There are certain spots that are on everyone’s Kyoto itinerary. Kinkakuji (the Golden Pavilion), is a perennial favorite, and in recent years it seems like just about every traveler finds time to work in a visit to Fushimi Inari Shrine.
But there’s more to see in Kyoto than just temples and shrines. For instance, on his most recent visit our Japanese-language reporter Muromachi visited the Pool of Blood.
Located in the Kita Saga district of Kyoto’s Ukyo Ward, the Pool of Blood is said to be haunted. How exactly it got that reputation is shrouded in mystery, with some saying murderous samurai washed the blood from their swords in its water, and that the pond is now the home of the victims’ ghosts, while others say the pool is haunted by the spirit of someone who drowned in it. But regardless of why people think it’s haunted, the rumor is that the pond’s water is blood-red.
But in contrast to those tales of violence and enduring anger from beyond the grave, the neighborhood is a peaceful, semi-rural community. The Pool of Blood is located near the grave of Emperor Saga, so that’s what Muromachi had entered into Google Maps as his destination, and the route led him past bucolic fields and quiet houses.
Eventually, though, the road starting getting narrower as it sloped up into the hills. Shaking off the foreboding atmosphere, Muromachi pushed on until the map told him to hang a right.
One small problem: When Muromachi looked to his right, this is what he saw.
As he stared at the wall of foliage, he thought he could maybe make out a small path leading up the hill. Size-wise, though, it looked closer to something tanuki or other woodland creatures would use, not humans.
Luckily, at just that moment a local resident came ambling by. When Muromachi told the man that he was trying to get to Emperor Saga’s grave, and from there the Pool of Blood, the man told him to turn around, head back to the bottom of the slope, and make his way around to the southeast side of the hill’s base, where he’d find a stone stairway leading him to the top.
From the stairs’ entrance, it’s a 10 to 15-minute walk to the summit, with some nice views of the town below along the way.
Arriving at the top, Muromachi spotted a path leading further back, where the Pool of Blood awaits.
And following it, finally he reached his destination.
With all of the ghost stories connected to the pool, and absolutely no one else around, there was definitely a creepy tingle in the air. But Muromachi was brave enough not to shut his eyes in fear, and he couldn’t help noticing that…
…the Pool of Blood is brown.
Maybe, if you’re feeling generous, you could call it a brownish red, but still, if you ever get a paper cut and you bleed this color, you should probably see a doctor right away, because it’s not what blood usually is supposed to look like.
Of course, there’s a possibility that, as is said about many haunted places, you have to go at night in order to witness the ghostly phenomena. However, Muromachi calmly explained to us that that’s not an option here, because if he went at night, when it’s dark out, how could he tell what color the water in the pool is?
Meanwhile if you’d like your scary Kyoto travel itinerary to have more definite reasons for its chill-factor, don’t forget about the spot where Japan’s most treacherous samurai was killed by bandits.
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