Minakami Village. I was still a child when I first set foot in this village. My father was a pedlar who took me to a variety of towns and villages across the country. One of those was Minakami Village.
The village had an air of disliking outsiders. As you pass by the small, old shrine on the outskirts of the village and try to enter, you get the sense that everyone who tries to enter is rejected. The surrounding villages refuse to speak of it. As we came and went, we were looked at as if we were different.
However, I wasn't all that frightened of the village. This was because I had friends there of my own age. They were twin brothers called Itsuki and Mutsuki Tachibana. Upon our occasional visits to the village, they would always greet us happily. In exchange for my stories of the world outside of the village, they told me a little about the things that happened in this peculiar place. They told me that twins were often born there, of a forbidden place somewhere in the village, and that the houses there were linked by an underground passage.
Amidst the stories was that of a festival that was held once every few years. Apparently, only a small number of villagers knew what it entailed. At the time of the festival, only a chosen few villagers were permitted to view it. All they knew of was the custom that twin sisters born in the village were made to participate in this festival as Twin Shrine Maidens. What happens in this "festival" that even the residents do not know of? This question that had smouldered for many a year inside my heart was to be awakened several years later.
One day, I received a letter from Itsuki. It read: "I need to you take Yae and Sae from the village before the festival." Though written in a shaky hand, it had undoubtedly been written by Itsuki. Yae and Sae were twin sisters who lived in the same village as Itsuki and Mutsuki. I recall having spoken to them several times. It appeared as if the festival was being held, and that these sisters had been selected as the Twin Shrine Maidens.
I had heard that twin sisters living in the village would participate in the festival as Twin Shrine Maidens, but what did he mean that he wanted me to take them away? Was there a reason why he didn't want them to be part of it? Was the festival so dangerous?
I was worried about them, but I had to work, and I was not in possession of the funds to travel to Minakami Village. At the time I was deeply interested in folklore and was serving as the assistant of Mr. Seijiro Makabe, said to be the leading man in his field. The work was like a hobby, and as such the pay was meagre. I decided to try discussing things with Mr. Makabe. I also explained to him in detail about the legends and customs of Minakami Village that I had heard from Itsuki and Mutsuki.
Being an expert in customs from all across Japan and a particularly passionate researcher in the field of religion, Mr. Makabe seemed to take special interest in the custom of Twin Shrine Maidens and the Gate to Hell. He informed me that we were to head straight to Minakami Village for research. I, of course, was to accompany him as his guide.
Despite being concerned about my childhood friends, I was also indirectly looking forward to being able to see them again. At the time, I hadn't the faintest idea that this would lead to Mr. Makabe becoming embroiled in the eternal ritual.
This book is a collection of the research notes left behind by Mr. Makabe, revised to include my own experiences. I am still unsure as to whether the things that I experienced in that village were real or all just a dream. The only thing I know for certain is that I shall never be able to see Mr. Makabe again.
This book is dedicated to the person whom I respected most of all, Mr. Seijiro Makabe.