Part 4 out of 7
and from that day forth they used constantly to meet in secret at the
tea-house; and Genzaburo, in his infatuation, never thought that the
matter must surely become notorious after a while, and that he himself
would be banished, and his family ruined: he only took care for the
pleasure of the moment.
Now Chokichi, who had brought about the meeting between Genzaburo and
his love, used to go every day to the tea-house at Oji, taking with
him O Koyo; and Genzaburo neglected all his duties for the pleasure of
these secret meetings. Chokichi saw this with great regret, and
thought to himself that if Genzaburo gave himself up entirely to
pleasure, and laid aside his duties, the secret would certainly be
made public, and Genzaburo would bring ruin on himself and his family;
so he began to devise some plan by which he might separate them, and
plotted as eagerly to estrange them as he had formerly done to
introduce them to one another.
At last he hit upon a device which satisfied him. Accordingly one day
he went to O Koyo's house, and, meeting her father Kihachi, said to
"I've got a sad piece of news to tell you. The family of my lord
Genzaburo have been complaining bitterly of his conduct in carrying on
his relationship with your daughter, and of the ruin which exposure
would bring upon the whole house; so they have been using their
influence to persuade him to hear reason, and give up the connection.
Now his lordship feels deeply for the damsel, and yet he cannot
sacrifice his family for her sake. For the first time, he has become
alive to the folly of which he has been guilty, and, full of remorse,
he has commissioned me to devise some stratagem to break off the
affair. Of course, this has taken me by surprise; but as there is no
gainsaying the right of the case, I have had no option but to promise
obedience: this promise I have come to redeem; and now, pray, advise
your daughter to think no more of his lordship."
When Kihachi heard this he was surprised and distressed, and told O
Koyo immediately; and she, grieving over the sad news, took no thought
either of eating or drinking, but remained gloomy and desolate.
In the meanwhile, Chokichi went off to Genzaburo's house, and told him
that O Koyo had been taken suddenly ill, and could not go to meet him,
and begged him to wait patiently until she should send to tell him of
her recovery. Genzaburo, never suspecting the story to be false,
waited for thirty days, and still Chokichi brought him no tidings of O
Koyo. At last he met Chokichi, and besought him to arrange a meeting
for him with O Koyo.
"Sir," replied Chokichi, "she is not yet recovered; so it would be
difficult to bring her to see your honour. But I have been thinking
much about this affair, sir. If it becomes public, your honour's
family will be plunged in ruin. I pray you, sir, to forget all about O
"It's all very well for you to give me advice," answered Genzaburo,
surprised; "but, having once bound myself to O Koyo, it would be a
pitiful thing to desert her; I therefore implore you once more to
arrange that I may meet her."
However, he would not consent upon any account; so Genzaburo returned
home, and, from that time forth, daily entreated Chokichi to bring O
Koyo to him, and, receiving nothing but advice from him in return, was
very sad and lonely.
One day Genzaburo, intent on ridding himself of the grief he felt at
his separation from O Koyo, went to the Yoshiwara, and, going into a
house of entertainment, ordered a feast to be prepared, but, in the
midst of gaiety, his heart yearned all the while for his lost love,
and his merriment was but mourning in disguise. At last the night wore
on; and as he was retiring along the corridor, he saw a man of about
forty years of age, with long hair, coming towards him, who, when he
saw Genzaburo, cried out, "Dear me! why this must be my young lord
Genzaburo who has come out to enjoy himself."
Genzaburo thought this rather strange; but, looking at the man
attentively, recognized him as a retainer whom he had had in his
employ the year before, and said--
"This is a curious meeting: pray, what have you been about since you
left my service? At any rate, I may congratulate you on being well and
strong. Where are you living now?"
"Well, sir, since I parted from you I have been earning a living as a
fortune-teller at Kanda, and have changed my name to Kaji Sazen. I am
living in a poor and humble house; but if your lordship, at your
leisure, would honour me with a visit--"
"Well, it's a lucky chance that has brought us together, and I
certainly will go and see you; besides, I want you to do something for
me. Shall you be at home the day after to-morrow?"
