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Member since: Tue Oct 28, 2008, 06:27 PM
Number of posts: 20,775
Hometown: San Francisco
Home country: USA
Current location: California
Member since: Tue Oct 28, 2008, 06:27 PM
Number of posts: 20,775
I am a Dean Democrat. I am of Japanese and Korean decent. I do speak some Japanese. I love all Asian culture; Food, Drama, Movies, Anime, Traditions, History, and especially Music. I am Shinto~Buddhist. (Jodo Shinshu) Follow me on Twitter:@AsahinaKimiko.(Onegaishimasu!)
In Noto Province there is a small fishing-village called Nanao. It is at the extreme northern end of the mainland. There is nothing opposite until one reaches either Korea or the Siberian coast—except the small rocky islands which are everywhere in Japan, surrounding as it were by an outer fringe the land proper of Japan itself.
Nanao contains not more than five hundred souls. Many years ago the place was devastated by an earthquake and a terrific storm, which between them destroyed nearly the whole village and killed half of the people.
On the morning after this terrible visitation, it was seen that the geographical situation had changed. Opposite Nanao, some two miles from the land, had arisen a rocky island about a mile in circumference. The sea was muddy and yellow. The people surviving were so overcome and awed that none ventured into a boat for nearly a month afterwards; indeed, most of the boats had been destroyed. Being Japanese, they took things philosophically. Every one helped some other, and within a month the village looked much as it had looked before; smaller, and less populated, perhaps, but managing itself unassisted by the outside world. Indeed, all the neighbouring villages had suffered much in the same way, and after the manner of ants had put things right again.
The fishermen of Nanao arranged that their first fishing expedition should be taken together, two days before the 'Bon.' ( Bon or Oban: Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the spirits of one's ancestors) They would first go and inspect the new island, and then continue out to sea for a few miles, to find if there were still as many tai fish on their favourite ground as there used to be.
It would be a day of intense interest, and the villages of some fifty miles of coast had all decided to make their ventures simultaneously, each village trying its own grounds, of course, but all starting at the same time, with a view of eventually reporting to each other the condition of things with regard to fish, for mutual assistance is a strong characteristic in the Japanese when trouble overcomes them.
At the appointed time two days before the festival the fishermen started from Nanao. There were thirteen boats. They visited first the new island, which proved to be simply a large rock. There were many rock fish, such as wrasse and sea-perch, about it; but beyond that there was nothing remarkable. It had not had time to gather many shell-fish on its surface, and there was but little edible seaweed as yet. So the thirteen boats went farther to sea, to discover what had occurred to their old and excellent tai grounds.
These were found to produce just about what they used to produce in the days before the earthquake; but the fishermen were not able to stay long enough to make a thorough test. They had meant to be away all night; but at dusk the sky gave every appearance of a storm: so they pulled up their anchors and made for home.
As they came close to the new island they were surprised to see, on one side of it, the water for the space of 240 feet square lit up with a strange light. The light seemed to come from the bottom of the sea, and in spite of the darkness the water was transparent. The fishermen, very much astonished, stopped to gaze down into the blue waters. They could see fish swimming about in thousands; but the depth was too great for them to see the bottom, and so they gave rein to all kinds of superstitious ideas as to the cause of the light, and talked from one boat to the other about it. A few minutes afterwards they had shipped their immense paddling oars and all was quiet. Then they heard rumbling noises at the bottom of the sea, and this filled them with consternation—they feared another eruption. The oars were put out again, and to say that they went fast would in no way convey an idea of the pace that the men made their boats travel over the two miles between the mainland and the island.
Their homes were reached well before the storm came on; but the storm lasted for fully two days, and the fishermen were unable to leave the shore.
As the sea calmed down and the villagers were looking out, on the third day cause for astonishment came. Shooting out of the sea near the island rock were rays that seemed to come from a sun in the bottom of the sea. All the village congregated on the beach to see this extraordinary spectacle, which was discussed far into the night.
Not even the old priest could throw any light on the subject. Consequently, the fishermen became more and more scared, and few of them were ready to venture to sea next day; though it was the time for the magnificent sawara (king mackerel), only one boat left the shore, and that belonged to Master Kansuke, a fisherman of some fifty years of age, who, with his son Matakichi, a youth of eighteen and a most faithful son, was always to the fore when anything out of the common had to be done.
Kansuke had been the acknowledged bold fisherman of Nanao, the leader in all things since most could remember, and his faithful and devoted son had followed him from the age of twelve through many perils; so that no one was astonished to see their boat leave alone.
They went first to the tai grounds and fished there during the night, catching some thirty odd tai between them, the average weight of which would be four pounds. Towards break of day another storm showed on the horizon. Kansuke pulled up his anchor and started for home, hoping to take in a hobo line which he had dropped overboard near the rocky island on his way out—a line holding some two hundred hooks. They had reached the island and hauled in nearly the whole line when the rising sea caused Kansuke to lose his balance and fall overboard.
Usually the old man would soon have found it an easy matter to scramble back into the boat. On this occasion, however, his head did not appear above water; and so his son jumped in to rescue his father. He dived into water which almost dazzled him, for bright rays were shooting through it. He could see nothing of his father, but felt that he could not leave him. As the mysterious rays rising from the bottom might have something to do with the accident, he made up his mind to follow them: they must, he thought, be reflections from the eye of some monster.
It was a deep dive, and for many minutes Matakichi was under water. At last he reached the bottom, and here he found an enormous colony of the awabi (ear-shells). The space covered by them was fully 200 square feet, and in the middle of all was one of gigantic size, the like of which he had never heard of. From the holes at the top through which the feelers pass shot the bright rays which illuminated the sea,—rays which are said by the Japanese divers to show the presence of a pearl. The pearl in this shell, thought Matakichi, must be one of enormous size—as large as a baby's head. From all the awabi shells on the patch he could see that lights were coming, which denoted that they contained pearls; but wherever he looked Matakichi could see nothing of his father.
