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Archive for the ‘Japanese literature’ Category

 

 

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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Many hundred years ago there lived an honest old woodcutter and his wife. One fine morning the old man went off to the hills with his billhook, to gather a faggot of sticks, while his wife went down to the river to wash the dirty clothes. When she came to the river, she saw a peach floating down the stream; so she picked it up, and carried it home with her, thinking to give it to her husband to eat when he should come in.

The old man soon came down from the hills, and the good wife set the peach before him, when, just as she was inviting him to eat it, the fruit split in two, and a little puling baby was born into the world. So the old couple took the babe, and brought it up as their own; and, because it had been born in a peach, they called it Momotaro, or Little Peachling.

By degrees Little Peachling grew up to be strong and brave, and at last one day he said to his old foster parents: “I am going to the ogres’ island to carry off the riches that they have stored up there. Pray, then, make me some millet dumplings for my journey.”

So the old folks ground the millet, and made the dumplings for him; and Little Peachling, after taking an affectionate leave of them, cheerfully set out on his travels.

As he was journeying on, he fell in with a monkey, who gibbered at him, and said: “Kia! kia! kia! where are you off to, Little Peachling?”

“I’m going to the ogres’ island, to carry off their treasure,” answered Little Peachling.

“What are you carrying at your girdle?”

“I’m carrying the very best millet dumplings in all Japan.”

“If you’ll give me one, I will go with you,” said the monkey.

So Little Peachling gave one of his dumplings to the monkey, who received it and followed him. When he had gone a little further, he heard a pheasant calling: “Ken! ken! ken! where are you off to, Master Peachling?”

Little Peachling answered as before; and the pheasant, having begged and obtained a millet dumpling, entered his service, and followed him.

A little while after this, they met a dog, who cried: “Bow! wow! wow! whither away, Master Peachling?”

“I’m going off to the ogres’ island, to carry off their treasure.”

“If you will give me one of those nice millet dumplings of yours, I will go with you,” said the dog.

“With all my heart,” said Little Peachling. So he went on his way, with the monkey, the pheasant, and the dog following after him.

When they got to the ogres’ island, the pheasant flew over the castle gate, and the monkey clambered over the castle wall, while Little Peachling, leading the dog, forced in the gate, and got into the castle. Then they did battle with the ogres, and put them to flight, and took their king prisoner. So all the ogres did homage to Little Peachling, and brought out the treasures which they had laid up. There were caps and coats that made their wearers invisible, jewels which governed the ebb and flow of the tide, coral, musk, emeralds, amber, and tortoise shell, besides gold and silver. All these were laid before Little Peachling by the conquered ogres.

Little Peachling would not touch any. He said,” All these presents are good but I would not touch these.”

King of the ogres was amazed. “Didn’t you come in to force out of us, our powers?”

‘Yes’,replied the Peachling. “But now I realize how I came here.” Seeing their bewildered looks he explained how he came floating along the river. “Oh King make all these into some fruit and let it float for others to benefit from.”

Thus under the direction of Little Peachling the Ogre made a peach tree.its boughs heavy with fruits.  He stood there admiring his own work. Plucking one he said, “Ripe little fruit- I shall call this -Mercy!”He added,” But for this we would never have known what kindness is.”As the King let it fall into the river, lo and behold, Peachling instantly changed into a fairy and said,” You prove you are indeed a king! You made me find my true state.”

So Little Peachling flew off and  maintained his foster parents in peace and plenty for the remainder of their lives.

(I changed a little at the end of the story. I trust it doesn’t spoil the story-benny)

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Once upon a time there lived a stonecutter, who went every day to a great rock in the side of a big mountain and cut out slabs for gravestones or for houses. He understood very well the kinds of stones wanted for the different purposes, and as he was a careful workman he had plenty of customers. For a long time he was quite happy and contented, and asked for nothing better than what he had.

Now in the mountain dwelt a spirit which now and then appeared to men, and helped them in many ways to become rich and prosperous. The stonecutter, however, had never seen this spirit, and only shook his head, with an unbelieving air, when anyone spoke of it. But a time was coming when he learned to change his opinion.