"Certainly, sir, I shall make a point of being at home."
"Very well, then, the day after to-morrow I will go to your house."
"I shall be at your service, sir. And now, as it is getting late, I
will take my leave for to-night."
"Good night, then. We shall meet the day after to-morrow." And so the
two parted, and went their several ways to rest.
On the appointed day Genzaburo made his preparations, and went in
disguise, without any retainers, to call upon Sazen, who met him at
the porch of his house, and said, "This is a great honour! My lord
Genzaburo is indeed welcome. My house is very mean, but let me invite
your lordship to come into an inner chamber."
"Pray," replied Genzaburo, "don't make any ceremony for me. Don't put
yourself to any trouble on my account."
And so he passed in, and Sazen called to his wife to prepare wine and
condiments; and they began to feast. At last Genzaburo, looking Sazen
in the face, said, "There is a service which I want you to render
me--a very secret service; but as if you were to refuse me, I should
be put to shame, before I tell you what that service is, I must know
whether you are willing to assist me in anything that I may require of
"Yes; if it is anything that is within my power, I am at your
"Well, then," said Genzaburo, greatly pleased, and drawing ten riyos
from his bosom, "this is but a small present to make to you on my
first visit, but pray accept it."
"No, indeed! I don't know what your lordship wishes of me; but, at any
rate, I cannot receive this money. I really must beg your lordship to
take it back again."
But Genzaburo pressed it upon him by force, and at last he was obliged
to accept the money. Then Genzaburo told him the whole story of his
loves with O Koyo--how he had first met her and fallen in love with
her at the Adzuma Bridge; how Chokichi had introduced her to him at
the tea-house at Oji, and then when she fell ill, and he wanted to see
her again, instead of bringing her to him, had only given him good
advice; and so Genzaburo drew a lamentable picture of his state of
Sazen listened patiently to his story, and, after reflecting for a
while, replied, "Well, sir, it's not a difficult matter to set right:
and yet it will require some little management. However, if your
lordship will do me the honour of coming to see me again the day after
to-morrow, I will cast about me in the meanwhile, and will let you
know then the result of my deliberations."
When Genzaburo heard this he felt greatly relieved, and, recommending
Sazen to do his best in the matter, took his leave and returned home.
That very night Sazen, after thinking over all that Genzaburo had told
him, laid his plans accordingly, and went off to the house of Kihachi,
the Eta chief, and told him the commission with which he had been
Kihachi was of course greatly astonished, and said, "Some time ago,
sir, Chokichi came here and said that my lord Genzaburo, having been
rebuked by his family for his profligate behaviour, had determined to
break off his connection with my daughter. Of course I knew that the
daughter of an Eta was no fitting match for a nobleman; so when
Chokichi came and told me the errand upon which he had been sent, I
had no alternative but to announce to my daughter that she must give
up all thought of his lordship. Since that time she has been fretting
and pining and starving for love. But when I tell her what you have
just said, how glad and happy she will be! Let me go and talk to her
at once." And with these words, he went to O Koyo's room; and when he
looked upon her thin wasted face, and saw how sad she was, he felt
more and more pity for her, and said, "Well, O Koyo, are you in better
spirits to-day? Would you like something to eat?"
"Thank you, I have no appetite."
"Well, at any rate, I have some news for you that will make you happy.
A messenger has come from my lord Genzaburo, for whom your heart
At this O Koyo, who had been crouching down like a drooping flower,
gave a great start, and cried out, "Is that really true? Pray tell me
all about it as quickly as possible."
"The story which Chokichi came and told us, that his lordship wished
to break off the connection, was all an invention. He has all along
been wishing to meet you, and constantly urged Chokichi to bring you a
message from him. It is Chokichi who has been throwing obstacles in
the way. At last his lordship has secretly sent a man, called Kaji
Sazen, a fortune-teller, to arrange an interview between you. So now,
my child, you may cheer up, and go to meet your lover as soon as you
When O Koyo heard this, she was so happy that she thought it must all
be a dream, and doubted her own senses.