He thought his father must have been drowned, and if so, that the best thing for him to do would be to regain the surface and repair to the village to report his father's death, and also his wonderful discovery, which would be of such value to the people of Nanao. Having after much difficulty reached the surface, he, to his dismay, found the boat broken by the sea, which was now high. Matakichi was lucky, however. He saw a bit of floating wreckage, which he seized; and as sea, wind, and current helped him, strong swimmer as he was, it was not more than half an hour before he was ashore, relating to the villagers the adventures of the day, his discoveries, and the loss of his dear father.
The fishermen could hardly credit the news that what they had taken to be supernatural lights were caused by ear-shells, for the much-valued ear-shell was extremely rare about their district; but Matakichi was a youth of such trustworthiness that even the most sceptical believed him in the end, and had it not been for the loss of Kansuke there would have been great rejoicing in the village that evening.
Having told the villagers the news, Matakichi repaired to the old priest's house at the end of the village, and told him also.
'And now that my beloved father is dead,' said he, 'I myself beg that you will make me one of your disciples, so that I may pray daily for my father's spirit.'
The old priest followed Matakichi's wish and said, 'Not only shall I be glad to have so brave and filial a youth as yourself as a disciple, but also I myself will pray with you for your father's spirit, and on the twenty-first day from his death we will take boats and pray over the spot at which he was drowned.'
Accordingly, on the morning of the twenty-first day after the drowning of poor Kansuke, his son and the priest were anchored over the place where he had been lost, and prayers for the spirit of the dead were said.
That same night the priest awoke at midnight; he felt ill at ease, and thought much of the spiritual affairs of his flock.
Suddenly he saw an old man standing near the head of his couch, who, bowing courteously, said:
'I am the spirit of the great ear-shell lying on the bottom of the sea near Rocky Island. My age is over thousands of years. Some days ago a fisherman fell from his boat into the sea, and I killed and ate him. This morning I heard your reverence praying over the place where I lay, with the son of the man I ate. Your sacred prayers have taught me shame, and I sorrow for the thing I have done. By way of atonement I have ordered my followers to scatter themselves, while I have determined to kill myself, so that the pearls that are in my shell may be given to Matakichi, the son of the man I ate. All I ask is that you should pray for my spirit's welfare. Farewell!'
Saying which, the ghost of the ear-shell vanished. Early next morning, when Matakichi opened his shutters to dust the front of his door, he found thereat what he took at first to be a large rock covered with seaweed, and even with pink coral. On closer examination Matakichi found it to be the immense ear-shell which he had seen at the bottom of the sea off Rocky Island. He rushed off to the temple to tell the priest, who told Matakichi of his visitation during the night.
The shell and the body contained therein were carried to the temple with every respect and much ceremony. Prayers were said over it, and, though the shell and the immense pearl were kept in the temple, the body was buried in a tomb next to Kansuke's, with a monument erected over it, and another over Kansuke's grave. Matakichi changed his name to that of Nichige, and lived happily.
There have been no ear-shells seen near Nanao since, but on the rocky island is erected a shrine to the spirit of the ear-shell.
NOTE.—A 3000-yen pearl which I know of was sold for 12 cents by a fisherman from the west. It came from a temple, belongs now to Mikomoto, and is this size.
Posted by AsahinaKimi | Sat Dec 31, 2011, 07:56 AM (1 replies)
NEARLY three hundred years ago (or, according to my story-teller, in the second year of Kwanei, which would be 1626, the period of Kwanei having begun in 1624 and ended in 1644) there lived at Maidzuru, in the province of Tango, a youth named Kichijiro.
Kichijiro had been born at the village of Tai, where his father had been a native; but on the death of the father he had come with his elder brother, Kichisuke, to Maidzuru. The brother was his only living relation except an uncle, and had taken care of him for four years, educating him from the age of eleven until fifteen; and Kichijiro was very grateful, and determined that now he had reached the age of fifteen he must no longer be a drag on his brother, but must begin to make a way in the world for himself.
After looking about for some weeks, Kichijiro found employment with Shiwoya Hachiyemon, a merchant in Maidzuru. He worked very hard, and soon gained his master's friendship; indeed, Hachiyemon thought very highly of his apprentice; he favoured him in many ways over older clerks, and finally entrusted him with the key of his safes, which contained documents and much money.
Now, Hachiyemon had a daughter of Kichijiro's age, of great beauty and promise, and she fell desperately in love with Kichijiro, who himself was at first unaware of this. The girl's name was Ima, O Ima San, and she was one of those delightful ruddy, happy-faced girls whom only Japan can produce—a mixture of yellow and red, with hair and eyebrows as black as a raven. Ima paid Kichijiro compliments now and then; but he was a boy who thought little of love. He intended to get on in the world, and marriage was a thing which had not yet entered into his mind.
After Kichijiro had been some six months in the employment of Hachiyemon he stood higher than ever in the master's estimation; but the other clerks did not like him. They were jealous. One was specially so. This was Kanshichi, who hated him not only because he was favoured by the merchant but also because he himself loved O Ima, who had given him many a rebuff when he had attempted to make love to her. So great did this secret hate become, at last Kanshichi vowed that he would be revenged upon Kichijiro, and if necessary upon his master Hachiyemon and his daughter O Ima as well; for he was a wicked and scheming man.
One day an opportunity occurred.
Kichijiro had so far secured confidence that the master had sent him off to Kasumi, in Tajima Province, there to negotiate the purchase of a junk. While he was away Kanshichi broke into the room where the safe was kept, and took therefrom two bags containing money in gold up to the value of 200 ryo. He effaced all signs of his action, and went quietly back to his work. Two or three days later Kichijiro returned, having successfully accomplished his mission, and, after reporting this to the master, set to his routine work again. On examining the safe, he found that the 200 ryo of gold were missing, and, he having reported this, the office and the household were thrown into a state of excitement.
After some hours of hunting for the money it was found in a koro (incense-burner) which belonged to Kichijiro, and no one was more surprised than he. It was Kanshichi who had found it, naturally, after having put it there himself; he did not accuse Kichijiro of having stolen the money—his plans were more deeply laid. The money having been found there, he knew that Kichijiro himself would have to say something. Of course Kichijiro said he was absolutely innocent, and that when he had left for Kasumi the money was safe—he had seen it just before leaving.
