The Sanzu River as seen in Wily Beast and Weakest Creature'
The Sanzu River (三途の河 Sanzu no Kawa, literally "River of Three Paths", also in British English translation River Sanzu) is the mist-shrouded river that dead souls must cross in order to reach Higan, where they will await judgment. Part of the riverbank is accessible from Gensokyo, even though the river's source, mouth and opposite bank lie outside it. Only the dead can cross the river on a shinigami's boat if they can afford to pay; everything except shinigami and their boats will sink. The river is populated by the phantoms of extinct marine life, including those from prehistoric times.
Komachi Onozuka may be seen ferrying souls here when she isn't slacking off. In Japanese Buddhist tradition, the Sanzu is said to have three crossings which vary in perilousness depending on the amount of sin a soul committed during his or her lifetime (hence the name). However, this concept is not used in Touhou: instead, Komachi uses her power of distance manipulation to vary the width of the river according to the souls' sinfulness.
Sai no Kawara
Sai no Kawara (賽の河原, "riverbank of sai no kami", sometimes colloquially termed "Children's Limbo" in English) is a stretch of stone-covered riverbank where the souls of deceased newborns reside. In Japanese folklore, the children's spirits stack stone towers as a memorial for their parents. They are routinely forced to start over when small oni knock the towers over, but are eventually saved by Jizo Bosatsu, who chases the oni away.
The Sanzu River as depicted in Perfect Memento in Strict Sense
The Sai no Kawara in Stage 1 of Wily Beast and Weakest Creature
Books and Articles
- Wikipedia entry for Sanzu River