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Long ago, in a part of the country not very remote from Kioto, the great gay city, there dwelt an honest couple. In a lonely place was their cottage, upon the outskirts of a deep wood of pine trees. Folks had it that the wood was haunted. They said it was full of deceiving foxes; they said that beneath the mossy ground the elves built their kitchens; they said that long-nosed Tengu had tea-parties in the forest thrice a month, and that the fairies’ children played at hide-and-seek there every morning before seven. Over and above all this they didn’t mind saying that the honest couple were queer in their ways, that the woman was a wise woman, and that the man was a warlock—which was as may be. But sure it was that they did no harm to living soul, that they lived as poor as poor, and that they had one fair daughter. She was as neat and pretty as a princess, and her manners were very fine; but for all that she worked as hard as a boy in the rice-fields, and within doors she was the housewife indeed, for she washed and cooked and drew water. She went barefoot in a grey homespun gown, and tied her back hair with a tough wistaria tendril. Brown she was and thin, but the sweetest beggar-maid that ever made shift with a bed of dry moss and no supper.

By-and-by the good man her father dies, and the wise woman her mother sickens within the year, and soon she lies in a corner of the cottage waiting for her end, with the maid near her crying bitter tears.

“Child,” says the mother, “do you know you are as pretty as a princess?”

“Am I that?” says the maid, and goes on with her crying.

“Do you know that your manners are fine?” says the mother.

“Are they, then?” says the maid, and goes on with her crying.

“My own baby,” says the mother, “could you stop your crying a minute and listen to me?”

So the maid stopped crying and put her head close by her mother’s on the poor pillow.

“Now listen,” says the mother, “and afterwards remember. It is a bad thing for a poor girl to be pretty. If she is pretty and lonely and innocent, none but the gods will help her. They will help you, my poor child, and I have thought of a way besides. Fetch me the great black rice-bowl from the shelf.”

The girl fetched it.

“See, now, I put it on your head and all your beauty is hidden away.”

“Alack, mother,” said the poor child, “it is heavy.”

“It will save you from what is heavier to bear,” said the mother. “If you love me, promise me that you will not move it till the time comes.”

“I promise! I promise! But how shall I know when the time comes?”

“That you shall know…. And now help me outside, for the sweet morning dawns and I’ve a fancy to see the fairies’ children once again, as they run in the forest.”

So the child, having the black bowl upon her head, held her mother in her arms in a grassy place near the great trees, and presently they saw the fairies’ children threading their way between the dark trunks as they played at hide-and-seek. Their bright garments fluttered, and they laughed lightly as they went. The mother smiled to see them; before seven she died very sweetly as she smiled.

When her little store of rice was done, the maid with the wooden bowl knew well enough that she must starve or go and find more. So first she tended her father’s and mother’s graves and poured water for the dead, as is meet, and recited many a holy text. Then she bound on her sandals, kilted her grey skirts to show her scarlet petticoat, tied her household gods in a blue printed handkerchief, and set out all alone to seek her fortunes, the brave girl!

For all her slenderness and pretty feet she was a rarely odd sight, and soon she was to know it. The great black bowl covered her head and shadowed her face. As she went through a village two women looked up from washing in the stream, stared and laughed.

“It’s a boggart come alive,” says one.

“Out upon her,” cries the other, “for a shameless wench! Out upon her false modesty to roam the country thus with her head in a black bowl, as who should cry aloud to every passing man, ‘Come and see what is hidden!’ It is enough to make a wholesome body sick.”

On went the poor maid, and sometimes the children pelted her with mud and pebbles for sport. Sometimes she was handled roughly by village louts, who scoffed and caught at her dress as she went; they even laid hands upon the bowl itself and sought to drag it from her head by force. But they only played at that game once, for the bowl stung them as fiercely as if it had been a nettle, and the bullies ran away howling.

The beggar-maiden might seek her fortune, but it was very hard to find. She might ask for work; but see, would she get it? None were wishful to employ a girl with a black bowl on her head.

At last, on a fine day when she was tired out, she sat her upon a stone and began to cry as if her heart would break. Down rolled her tears from under the black bowl. They rolled down her cheeks and reached her white chin.

A wandering ballad-singer passed that way, with his biwa slung across his back. He had a sharp eye and marked the tears upon the maid’s white chin. It was all he could see of her face, and, “Oh, girl with the black bowl on your head,” quoth he, “why do you sit weeping by the roadside?”

“I weep,” she answered, “because the world is hard. I am hungry and tired…. No one will give me work or pay me money.”

“Now that’s unfortunate,” said the ballad-singer, for he had a kind heart; “but I haven’t a rin of my own, or it would be yours. Indeed I am sorry for you. In the circumstances the best I can do for you is to make you a little song.” With that he whips his biwa round, thrums on it with his fingers and starts as easy as you please. “To the tears on your white chin,” he says, and sings:

The white cherry blooms by the roadside, How black is the canopy of cloud! The wild cherry droops by the roadside, Beware of the black canopy of cloud. Hark, hear the rain, hear the rainfall From the black canopy of cloud. Alas, the wild cherry, its sweet flowers are marred, Marred are the sweet flowers, forlorn on the spray!

“Sir, I do not understand your song,” said the girl with the bowl on her head.

“Yet it is plain enough,” said the ballad-singer, and went his way. He came to the house of a passing rich farmer. In he went, and they asked him to sing before the master of the house.

“With all the will in the world,” says the ballad-singer. “I will sing him a new song that I have just made.” So he sang of the wild cherry and the great black cloud.

When he had made an end, “Tell us the interpretation of your song,” says the master of the house.

“With all the will in the world,” quoth the ballad-singer. “The wild cherry is the face of a maiden whom I saw sitting by the wayside. She wore a great black wooden bowl upon her head, which is the great black cloud in my song, and from under it her tears flowed like rain, for I saw the drops upon her white chin. And she said that she wept for hunger, and because no one would give her work nor pay her money.”

