The Soul-Capturing Puppet: A Mystery of Love and Death in Japan

In the spring of 2022, compelled by the legend of the “soul-captivating marionette,” British Wellington Bailey arrived at Tottori Prefecture on the Yumihama Peninsula, with a yearning to unravel the enigma of “departed spirits reemerging in the mortal realm through puppetry.” Unexpectedly, while delving into Wellington’s quest, a peculiar human anomaly unfolded. Consequently, he interlinked all the astounding and chilling intricacies one by one, unearthing a tale of love and animosity lost in the relentless passage of time.

Luwu Town, situated in Tottori Prefecture on the Yumigahama Peninsula in Japan, boasts a serene ambiance and delectable seafood, rendering it an idyllic haven for leisure and repose.

In March 2022, Wellington Bailey, a fair-haired Englishman in his early thirties, graced the town’s presence. Armed with observation and photographic apparatus, he sought to capture images of rare migratory birds along the shoreline.

This small town, inhabited by numerous families, thrived in peace and harmony. However, of particular note was the Joruri Puppet Collection owned by the Nishizawa family.

Puppet Joruri, an ancient art form originating from 15th-century Japan, seamlessly blends stage performances, rap, and music. It has earned a place on the United Nations’ “List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.” These meticulously crafted puppets, available in a multitude of styles, epitomize exquisite artistry, making them highly coveted collectibles. Even modern replicas have become sought-after souvenirs for tourists worldwide, referred to as Joruri Puppets.

The Joruri Puppet Collection Museum, passed down through three generations within the town, stands as a testament to its enduring legacy. Presently, the museum is under the directorship of Nishizawa Kyoko, a mere 28 years of age. She possesses a captivating elegance in conversation despite being afflicted by childhood polio, which left her with limited mobility due to leg impairment. Nonetheless, her artistic talents and intellect shone brightly from a tender age. Nurtured by esteemed mentors, she developed a distinctive style in gouache paintings of Joruri-Gakurei, executed using the traditional Japanese Ukiyo-e technique. Consequently, she gained recognition as a somewhat renowned beauty painter.

Moreover, Wellington lodged in a modest inn adjacent to the Jingliuli Puppet Collection. Every day, he would venture out early with his equipment, returning late after photographing and observing avian wonders. Given his limited Japanese proficiency, Kyoko Nishizawa, fluent in English, naturally assumed the role of his linguistic liaison. Seemingly by design or happenstance, he frequently dined at Zangkan, a small restaurant, engaging in conversation with Nishizawa Kyoko to alleviate the loneliness of a solitary sojourn in foreign lands.

One rainy day, Wellington’s plans for field observation were foiled, compelling him to visit the collection museum instead. Within the main hall, an imposing and distinctive oil painting hung, depicting the figure of a kimono-clad woman gazing pensively into the night rain. Behind her, atop an antique coffee table, a solitary lamp flickered, while a glazed puppet, donning a matching attire, lay prostrate. The puppet’s visage, remarkably lifelike, bore an expression of profound sorrow.

“Could this be the fabled ‘soul-captivating puppet’?” Wellington paused, his gaze transfixed upon the painting for an extended period, before inquiring, “Someone informed me that this artwork exudes an ominous aura, tinged with eerie and malevolent connotations.”

Upon hearing this, Kyoko patiently recounted the tale’s entirety. The painting drew inspiration from a love legend dating back to Japan’s Edo period—a tale of an affluent and beautiful young woman smitten with a talented artist proficient in puppet Joruri. Foreseeing her impending demise due to unrequited love, she implored artisans to immortalize their likenesses as pure glass puppets, meticulously clad in their respective costumes. Following her demise, the souls of these puppets would merge with their physical forms. Subsequently, the young artist serendipitously encountered his ethereal companion. His adroit manipulation and awe-inspiring prowess garnered universal acclaim, eventually elevating him to master status. On their wedding night, a spectacle unfolded as the puppet’s eyes welled with tears, accompanied by the apparition of the departed daughter, revealing the depths of her genuine affection. Overwhelmed by this revelation, the master, consumed by love, embraced the puppet tightly, setting himself ablaze.

“Yet, if it is merely a poignant love story, how could it engender such sinister rumors within the town?” Wellington queried, his perplexity evident.

“Well, if we delve deeper, the rumors revolve around my sister, Hanako Nishizawa,” Kyoko elaborated. “Hanako Nishizawa, our elder sister, possessed an uncanny resemblance to the protagonist of the legend. She, too, was a skilled Joruri puppeteer and artist, renowned for her striking beauty and captivating performances. However, tragedy befell her when she fell deeply in love with a foreigner who visited our town. Their love, intense and forbidden, sparked outrage among the conservative townsfolk, who viewed their union as sacrilege.

One fateful night, the townspeople, driven by their prejudice and fear, set fire to our family’s home, trapping Hanako and her lover inside. By a cruel twist of fate, the flames consumed them, leaving nothing but ashes and sorrow in their wake. The loss of my sister and her lover plunged our family into grief and despair, forever altering the course of our lives.

