The Rotting World of Flame within PC-98's Hell, in Highly Responsive to Prayers
Hell (地獄 Jigoku), also New Hell (新地獄 Shin Jigoku), is an enigmatic realm that's technically not part of Gensokyo, where it is a prison for souls after death that's managed by the yama. They'll be judged by the yama at Higan, and they can either go to Heaven, the Netherworld or here in Hell. The reason they'll come here is because they have sinned in their previous life, and thus must spend eternity in this prison. It is not to be confused with Makai (魔界) as it is a place for the afterlife, not merely a place where demons and strong youkai live. Whilst Hell is a frequent subject in the Windows era of the Touhou Project, it has yet to make a physical appearance. However, sources such as Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom suggests that more than one Hell exists.
As already stated, sources such as Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom suggests that more than one Hell exists in the Touhou Project. The most common Hell referenced in Touhou is the one managed by the yama that's loosely connected to Gensokyo. Each known Hell is separated in each section below.
Hell connected to Gensokyo
Hell was originally located in the Underworld in the exact location of Former Hell. At an unknown time (believed to be before Embodiment of Scarlet Devil), Hell moved to a new location due to over-population, and thus the place now called "Former Hell" became a forgotten land for vengeful spirits. It was later that the oni were given permission to live in the Former Hell, making it their paradise, and the subterranean youkai had to keep an eye on the vengeful spirits. Rin Kaenbyou made reference that she's lived here ever since Former Hell really was Hell. Because of the Former Hell, the current Hell can be referred to as the "New Hell". The New Hell is now located beyond Higan.
According to Buddhism, there are ten yama for each Hell, where one of these known yama is Eiki Shiki, Yamaxanadu who belongs to the Ministry of Right and Wrong. Shinigami are also known to live in Hell, who will guide and explain the details to the souls who are unfamiliar to the system of Hell due to their knowledge. Unlike the Netherworld, Hell is smaller, but apparently extremely spacious. It is also desolate and not calm, hence a wide array of torture devices could be used on the souls, but there are current economic conditions mean that many of these contraptions are in serious need of maintenance and repair.
Hell's facilities naturally must be expanded in order to accommodate the increasing population. However, due to financing issues, Hell had reached the point where it could no longer sustain itself merely from the ferrying fees levied on the departed. Thus, the primary sources of income are fares from those crossing the River Sanzu, as well as concession stands and food carts operating on the Road of Liminality in an attempt to earn some more money. As such, Hell can receive some money even from both the dead who aren't going there and from the living. However, those who run the stands are all criminals who were sentenced to Hell, so it's said many fall victim to their tricks. However, as soon as they're discovered, they're sent back to Hell. Hieda no Akyuu suggests that it's something like a graduation test from Hell. It is also known that Komachi Onozuka's boat was supplied by Hell for her to cross the River Sanzu, but it's old and worn due to finance issues.
Once a soul has finally made it across the Road of Liminality and the River Sanzu to Higan, they'll wait there. Once they've being finally judged by the ten yama and were sent to Hell, then the soul will fall outside the cycle of reincarnation temporarily. On their journey, the kishin chiefs will take charge as the souls fall down to Hell and will command the lesser oni in their torment of the deceased. Komachi Onozuka mentions that the oni of Hell are disciplined and injustices is quite rare, while the oni of Former Hell have too many close relationships with the ghosts of sinners, making them not wanting to leave. Every hundred years, assassins from Hell will come and assassinate hermits and celestials. This is because even living is considered a sin, and thus it's necessary to perform pious acts to compensate for them. This was shown to happen to Seiga Kaku in Wild and Horned Hermit chapter 12, where kishin chief Suiki was sent to assassinate her.
In order to avoid going to Hell in the afterlife, one must simply not commit a sin during their life. Even committing suicide will send you to Hell. Even in free time, Eiki has an habit of lecturing people in the hope that they will change for the better so she won't have to send them to Hell, as shown in Phantasmagoria of Flower View. It's suggested from this game that even though you've sinned, you can still redeem yourself by changing your lifestyle, thus not going to Hell. Eiki says that Hell doesn't exists to punish sinners, but to ensure that nobody sins.
Yuyuko Saigyouji's ability to manipulate departed souls enables her to manipulate ghosts and spirits, where she is able to let those from Hell stay eternally in the Netherworld. However, Yuyuko could also send a soul from the Netherworld to Hell by commanding her servant Youmu Konpaku to sever the circle of transmigration with her sword, then send it back to Higan, making it very likely that the soul will go to Hell.
According to Hecatia Laspislazuli, Hell wasn't always a place that served to rehabilitate human criminals. It was originally created by people unaccustomed to living virtuously, people with hearts of pure evil, and valorous people who seek true freedom, and was meant to be a place for them to live however they wanted, with no concept of being a bother to others. Things like the Lake of Blood or the Sea of Fire were used for personal pleasures like drinking and roasting meat rather than as a punishment. This changed when the Yama and Kishin took over trying to create order in such a chaotic world, saying they'd bring Hell back to its former glory. Despite this, Hell continues to be what can be considered a world of pure freedom run by an absolutely meritocratic system, where it doesn't matter who one is as long as they have the power to back it up, making it possible for even fairies to become important if they get the job done. Similarly, this also makes it possible for even kishin to become irrilevant with even just a failure.