“Now I would I might help the poor girl with the bowl on her head,” said the master of the house.

“That you may if you wish,” quoth the ballad-singer. “She sits but a stone’s throw from your gate.”

The long and short of it was that the maid was put to labour in the rich farmer’s harvest-fields. All the day long she worked in the waving rice, with her grey skirts kilted and her sleeves bound back with cords. All day long she plied the sickle, and the sun shone down upon the black bowl; but she had food to eat and good rest at night, and was well content.

She found favour in her master’s eyes, and he kept her in the fields till all the harvest was gathered in. Then he took her into his house, where there was plenty for her to do, for his wife was but sickly. Now the maiden lived well and happily as a bird, and went singing about her labours. And every night she thanked the august gods for her good fortune. Still she wore the black bowl upon her head.

At the New Year time, “Bustle, bustle,” says the farmer’s wife; “scrub and cook and sew; put your best foot foremost, my dear, for we must have the house look at its very neatest.”

“To be sure, and with all my heart,” says the girl, and she put her back into the work; “but, mistress,” she says, “if I may be so bold as to ask, are we having a party, or what?”

“Indeed we are, and many of them,” says the farmer’s wife. “My son that is in Kioto, the great and gay, is coming home for a visit.”

Presently home he comes, the handsome young man. Then the neighbours were called in, and great was the merry-making. They feasted and they danced, they jested and they sang, many a bowl of good red rice they ate, and many a cup of good saké they drank. All this time the girl, with bowl on her head, plied her work modestly in the kitchen, and well out of the way she was—the farmer’s wife saw to that, good soul! All the same, one fine day the company called for more wine, and the wine was done, so the son of the house takes up the saké bottle and goes with it himself to the kitchen. What should he see there but the maiden sitting upon a pile of faggots, and fanning the kitchen fire with a split bamboo fan!

“My life, but I must see what is under that black bowl,” says the handsome young man to himself. And sure enough he made it his daily care, and peeped as much as he could, which was not very much; but seemingly it was enough for him, for he thought no more of Kioto, the great and gay, but stayed at home to do his courting.

His father laughed and his mother fretted, the neighbours held up their hands, all to no purpose.

“Oh, dear, dear maiden with the wooden bowl, she shall be my bride and no other. I must and will have her,” cried the impetuous young man, and very soon he fixed the wedding-day himself.

When the time came, the young maidens of the village went to array the bride. They dressed her in a fair and costly robe of white brocade, and in trailing hakama of scarlet silk, and on her shoulders they hung a cloak of blue and purple and gold. They chattered, but as for the bride she said never a word. She was sad because she brought her bridegroom nothing, and because his parents were sore at his choice of a beggar-maid. She said nothing, but the tears glistened on her white chin.

“Now off with the ugly old bowl,” cried the maidens; “it is time to dress the bride’s hair and to do it with golden combs.” So they laid hands to the bowl and would have lifted it away, but they could not move it.

“Try again,” they said, and tugged at it with all their might. But it would not stir.

“There’s witchcraft in it,” they said; “try a third time.” They tried a third time, and still the bowl stuck fast, but it gave out fearsome moans and cries.

“Ah! Let be, let be for pity’s sake,” said the poor bride, “for you make my head ache.”

They were forced to lead her as she was to the bridegroom’s presence.

“My dear, I am not afraid of the wooden bowl,” said the young man.

So they poured the saké from the silver flagon, and from the silver cup the two of them drank the mystic “Three Times Three” that made them man and wife.

Then the black bowl burst asunder with a loud noise, and fell to the ground in a thousand pieces. With it fell a shower of silver and gold, and pearls and rubies and emeralds, and every jewel of price. Great was the astonishment of the company as they gazed upon a dowry that for a princess would have been rich and rare.

But the bridegroom looked into the bride’s face. “My dear,” he said, “there are no jewels that shine like your eyes.”

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Mio Strand is in the Province of Suruga. Its sand is yellow and fine, strewn with rose shells at the ebb tide. Its pine trees are ancient and they lean all one way, which is the way that the wild wind wills. Before Mio rolls the deep sea, and behind Mio rises Fuji, the most sacred, the mountain of mountains. Small marvel that the Strange People should come to Mio.

Of the Strange People not much is known, even at Mio, though it is sure they come there. It seems they are shy indeed, more’s the pity. They come through the blue air, or across the mysterious paths of the sea. Their footprints are never, never seen upon the wet beach, for they tread too lightly. But sometimes in their dancing they sweep their robes upon the sand and leave it ribbed and ruffled; so, often enough, it may be seen at Mio.

This is not all. Once a fisherman of Mio set eyes upon a maiden of the Strange People, and talked with her and made her do his bidding. This is a true thing, and thus it came about.

The fisherman was out in his boat all night. He cast his net here and he cast his net there, but he caught nothing at all for his pains. It may be believed that he grew weary enough before the morning. In the cold of the dawn he brought his boat to shore and set foot on Mio Strand, shivering.

Then, so he says, a warm wind met him and blew through his garments and his hair, so that he flushed and glowed. The very sand was full of comfort to his chilly feet. Upon the warm wind a fragrance was borne, cedar and vervain, and the scent of a hundred flowers.

Flowers dropped softly through the air like bright rain. The fisherman stretched out his hands and caught them, lotus and jessamine and pomegranate. And all the while sweet music sounded.

“This is never Mio Strand,” cried the fisherman, bewildered, “where I have pulled my boat ashore a thousand times or flown kites upon a holiday. Alack, I fear me I have sailed to the Fortunate Isles unawares, or come unwilling to the Sea King’s garden; or very like I am dead and never knew it, and this is Yomi. O Yomi, Land of Yomi, how like thou art to Mio Strand, my dear home!”

After he had said this, the fisherman looked up the beach and down the beach, and he turned and saw Fuji, the mountain of mountains, and then he turned and saw the deep rolling sea and knew he was at Mio and no other place, and gave a long sigh.