Kihachi in the meanwhile rejoined Sazen in the other room, and, after
telling him of the joy with which his daughter had heard the news, put
before him wine and other delicacies. "I think," said Sazen, "that the
best way would be for O Koyo to live secretly in my lord Genzaburo's
house; but as it will never do for all the world to know of it, it
must be managed very quietly; and further, when I get home, I must
think out some plan to lull the suspicions of that fellow Chokichi,
and let you know my idea by letter. Meanwhile O Koyo had better come
home with me to-night: although she is so terribly out of spirits now,
she shall meet Genzaburo the day after to-morrow."
Kihachi reported this to O Koyo; and as her pining for Genzaburo was
the only cause of her sickness, she recovered her spirits at once,
and, saying that she would go with Sazen immediately, joyfully made
her preparations. Then Sazen, having once more warned Kihachi to keep
the matter secret from Chokichi, and to act upon the letter which he
should send him, returned home, taking with him O Koyo; and after O
Koyo had bathed and dressed her hair, and painted herself and put on
beautiful clothes, she came out looking so lovely that no princess in
the land could vie with her; and Sazen, when he saw her, said to
himself that it was no wonder that Genzaburo had fallen in love with
her; then, as it was getting late, he advised her to go to rest, and,
after showing her to her apartments, went to his own room and wrote
his letter to Kihachi, containing the scheme which he had devised.
When Kihachi received his instructions, he was filled with admiration
at Sazen's ingenuity, and, putting on an appearance of great alarm and
agitation, went off immediately to call on Chokichi, and said to him--
"Oh, Master Chokichi, such a terrible thing has happened! Pray, let me
tell you all about it."
"Indeed! what can it be?"
"Oh! sir," answered Kihachi, pretending to wipe away his tears, "my
daughter O Koyo, mourning over her separation from my lord Genzaburo,
at first refused all sustenance, and remained nursing her sorrows
until, last night, her woman's heart failing to bear up against her
great grief, she drowned herself in the river, leaving behind her a
paper on which she had written her intention."
When Chokichi heard this, he was thunderstruck, and exclaimed, "Can
this really be true! And when I think that it was I who first
introduced her to my lord, I am ashamed to look you in the face."
"Oh, say not so: misfortunes are the punishment due for our misdeeds
in a former state of existence. I bear you no ill-will. This money
which I hold in my hand was my daughter's; and in her last
instructions she wrote to beg that it might be given, after her death,
to you, through whose intervention she became allied with a nobleman:
so please accept it as my daughter's legacy to you;" and as he spoke,
he offered him three riyos.
"You amaze me!" replied the other. "How could I, above all men, who
have so much to reproach myself with in my conduct towards you, accept
"Nay; it was my dead daughter's wish. But since you reproach yourself
in the matter when you think of her, I will beg you to put up a prayer
and to cause masses to be said for her."
At last, Chokichi, after much persuasion, and greatly to his own
distress, was obliged to accept the money; and when Kihachi had
carried out all Sazen's instructions, he returned home, laughing in
Chokichi was sorely grieved to hear of O Koyo's death, and remained
thinking over the sad news; when all of a sudden looking about him,
he saw something like a letter lying on the spot where Kihachi had
been sitting, so he picked it up and read it; and, as luck would have
it, it was the very letter which contained Sazen's instructions to
Kihachi, and in which the whole story which had just affected him so
much was made up. When he perceived the trick that had been played
upon him, he was very angry, and exclaimed, "To think that I should
have been so hoaxed by that hateful old dotard, and such a fellow as
Sazen! And Genzaburo, too!--out of gratitude for the favours which I
had received from him in old days, I faithfully gave him good advice,
and all in vain. Well, they've gulled me once; but I'll be even with
them yet, and hinder their game before it is played out!" And so he
worked himself up into a fury, and went off secretly to prowl about
Sazen's house to watch for O Koyo, determined to pay off Genzaburo and
Sazen for their conduct to him.