One day the stonecutter carried a gravestone to the house of a rich man, and saw there all sorts of beautiful things, of which he had never even dreamed. Suddenly his daily work seemed to grow harder and heavier, and he said to himself: “Oh, if only I were a rich man, and could sleep in a bed with silken curtains and golden tassels, how happy I should be!”

And a voice answered him: “Your wish is heard; a rich man you shall be!”

At the sound of the voice the stonecutter looked around, but could see nobody. He thought it was all his fancy, and picked up his tools and went home, for he did not feel inclined to do any more work that day. But when he reached the little house where he lived, he stood still with amazement, for instead of his wooden hut was a stately palace filled with splendid furniture, and most splendid of all was the bed, in every respect like the one he had envied. He was nearly beside himself with joy, and in his new life the old one was soon forgotten.

It was now the beginning of summer, and each day the sun blazed more fiercely. One morning the heat was so great that the stonecutter could scarcely breathe, and he determined he would stop at home till the evening. He was rather dull, for he had never learned how to amuse himself, and was peeping through the closed blinds to see what was going on in the street, when a little carriage passed by, drawn by servants dressed in blue and silver. In the carriage sat a prince, and over his head a golden umbrella was held, to protect him from the sun’s rays.

“Oh, if I were only a prince!” said the stonecutter to himself, as the carriage vanished around the corner. “Oh, if I were only a prince, and could go in such a carriage and have a golden umbrella held over me, how happy I should be!”

And a prince he was. Before his carriage rode one company of men and another behind it; servants dressed in scarlet and gold bore him along, the coveted umbrella was held over his head, everything his heart could desire was his. But yet it was not enough. He looked around still for something to wish for, and when he saw that in spite of the water he poured on the grass the rays of the sun scorched it, and that in spite of the umbrella held over his head each day his face grew browner and browner, he cried in his anger: “The sun is mightier than I; oh, if I were only the sun!”

And the mountain spirit answered: “Your wish is heard; the sun you shall be.”

And the sun he was, and felt himself proud in his power. He shot his beams above and below, on earth and in heaven; he burnt up the grass in the fields and scorched the faces of princes as well as of poorer folk. but in a short time he began to grow tired of his might, for there seemed nothing left for him to do. Discontent once more filled his soul, and when a cloud covered his face, and hid the earth from him, he cried in his anger: “Does the cloud hold captive my rays, and is it mightier than I? Oh, that I were a cloud, and mightier than any!”

And the mountain spirit answered: “Your wish is heard; a cloud you shall be!”

And a cloud he was, and lay between the sun and the earth. He caught the sun’s beams and held them, and to his joy the earth grew green again and flowers blossomed. But that was not enough for him, and for days and week he poured forth rain till the rivers overflowed their banks, and the crops of rice stood in water. Towns and villages were destroyed by the power of the rain, only the great rock on the mountainside remained unmoved. The cloud was amazed at the sight, and cried in wonder: “Is the rock, then, mightier than I? Oh, if I were only the rock!”

And the mountain spirit answered; “Your wish is heard; the rock you shall be!”

And the rock he was, and gloried in his power. Proudly he stood, and neither the heat of the sun nor the force of the rain could move him. “This is better than all!” he said to himself. But one day he heard a strange noise at his feet, and when he looked down to see what it could be, he saw a stonecutter driving tools into his surface. Even while he looked a trembling feeling ran all through him, and a great block broke off and fell upon the ground. Then he cried in his wrath: “Is a mere child of earth mightier than a rock? Oh, if I were only a man!”

And the mountain spirit answered: “Your wish is heard. A man once more you shall be!”

And a man he was, and in the sweat of his brow he toiled again at his trade of stone cutting. His bed was hard and his food scanty, but he had learned to be satisfied with it, and did not long to be something or somebody else. And as he never asked for things he did not have, or desired to be greater and mightier than other people, he was happy at last, and never again heard the voice of the mountain spirit.

This story is very similar to the Grimm brother story,  The Fisherman and His Wife.

Culture is derived out of one Source in that group of people living n some part of the earth can adapt it  to be as fitting as a garment as it were. In Japan  people believe inanimate objects as stone, water do have soul. If they treat their ground as sacred and revere the old trees and learn to see beauty in gnarled forms of rocks what are we to assume from their expression? Beauty is truth and truth is beauty. It is what they in their material form can appreciate and identify with.

benny

 

 

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