“Thanks be,” he said, and lifting his eyes he saw a robe of feathers hanging upon the branch of a pine tree. In the robe were feathers of all the birds that fly, every one; the kingfisher and the golden pheasant, the love bird, the swan, the crow, the cormorant, the dove, the bullfinch, the falcon, the plover, and the heron.

“Ah, the pretty fluttering thing!” said the fisherman, and he took it from the pine tree where it hung.

“Ah, the warm, sweet, fairy thing!” said the fisherman; “I’ll take it home for a treasure, sure no money could buy it, and I’ll show it to all the folk of the village.” And off he set for home with the fairy feathers over his arm.

Now the maiden of the Strange People had been playing all this time with the White Children of the Foam that live in the salt sea. She looked up through the cold clear water and marked that her robe hung no longer on the pine-tree branch.

“Alas, alas!” she cried, “my robe, my feather robe!” Swifter than any arrow she sprang from the water, and sped, fleet of foot, along the wet sand. The White Children of the Foam followed at her flashing heels. Clad in the cloak of her long hair, she came up with the fisherman.

“Give me my feather robe,” she said, and held out her hand for it.

“Why?” said the fisherman.

“’Tis mine. I want it. I must have it.”

“Oho,” said the fisherman, “finding’s keeping,” and he didn’t give her the feather robe.

“I am a Fairy,” she said.

“Farewell, Fairy,” said the fisherman.

“A Moon Fairy,” she said.

“Farewell, Moon Fairy,” said the fisherman, and he made to take his way along Mio Strand. At that she snatched at the feather robe, but the fisherman held fast. The feathers fluttered out and dropped upon the sand.

“I wouldn’t do that,” said the fisherman. “You’ll have it all to pieces.”

“I am a Moon Fairy, and at dawn I came to play upon fair Mio Strand; without my feathers I cannot go back to my place, my home in High Heaven. Therefore give me my feathers.”

“No,” said the fisherman.

“Oh, fisherman, fisherman, give me my robe.”

“I couldn’t think of it,” said the fisherman.

At this the maiden fell upon her knees and drooped like a lily in the heat of the day. With her arms she held the fisherman about the knees, and as she clung to him beseeching him, he felt her tears upon his bare feet.

She wept and said:

I am a bird, a frail bird, A wounded bird with broken wings, I must die far from home, For the Five Woes are come upon me. The red flowers in my hair are faded; My robe is made unclean; Faintness comes upon me; I cannot see—farewell, dear sight of my eyes; I have lost joy. Oh, blessed flying clouds, and happy birds, And golden dust in the wind, And flying thoughts and flying prayers! I have lost all joy.

“Oh, stop,” said the fisherman, “you may have your robe.”

“Give,” she cried.

“Softly, softly,” said the fisherman. “Not so fast. I will give you your robe if you will dance for me here on Mio Strand.”

“What must I dance?” she asked.

“You must dance the mystic dance that makes the Palace of the Moon turn round.”

She said, “Give me my feathers and I will dance it. I cannot dance without my feathers.”

“What if you cheat me, what if you break your promise and fly immediately to the moon and no dancing at all?”

“Ah, fisherman,” she said, “the faith of a Fairy!”

Then he gave her the robe.

Now, when she had arrayed herself and flung back her hair, the Fairy began to dance upon the yellow sand. In and out of the feather robe crept her fairy feet. Slowly, softly, she went with folded wings and sang:

Oh, the gold and silver mountains of the Moon, And the sweet Singing Birds of Heaven! They sing in the branches of the cinnamon tree, To entertain the thirty kings that are there. Fifteen kings in white garments, To reign for fifteen days. Fifteen kings in black garments, To reign for fifteen days. I hear the music of Heaven; Away, away, I fly to Fairy Places.

At this the Fairy spread her rainbow-coloured wings, and the wind that they made fluttered the red flowers in her hair. Out streamed the robe of feathers bright and gay.

The Fairy laughed. Her feet touched the waves of the sea; her feet touched the grass and the flowers inshore. They touched the high branches of the pines and then the white clouds.

“Farewell, fisherman!” the Fairy cried, and he saw her no more.

Long, long he stood gazing up into the sky. At length he stooped and picked up a little feather from the shore, a grey dove’s feather. He smoothed it out with his finger and hid it in his girdle.

Then he went to his home.

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Long ago, as I’ve heard tell, there dwelt at the temple of Morinji, in the Province of Kotsuke, a holy priest.

Now there were three things about this reverend man. First, he was wrapped up in meditations and observances and forms and doctrines. He was a great one for the Sacred Sutras, and knew strange and mystical things. Then he had a fine exquisite taste of his own, and nothing pleased him so much as the ancient tea ceremony of the Cha-no-yu; and for the third thing about him, he knew both sides of a copper coin well enough and loved a bargain.

None so pleased as he when he happened upon an ancient tea-kettle, lying rusty and dirty and half-forgotten in a corner of a poor shop in a back street of his town.

“An ugly bit of old metal,” says the holy man to the shopkeeper; “but it will do well enough to boil my humble drop of water of an evening. I’ll give you three rin for it.” This he did and took the kettle home, rejoicing; for it was of bronze, fine work, the very thing for the Cha-no-yu.

A novice cleaned and scoured the tea-kettle, and it came out as pretty as you please. The priest turned it this way and that, and upside down, looked into it, tapped it with his finger-nail. He smiled. “A bargain,” he cried, “a bargain!” and rubbed his hands. He set the kettle upon a box covered over with a purple cloth, and looked at it so long that first he was fain to rub his eyes many times, and then to close them altogether. His head dropped forward and he slept.

And then, believe me, the wonderful thing happened. The tea-kettle moved, though no hand was near it. A hairy head, with two bright eyes, looked out of the spout. The lid jumped up and down. Four brown and hairy paws appeared, and a fine bushy tail. In a minute the kettle was down from the box and going round and round looking at things.

“A very comfortable room, to be sure,” says the tea-kettle.