In the meanwhile Sazen, who did not for a moment suspect what had
happened, when the day which had been fixed upon by him and Genzaburo
arrived, made O Koyo put on her best clothes, smartened up his house,
and got ready a feast against Genzaburo's arrival. The latter came
punctually to his time, and, going in at once, said to the
fortune-teller, "Well, have you succeeded in the commission with which
I entrusted you?"
At first Sazen pretended to be vexed at the question, and said, "Well,
sir, I've done my best; but it's not a matter which can be settled in
a hurry. However, there's a young lady of high birth and wonderful
beauty upstairs, who has come here secretly to have her fortune told;
and if your lordship would like to come with me and see her, you can
But Genzaburo, when he heard that he was not to meet O Koyo, lost
heart entirely, and made up his mind to go home again. Sazen, however,
pressed him so eagerly, that at last he went upstairs to see this
vaunted beauty; and Sazen, drawing aside a screen, showed him O Koyo,
who was sitting there. Genzaburo gave a great start, and, turning to
Sazen, said, "Well, you certainly are a first-rate hand at keeping up
a hoax. However, I cannot sufficiently praise the way in which you
have carried out my instructions."
"Pray, don't mention it, sir. But as it is a long time since you have
met the young lady, you must have a great deal to say to one another;
so I will go downstairs, and, if you want anything, pray call me." And
so he went downstairs and left them.
Then Genzaburo, addressing O Koyo, said, "Ah! it is indeed a long time
since we met. How happy it makes me to see you again! Why, your face
has grown quite thin. Poor thing! have you been unhappy?" And O Koyo,
with the tears starting from her eyes for joy, hid her face; and her
heart was so full that she could not speak. But Genzaburo, passing his
hand gently over her head and back, and comforting her, said, "Come,
sweetheart, there is no need to sob so. Talk to me a little, and let
me hear your voice."
At last O Koyo raised her head and said, "Ah! when I was separated
from you by the tricks of Chokichi, and thought that I should never
meet you again, how tenderly I thought of you! I thought I should have
died, and waited for my hour to come, pining all the while for you.
And when at last, as I lay between life and death, Sazen came with a
message from you, I thought it was all a dream." And as she spoke, she
bent her head and sobbed again; and in Genzaburo's eyes she seemed
more beautiful than ever, with her pale, delicate face; and he loved
her better than before. Then she said, "If I were to tell you all I
have suffered until to-day, I should never stop."
"Yes," replied Genzaburo, "I too have suffered much;" and so they told
one another their mutual griefs, and from that day forth they
constantly met at Sazen's house.
One day, as they were feasting and enjoying themselves in an upper
storey in Sazen's house, Chokichi came to the house and said, "I beg
pardon; but does one Master Sazen live here?"
"Certainly, sir: I am Sazen, at your service. Pray where are you
"Well, sir, I have a little business to transact with you. May I make
so bold as to go in?" And with these words, he entered the house.
"But who and what are you?" said Sazen.
"Sir, I am an Eta; and my name is Chokichi. I beg to bespeak your
goodwill for myself: I hope we may be friends."
Sazen was not a little taken aback at this; however, he put on an
innocent face, as though he had never heard of Chokichi before, and
said, "I never heard of such a thing! Why, I thought you were some
respectable person; and you have the impudence to tell me that your
name is Chokichi, and that you're one of those accursed Etas. To think
of such a shameless villain coming and asking to be friends with me,
forsooth! Get you gone!--the quicker, the better: your presence
pollutes the house."
Chokichi smiled contemptuously, as he answered, "So you deem the
presence of an Eta in your house a pollution--eh? Why, I thought you
must be one of us."
"Insolent knave! Begone as fast as possible."
"Well, since you say that I defile your house, you had better get rid
of O Koyo as well. I suppose she must equally be a pollution to it."
This put Sazen rather in a dilemma; however, he made up his mind not
to show any hesitation, and said, "What are you talking about? There
is no O Koyo here; and I never saw such a person in my life."
