So... you may have heard about this already. I posted about it on Facebook, briefly, but I've looked into it a bit more, and man. Mythology is so fun.
This is a photo of a rock that no longer exists, sessho-seki. (Image is from Wikipedia) The story (according to Hokusai) goes that at the end of the Shang dynasty in China, a nine-tailed fox possessed one of the emperor's concubines, influencing him and causing the end of the dynasty. She fled to India where she repeated her antics, then headed back to China to do it all over again.
Eventually, she wound up in Japan where she was known as Tamamo-no-Mae– a beautiful, witty, and intelligent courtesan favored by the emperor. She changed up her method a bit here, though, and made him ill rather than inspiring bloodthirsty rebellion. Fortunately for the emperor, she was discovered and chased away. From what I understand, two warriors were sent to stop her, and it gets a bit unclear from here. She was either killed on the stone or was imprisoned inside it.
Legend has it that the stone has emitted poisonous gas for the past thousand years since the demon was trapped (or killed), and anyone who touches the stone dies. There's also a story that says a famous Buddhist monk exorcised Tamamo-no-mae after she repented her evil deeds.
Whichever story you want to believe, sessho-seki split in two this week. Was the demon released to wreak more havoc? Did she repent and move on to whatever afterlife there is for kitsune? What do you think?
Fleeing fox spirit as Lady Kayō depicted Sangoku Yōko-den (三国妖狐伝)
by Katsushika Hokusai