The legend of the soul-captivating puppet emerged soon after as a way to explain the tragedy that befell Hanako and her lover. Some townspeople believe that their spirits lingered, trapped within the puppets that Hanako herself crafted. And it is said that these puppets, when brought together, possess the power to summon the souls and rekindle the love lost in that tragic fire.

Over time, fear and superstition took hold, and the legend transformed into something more ominous. Whispers of curses, vengeful spirits, and eerie happenings began to circulate. Some claimed to have seen the puppets move on their own, their eyes filled with sorrow and longing. Others spoke of strange occurrences, like objects being mysteriously rearranged or eerie whispers in the night.

“But what does this have to do with the painting?” Wellington inquired, his curiosity piqued.

“The painting was commissioned by my family to honor my sister’s memory,” Kyoko responded. “It captures the essence of the legend, depicting the sorrow and longing that still haunts our family. It is said that the painting holds a connection to the puppets and the spirits they embody. Some believe that gazing upon it for too long can invite the presence of those restless souls.”

As the rain continued to pour outside, Wellington and Kyoko found themselves engrossed in the tales of love, loss, and the supernatural. The more they delved into the history and folklore, the more captivated they became by the enigmatic power of the puppets and the painting.

Little did they know that their exploration would unearth long-buried secrets, and their lives would become entwined with the lingering spirits of the past. The journey to unravel the mysteries of Luwu Town and the soul-captivating puppets had only just begun.

