Haunted by specters
all his days, Yashuma Neiboku is a sorrowed, and now forgotten, figure in Japanese history. Born in 1747 in the city of Keio
, Neiboku spent many years there as a scholar. In 1858, the centers of learning in Keio were unified and the first university in Japan
was formed. Neiboku died in 1821, two years after the death of his wife, Aki. He was survived by his three children (as well, we might say, by his hidden other wife).
There are two remarkable facts about Neiboku's life. The first: his literary productivity as physically and intellectually embodied in Neiboku's Secret Library
. The second: Neiboku's hauntings.
Throughout his life, Yashuma Neiboku was obsessed with ghosts
. He is reported to have believed so fervently in their existence that he dedicated years of his life to writing letters to these ghosts. It is true that he did often correspond with friends and colleagues he met during his studies at Keio, such as Seiji Koga
, with whom he authored an astounding correspondence
on the Ethics
. Yet more often than this, Neiboku spent his insomniac nights in a fever of writing; he produced letter after letter to colleagues, students, and lovers that no one had ever heard of. His letters were on a diverse range of topics, but he wrote most often of his obsession: ghosts. His many absent addressees were the subjects of so many of his letters to those other chimeras that, too, did not exist in the world we know and cherish with daily breads. Neiboku wrote their histories, their lives, he praised their works (which did not exist), he criticized their poetry (which was never in fact written), and he compared their paintings (which were canvasless). His letters reveal an entire history of a mythological
universe quite closely resembling the world occupied by his body, but nonetheless disparate from the emotions, thoughts, and physical realities of those around him. In a series of many letters to a ghost named Kashamat
, he offers the chapters of the life of another ancient ghost named Droko Lphs
, who reportedly liberated a remote province of China
and was a spiritual advisor to the first Dalia Lama
. The historical account is brilliant, interesting, and dedicated in its researches. Its only fault is that its subject did not exist, and the books and archives to which Neiboku's citations refer were never seen or read by another mortal soul. Was it a false history, a literary odyssey, that Neiboku authored? Or was it a dedicated history of a reality layered above or superimposed beside our own, invisible to we insensitive souls?
On ghostly subjects pertaining to our world, Neiboku wrote volumes upon volumes of letters on the subject of Pliny's
famous epistle to Sura (Book VII, Letter XXVII): it is one of the first recorded ghost stories in history. Neiboku also authored many histories of the Japanese literature and mythology of ghosts, and may have even authored the famous Japanese ghost story of Watanabetsuna and the ghost of Rashoomon
In his later years, Neiboku traversed the streets and forests of Keio speaking with passion to his audience, whom nobody else saw. He often fought with his obfuscated opponents, and would return to Aki with bruises on his thighs. One night she found her husband behind the house, making love to another woman, whom Aki could not see or touch with her heart's rage and sorrow; Neiboku's mistress was apparitional, her body a ciphered
article of his imagination. Nonetheless, Neiboku raised the phantom child in the penumbra of his secret wife, and he named the child Haruko, writing of her often in his many ghostly tacygraphies
. When the child suddently died from consumption one winter, Neiboku entered a long depression. The story of his death is also remarkable, though we know little of it, for perhaps Neiboku himself was a mythology, or a phantom delight of some ancient historian's sentiment. The story that is often told is this: in his later years, after the death of Aki, Neiboku grew fearful of the revenants haunting his days and nights. One particular shadow, whom Neiboku referred to only with a queer twisting of his hand, is said to have haunted the very soul of the poor old man, to the point where it was corrupted, and emptied of all purity. Neiboku's skin turned black, and he shed his clothes. He did not eat or drink for over a year. On the day of his death, the entire city of Keio is supposed to have seen him, running through every street, twisting his hand awkwardly, shouting in ancient languages, his face ravaged by his imagination's sciagraphy.
Of Neiboku's writing, I could not here pretend to encapsulate such genius or even describe such a vast archive. His writings have never been published in any books I have seen or heard of. Neiboku is said to have established a library of his books, which is glorious and a wonder by all accounts. Neiboku's Secret Library
has been described to me as, "The only true wonder of the world
." Of his works, I only possess facsimiles of his correspondence with Seiji Koga
, and two of his essays: one on Pliny's 27th letter to Sura, the other an indecipherable interlingual
story which I have still not been able to translate.