Hachiyemon was sorely distressed. He believed in the innocence of Kichijiro; but how was he to prove it? Seeing that his master did not believe Kichijiro guilty, Kanshichi decided that he must do something which would render it more or less impossible for Hachiyemon to do otherwise than to send his hated rival Kichijiro away. He went to the master and said:
'Sir, I, as your head clerk, must tell you that, though perhaps Kichijiro is innocent, things seem to prove that he is not, for how could the money have got into his koro? If he is not punished, the theft will reflect on all of us clerks, your faithful servants, and I myself should have to leave your service, for all the others would do so, and you would be unable to carry on your business. Therefore I venture to tell you, sir, that it would be advisable in your own interests to send poor Kichijiro, for whose misfortune I deeply grieve, away.'
Hachiyemon saw the force of this argument, and agreed. He sent for Kichijiro, to whom he said:
'Kichijiro, deeply as I regret it, I am obliged to send you away. I do not believe in your guilt, but I know that if I do not send you away all my clerks will leave me, and I shall be ruined. To show you that I believe in your innocence, I will tell you that my daughter Ima loves you, and that if you are willing, and after you can prove your innocence, nothing would give me greater pleasure than to have you back as my son-in—law. Go now. Try and think how you can prove your innocence. My best wishes go with you.'
Kichijiro was very sad. Now that he had to go, he found that he should more than miss the companionship of the sweet O Ima. With tears in his eyes, he vowed to the father that he would come back, prove his innocence, and marry O Ima; and with O Ima herself he had his first love scene. They vowed that neither should rest until the scheming thief had been discovered, and they were both reunited in such a way that nothing could part them.
Kichijiro went back to his brother Kichisuke at Tai village, to consult as to what it would be best for him to do to re-establish his reputation. After a few weeks, he was employed through his brother's interest and that of his only surviving uncle in Kyoto. There he worked hard and faithfully for four long years, bringing much credit to his firm, and earning much admiration from his uncle, who made him heir to considerable landed property, and gave him a share in his own business. Kichijiro found himself at the age of twenty quite a rich man.
In the meantime calamity had come on pretty O Ima. After Kichijiro had left Maidzuru, Kanshichi began to pester her with attentions. She would have none of him; she would not even speak to him; and so exasperated did he become at last that he used to waylay her. On one occasion he resorted to violence and tried to carry her away by force. Of this she complained to her father, who promptly dismissed him from his service.
This made villain Kanshichi angrier than ever. As the Japanese proverb says, 'Kawaisa amatte nikusa ga hyakubai,'—which means, 'Excessive love is hatred.' So it was with Kanshichi: his love turned to hatred. He thought of how he could be avenged on Hachiyemon and O Ima. The most simple means, he thought, would be to burn down their house, the business offices, and the stores of merchandise: that must bring ruin. So one night Kanshichi set about doing these things and accomplished them most successfully—with the exception that he himself was caught in the act and sentenced to a heavy punishment. That was the only satisfaction which was got by Hachiyemon, who was all but ruined; he sent away all his clerks and retired from business, for he was too old to begin again.
With just enough to keep life and body together, Hachiyemon and his pretty daughter lived in a little cheap cottage on the banks of the river, where it was Hachiyemon's only pleasure to fish for carp and jakko. For three years he did this, and then fell ill and died. Poor O Ima was left to herself, as lovely as ever, but mournful. The few friends she had tried to prevail on her to marry somebody—anybody, they said, sooner than live alone,—but to this advice the girl would not listen. 'It is better to live miserably alone,' she said, 'than to marry one for whom you do not care; I can love none but Kichijiro, though I shall not see him again.'
O Ima spoke the truth on that occasion, without knowing it, for, true as it is that it never rains but it pours, O Ima was to have more trouble. An eye sickness came to her, and in less than two months after her father's death the poor girl was blind, with no one to attend to her wants but an old nurse who had stuck to her through all her troubles. Ima had barely sufficient money to pay for rice.
It was just at this time that Kichijiro's success was assured: his uncle had given him a half interest in the business and made a will in which he left him his whole property. Kichijiro decided to go and report himself to his old master at Maidzuru and to claim the hand of O Ima his daughter. Having learned the sad story of downfall and ruin, and also of Ima's blindness, Kichijiro went to the girl's cottage. Poor O Ima came out and flung herself into his arms, weeping bitterly, and crying: 'Kichijiro, my beloved! this is indeed almost the hardest blow of all. The loss of my sight was as nothing before; but now that you have come back, I cannot see you, and how I long to do so you can but little imagine! It is indeed the saddest blow of all. You cannot now marry me.'
Kichijiro petted her, and said, 'Dearest Ima, you must not be too hasty in your thoughts. I have never ceased thinking of you; indeed, I have grown to love you desperately. I have property now in Kyoto; but should you prefer to do so, we will live here in this cottage. I am ready to do anything you wish. It is my desire to re-establish your father's old business, for the good of your family; but first and before even this we will be married and never part again. We will do that tomorrow. Then we will go together to Kyoto and see my uncle, and ask for his advice. He is always good and kind, and you will like him—he is sure to like you.'
Next day they started on their journey to Kyoto, and Kichijiro saw his brother and his uncle, neither of whom had any objection to Kichijiro's bride on account of her blindness. Indeed, the uncle was so much pleased at his nephew's fidelity that he gave him half of his capital there and then. Kichijiro built a new house and offices in Maidzuru, just where his first master Hachiyemon's place had been. He re-established the business completely, calling his firm the Second Shiwoya Hachiyemon, as is often done in Japan (which adds much to the confusion of Europeans who study Japanese Art, for pupils often take the names of their clever masters, calling themselves the Second, or even the Third or the Fourth).
In the garden of their Maidzuru house was an artificial mountain, and on this Kichijiro had erected a tombstone or memorial dedicated to Hachiyemon, his father-in-law. At the foot of the mountain he erected a memorial to Kanshichi. Thus he rewarded the evil wickedness of Kanshichi by kindness, but showed at the same time that evil-doers cannot expect high places. It is to be hoped that the spirits of the two dead men became reconciled.