Chokichi quietly drew out of the bosom of his dress the letter from
Sazen to Kihachi, which he had picked up a few days before, and,
showing it to Sazen, replied, "If you wish to dispute the genuineness
of this paper, I will report the whole matter to the Governor of Yedo;
and Genzaburo's family will be ruined, and the rest of you who are
parties in this affair will come in for your share of trouble. Just
wait a little."
And as he pretended to leave the house, Sazen, at his wits' end, cried
out, "Stop! stop! I want to speak to you. Pray, stop and listen
quietly. It is quite true, as you said, that O Koyo is in my house;
and really your indignation is perfectly just. Come! let us talk over
matters a little. Now you yourself were originally a respectable man;
and although you have fallen in life, there is no reason why your
disgrace should last for ever. All that you want in order to enable
you to escape out of this fraternity of Etas is a little money. Why
should you not get this from Genzaburo, who is very anxious to keep
his intrigue with O Koyo secret?"
Chokichi laughed disdainfully. "I am ready to talk with you; but I
don't want any money. All I want is to report the affair to the
authorities, in order that I may be revenged for the fraud that was
put upon me."
"Won't you accept twenty-five riyos?"
"Twenty-five riyos! No, indeed! I will not take a fraction less than a
hundred; and if I cannot get them I will report the whole matter at
Sazen, after a moment's consideration, hit upon a scheme, and
answered, smiling, "Well, Master Chokichi, you're a fine fellow, and I
admire your spirit. You shall have the hundred riyos you ask for; but,
as I have not so much money by me at present, I will go to Genzaburo's
house and fetch it. It's getting dark now, but it's not very late; so
I'll trouble you to come with me, and then I can give you the money
Chokichi consenting to this, the pair left the house together.
Now Sazen, who as a Ronin wore a long dirk in his girdle, kept looking
out for a moment when Chokichi should be off his guard, in order to
kill him; but Chokichi kept his eyes open, and did not give Sazen a
chance. At last Chokichi, as ill-luck would have it, stumbled against
a stone and fell; and Sazen, profiting by the chance, drew his dirk
and stabbed him in the side; and as Chokichi, taken by surprise, tried
to get up, he cut him severely over the head, until at last he fell
dead. Sazen then looking around him, and seeing, to his great delight,
that there was no one near, returned home. The following day,
Chokichi's body was found by the police; and when they examined it,
they found nothing upon it save a paper, which they read, and which
proved to be the very letter which Sazen had sent to Kihachi, and
which Chokichi had picked up. The matter was immediately reported to
the governor, and, Sazen having been summoned, an investigation was
held. Sazen, cunning and bold murderer as he was, lost his
self-possession when he saw what a fool he had been not to get back
from Chokichi the letter which he had written, and, when he was put to
a rigid examination under torture, confessed that he had hidden O
Koyo at Genzaburo's instigation, and then killed Chokichi, who had
found out the secret. Upon this the governor, after consulting about
Genzaburo's case, decided that, as he had disgraced his position as a
Hatamoto by contracting an alliance with the daughter of an Eta, his
property should be confiscated, his family blotted out, and himself
banished. As for Kihachi, the Eta chief, and his daughter O Koyo, they
were handed over for punishment to the chief of the Etas, and by him
they too were banished; while Sazen, against whom the murder of
Chokichi had been fully proved, was executed according to law.
At Asakusa, in Yedo, there lives a man called Danzayemon, the chief of
the Etas. This man traces his pedigree back to Minamoto no Yoritomo,
who founded the Shogunate in the year A.D. 1192. The whole of the Etas
in Japan are under his jurisdiction; his subordinates are called
Koyagashira, or "chiefs of the huts"; and he and they constitute the
government of the Etas. In the "Legacy of Iyeyasu," already quoted,
the 36th Law provides as follows:--"All wandering mendicants, such as
male sorcerers, female diviners, hermits, blind people, beggars, and
tanners (Etas), have had from of old their respective rulers. Be not
disinclined, however, to punish any such who give rise to disputes, or
who overstep the boundaries of their own classes and 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 executions 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 came to be under the jurisdiction of
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 Munemori,
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, if the son that his peasant wife had born to
him had proclaimed himself the son of the mighty prince, 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 neighbours.