Pleased enough to find itself so well lodged, it soon began to dance and to caper nimbly and to sing at the top of its voice. Three or four novices were studying in the next room. “The old man is lively,” they said; “only hark to him. What can he be at?” And they laughed in their sleeves.

Heaven’s mercy, the noise that the tea-kettle made! Bang! bang! Thud! thud! thud!

The novices soon stopped laughing. One of them slid aside the kara-kami and peeped through.

“Arah, the devil and all’s in it!” he cried. “Here’s the master’s old tea-kettle turned into a sort of a badger. The gods protect us from witchcraft, or for certain we shall be lost!”

“And I scoured it not an hour since,” said another novice, and he fell to reciting the Holy Sutras on his knees.

A third laughed. “I’m for a nearer view of the hobgoblin,” he said.

So the lot of them left their books in a twinkling, and gave chase to the tea-kettle to catch it. But could they come up with the tea-kettle? Not a bit of it. It danced and it leapt and it flew up into the air. The novices rushed here and there, slipping upon the mats. They grew hot. They grew breathless.

“Ha, ha! Ha, ha!” laughed the tea-kettle; and “Catch me if you can!” laughed the wonderful tea-kettle.

Presently the priest awoke, all rosy, the holy man.

“And what’s the meaning of this racket,” he says, “disturbing me at my holy meditations and all?”

“Master, master,” cry the novices, panting and mopping their brows, “your tea-kettle is bewitched. It was a badger, no less. And the dance it has been giving us, you’d never believe!”

“Stuff and nonsense,” says the priest; “bewitched? Not a bit of it. There it rests on its box, good quiet thing, just where I put it.”

Sure enough, so it did, looking as hard and cold and innocent as you please. There was not a hair of a badger near it. It was the novices that looked foolish.

 

“A likely story indeed,” says the priest. “I have heard of the pestle that took wings to itself and flew away, parting company with the mortar. That is easily to be understood by any man. But a kettle that turned into a badger—no, no! To your books, my sons, and pray to be preserved from the perils of illusion.”

That very night the holy man filled the kettle with water from the spring and set it on the hibachi to boil for his cup of tea. When the water began to boil—

“Ai! Ai!” the kettle cried; “Ai! Ai! The heat of the Great Hell!” And it lost no time at all, but hopped off the fire as quick as you please.

“Sorcery!” cried the priest. “Black magic! A devil! A devil! A devil! Mercy on me! Help! Help! Help!” He was frightened out of his wits, the dear good man. All the novices came running to see what was the matter.

“The tea-kettle is bewitched,” he gasped; “it was a badger, assuredly it was a badger … it both speaks and leaps about the room.”

“Nay, master,” said a novice, “see where it rests upon its box, good quiet thing.”

And sure enough, so it did.

“Most reverend sir,” said the novice, “let us all pray to be preserved from the perils of illusion.”

The priest sold the tea-kettle to a tinker and got for it twenty copper coins.

“It’s a mighty fine bit of bronze,” says the priest. “Mind, I’m giving it away to you, I’m sure I cannot tell what for.” Ah, he was the one for a bargain! The tinker was a happy man and carried home the kettle. He turned it this way and that, and upside down, and looked into it.

“A pretty piece,” says the tinker; “a very good bargain.” And when he went to bed that night he put the kettle by him, to see it first thing in the morning.

 

He awoke at midnight and fell to looking at the kettle by the bright light of the moon.

Presently it moved, though there was no hand near it.

“Strange,” said the tinker; but he was a man who took things as they came.

A hairy head, with two bright eyes, looked out of the kettle’s spout. The lid jumped up and down. Four brown and hairy paws appeared, and a fine bushy tail. It came quite close to the tinker and laid a paw upon him.

“Well?” says the tinker.

“I am not wicked,” says the tea-kettle.

“No,” says the tinker.

“But I like to be well treated. I am a badger tea-kettle.”

“So it seems,” says the tinker.

“At the temple they called me names, and beat me and set me on the fire. I couldn’t stand it, you know.”

“I like your spirit,” says the tinker.

“I think I shall settle down with you.”

“Shall I keep you in a lacquer box?” says the tinker.

“Not a bit of it, keep me with you; let us have a talk now and again. I am very fond of a pipe. I like rice to eat, and beans and sweet things.”

“A cup of saké sometimes?” says the tinker.

“Well, yes, now you mention it.”

“I’m willing,” says the tinker.

“Thank you kindly,” says the tea-kettle; “and, as a beginning, would you object to my sharing your bed? The night has turned a little chilly.”

“Not the least in the world,” says the tinker.

The tinker and the tea-kettle became the best of friends. They ate and talked together. The kettle knew a thing or two and was very good company.

One day: “Are you poor?” says the kettle.

“Yes,” says the tinker, “middling poor.”

“Well, I have a happy thought. For a tea-kettle, I am out-of-the-way—really very accomplished.”

“I believe you,” says the tinker.

“My name is Bumbuku-Chagama; I am the very prince of Badger Tea-Kettles.”

“Your servant, my lord,” says the tinker.

“If you’ll take my advice,” says the tea-kettle, “you’ll carry me round as a show; I really am out-of-the-way, and it’s my opinion you’d make a mint of money.”

“That would be hard work for you, my dear Bumbuku,” says the tinker.

“Not at all; let us start forthwith,” says the tea-kettle.

So they did. The tinker bought hangings for a theatre, and he called the show Bumbuku-Chagama. How the people flocked to see the fun! For the wonderful and most accomplished tea-kettle danced and sang, and walked the tight rope as to the manner born. It played such tricks and had such droll ways that the people laughed till their sides ached. It was a treat to see the tea-kettle bow as gracefully as a lord and thank the people for their patience.

The Bumbuku-Chagama was the talk of the country-side, and all the gentry came to see it as well as the commonalty. As for the tinker, he waved a fan and took the money. You may believe that he grew fat and rich. He even went to Court, where the great ladies and the royal princesses made much of the wonderful tea-kettle.