They say in Maidzuru that the memorial tombs still stand.
Posted by AsahinaKimi | Sat Dec 24, 2011, 07:10 PM (2 replies)
Two thousand or more years ago Lake Biwa, in Omi Province, and Mount Fuji, in Suruga Province, came into being in one night. Though my story relates this as fact, you are fully entitled to say, should you feel so inclined, 'Wonderful indeed are the ways of Nature'; but do so respectfully, if you please, and without levity, for otherwise you will grossly offend and will not understand the ethical ideas of Japanese folklore stories.
Well, at the time of this extraordinary geographical event, there lived one Yurine, a man of poor means even for those days. He loved saké wine, and scarcely ever spent a day without drinking some of it. Yurine lived near the place which is now called Sudzukawa, a little to the north of the river known as Fujikawa.
On the day which followed Fuji San's appearance Yurine became ill, and was in consequence unable to drink his cup of saké. He became worse and worse, and, at last feeling that there could be no hope for him, decided to give himself the pleasure of drinking a cup before he died. Accordingly he called to himself his only son, Koyuri, a boy of fourteen years, and told him to go and fetch him a cup or two of the wine. Koyuri was sorely perplexed. He had no saké in the house, and there was not a single coin left wherewith to buy. This he did not like to tell his father, fearing that the unpleasant state of affairs might make him worse. So he took his gourd, and went wandering along the beach, wondering how he could get what his father wanted. While thus employed Koyuri heard a voice calling him by name. As he looked up towards the pines which fringed the beach, he saw a man and a woman sitting beneath an immense tree; their hair was a scarlet red, and so were their bodies. At first Koyuri was afraid,—he had never seen their like before,—but the voice was kindly, and the man was making signs to him to approach. Koyuri did so in fear and trembling, but with that coolness which characterises the Japanese boy.
As Koyuri approached the strange people he noticed that they were drinking saké from large flat cups known as 'sakadzuki,' and that on the sand beside them was an immense jar, from which they took the liquor; moreover, he noticed that the saké was whiter than any he had seen before.
Thinking always of his father, Koyuri unslung his gourd, reported his father's illness, and begged for saké. The red man took the gourd, and filled it. After expressing gratitude, Koyuri ran off delighted. 'Here, father, here!' said he as he reached his hut: 'I have got you the saké, the best I have ever seen, and I am sure it tastes as good as it looks; try it and tell me!'
The old man took the wine and drank greedily, expressing great satisfaction, and said that it was indeed the best he had ever tasted. Next day he wanted more. The boy found his two red friends, and again they filled the gourd. In short, Koyuri had his gourd filled for five days in succession, and his father had regained spirits and was almost well in consequence.
Now, there lived in the next hut to Yurine an unpleasant neighbour who also was fond of saké, but too poor to procure it. His name was Mamikiko. On hearing that Yurine had been drinking saké for the last five days he became furiously jealous, and, calling Koyuri, asked where and how he had procured it. The boy explained that he had got it from the strange people with red hair who had been living near the big pine tree for some days past.
'Give me your gourd to taste,' cried Mamikiko, snatching it roughly. 'Do you think that your father is the only man who is good enough for saké?' Putting the gourd to his lips, he began to drink; but he threw it down in disgust a second later, and spat out what was in his mouth. 'What filth is this?' he cried. 'To your father you give the most excellent saké, while to me you give foul water! What is the meaning of it?' He gave Koyuri a sound beating, and then told him to lead the way to the red people on the beach, saying, 'I will beat you again if I don't get some good saké; so you had better see to it!'
Koyuri led the way, weeping the while at the loss of his saké, which Mamikiko had thrown away, and fearing the anger of his red friends. In the usual place they found the strangers, who had both been drinking and were still doing so. Mamikiko was surprised at their appearance: he had seen nothing quite like them before. Their bodies were of the pink of cherry blossom shining in the sun, while their long red hair almost frightened him; both were naked except for a green girdle made of some curious seaweed.
'Well, boy Koyuri, what are you crying about, and why back so soon? Has your father drunk the saké already? If so he must be almost as fond of it as we.'
'No, no: my father has not drunk it; but Mamikiko, here, took it from me and drank some, spitting it out and saying it was not saké; the rest he threw away, and then made me bring him here. May I have some more for my father?' The red man refilled the gourd and told him not to mind, and seemed amused at Koyuri's account of Mamikiko spitting it out.
'I am as fond of saké as any one,' cried Mamikiko: 'will you give me some?'
'Oh, yes; help yourself,' said the red man; 'Help yourself.' Mamikiko filled the largest of the cups, and, putting it to his nose, smelt the fragrance, which was delicious; but as soon as he put it to his lips his face changed, and he had to spit again, for the taste was nauseating.
'What is the meaning of this?' he cried angrily; and the red man answered still more angrily:
'You do not seem to be aware of who I am. Well, I will tell you that I am a shojo of high degree, and I live deep in the bottom of the ocean near the Sea Dragon's Palace. Recently we heard that a sacred mountain had arisen on the edge of the sea, and, as it is a lucky omen, and a sign that the Empire of Japan will exist in perpetuity, I have come here to see it. While enjoying the magnificent scene from Suruga coast I met this good boy Koyuri, who asked for saké for his poor sick old father, and I gave him some. Now, this saké is not ordinary saké, but sacred, and those who drink it live for ever and retain their youth; moreover, it cures all diseases even in the aged. But you must know that any medicine is sometimes a poison, and thus it is that this sweet sacred white saké is good only in taste to the righteous, and bad-tasting and poisonous to the wicked. Thus I know that, as it tastes evil to you, you are an evil and wicked man, selfish and greedy.' And both the shojos laughed at Mamikiko, who, on hearing that the few drops which he must have swallowed would act as poison and soon kill him, began to cry with fear and to regret his conduct. He begged and implored forgiveness and that his life might be spared, and vowed that he would reform if only given a chance. The shojo, drawing some powder from a case, gave it to Mamikiko, and told him to swallow it in some saké; 'for,' said he, 'it is better to repent and reform even in your old age than not at all.'
