The ghost of Kasane was also a frequent subject in Japanese art. Like Oiwa, Kasane is the victim of her husband, Yagoro, who finds her so ugly that he decides to do away with her via brutal drowning. After he promptly remarries, Kasane returns to haunt and kill Yagoro’s new wife—and his five brides that follow—before tormenting her killer. In an 1852 print by Toyokuni III, Kasane descends from the sky, surrounded by flames, her eyes wide and angry.
The wild-maned, tenacious yūrei richly depicted across ukiyo-e prints have permeated a wide array of Japanese culture in the modern era. Vengeful female ghosts materialize in scores of J-horror films, from Masaki Kobayashi’s creepy Kwaidan
(1964) to Hideo Nakata’s truly bone-chilling Ring
(1998). In the former, in a segment titled “The Black Hair,” a ghostly wife with long, tangled hair stalks her cheating husband. More recently, writer Christopher Benfey has drawn
a convincing comparison between Kobayashi’s depiction of Okiku and Hokusai’s 1831 rendition.
For his part, Davisson sees Oiwa—whom he refers to as a “celebrity spirit, one whose presence still haunts modern-day Japan”—in Ring’s powerful, eerie character of Sadako. In the film, she crawls slowly out of the TV, nails bloody and dark, gnarled hair shielding her face. As she reaches the man she’s out to get, a sliver of her eye is revealed—wide, angry, poised for revenge.