At last the tinker retired from business, and to him the tea-kettle came with tears in its bright eyes.

“I’m much afraid it’s time to leave you,” it says.

“Now, don’t say that, Bumbuku, dear,” says the tinker. “We’ll be so happy together now we are rich.”

“I’ve come to the end of my time,” says the tea-kettle. “You’ll not see old Bumbuku any more; henceforth I shall be an ordinary kettle, nothing more or less.”

“Oh, my dear Bumbuku, what shall I do?” cried the poor tinker in tears.

“I think I should like to be given to the temple of Morinji, as a very sacred treasure,” says the tea-kettle.

It never spoke or moved again. So the tinker presented it as a very sacred treasure to the temple, and the half of his wealth with it.

And the tea-kettle was held in wondrous fame for many a long year. Some persons even worshipped it as a saint.

(selected from-

Japanese Fairy Tales_

Author: Grace James
Published: 1912
Publisher: Macmillan And Co., Limited, London

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In Yedo there dwelt a samurai called Hagiwara. He was a samurai of the hatamoto, which is of all the ranks of samurai the most honourable. He possessed a noble figure and a very beautiful face, and was beloved of many a lady of Yedo, both openly and in secret. For himself, being yet very young, his thoughts turned to pleasure rather than to love, and morning, noon and night he was wont to disport himself with the gay youth of the city. He was the prince and leader of joyous revels within doors and without, and would often parade the streets for long together with bands of his boon companions.

One bright and wintry day during the Festival of the New Year he found himself with a company of laughing youths and maidens playing at battledore and shuttlecock. He had wandered far away from his own quarter of the city, and was now in a suburb quite the other side of Yedo, where the streets were empty, more or less, and the quiet houses stood in gardens. Hagiwara wielded his heavy battledore with great skill and grace, catching the gilded shuttlecock and tossing it lightly into the air; but at length with a careless or an ill-judged stroke, he sent it flying over the heads of the players, and over the bamboo fence of a garden near by. Immediately he started after it. Then his companions cried, “Stay, Hagiwara; here we have more than a dozen shuttlecocks.”

“Nay,” he said, “but this was dove-coloured and gilded.”

“Foolish one!” answered his friends; “here we have six shuttlecocks all dove-coloured and gilded.”

But he paid them no heed, for he had become full of a very strange desire for the shuttlecock he had lost. He scaled the bamboo fence and dropped into the garden which was upon the farther side. Now he had marked the very spot where the shuttlecock should have fallen, but it was not there; so he searched along the foot of the bamboo fence—but no, he could not find it. Up and down he went, beating the bushes with his battledore, his eyes on the ground, drawing breath heavily as if he had lost his dearest treasure. His friends called him, but he did not come, and they grew tired and went to their own homes. The light of day began to fail. Hagiwara, the samurai, looked up and saw a girl standing a few yards away from him. She beckoned him with her right hand, and in her left she held a gilded shuttlecock with dove-coloured feathers.

The samurai shouted joyfully and ran forward. Then the girl drew away from him, still beckoning him with the right hand. The shuttlecock lured him, and he followed. So they went, the two of them, till they came to the house that was in the garden, and three stone steps that led up to it. Beside the lowest step there grew a plum tree in blossom, and upon the highest step there stood a fair and very young lady. She was most splendidly attired in robes of high festival. Her kimono was of water-blue silk, with sleeves of ceremony so long that they touched the ground; her under-dress was scarlet, and her great girdle of brocade was stiff and heavy with gold. In her hair were pins of gold and tortoiseshell and coral.

When Hagiwara saw the lady, he knelt down forthwith and made her due obeisance, till his forehead touched the ground.

Then the lady spoke, smiling with pleasure like a child. “Come into my house, Hagiwara Sama, samurai of the hatamoto. I am O’Tsuyu, the Lady of the Morning Dew. My dear handmaiden, O’Yoné, has brought you to me. Come in, Hagiwara Sama, samurai of the hatamoto; for indeed I am glad to see you, and happy is this hour.”

So the samurai went in, and they brought him to a room of ten mats, where they entertained him; for the Lady of the Morning Dew danced before him in the ancient manner, whilst O’Yoné, the handmaiden, beat upon a small scarlet-tasselled drum.

Afterwards they set food before him, the red rice of the festival and sweet warm wine, and he ate and drank of the food they gave him.

It was dark night when Hagiwara took his leave. “Come again, honourable lord, come again,” said O’Yoné the handmaiden.

“Yea, lord, you needs must come,” whispered the Lady of the Morning Dew.

The samurai laughed. “And if I do not come?” he said mockingly. “What if I do not come?”

The lady stiffened, and her child’s face grew grey, but she laid her hand upon Hagiwara’s shoulder.

“Then,” she said, “it will be death, lord. Death it will be for you and for me. There is no other way.” O’Yoné shuddered and hid her eyes with her sleeve.

The samurai went out into the night, being very much afraid.

Long, long he sought for his home and could not find it, wandering in the black darkness from end to end of the sleeping city. When at last he reached his familiar door the late dawn was almost come, and wearily he threw himself upon his bed. Then he laughed. “After all, I have left behind me my shuttlecock,” said Hagiwara the samurai.

The next day Hagiwara sat alone in his house from morning till evening. He had his hands before him; and he thought, but did nothing more. At the end of the time he said, “It is a joke that a couple of geisha have sought to play on me. Excellent, in faith, but they shall not have me!” So he dressed himself in his best and went forth to join his friends. For five or six days he was at joustings and junketings, the gayest of the gay. His wit was ready, his spirits were wild.

Then he said, “By the gods, I am deathly sick of this,” and took to walking the streets of Yedo alone. From end to end of the great city he went. He wandered by day and he wandered by night, by street and alley he went, by hill and moat and castle wall, but he found not what he sought. He could not come upon the garden where his shuttlecock was lost, nor yet upon the Lady of the Morning Dew. His spirit had no rest. He fell sick and took to his bed, where he neither ate nor slept, but grew spectre-thin. This was about the third month. In the sixth month, at the time of niubai, the hot and rainy season, he rose up, and, in spite of all his faithful servant could say or do to dissuade him, he wrapped a loose summer robe about him and at once went forth.

