The Nara period in Japan: Buddhism has recently been imported from China and is all the rage amongst the nobility.
Iratsume, a young woman from a noble house, becomes obsessed with the new religion and spends much of her time hand-copying the sutras, trying to understand the teachings of the Buddha. Then, one evening, after copying a thousand pages of sutras, she sees a radiant figure floating above a distant mountain. She leaves her residence as if possessed, and walks until she reaches the foot of the mountain arriving at a temple that women are forbidden to enter.
In the temple she encounters the figure she had glimpsed. It is not the Buddha after all, but the spirit of Prince Otsu, who was executed many years before in a court intrigue. Prince Otsu's ghost was drawn out by her fervent devotions and has mistaken Iratsume for one of her ancestors, a young woman who came to watch the execution. The beautiful face of this young woman, Mimimo no Toji, was the last thing the Prince saw before he died, and his ghost cannot rest while her face haunts his sleep.
A battle of wills begins between Iratsume and the ghostly prince who visits her bed chamber every night. Iratsume's heart is so pure that she can only see the Prince as a reincarnation of the Buddha and his white, cold skin as a symbol of purity, but the Prince is still attached to the material world and longs for the beauty of Mimimo no Toji.
Iratsume's maid and ladies in waiting begin a ritual chant to protect Iratsume as a storm batters the temple where she has taken refuge. When the storm passes Iratsume begins to weave a giant shroud for the body of the prince, a shroud that is covered with glorious images of Buddhism, a shroud that will become a Mandala and save the Prince and Iratsume herself, but in a far from conventional romantic ending.
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