Other forms of Hell
Hecatia Lapislazuli's Hell
According to Hecatia Lapislazuli's official profile of Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom, she is the Goddess of Hell, but it also states that there is a Hell for Earth, the Moon and the Otherworlds, where she governs all of them. Not much is known about these Hells. She holds a grudge against Chang'e because her husband, Houyi, shot down the sun, taking away the light Hell needs to exist, because without it, there would be no shadows and they'll become weak. Fairies are known to be found anywhere, where Hell is not an exception. They, along with Clownpiece, originally come from Earth's Hell, where under Hecatia's orders, immigrated to the Sea of Tranquility on the Moon in order to threaten the Lunar Capital. It became a fairy paradise that's said to be more comfortable than Hell, suggesting how awful the environment in Hell is. These fairies were transformed into pure lifeforce by Junko. According to Clownpiece, these refined fairy's energy exceeds even that of a kishin.
There was also a Hell in the PC-98, but due to the canonicity between the PC-98 and the Windows era, there is a difference between the Hell of both eras. ZUN wanted a "clean sweep" from the PC-98, but he stated that the settings for the PC-98 and Windows are essentially the same, but this is troublesome due to different forms of Hell. However, he said to take reference from the Windows era to consider what is canon. Regardless however, in the PC-98 canon, there isn't really much known about Hell. A gate is located not far from the Hakurei Shrine that leads to Hell. Within Hell, there is "Hokora" (祠), a place that's presumably where Mima originated as a vengeful spirit. There is also the "Rotting World of Flame" (炎の腐界 Honoo no Fukai) where Kikuri appears, and the "Silent Temple" (静かなる神殿 Shizukanaru Shinden) where Konngara resides.
In Lotus Land Story, Reimu Hakurei mentions about chasing Yuuka Kazami to the depths of Hell, while Yuuka says that she's not from Hell. It's unknown which Hell they're referring to, but it could just be generic.
- Highly Responsive to Prayers
Hell first appeared in Highly Responsive to Prayers and it is one of the main locations of the game. Reimu Hakurei discovered a portal that had opened in her shrine. A being from either here or Makai came and destroyed the Hakurei Shrine, so Reimu has to go out and put a stop to their reckless nature. After beating the boss SinGyoku on Stage 5, the player will then decide which route to take: Makai or Hell. If they chose Hell, then the rest of the game will occur through here. Stages 6-10 takes place at Hokora, where the boss of Stage 10 is Mima. Once she is defeated, Reimu shall now go through the Rotting World of Flame on Stages 11-15. The Stage 15 boss is Kikuri, who is some sort of a moon disk that will try and put a stop to Reimu. Once she is defeated, Reimu will spend the final 5 stages at the Silent Temple, where she'll meet Konngara, the Final Boss, who must be defeated in order to clear the game.
- Even though a vast amount of information is provided about Hell that's spread throughout the Touhou Project, it was not given a centred article in Perfect Memento in Strict Sense.
- The dragon god can come to Hell any time he wants.
- Sakuya Izayoi suggests that Makai is scarier than Hell, and Remilia Scarlet claims that not even the fires of Hell could burn her body, even though she's a vampire.
- Hieda no Akyuu once worked for the yama for a hundred years in Hell when one of her next reincarnations was preparing.
- It should be noted that recurringly in the Touhou Project, primarily in Subterranean Animism, various characters will make use of the proper noun "Hell" when they actually mean "Former Hell". This was pointed out by Akyuu in Symposium of Post-mysticism Part 4.
- Wikipedia's entry on Hell
- Touhou Hisoutensoku: Suika's Script
- Symposium of Post-mysticism: Part 4
- Japanese Wikipedia: 幻想郷
- Subterranean Animism: Reimu and Suika's Scenario
- Perfect Memento in Strict Sense: Yama's article
- Perfect Memento in Strict Sense: Shinigami's article
- Perfect Memento in Strict Sense: Yuyuko's article
- Symposium of Post-mysticism: Satori's article
- Perfect Memento in Strict Sense: Netherworld's article
- Perfect Memento in Strict Sense: Komachi Onozuka's article
- Perfect Memento in Strict Sense: Road of Liminality's article
- Touhou Hisoutensoku: Komachi's Script
- Perfect Memento in Strict Sense: Hermit's article
- Bohemian Archive in Japanese Red: Hakugyokurou
- Phantasmagoria of Flower View: Marisa's Scenario
- Alternative Facts in Eastern Utopia - Interview with Hecatia Lapislazuli
- Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom: Reisen's Scenario
- ZUN's AWA Q&A Panel
- Highly Responsive to Prayers: Endings
- Perfect Memento in Strict Sense: Dragon's article
- Perfect Cherry Blossom: Sakuya's Extra Scenario
- Strange and Bright Nature Deity: Chapter 15
- Perfect Memento in Strict Sense: Monologue