“Alack! Alack!” cried the servant, “the youth has the fever, or he is perchance mad.”

Hagiwara faltered not at all. He looked neither to the right nor to the left. Straight forward he went, for he said to himself, “All roads lead past my love’s house.” Soon he came to a quiet suburb, and to a certain house whose garden had a split bamboo fence. Hagiwara laughed softly and scaled the fence.

“The same, the very same shall be the manner of our meeting,” he said. He found the garden wild and overgrown. Moss covered the three stone steps. The plum tree that grew there fluttered its green leaves disconsolate. The house was still, its shutters were all closed, it was forlorn and deserted.

The samurai grew cold as he stood and wondered. A soaking rain fell.

There came an old man into the garden. He said to Hagiwara:

“Sir, what do you do here?”

“The white flower has fallen from the plum tree,” said the samurai. “Where is the Lady of the Morning Dew?”

“She is dead,” answered the old man; “dead these five or six moons, of a strange and sudden sickness. She lies in the graveyard on the hill, and O’Yoné, her handmaid, lies by her side. She could not suffer her mistress to wander alone through the long night of Yomi. For their sweet spirits’ sake I would still tend this garden, but I am old and it is little that I can do. Oh, sir, they are dead indeed. The grass grows on their graves.”

Hagiwara went to his own home. He took a slip of pure white wood and he wrote upon it, in large fair characters, the dear name of his lady. This he set up, and burned before it incense and sweet odours, and made every offering that was meet, and did due observance, and all for the welfare of her departed spirit.

Then drew near the Festival of Bon, the time of returning souls. The good folk of Yedo took lanterns and visited their graves. Bringing food and flowers, they cared for their beloved dead. On the thirteenth day of the seventh month, which, in the Bon, is the day of days, Hagiwara the samurai walked in his garden by night for the sake of the coolness. It was windless and dark. A cicada hidden in the heart of a pomegranate flower sang shrilly now and again. Now and again a carp leaped in the round pond. For the rest it was still, and never a leaf stirred.

About the hour of the Ox, Hagiwara heard the sound of footsteps in the lane that lay beyond his garden hedge. Nearer and nearer they came.

“Women’s geta,” said the samurai. He knew them by the hollow echoing noise. Looking over his rose hedge, he saw two slender women come out of the dimness hand in hand. One of them carried a lantern with a bunch of peony flowers tied to the handle. It was such a lantern as is used at the time of the Bon in the service of the dead. It swung as the two women walked, casting an uncertain light. As they came abreast of the samurai upon the other side of the hedge, they turned their faces to him. He knew them at once, and gave one great cry.

The girl with the peony lantern held it up so that the light fell upon him.

“Hagiwara Sama,” she cried, “by all that is most wonderful! Why, lord, we were told that you were dead. We have daily recited the Nembutsu for your soul these many moons!”

“Come in, come in, O’Yoné,” he said; “and is it indeed your mistress that you hold by the hand? Can it be my lady?… Oh, my love!”

O’Yoné answered, “Who else should it be?” and the two came in at the garden gate.

But the Lady of the Morning Dew held up her sleeve to hide her face.

“How was it I lost you?” said the samurai; “how was it I lost you, O’Yoné?”

“Lord,” she said, “we have moved to a little house, a very little house, in the quarter of the city which is called the Green Hill. We were suffered to take nothing with us there, and we are grown very poor. With grief and want my mistress is become pale.”

Then Hagiwara took his lady’s sleeve to draw it gently from her face.

“Lord,” she sobbed, “you will not love me, I am not fair.”

But when he looked upon her his love flamed up within him like a consuming fire, and shook him from head to foot. He said never a word.

She drooped. “Lord,” she murmured, “shall I go or stay?”

And he said, “Stay.”

A little before daybreak the samurai fell into a deep sleep, and awoke to find himself alone in the clear light of the morning. He lost not an instant, but rose and went forth, and immediately made his way through Yedo to the quarter of the city which is called the Green Hill. Here he inquired for the house of the Lady of the Morning Dew, but no one could direct him. High and low he searched fruitlessly. It seemed to him that for the second time he had lost his dear lady, and he turned homewards in bitter despair. His way led him through the grounds of a certain temple, and as he went he marked two graves that were side by side. One was little and obscure, but the other was marked by a fair monument, like the tomb of some great one. Before the monument there hung a lantern with a bunch of peony flowers tied to its handle. It was such a lantern as is used at the time of Bon in the service of the dead.

Long, long did the samurai stand as one in a dream. Then he smiled a little and said:

“‘We have moved to a little house … a very little house … upon the Green Hill … we were suffered to take nothing with us there and we are grown very poor … with grief and want my mistress is become pale….’ A little house, a dark house, yet you will make room for me, oh, my beloved, pale one of my desires. We have loved for the space of ten existences, leave me not now … my dear.” Then he went home.

His faithful servant met him and cried:

“Now what ails you, master?”

He said, “Why, nothing at all…. I was never merrier.”

But the servant departed weeping, and saying, “The mark of death is on his face … and I, whither shall I go that bore him as a child in these arms?”

Every night, for seven nights, the maidens with the peony lantern came to Hagiwara’s dwelling. Fair weather or foul was the same to them. They came at the hour of the Ox. There was mystic wooing. By the strong bond of illusion the living and the dead were bound together.

On the seventh night the servant of the samurai, wakeful with fear and sorrow, made bold to peer into his lord’s room through a crack in the wooden shutters. His hair stood on end and his blood ran cold to see Hagiwara in the arms of a fearful thing, smiling up at the horror that was its face, stroking its dank green robe with languid fingers. With daylight the servant made his way to a holy man of his acquaintance. When he had told his tale he asked, “Is there any hope for Hagiwara Sama?”