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
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 Danzayemon, who rules the Etas at the present time, and
lives at Asakusa, is his lineal descendant.
I think that their quaintness is a sufficient apology for the
following little children's stories. With the exception of that of the
"Elves and the Envious Neighbour," which comes out of a curious book
on etymology and proverbial lore, called the Kotowazagusa, these
stories are found printed in little separate pamphlets, with
illustrations, the stereotype blocks of which have become so worn that
the print is hardly legible. These are the first tales which are put
into a Japanese child's hands; and it is with these, and such as
these, that the Japanese mother hushes her little ones to sleep.
Knowing the interest which many children of a larger growth take in
such Baby Stories, I was anxious to have collected more of them. I was
disappointed, however, for those which I give here are the only ones
which I could find in print; and if I asked the Japanese to tell me
others, they only thought I was laughing at them, and changed the
subject. The stories of the Tongue-cut Sparrow, and the Old Couple and
their Dog, have been paraphrased in other works upon Japan; but I am
not aware of their having been literally translated before.
THE TONGUE-CUT SPARROW
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
"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.
[Illustration: THE TONGUE-CUT SPARROW.]
"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 directions, 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.
[Illustration: THE TONGUE-CUT SPARROW. (2)]
But the old man adopted a son, and his family grew rich and
prosperous. What a happy old man!
THE ACCOMPLISHED AND LUCKY TEA-KETTLE
A long time ago, at a temple called Morinji, in the province of
Joshiu, there was an old tea-kettle. One day, when the priest of the
temple was about to hang it over the hearth to boil the water for his
tea, to his amazement, the kettle all of a sudden put forth the head
and tail of a badger. What a wonderful kettle, to come out all over
fur! The priest, thunderstruck, called in the novices of the temple to
see the sight; and whilst they were stupidly staring, one suggesting
one thing and another, the kettle, jumping up into the air, began
flying about the room. More astonished than ever, the priest and his
pupils tried to pursue it; but no thief or cat was ever half so sharp
as this wonderful badger-kettle. At last, however, they managed to
knock it down and secure it; and, holding it in with their united
efforts, they forced it into a box, intending to carry it off and
throw it away in some distant place, so that they might be no more
plagued by the goblin. For this day their troubles were over; but, as
luck would have it, the tinker who was in the habit of working for the
temple called in, and the priest suddenly bethought him that it was a
pity to throw the kettle away for nothing, and that he might as well
get a trifle for it, no matter how small. So he brought out the
kettle, which had resumed its former shape and had got rid of its head
and tail, and showed it to the tinker. When the tinker saw the kettle,
he offered twenty copper coins for it, and the priest was only too
glad to close the bargain and be rid of his troublesome piece of
furniture. But the tinker trudged off home with his pack and his new
purchase. That night, as he lay asleep, he heard a strange noise near
his pillow; so he peeped out from under the bedclothes, and there he
saw the kettle that he had bought in the temple covered with fur, and
walking about on four legs. The tinker started up in a fright to see
what it could all mean, when all of a sudden the kettle resumed its
former shape. This happened over and over again, until at last the
tinker showed the tea-kettle to a friend of his, who said, "This is
certainly an accomplished and lucky tea-kettle. You should take it
about as a show, with songs and accompaniments of musical instruments,
and make it dance and walk on the tight rope."
[Illustration: THE ACCOMPLISHED AND LUCKY TEA-KETTLE.]
The tinker, thinking this good advice, made arrangements with a
showman, and set up an exhibition. The noise of the kettle's
performances soon spread abroad, until even the princes of the land
sent to order the tinker to come to them; and he grew rich beyond
all his expectations. Even the princesses, too, and the great ladies
of the court, took great delight in the dancing kettle, so that no
sooner had it shown its tricks in one place than it was time for them
to keep some other engagement. At last the tinker grew so rich that he
took the kettle back to the temple, where it was laid up as a precious
treasure, and worshipped as a saint.