Mamikiko drank it down this time, finding the wine sweet and delicious; it strengthened him and made him feel well, and he reformed and became a good man. He made friends again with Yurine and treated Koyuri well.
Some years later Mamikiko and Yurine built a hut at the southern base of Fuji San, where they brewed white saké from a recipe given them by the shojo, and they gave it to all who suffered from saké poisoning. Both Mamikiko and Yurine lived for 300 years.
In the Middle Ages a man who had heard this story brewed white saké at the foot of Mount Fuji; he made it with rice yeast, and people became very fond of it. Even to-day white saké is brewed somewhere at the foot of the mountain, and is well known as a special liquor belonging to Fuji.
Posted by AsahinaKimi | Sun Dec 18, 2011, 04:15 AM (1 replies)
ALL who have read anything of Japanese history must have heard of Saigo Takamori, who lived between the years 1827 and 1877. He was a great Imperialist, fighting for the Emperor until 1876, when he gave over owing to his disapproval of the Europeanisation going on in the country and the abandonment of ancient national ways. As practical Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Army, Saigo fled to Kagoshima, where he raised a body of faithful followers, which was the beginning of the Satsuma Rebellion. The Imperialists defeated them, and in September of 1877 Saigo was killed—some say in the last battle, and others that he did 'seppuku,' and that his head was cut off and secretly buried, so that it should not fall into the hands of his enemies. Saigo Takamori was highly honored even by the Imperialists. It is hard to call him a rebel. He did not rebel against his Emperor, but only against the revolting idea of becoming Europeanised. Who can say that he was not right? He was a man of fine sentiment and great loyalty. Should all of us follow meekly the Imperial order in England if we were told that we were to practise the manners and customs of South Sea Islanders? That would be hardly less revolting to us than Europeanisation was to Saigo.
In the first year of Meiji 1868 the Tokugawa army had been badly beaten by Saigo at Fushimi, and Field-Marshal Tokugawa Keiki had the greatest difficulty in getting down to the sea and escaping to Edo (Tokyo). The Imperial army proceeded along the Tokaido road, determined to break up the Tokugawa force. Their advance guard had reached Hiratsuka, under Mount Fuji, on the coast.
It was a spring day, the 5th of April, and the cherry trees were in full bloom. The country folk had come in to see the victorious troops, who formed the advance guard of those who had beaten the Tokugawa. There were many beggars about, together with pedlars and sellers of sweets, roasted potatoes, and what-not. Towards evening clouds came over the skies; at five o'clock rain began; at six every one was under cover.
At the principal inn were a party of the Headquarters’ Staff officers, including the gallant Saigo. They were making the best of the bad weather, and not feeling particularly lively, when they heard the soft and melodious notes of the shakuhachi (flute) at the gate.
'That is the poor blind beggar we saw playing near the temple to-day,' said one. 'Yes: so it is,' said another. 'The poor fellow must be very wet and miserable. Let us call him in.'
'A capital idea,' assented all of them, among whom was Saigo Takamori. 'We will have him in and raise a subscription for him if he can raise our spirits in this weather.' They gave the landlord an order to admit the blind flute-player.
The poor man was led in by a side door and brought into the presence of the officers. 'Gentlemen,' said he, you have done me a very great honor, and a kindness, for it is not pleasant to stand outside playing in the rain with cotton clothes on. I think I can repay you, for I am said to play the shakuhachi well. Since I have been blind it has become my only pleasure, and not only that but also my only means of living. It is hard now in these unsettled days, when everything is upside-down, to earn a living. Not many travellers come to the inns while the Imperial troops occupy them. These are hard days, gentlemen.'
'They may be hard days for you, poor blind fellow; but say nothing against the Imperial troops, for we have to be suspicious, there being spies of the Tokugawa. Three eyes, indeed, does each of us need in his head.'
'Well, well, I have no wish to say anything against the Imperial troops,' said the blind man. 'All I have to say is that it is precious hard for a blind man to earn enough rice wherewith to fill his stomach. Only once a-week on an average am I called to play to private parties or to shampoo some rheumatic person such as this wet weather produces—the blessing of the Gods be on it!'
'Well, we will see what we can do for you, poor fellow,' said Saigo. 'Go round the room, and see what you can collect, and then we will start the concert.'
Matsu~ichi did as he was bid, and returned to Saigo some ten minutes later with five or six yen, to which Saigo added, saying:
'There, poor fellow: what do you think of that? Say no more that the Imperial troops cause you to have an empty belly. Say, rather, that if you lived near them long the skin of your belly might become so overstretched as to cause you perforce to open your eyes, and then indeed you might find yourself put about for a trade. But let us hear your music. We are dull of spirit to-night, and want enlivening.'
'Oh, gentlemen, this is too much, far too much, for my poor music! Take some of it back.'
'No, no,' they answered. 'We are troops and officers of the Imperial Army: our lives are uncertain from day to day. It is a pleasure to give, and to enjoy music when we can.'
The blind man began to play, and he played long and late. Sometimes his airs were lively, and at other times as mournful as the spring wind which blew through the cherry trees; but his manner was enchanting, and all were grateful to him for having afforded a night's amusement. At eleven o'clock the concert finished and they went to rest; the blind beggar left the inn; and Kato Shichibei, the proprietor, locked it up, in spite of the sentries posted outside.
The inn was surrounded by hedges, and several clumps of bamboos stood in the corners. At the far end was an artificial mountain with a lake at its foot, and near the lake a little summer-house over which towered a huge and ancient pine tree, one of the branches of which stretched right back over the roof of the inn. At about one o'clock in the morning the form of a man might have been seen stealthily climbing this huge tree until he had reached the branch which hung over the inn. There he stretched himself flat, and began squirming along, evidently intent upon reaching the upper floor of the house. Unfortunately for himself, he cracked a small branch of dead wood, and the sound caused a sentry to look up. 'Who goes there?' cried he, bringing his musket round; but there was no answer. The sentry shouted for help, and it was not more than twenty seconds before the whole house was up and out. No escape for the man on the tree was possible. He was taken prisoner. Imagine the astonishment of all when they found that he was the blind beggar, but now not blind at all; his eyes flashed fire of indignation at his captors, for the great plan of his young life was dead.
