Katabiragatsuji' is said to have been located in the northwestern of Kyoto City. It is said that it was around present-day 'Katabiranotsuji'.
In the beginning of the Heian period, Tachibana no Kachiko (786-850), the Empress of the Emperor Saga, had a strong faith in Buddha and constructed 'Danrin-ji' temple, so she was called 'Danrin Kogo' (the Empress of Danrin). She rendered tremendous services in the field of education for the children of nobles, founding schools.
According to legend, she had stunning beauty, so, there was no end to the number of men who were captivated by her beauty. Even young ascetic monks fell victims to her charms. She was a devout Buddhist, so that she deeply deplored this situation. She tried to show the teachings of Buddhism by practicing herself that the world is transient, everything is changing and there are no permanent things. In order to arouse people's faith in Buddha, she killed herself, leaving her will saying, 'My body should not be buried instead it should be abandoned in some crossroad.
The will was executed and her body was abandoned in a crossroad, but it decayed gradually. It became food for dogs and crows, and lay in ugly and horrible appearance, finally having been reduced to bones. It is said that people kept the teaching, 'transience of the world' in their heart and monks dedicated themselves to ascetic practices, dispelling their obsession about her. Afterward, the place where her body was laid was called 'Katabiragatsuji'.
Another legend says that it originated in the name of the Empress's 'Kyokatabira', (white clothing worn by the dead). Kusouzu' or 'Kusoushi emaki' is a set of nine paintings that shows how the body of Empress Danrin (or others such as Onono Komachi) was decaying.
Originally, 'Katabiragatsuji' was the place where the gracious but painful last wish of Empress Danrin, who saved people's souls at the sacrifice of her life must have been lying. Later, however, it is said that people became frightened of walking by the place because they could see a vision of a woman's body which was eaten away by dogs and crows. In addition, 'Adashino' located in the west northwest of present-day Katabira no tsuji (Okusaga located in the northwest of Sagano) is known as a place for funeral or a place for an ancient ritual, 'fuso' (funeral rite where the dead body is exposed to the wind until it is eroded completely).