[Illustration: THE ACCOMPLISHED AND LUCKY TEA-KETTLE. (2)]
THE CRACKLING MOUNTAIN
Once upon a time there lived an old man and an old woman, who kept a
pet white hare, by which they set great store. One day, a badger, that
lived hard by, came and ate up the food which had been put out for the
hare; so the old man, flying into a great rage, seized the badger,
and, tying the beast up to a tree, went off to the mountain to cut
wood, while the old woman stopped at home and ground the wheat for the
evening porridge. Then the badger, with tears in his eyes, said to the
"Please, dame, please untie this rope!"
The dame, thinking that it was a cruel thing to see a poor beast in
pain, undid the rope; but the ungrateful brute was no sooner loose,
than he cried out--
"I'll be revenged for this," and was off in a trice.
When the hare heard this, he went off to the mountain to warn the old
man; and whilst the hare was away on this errand, the badger came
back, and killed the dame. Then the beast, having assumed the old
woman's form, made her dead body into broth, and waited for the old
man to come home from the mountain. When he returned, tired and
hungry, the pretended old woman said--
"Come, come; I've made such a nice broth of the badger you hung up.
Sit down, and make a good supper of it."
With these words she set out the broth, and the old man made a hearty
meal, licking his lips over it, and praising the savoury mess. But as
soon as he had finished eating, the badger, reassuming its natural
shape, cried out--
"Nasty old man! you've eaten your own wife. Look at her bones, lying
in the kitchen sink!" and, laughing contemptuously, the badger ran
away, and disappeared.
Then the old man, horrified at what he had done, set up a great
lamentation; and whilst he was bewailing his fate, the hare came home,
and, seeing how matters stood, determined to avenge the death of his
mistress. So he went back to the mountain, and, falling in with the
badger, who was carrying a faggot of sticks on his back, he struck a
light and set fire to the sticks, without letting the badger see him.
When the badger heard the crackling noise of the faggot burning on his
back, he called out--
"Holloa! what is that noise?"
"Oh!" answered the hare, "this is called the Crackling Mountain.
There's always this noise here."
And as the fire gathered strength, and went pop! pop! pop! the badger
"Oh dear! what can this noise be?"
"This is called the 'Pop! Pop! Mountain,'" answered the hare.
[Illustration: THE HARE AND THE BADGER.]
All at once the fire began to singe the badger's back, so that he
fled, howling with pain, and jumped into a river hard by. But,
although the water put out the fire, his back was burnt as black as a
cinder. The hare, seeing an opportunity for torturing the badger to
his heart's content, made a poultice of cayenne pepper, which he
carried to the badger's house, and, pretending to condole with him,
and to have a sovereign remedy for burns, he applied his hot plaister
to his enemy's sore back. Oh! how it smarted and pained! and how the
badger yelled and cried!
[Illustration: THE HARE AND THE BADGER. (2)]
When, at last, the badger got well again, he went to the hare's house,
thinking to reproach him for having caused him so much pain. When he
got there, he found that the hare had built himself a boat.
"What have you built that boat for, Mr. Hare?" said the badger.
"I'm going to the capital of the moon," answered the hare; "won't
you come with me?"
[Footnote 52: The mountains in the moon are supposed to resemble a
hare in shape. Hence there is a fanciful connection between the hare
and the moon.]
"I had enough of your company on the Crackling Mountain, where you
played me such tricks. I'd rather make a boat for myself," replied the
badger, who immediately began building himself a boat of clay.
The hare, seeing this, laughed in his sleeve; and so the two launched
their boats upon the river. The waves came plashing against the two
boats; but the hare's boat was built of wood, while that of the badger
was made of clay, and, as they rowed down the river, the clay boat
began to crumble away; then the hare, seizing his paddle, and
brandishing it in the air, struck savagely at the badger's boat, until
he had smashed it to pieces, and killed his enemy.
When the old man heard that his wife's death had been avenged, he was
glad in his heart, and more than ever petted and loved the hare, whose
brave deeds had caused him to welcome the returning spring.