'Who is he?' cried one and all, 'and why the trickery of being blind last evening?'
'A spy—that is what he is! A Tokugawa spy,' said one. 'Take him to Headquarters, so that the chief officers may interrogate him; and be careful to hold his hands, for he has every appearance of being a samurai and a fighter.'
And so the prisoner was led off to the Temple of Hommonji, where the Headquarters of the Staff temporarily were.
The prisoner was brought into the presence of Saigo Takamori and four other Imperial officers, one of whom was Katsura Kogoro. He was made to kneel. Then Saigo, who was the Chief, said, 'Hold your head up and give us your name.'
The prisoner answered:
'I am Watanabe Tatsuzo. I am one of those who have the honor of belonging to the bodyguard of the Tokugawa Government.'
'You are bold,' said Saigo. 'Will you have the goodness to tell us why you have been masquerading as a blind beggar, and why you were caught in an attempt to break into the inn?'
'I found that the Imperial Ambassador was sleeping there, and our cause is not bettered by killing ordinary officers!'
'You are a fool,' answered Saigo. 'How much better would you find yourself off if you killed Yanagiwara, Hashimoto, or Katsura?'
'Your question is stupid,' was the unabashed answer. 'Every man of us does his little. My efforts are only a fragment; but little by little we shall gain our ends.'
'Have you a comrade here?' asked Saigo.
'Oh, no,' answered the prisoner. 'We act individually as we think best for the cause. It was my intention to kill any one of importance whose death might strengthen us. I was acting entirely as I thought best.'
And Saigo said:
'Your loyalty does you credit, and I admire you for that; but you should recognise that after the last victory of the Imperial troops at Fushimi the Tokugawa's tenure of office, extending over three hundred years, has come to an end. It is only natural that the Imperial family should return to power. Your intention is presumably to support a power that is finished. Have you never heard the proverb which says that "No single support can hold a falling tower"? Now tell me truthfully the absurd ideas which appear to exist in your mind. Do you really think that the Tokugawa have any further chance?'
'If you were any other than the heroic or admirable Saigo I should refuse to answer these questions,' said the prisoner; 'but, as you are the great Saigo Takamori and I admire your loyalty and courage, I will confess that after our defeat some two hundred of us samurai formed into a society swearing to sacrifice our lives to the cause in any way that we were able. I regret to say that nearly all ran away, and that I am (as far as I am able to judge) about the only one left. As you will execute me, there will be none.'
'Stop,' cried Saigo: 'say no more. Let me ask you: Will you not join us? Look upon the Tokugawa as dead. Too many faithful but ignorant samurai have died for them. The Imperial family must reign: nine-tenths of the country demand it. Though your guilt stands confessed, your loyalty is admirable, and we should gladly take you to our side. Think before you answer.'
No thought was necessary. Watanabe Tatsuzo answered instantly.
'No—never. Though alone, I will not be unfaithful to my cause. You had better behead me before the day dawns. I see the strength of your arguments that the Imperial family must and should reign; but that cannot alter my decision with regard to my own fate;
Saigo stood up and said:
'Here is a man whom we must respect. There are many Tokugawa who have joined our cause through fear; but they retain hate in their hearts. Look, all of you, at this Watanabe, and forget him not, for he is a noble man and true to the death.' So saying, Saigo bowed to Watanabe, and then, turning to the guard, said:
'Take the prisoner to the Sambon matsu, and behead him as soon as the day dawns.'
Watanabe Tatsuzo was led forth and executed accordingly.
There is a cross-road on the way leading to Mariko, to the right of the Nitta Ferry, some five or six cho from the hill where is the Hommonji Temple, Ikegami, in Ebaragun, Tokio fu, where there is a little grave with a tombstone over it and the characters:
written thereon. They mean Tomb of Futetsu-shi, and it is here that Watanabe Tatsuzo is said to have been buried.
Posted by AsahinaKimi | Fri Dec 16, 2011, 12:28 PM (0 replies)
IN the first year of Bunkiu, 1861-1864, there lived a man called Yehara Keisuke in Kasumigaseki, in the district of Kojimachi. He was a hatomoto—that is, a feudatory vassal of the Shogun—and a man to whom some respect was due; but apart from that, Yehara was much liked for his kindness of heart and general fairness in dealing with people. In Iidamachi lived another hatomoto, Hayashi Hayato.
He had been married to Yehara's sister for five years. They were exceedingly happy; their daughter, four years old now, was the delight of their hearts. Their cottage was rather dilapidated; but it was Hayashi's own, with the pond in front of it, and two farms, the whole property comprising some two hundred acres, of which nearly half was under cultivation. Thus Hayashi was able to live without working much. In the summer he fished for carp; in the winter he wrote much, and was considered a bit of a poet.
At the time of this story, Hayashi, having planted his rice and sweet potatoes (sato-imo), had but little to do, and spent most of his time with his wife, fishing in his ponds, one of which contained large suppon (terrapin turtles) as well as koi (carp). Suddenly things went wrong.
Yehara was surprised one morning to receive a visit from his sister O Komé.
'I have come, dear brother,' she said, 'to beg you to help me to obtain a divorce or separation from my husband.'
'Divorce! Why should you want a divorce? Have you not always said you were happy with your husband, my dear friend Hayashi? For what sudden reason do you ask for a divorce? Remember you have been married for five years now, and that is sufficient to prove that your life has been happy, and that Hayashi has treated you well.'
At first O Komé would not give any reason why she wished to be separated from her husband; but at last she said:
'Brother, think not that Hayashi has been unkind. He is all that can be called kind, and we deeply love each other; but, as you know, Hayashi's family have owned the land, the farms on one of which latter we live, for some three hundred years. Nothing would induce him to change his place of abode, and I should never have wished him to do so until some twelve days ago.'