“Alack,” said the holy man, “who can withstand the power of Karma? Nevertheless, there is a little hope.” So he told the servant what he must do. Before nightfall, this one had set a sacred text above every door and window-place of his master’s house, and he had rolled in the silk of his master’s girdle a golden emblem of the Tathagata. When these things were done, Hagiwara being drawn two ways became himself as weak as water. And his servant took him in his arms, laid him upon his bed and covered him lightly, and saw him fall into a deep sleep.

At the hour of the Ox there was heard the sound of footsteps in the lane, without the garden hedge. Nearer and nearer they came. They grew slow and stopped.

“What means this, O’Yoné, O’Yoné?” said a piteous voice. “The house is asleep, and I do not see my lord.”

“Come home, sweet lady, Hagiwara’s heart is changed.”

“That I will not, O’Yoné, O’Yoné … you must find a way to bring me to my lord.”

“Lady, we cannot enter here. See the Holy Writing over every door and window-place … we may not enter here.”

There was a sound of bitter weeping and a long wail.

“Lord, I have loved thee through the space of ten existences.” Then the footsteps retreated and their echo died away.

The next night it was quite the same. Hagiwara slept in his weakness; his servant watched; the wraiths came and departed in sobbing despair.

The third day, when Hagiwara went to the bath, a thief stole the emblem, the golden emblem of the Tathagata, from his girdle. Hagiwara did not mark it. But that night he lay awake. It was his servant that slept, worn out with watching. Presently a great rain fell and Hagiwara, waking, heard the sound of it upon the roof. The heavens were opened and for hours the rain fell. And it tore the holy text from over the round window in Hagiwara’s chamber.

At the hour of the Ox there was heard the sound of footsteps in the lane without the garden hedge. Nearer and nearer they came. They grew slow and stopped.

“This is the last time, O’Yoné, O’Yoné, therefore bring me to my lord. Think of the love of ten existences. Great is the power of Karma. There must be a way….”

“Come, my beloved,” called Hagiwara with a great voice.

“Open, lord … open and I come.”

But Hagiwara could not move from his couch.

“Come, my beloved,” he called for the second time.

“I cannot come, though the separation wounds me like a sharp sword. Thus we suffer for the sins of a former life.” So the lady spoke and moaned like the lost soul that she was. But O’Yoné took her hand.

“See the round window,” she said.

Hand in hand the two rose lightly from the earth. Like vapour they passed through the unguarded window. The samurai called, “Come to me, beloved,” for the third time.

He was answered, “Lord, I come.”

In the grey morning Hagiwara’s servant found his master cold and dead. At his feet stood the peony lantern burning with a weird yellow flame. The servant shivered, took up the lantern and blew out the light; for “I cannot bear it,” he said.

(ack:world of tales.com)

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A Woman and the Bell of Miidera

 

In the ancient monastery of Miidera there was a great bronze bell. It rang out every morning and evening, a clear, rich note, and its surface shone like sparkling dew. The priests would not allow any woman to strike it, because they thought that such an action would pollute and dull the metal, as well as bring calamity upon them.

When a certain pretty woman who lived in Kyoto heard this, she grew extremely inquisitive, and at last, unable to restrain her curiosity, she said: “I will go and see this wonderful bell of Miidera. I will make it send forth a soft note, and in its shining surface, bigger and brighter than a thousand mirrors, I will paint and powder my face and dress my hair.”

At length this vain and irreverent woman reached the belfry in which the great bell was suspended, at a time when all were absorbed in their sacred duties. She looked into the gleaming bell and saw her pretty eyes, flushed cheeks, and laughing dimples. Presently she stretched forth her little fingers, lightly touched the shining metal, and prayed that she might have as great and splendid a mirror for her own. When the bell felt this woman’s fingers, the bronze that she touched shrank, leaving a little hollow, and losing at the same time all its exquisite polish.

The same action produced an opposite effect. The woman was sucked into the hollow of the bell and she was fastened to the centre as a tongue. Great was the dismay and the people of Miidera thought it was a sign of great calamity that the bell was to be rung than struck. What is more the size of the bell had shrunk overnght! The bell of Miidera worked again but all noticed the sound was no longer the same. The priest thought the over-notes were ethereal, however expressing some great anguish with words accompanying, ‘Oh that hurts!’

compiled by Benny

(The last para is added by the complier. Source: F. Hadland Davis, Myths and Legends of Japan (London: George G. Harrap and Company, 1917

 

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At Asakusa, in Yedo, there lives a man called Danzayémon, the chief of the Etas. This man traces his pedigree back to Minamoto no Yoritomo, who founded the Shogunate in the year 1192 A.D. The whole of the Etas in Japan are under his jurisdiction; his subordinates are called Koyagashira, or “chiefs of the huts”; and they constitute the government of the Etas. In the “Legacy of Iyéyasu,” the 36th Law provides as follows:

‘All wandering mendicants, such as male sorcerers, female diviners, hermits, blind people, beggars, and tanners (Etas), require license to practise their trade and those who overstep the boundaries of their own classes are disobedient to existing laws’.

The occupation of the Etas is to kill and flay horses, oxen, and other beasts, to stretch drums and make shoes; and if they are very poor, they wander from house to house, working as cobblers, mending old shoes and leather, and so earn a scanty livelihood. Besides this, their daughters and young married women gain a trifle as wandering minstrels, called Torioi, playing on the shamisen, a sort of banjo, and singing ballads. They never marry out of their own fraternity, but remain apart, a despised and shunned race.

At execution by crucifixion it is the duty of the Etas to transfix the victims with spears; and, besides this, they have to perform all sorts of degrading offices about criminals, such as carrying sick prisoners from their cells to the hall of justice, and burying the bodies of those that have been executed. Thus their race is polluted and accursed, and they are hated accordingly.