   Nishizawa Kyoko felt a little strange, so she opened the box. At first glance, I saw that the clothes of the Jing Liuli puppet inside were exactly the same as those of the “soul-taking puppet”, and the face did not have the facial features of a carved character.
   Nishizawa Kyoko was stunned. She quickly carefully counted the inventory in the gift cabinet in the hall, and found that what she had in her hand was indeed an “extra” item.
   At this time, Wellington also noticed Nishizawa Kyoko’s behavior and asked why.
   “This puppet is from abroad, but the box is exclusive to our collection.” Nishizawa Kyoko looked at the gift box carefully and said thoughtfully, “It was specially made by someone from other places. Each one is engraved with the name of the collection.” The emblem of the museum.”
   This inspired Wellington, who encouraged Kyoko Nishizawa to contact the manufacturer to inquire. The other party responded quickly, telling them that each gift box is produced in limited quantities according to the collection’s requirements, and that no one else has customized or imitated the same gift box.
   After hearing about it, Wellington subconsciously looked around and murmured with a slightly pale face: “Is it possible that the ‘soul-catching puppet’ came here last night while I was asleep?”
   Kyoko Nishizawa also looked at it with her eyes without realizing it. She was looking around in the hall, and when her eyes glanced at the picture, her eyes suddenly widened. After a pause, she raised her finger and pointed at the painting, and said in an unbelievable tone: “Look, the ‘mind-catching puppet’ on the painting!”
   Wellington heard it and quickly followed the direction to look. When he saw it, he immediately took a breath of air and opened his mouth wide in surprise – it turned out that all the objects and scenes in the painting were still the same, but the “soul-obsessing puppet” that was originally lying on his back turned to lie face down on the coffee table.
   Wellington thought for a moment, then looked through his phone to find a photo of himself drawing a few days ago. He carefully compared the photo saved on his phone with the picture in front of him, and his expression became more solemn as he looked at it.
   “How, how is this possible? Is there really some strange force that caused this?” Wellington seemed to be talking to himself, and seemed to be asking Nishizawa Kyoko, his tone full of doubts and astonishment.
   Kyoko Nishizawa didn’t answer. She held the faceless Joruri puppet tightly with her hands, and stared at the “soul-absorbing puppet” in the painting. She felt chills in her vest – she originally thought that there would be a lot of rumors. It has faded over time, but now, everything seems to be slowly gathering into an invisible force, trying to push everyone involved into an unpredictable abyss.
  The traces of the spirit summoning are revealed, and the truth comes to light.
   The residents of Luwu Town originally had various objections to the Jingliuli Puppet Collection. Now that something strange happened that fits the ominous rumors, they naturally became more and more controversial.
   While chatting in the restaurant, Wellington also told Nishizawa Kyoko that some media reporters were looking for him privately, wanting to dig deeper into the inside story of the “supernatural incident at the Joruri Puppet House.” Nishizawa Kyoko clearly felt the inexplicable pressure from her surroundings, and upon hearing this, she hurriedly tried to dissuade her.
   Wellington said sympathetically: “Well, it’s really not easy for you to face these troubles alone. But the actual situation is not good for you. It is said that the media is not only inquiring about the ‘soul-obsessing puppet’, but also digging up your sister’s love history, and even digging up When the accident happened, there was a fisherman girl who disappeared.”
   Kyoko Nishizawa couldn’t help but said: “What? That fisherman girl wandered around with nothing to do all day long, and she happened to disappear when my sister had an accident. How could she be involved? ?”
   “The media always likes to go out of their way to string together vague gossip to attract people’s attention.” Wellington shrugged and said, “The town is actually not peaceful. It is said that someone suggested that the painting should be burned to ashes according to the old custom, and then Put it in your sister’s coffin!”
   Kyoko Nishizawa’s face turned gloomy, and she silently turned around and walked towards the library hall, standing quietly in front of the painting for a long time. Wellington looked at her thin back from a distance, with mixed feelings in his heart.
   Two days later, Kyoko Nishizawa called Wellington and asked him in a mysterious tone to come to the library to talk in the evening.
   As night fell, Wellington walked into the Joruri Gallery from the back door, passed through the unlit hall, and saw Kyoko Nishizawa sitting on the sofa in the small living room, with the small lamp in front of her reflecting her beautiful and dignified face.
   Kyoko Nishizawa stared closely at the gentle-looking foreign man in front of her and asked sternly: “I have managed to recover the video you deleted from the terminal of the library’s camera system. It clearly recorded that you stayed here alone that night. Do you want to see all the activities?” She handed over the small tablet she carried.
   “No need. I paid a high price for the special puppet gift box in the museum. I also found someone to copy the painting in advance and changed the details of the picture that I needed.” Wellington shrugged and readily admitted, ” Do you want to know why?”
   “I don’t want to know!” Nishizawa Kyoko sneered, “I only know that you are someone who deliberately wants to destroy me, so…” She put her hand into her pocket as she spoke. Inside was a small, loaded pistol.
   However, before Nishizawa Kyoko could draw her gun, she suddenly saw a mist slowly seeping into the room from outside the reception room door. Strangely, she walked over and opened the door, only to see that the entire hall was filled with mist, and in the mist, there was a vague figure of a kimono woman appearing in the position of the oil painting.
   Isn’t that the oil painting of a kimono woman? Nishizawa Kyoko’s heart beat a few times. She subconsciously pressed the switch in the hall, but for some reason no light came on. At this moment, the shadow of the kimono woman seemed to “float” over.
   Kyoko Nishizawa couldn’t help but take a few steps back and asked softly: “Who are you?”
   There was silence, and the kimono woman in the mist “floated” closer. At this time, a draft of wind came over, and the dense mist was lightened. Nishizawa Kyoko finally saw the face of the kimono woman – and immediately she screamed: “Oh my God, sister! Don’t, don’t come over. I never meant to kill you back then. It was you who insisted on calling the police and forced me to have no choice. Let’s go…” She collapsed to the ground out of extreme fear.
   Immediately, the lights in the hall of the Joruri Museum came on. In addition to Wellington and the police who had been ambushing in advance, there was also a Joruri puppeteer. He controlled a Joruri puppet. The puppet’s costume was a replica of the kimono woman in the oil painting, and the shape of the puppet was based on This is Hanako Nishizawa’s body shape during her lifetime.
   It turns out that Hanako met an art dealer three years ago and fell in love with him, and wanted to marry him and move abroad. This is the wish and life pursuit of any normal woman, but in the eyes of Kyoko Nishizawa, who is paranoid and selfish, it has turned into a betrayal of the family heritage collection and sisterhood. In order to block her sister’s wish, she secretly tampered with the art dealer’s car, causing an accident and killing him. Unexpectedly, a fisherman girl who accidentally witnessed what happened told Hanako what she had seen. The angry Hanako severely criticized her sister and insisted on calling the police.
   After Nishizawa Kyoko killed her sister by mistake, she planned to kill the fisherman girl because she was worried about what happened. She first used her greed to give her a small favor, then “gifted” Hanako’s fashionable clothes, coaxed her to dress up, and then took her from the seaside. The cliffs push into the sea. A few days later, she pretended to claim her sister’s body, which was washed away beyond recognition by waves and rocks.
   She thought she had done a perfect job, but unexpectedly she came all the way to Wellington and uncovered the rumors and related old cases. Kyoko Nishizawa had to rack her brains to cover it up. As a result, the situation got serious. When she heard that the painting was to be burned and buried, she was frightened. Because there are two remains hidden in my sister’s coffin, which will be exposed once it is opened.
   As for who Wellington is? His true identity is a British art dealer who is acquainted with Nishizawa Kyoko’s sister’s lover. A few months ago, the art dealer’s family donated to Wellington a laptop that he used to store exhibition materials during his lifetime. Unintentionally, he discovered the art dealer’s love notes on his computer, which detailed several private disputes between himself and Nishizawa Kyoko before his death. He vaguely felt that something was fishy, ​​so he decided to investigate secretly. In order to lure the snake out of the hole, he used the “soul-obsessing puppet” as a breakthrough point to contact and persuade people from all parties to cooperate. He continued to “pretend to be a ghost” and finally lured the thoughtful Kyoko Nishizawa into the law step by step.

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