'What has happened within these twelve wonderful days?' asked Yehara.
'Dear brother, I can stand it no longer,' was his sister's answer. 'Up to twelve days ago all went well; but then a terrible thing happened. It was very dark and warm, and I was sitting outside our house looking at the clouds passing over the moon, and talking to my daughter.
Suddenly there appeared, as if walking on the lilies of the pond, a white figure. Oh, so white, so wet, and so miserable to look at! It appeared to arise from the pond and float in the air, and then approached me slowly until it was within ten feet.
As it came my child cried: "Why, mother, there comes O Sumi—do you know O Sumi?" I answered her that I did not, I think; but in truth I was so frightened I hardly know what I said. The figure was horrible to look at. It was that of a girl of eighteen or nineteen years, with hair dishevelled and hanging loose, over white and wet shoulders. Help me! help me!" cried the figure, and I was so frightened that I covered my eyes and screamed for my husband, who was inside.
He came out and found me in a dead faint, with my child by my side, also in a state of terror. Hayashi had seen nothing. He carried us both in, shut the doors, and told me I must have been dreaming. "Perhaps," he sarcastically added, "you saw the kappa which is said to dwell in the pond, but which none of my family have seen for over one hundred years."
That is all that my husband said on the subject. The next night, however, when in bed, my child seized me suddenly, crying in terror-stricken tones, "O Sumi—here is O Sumi—how horrible she looks! Mother, mother, do you see her?" I did see her. She stood dripping wet within three feet of my bed, the whiteness and the wetness and the dishevelled hair being what gave her the awful look which she bore. "Help me! Help me!" cried the figure, and then disappeared. After that I could not sleep; nor could I get my child to do so.
On every night until now the ghost has come—O Sumi, has my child calls her. I should kill myself if I had to remain longer in that house, which has become a terror to myself and my child. My husband does not see the ghost, and only laughs at me; and that is why I see no way out of the difficulty but a separation.'
Yehara told his sister that on the following day he would call on Hayashi, and sent his sister back to her husband that night.
Next day, when Yehara called, Hayashi, after hearing what the visitor had to say, answered:
'It is very strange. I was born in this house over twenty years ago; but I have never seen the ghost which my wife refers to, and have never heard about it. Not the slightest allusion to it was ever made by my father or mother. I will make inquiries of all my neighbours and servants, and ascertain if they ever heard of the ghost, or even of any one coming to a sudden and untimely end. There must be something: it is impossible that my little child should know the name Sumi," she never having known any one bearing it.'
Inquiries were made; but nothing could be learned from the servants or from the neighbours. Hayashi reasoned that, the ghost being always wet, the mystery might be solved by drying up the pond—perhaps to find the remains of some murdered person, whose bones required decent burial and prayers said over them.
The pond was old and deep, covered with water plants, and had never been emptied within his memory. It was said to contain a kappa (mythical beast, half-turtle, half-man). In any case, there were many terrapin turtle, the capture of which would well repay the cost of the emptying.
The bank of the pond was cut, and next day there remained only a pool in the deepest part; Hayashi decided to clear even this and dig into the mud below.
At this moment the grandmother of Hayashi arrived, an old woman of some eighty years, and said:
'You need go no farther. I can tell you all about the ghost. O Sumi does not rest, and it is quite true that her ghost appears. I am very sorry about it, now in my old age; for it is my fault—the sin is mine. Listen and I will tell you all.'
Every one stood astonished at these words, feeling that some secret was about to be revealed.
The old woman continued:
'When Hayashi Hayato, your grandfather, was alive, we had a beautiful servant girl, seventeen years of age, called O Sumi. Your grandfather became enamoured of this girl, and she of him. I was about thirty at that time, and was jealous, for my better looks had passed away. One day when your grandfather was out I took Sumi to the pond and gave her a severe beating. During the struggle she fell into the water and got entangled in the weeds; and there I left her, fully believing the water to be shallow and that she could get out.
She did not succeed, and was drowned. Your grandfather found her dead on his return. In those days the officials were not very particular with their inquiries. The girl was buried; but nothing was said to me, and the matter soon blew over. Fourteen days ago was the fiftieth anniversary of this tragedy. Perhaps that is the reason of O Sumi's ghost appearing; for appear she must, or your child could not have known of her name. It must be as your child says, and that the first time she appeared Sumi communicated her name.'
The old woman was shaking with fear, and advised them all to say prayers at O Sumi's tomb. This was done, and the ghost has been seen no more. Hayashi said:
'Though I am a samurai, and have read many books, I never believed in ghosts; but now I do.'
Posted by AsahinaKimi | Wed Dec 14, 2011, 03:07 PM (1 replies)
FOR some time I have been hunting for a tale about the lotus lily. My friend Fukuga has at last found one which is said to date back some two hundred years. It applies to a castle that was then situated in what was known as Kinai, now incorporated into what may be known as the Kyoto district. Probably it refers to one of the castles in that neighbourhood, though I myself know of only one, which is now called Nijo Castle.
Fukuga (who does not speak English) and my interpreter made it very difficult for me to say that the story does not really belong to a castle in the province of Idzumi, for after starting it in Kyoto they suddenly brought me to Idzumi, making the hero of it the Lord of Koriyama. In any case, I was first told that disease and sickness broke out in Kinai (Kyoto). Thousands of people died of it. It spread to Idzumi, where the feudal Lord of Koriyama lived, and attacked him also. Doctors were called from all parts; but it was no use. The disease spread, and, to the dismay of all, not only the Lord of Koriyama but also his wife and child were stricken.
There was a panic terror in the country—not that the people feared for themselves, but because they were in dread that they might lose their lord and his wife and child. The Lord Koriyama was much beloved. People flocked to the castle. They camped round its high walls, and in its empty moats, which were dry, there having been no war for some time.
One day, during the illness of this great family, Tada Samon, the highest official in the castle (next to the Lord Koriyama himself), was sitting in his room, thinking what was best to be done on the various questions that were awaiting the Daimio's recovery. While he was thus engaged, a servant announced that there was a visitor at the outer gate who requested an interview, saying that he thought he could cure the three sufferers.
