The Ghost of Yotsuya (1959)


The movie The Ghost of Yotsuya (1959) is a Japanese horror film directed by Nobuo Nakagawa. The film is based on the kabuki play Yotsuya Kaidan and was one of the many adaptations of the play. [1] The plot revolves around a ruthless samurai named Iemon Tamiya who wishes to marry Oiwa.

The film opens with Iemon Tamiya, a merciless samurai, who is eager to marry Oiwa. Iemon waits outside of Oiwa’s father Samon’s home, pleading for his permission to marry Oiwa. He is insulted by Samon and his companion Sato. In a fit of rage, Iemon attacks Samon and Sato, resulting in their deaths. Naosuke, a low-ranking criminal who had been working for Samon and witnessed the murder, offers to keep silent about the murders in return for Iemon’s assistance. The two conspire to convince Oiwa and her sister, Sode, that their father was murdered by the notorious criminal Usaburo. They plan to murder Yomoschichi, Sato’s son and Sode’s fiancé, so that Naosuke can marry Sode. The two attack Yomoschichi, throwing him over a large waterfall.

A year later, Iemon and Oiwa are married and living in Edo (the former name of Tokyo) with their infant son. Unbeknownst to Oiwa, her sister Sode and Naosuke are also living together in the same city. Tired of his lack of status and his marriage to Oiwa, Iemon begins to court Ume, the daughter of the nobleman Ito. He and Naosuke plan to poison Oiwa so that Iemon can marry Ume and become a wealthy nobleman. Iemon recruits the masseur Takuetsu to seduce his wife, thus allowing Iemon to legally kill his wife for adultery. After failing to seduce Oiwa, Takuetsu informs her about Iemon’s plan. Simultaneously, having ingested the poison, Oiwa’s face breaks out in horrific boils. In a fit of madness, Oiwa attacks Takuetsu with a razor, but instead mortally wounds herself. As she dies, she swears revenge on Iemon. Iemon returns to the house and kills Takuetsu. He and Naosuke nail the two bodies to a pair of shutters and sink them in the river.

That same night, Iemon marries Ume. Soon, both Iemon and Naosuke are haunted by visions of the dead and deformed Oiwa, as well as Takuetsu. The terrified Iemon attacks the spirit at his new home at night, accidentally killing Ume as well as both of her parents. He flees to a Buddhist temple in search of sanctuary. That same night, Oiwa’s ghost visits her sister Sode and Naosuke. Upon seeing her, Naosuke confesses to his crimes and flees to the same temple. The ghost of Oiwa leads Sode to the home of Yomoschichi, who had survived the attempted murder. Yomoschichi and Sode resolve to avenge their slain loved ones.

At the temple, Naosuke taunts Iemon, who in turn kills Naosuke. Yomoschichi and Sode arrive and attack Iemon. Driven mad by the spirits of Oiwa and Takuetsu, he is unable to defend himself and is killed. The film ends with a vision of Oiwa, her appearance restored and holding her infant son, presumably in Heaven – her spirit now able to rest in peace with her revenge complete.


  • Shigeru Amachi as Iemon Tamiya
  • Noriko Kitazawa as Sode
  • Katsuko Wakasugi as Iwa
  • Shuntarō Emi as Naosuke
  • Ryūzaburō Nakamura as Yomoschichi Satô
  • Junko Ikeuchi as Ume Itô
  • Jun Ōtomo as Takuetsu
  • Hiroshi Hayashi as Kiemon Itô
  • Shinjirô Asano as Samon Yotsuya
  • Arata Shibata as Hikoemon Satô


The Ghost of Yotsuya (1959) is based on a 19th-century Kabuki play known as Yotsuya Kaidan, an extremely popular theater experience in that era. [2]

The performances were so influential that Oiwa, the vengeance-seeking ghost of the story, was forever inserted into the cultural history as a salient figure in Japanese folklore. [4]


“The composition of The Ghost of Yotsuya is full of beautiful and highly satisfying dynamic shots – some of the tracking shots are pure art. Such dynamism, beyond being visually pleasing, is also exquisitely utilized to heighten the drama within the narrative and to add some shock to certain horror imagery.” [4]


[1] Wikipedia

[2] IMDb

[3] Grimoire of Horror


Last updated byCody Meirick on November 30, 2023