Translated by Zack Davisson
with cover art by Tony Harris
There are few ghost stories in Japanese folklore more famous than that of the earless biwa player; few images that bring instant fear to the Japanese pysche like a seated man with his entire body being covered with elegant lettering. It is a scene of delicious anticipation.
No one knows the tale's true origins; it comes from oral traditions that predate authors and publication dates. Like most folklore, there are numerous variations. By far the most famous is the version presented by Lafcadio Hearn in his 1904 book Kwaidan:Stories and Studies of Strange Things .
Scholars have identified the version you now hold as the source text for Hearn's variation. First published in 1782, The Secret Biwa Music that Caused the Yurei to Lament was written by Isseki Sanjin for his series Secret Stories of Night Play.
To the best of our knowledge, this is the first translation of Sanjin's tale.