Tada Samon would see the caller, whom the servant shortly after fetched.
The visitor turned out to be a yamabushi (mountain recluse) in appearance, and on entering the room bowed low to Samon, saying
'Sir, it is an evil business—this illness of our lord and master—and it has been brought about by an evil spirit, who has entered the castle because you have put up no defence against impure and evil spirits. This castle is the centre of administration for the whole of the surrounding country, and it was unwise to allow it to remain un-fortified against impure and evil spirits. The saints of old have always told us to plant the lotus lily, not only in the one inner ditch surrounding a castle, but also in both ditches or in as many as there be, and, moreover, to plant them all around the ditches. Surely, sir, you know that the lotus, being the most emblematic flower in our religion, must be the most pure and sacred; for this reason it drives away uncleanness, which cannot cross it. Be assured, sir, that if your lord had not neglected the northern ditches of his castle, but had kept them filled with water, clean, and had planted the sacred lotus, no such evil spirit would have come as the present sent by Heaven to warn him. If I am allowed to do so, I shall enter the castle to-day and pray that the evil spirit of sickness leave; and I ask that I may be allowed to plant lotuses in the northern moats. Thus only can the Lord of Koriyama and his family be saved.'
Samon nodded in answer, for he now remembered that the northern moats had neither lotus nor water, and that this was partly his fault—a matter of economy in connection with the estates. He interviewed his master, who was more sick than ever. He called all the Court officials. It was decided that the yamabushi should have his way. He was told to carry out his ideas as he thought best. There was plenty of money, and there were hundreds of hands ready to help him—anything to save the master.
The yamabushi washed his body, and prayed that the evil spirit of sickness should leave the castle. Subsequently he superintended the cleansing and repairing of the northern moats, directing the people to fill them with water and plant lotuses. Then he disappeared mysteriously—vanished almost before the men's eyes. Wonderingly, but with more energy than ever, the men worked to carry out the orders. In less than twenty-four hours the moats had been cleaned, repaired, filled, and planted.
As was to be expected, the Lord Koriyama, his wife, and son became rapidly better. In a week all were able to be up, and in a fortnight they were as well as ever they had been.
Thanksgivings were held, and there were great rejoicings all over Idzumi. Later, people flocked to see the splendidly-kept moats of lotuses, and the villagers went so far as to rename among themselves the castle, calling it the Lotus Castle.
Some years passed before anything strange happened. The Lord Koriyama had died from natural causes, and had been succeeded by his son, who had neglected the lotus roots. A young samurai was passing along one of the moats. This was at the end of August, when the flowers of the lotus are strong and high. The samurai suddenly saw two beautiful boys, about six or seven years of age, playing at the edge of the moat.
'Boys,' said he, 'it is not safe to play so near the edge of this moat. Come along with me.'
He was about to take them by the hand and lead them off to a safer place, when they sprang into the air a little way, smiling at him the while, and fell into the water, where they disappeared with a great splash that covered him with spray.
So astonished was the samurai, he hardly knew what to think, for they did not reappear. He made sure they must be two kappas (mythical animals), and with this idea in his mind he ran to the castle and gave information.
The high officials held a meeting, and arranged to have the moats dragged and cleaned; they felt that this should have been done when the young lord had succeeded his father.
The moats were dragged accordingly from end to end; but no kappa was found. They came to the conclusion that the samurai had been indulging in fancies, and he was chaffed in consequence.
Some few weeks later another samurai, Murata Ippai, was returning in the evening from visiting his sweetheart, and his road led along the outer moat. The lotus blossoms were luxuriant; and Ippai sauntered slowly on, admiring them and thinking of his lady-love, when suddenly he espied a dozen or more of the beautiful little boys playing near the water's edge. They had no clothing on, and were splashing one another with water.
'Ah!' reflected the samurai, 'these, surely, are the kappas, of which we were told before. Having taken the form of human beings, they think to deceive me! A samurai is not frightened by such as they, and they will find it difficult to escape the keen edge of my sword.'
Ippai cast off his clogs, and, drawing his sword, proceeded stealthily to approach the supposed kappas. He approached until he was within some twenty yards; then he remained hidden behind a bush, and stood for a minute to observe.
The children continued their play. They seemed to be perfectly natural children, except that they were all extremely beautiful, and from them was wafted a peculiar scent, almost powerful, but sweet, and resembling that of the lotus lily. Ippai was puzzled, and was almost inclined to sheathe his sword on seeing how innocent and unsuspecting the children looked; but he thought that he would not be acting up to the determination of a samurai if he changed his mind. Gripping his sword with renewed vigour, therefore, he dashed out from his hiding-place and slashed right and left among the supposed kappas.
Ippai was convinced that he had done much slaughter, for he had felt his sword strike over and over again, and had heard the dull thuds of things falling; but when he looked about to see what he had killed there arose a peculiar vapour of all colours which almost blinded him by its brilliance. It fell in a watery spray all round him.
Ippai determined to wait until the morning, for he could not, as a samurai, leave such an adventure unfinished; nor, indeed, would he have liked to recount it to his friends unless he had seen the thing clean through.
It was a long and dreary wait; but Ippai was equal to it and never closed his eyes during the night.
When morning dawned he found nothing but the stalks of lotus lilies sticking up out of the water in his vicinity.
'But my sword struck more than lotus stalks,' thought he. 'If I have not killed the kappas which I saw myself in human form, they must have been the spirits of the lotus. What terrible sin have I committed? It was by the spirits of the lotus that our Lord of Koriyama and his family were saved from death! Alas, what have I done—I, a samurai, whose every drop of blood belongs to his master? I have drawn my sword on my master's most faithful friends! I must appease the spirits by disembowelling myself.'
Ippai said a prayer, and then, sitting on a stone by the side of the fallen lotus flowers, did seppuku.
The flowers continued to bloom; but after this no more lotus spirits were seen.
Posted by AsahinaKimi | Sun Dec 11, 2011, 01:30 PM (5 replies)
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