The story is a list of testimonies, progressing from uninvolved third persons (a priest that walked by), through to family members (the mother of the bride), finally to the testimony of the ghost of the murdered man in the afterlife.

Each story tells a different version of who was the killer.

The criminal/highway man claims he killed the husband, at the prompt of the husbands' wife, after she promised she'd run with him. He tells a tale of wooing the woman away from her husband.

The wife claims she killed her own husband. She tells a tale of the husband being disgusted with her after she attempted to charm the robber into running away

The husband claims he committed suicide, to avoid the shame of not being able to protect his wife. (or some variation, I don't remember exactly)

I've read the story in an anthology collecting other stories by the same author. Iirc the author died young, not too much after the end of World War 1, and was active in the first 2 decades or so of the 20th century. Also, I believe the author is unusual for Japanese writers of the era because he converted to (or at least wrote about) christian themes.

  • This was adapted into one of the greatest psychological films of all time: imdb.com/title/tt0042876
    – Buzz
    Commented Mar 6 at 1:26
  • 1
    @Buzz - It was the inspiration for Weekend at Bernie's II?
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 6 at 8:22
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    As Buzz says, one reason for the popularity of this story is that it's the basis of the great 1950 Akira Kurosawa movie Rashōmon.  (The movie's title comes from another story by Akutagawa, which is used as a framing device in the movie.)
    – gidds
    Commented Mar 7 at 17:12

1 Answer 1


This is In a Grove by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa.

The story centers on the violent death of young samurai Kanazawa no Takehiro, whose body has been found in a bamboo forest near Kyoto. The preceding events unfurl in a series of testimonies, first by passers-by, an auxiliary policeman and a relative, then by the three main protagonists – the samurai, his wife Masago, and bandit Tajōmaru – but the truth remains hidden due to the contradictory recounts given.


The final account comes from Takehiro's ghost, as delivered through a medium.

  • 1
    How is this sf/f? The medium? There are lots of mediums (media?) who deliver messages from ghosts in the real world. Do you consider this story on topic based on your opinion that all real-life mediums are phonies, and the medium in the story is not?
    – user14111
    Commented Mar 5 at 20:59
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    @user14111 - Real world mediums are all bullsh*tting charlatans whereas the one in this story has genuine psychic powers. That makes it a fantasy at the very least
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 5 at 21:57
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    I guess questions about Hamlet, Macbeth, and Julius Caesar are on topic here, on account of all the ghosts, witches, and soothsayers.
    – user14111
    Commented Mar 6 at 3:35
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    @user14111 - Certainly the bits that are about ghosts and witches would be firmly on-topic.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 6 at 8:20
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    That's exactly it! From the "Murder in the age of enlightenment" collection of stories Commented Mar 6 at 17:01

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