Now this is how the Etas come to be under the jurisdiction of Danzayémon:

When Minamoto no Yoritomo was yet a child, his father, Minamoto no Yoshitomo, fought with Taira no Kiyomori, and was killed by treachery: so his family was ruined; and Yoshitomo’s concubine, whose name was Tokiwa, took her children and fled from the house, to save her own and their lives. But Kiyomori, desiring to destroy the family of Yoshitomo root and branch, ordered his retainers to divide themselves into bands, and seek out the children. At last they were found; but Tokiwa was so exceedingly beautiful that Kiyomori was inflamed with love for her, and desired her to become his own concubine. Then Tokiwa told Kiyomori that if he would spare her little ones she would share his couch; but that if he killed her children she would destroy herself rather than yield to his desire. When he heard this, Kiyomori, bewildered by the beauty of Tokiwa, spared the lives of her children, but banished them from the capital.

So Yoritomo was sent to Hirugakojima, in the province of Idzu; and when he grew up and became a man, he married the daughter of a peasant. After a while Yoritomo left the province, and went to the wars, leaving his wife pregnant; and in due time she was delivered of a male child, to the delight of her parents, who rejoiced that their daughter should bear seed to a nobleman; but she soon fell sick and died, and the old people took charge of the babe. And when they also died, the care of the child fell to his mother’s kinsmen, and he grew up to be a peasant.

Now Kiyomori, the enemy of Yoritomo, had been gathered to his fathers; and Yoritomo had avenged the death of his father by slaying Munémori, the son of Kiyomori; and there was peace throughout the land. And Yoritomo became the chief of all the noble houses in Japan, and first established the government of the country. When Yoritomo had thus raised himself to power, the son that his peasant wife had born to him could have claimed his rightful claim to the protection of his father. He would have been made lord over a province; but he took no thought of this, and remained a tiller of the earth, forfeiting a glorious inheritance; and his descendants after him lived as peasants in the same village, increasing in prosperity and in good repute among their neighbors.

But the princely line of Yoritomo came to an end in three generations, and the house of Hojo was all-powerful in the land.

Now it happened that the head of the house of Hojo heard that a descendant of Yoritomo was living as a peasant in the land, so he summoned him and said: “It is a hard thing to see the son of an illustrious house live and die a peasant. I will promote you to the rank of Samurai.”

Then the peasant answered: “My lord, if I become a Samurai, and the retainer of some noble, I shall not be so happy as when I was my own master. If I may not remain a husbandman, let me be a chief over men, however humble they may be.”

But my lord Hojo was angry at this, and thinking to punish the peasant for his insolence, said: “Since you wish to become a chief over men, no matter how humble, there is no means of gratifying your strange wish but by making you chief over the Etas of the whole country. So now see that you rule them well.”

When he heard this, the peasant was afraid; but because he had said that he wished to become a chief over men, however humble, he could not choose but become chief of the Etas, he and his children after him for ever; and Danzayémon, who rules the Etas at the present time, and lives at Asakusa, is his lineal descendant.

‘There is a tide in the affairs of men as the Bard would say. (There is a tide in the affairs of men,

Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune’ (Ac.4.sc3-Julius Caesar )

 

 

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Once upon a time there lived an old man and an old woman. The old man, who had a kind heart, kept a young sparrow, which he tenderly nurtured. But the dame was a cross-grained old thing; and one day, when the sparrow had pecked at some paste with which she was going to starch her linen, she flew into a great rage, and cut the sparrow’s tongue and let it loose.

When the old man came home from the hills and found that the bird had flown, he asked what had become of it; so the old woman answered that she had cut its tongue and let it go, because it had stolen her starching-paste. Now the old man, hearing this cruel tale, was sorely grieved, and thought to himself: “Alas! Where can my bird be gone? Poor thing! Poor little tongue-cut sparrow! Where is your home now?” and he wandered far and wide, seeking for his pet, and crying: “Mr. Sparrow! Mr. Sparrow! Where are you living?”

One day, at the foot of a certain mountain, the old man fell in with the lost bird; and when they had congratulated one another on their mutual safety, the sparrow led the old man to his home, and, having introduced him to his wife and chicks, set before him all sorts of dainties, and entertained him hospitably.

“Please partake of our humble fare,” said the sparrow. Poor as it is, you are very welcome.”

“What a polite sparrow!” answered the old man, who remained for a long time as the sparrow’s guest, and was daily feasted right royally. At last the old man said that he must take his leave and return home; and the bird, offering him two wicker baskets, begged him to carry them with him as a parting present. One of the baskets was heavy, and the other was light; so the old man, saying that as he was feeble and stricken in years he would only accept the light one, shouldered it, and trudged off home, leaving the sparrow family disconsolate at parting from him.

When the old man got home, the dame grew very angry, and began to scold him saying: “Well, and pray where have you been this many a day? A pretty thing, indeed, to be gadding about at your time of life!”

“Oh!” replied he, “I have been on a visit to the sparrows; and when I came away, they gave me this wicker basket as a parting gift.” Then they opened the basket to see what was inside, and, lo and behold, it was full of gold and silver and precious things. When the old woman, who was as greedy as she was cross, saw all the riches displayed before her, she changed her scolding strain, and could not contain herself for joy.

“I’ll go and call upon the sparrows, too,” said she, “and get a pretty present.” So she asked the old man the way to the sparrows’ house, and set forth on her journey.

Following his direction, she at last met the tongue-cut sparrow, and exclaimed: “Well met! Well met, Mr. Sparrow! I have been looking forward to the pleasure of seeing you.” So she tried to flatter and cajole the sparrow by soft speeches.

The bird could not but invite the dame to its home; but it took no pains to feast her, and said nothing about a parting gift. She, however, was not to be put off; so she asked for something to carry away with her in remembrance of her visit. The sparrow accordingly produced two baskets, as before, and the greedy old woman, choosing the heavier of the two, carried it off with her. But when she opened the basket to see what was inside, all sorts of hobgoblins and elves sprang out of it, and began to torment her.

benny

(ack: AB Mitford-Tales of Old Japan vol-1/MacMillen&Co, London-1871)

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