the rope was also detached... I feel like I've seen something that shouldn't be seen."

Other versions of the legend paint a much less dire picture of the Killing Stone. According to one, as highlighted in a report by The Guardian, the stone was said to be destroyed centuries ago and spread across Japan, with a Buddhist monk performing an exorcism on the evil spirit within.

japan killing stone broken
A stone that, according to myth, holds an evil fox spirit in Japan was found split into two pieces over the weekend, sparking a wave of superstitious concern. Above, a representational image of a different stone in a Japanese hot spring. Eric Lafforgue/Art In All Of Us/Corbis via Getty Images

Less superstitious locals have also shared a more neutral take on what happened. Cracks were noticed on the stone a few years back, with local media outlets now speculating that water might have slowly entered through these cracks over time and caused the split.

One local tour guide, according to The Guardian, said that the split was a "shame" due to the stone's status as a symbol for the area, but nevertheless chalked it up to the unavoidable course of nature.