Published: December 8, 2011
She was known as The Forgotten. Hers was a small shrine, little visited by most. A small contingent of Buddhist monks and Shinto priests maintained the pagoda that housed her statue. It stood nearly two and a half meters, carved from stone with a slight pink tint, depicting a young girl wearing a long, flowing kimono. She carried a bow in one hand and an arrow in the other. Her expression was soft and compassionate, staring out sightlessly over Mitakihara Town ... or rather she had until the pagoda had been constructed around the statue, to offer some protection from the elements. Both statue and pagoda were of uncertain age. The statue had overlooked Mitakihara, in its various forms and sizes, since at least the middle part of the 1600s, the pagoda constructed perhaps later in that century.
Little was known about her. It was said by some that she had been a samurai in the Sengoku period, who had ascended to heaven after sacrificing her life for a dear friend on the field of battle. The statue certainly seemed to depict her as such. Others were less certain.
What was known is that those who came to visit her statue came from some compulsion they couldn't name, and left feeling strength and hope. Most were young girls, from various parts of Japan and China and Korea, and the priests and monks observed the odd coincidence that so many of these girls wore a simple silver ring engraved in some script they had not seen elsewhere, and always on the middle finger of their left hand.
Every year on the last day of April as long as any of the priests and monks present could remember there came one young woman to the shrine. Every year she wore a simple dark purple kimono, the only ornaments obvious to the eyes of the priests and monks being the ubiquitous silver ring worn on the middle finger of her left hand, and the pink ribbons in her long dark hair.
She would enter the pagoda, and slip her feet out of the geta she wore, and pad barefoot to the base of the statue, where she would kneel, and utter the only word any of the priests and monks had ever heard her speak.
She would bow her head, and she would remain there for hours, tears streaming down her cheeks as she silently prayed.
The young girls from Japan and China and Korea that visited the shrine on that day of the year found the experience particularly moving. There was an intensity that went beyond what girls noticed on other occasions. Some reported seeing tears falling from the statue's eyes.
None of the priests or monks would be able to tell you just how long she remained there kneeling in front of the statue on the last day of April of each year. Time seemed to have little meaning for her, and blurred in her presence. However every year her actions were the same once she had finished paying respects to The Forgotten. She would rise, and walk slowly backwards to the entrance to the pagoda. She would slip her feet back into her geta. She would then step out of the pagoda, backwards. Never did she turn her back or side to the statue.
She would then go to meet wordlessly with the head monk and head priest. To each she would hand a sealed, unmarked envelope containing a considerable sum of money.
Then she would simply no longer be at the shrine. No one had ever seen her leave.