THE STORY OF THE OLD MAN WHO MADE WITHERED TREES TO BLOSSOM
In the old, old days, there lived an honest man with his wife, who had
a favourite dog, which they used to feed with fish and titbits from
their own kitchen. One day, as the old folks went out to work in their
garden, the dog went with them, and began playing about. All of a
sudden, the dog stopped short, and began to bark, "Bow, wow, wow!"
wagging his tail violently. The old people thought that there must be
something nice to eat under the ground, so they brought a spade and
began digging, when, lo and behold! the place was full of gold pieces
and silver, and all sorts of precious things, which had been buried
there. So they gathered the treasure together, and, after giving alms
to the poor, bought themselves rice-fields and corn-fields, and became
Now, in the next house there dwelt a covetous and stingy old man and
woman, who, when they heard what had happened, came and borrowed the
dog, and, having taken him home, prepared a great feast for him, and
"If you please, Mr. Dog, we should be much obliged to you if you would
show us a place with plenty of money in it."
The dog, however, who up to that time had received nothing but cuffs
and kicks from his hosts, would not eat any of the dainties which they
set before him; so the old people began to get cross, and, putting a
rope round the dog's neck, led him out into the garden. But it was all
in vain; let them lead him where they might, not a sound would the dog
utter: he had no "bow-wow" for them. At last, however, the dog stopped
at a certain spot, and began to sniff; so, thinking that this must
surely be the lucky place, they dug, and found nothing but a quantity
of dirt and nasty offal, over which they had to hold their noses.
Furious at being disappointed, the wicked old couple seized the dog,
and killed him.
When the good old man saw that the dog, whom he had lent, did not come
home, he went next door to ask what had become of him; and the wicked
old man answered that he had killed the dog, and buried him at the
root of a pine-tree; so the good old fellow, with, a heavy heart, went
to the spot, and, having set out a tray with delicate food, burnt
incense, and adorned the grave with flowers, as he shed tears over his
But there was more good luck in store yet for the old people--the
reward of their honesty and virtue. How do you think that happened,
my children? It is very wrong to be cruel to dogs and cats.
[Illustration: THE OLD MAN WHO CAUSED WITHERED TREES TO FLOWER.]
That night, when the good old man was fast asleep in bed, the dog
appeared to him, and, after thanking him for all his kindness, said--
"Cause the pine-tree, under which, I am buried, to be cut down and
made into a mortar, and use it, thinking of it as if it were myself."
The old man did as the dog had told him to do, and made a mortar out
of the wood of the pine-tree; but when he ground his rice in it, each
grain of rice was turned into some rich treasure. When the wicked old
couple saw this, they came to borrow the mortar; but no sooner did
they try to use it, than all their rice was turned into filth; so, in
a fit of rage, they broke up the mortar and burnt it. But the good old
man, little suspecting that his precious mortar had been broken and
burnt, wondered why his neighbours did not bring it back to him.
[Illustration: THE OLD MAN WHO CAUSED WITHERED TREES TO FLOWER. (2)]
One night the dog appeared to him again in a dream, and told him what
had happened, adding that if he would take the ashes of the burnt
mortar and sprinkle them on withered trees, the trees would revive,
and suddenly put out flowers. After saying this the dream vanished,
and the old man, who heard for the first time of the loss of his
mortar, ran off weeping to the neighbours' house, and begged them, at
any rate, to give him back the ashes of his treasure. Having obtained
these, he returned home, and made a trial of their virtues upon a
withered cherry-tree, which, upon being touched by the ashes,
immediately began to sprout and blossom. When he saw this wonderful
effect, he put the ashes into a basket, and went about the country,
announcing himself as an old man who had the power of bringing dead
trees to life again.
A certain prince, hearing of this, and thinking it a mighty strange
thing, sent for the old fellow, who showed his power by causing all
the withered plum and cherry-trees to shoot out and put forth flowers.
So the prince gave him a rich reward of pieces of silk and cloth and
other presents, and sent him home rejoicing.
So soon as the neighbours heard of this they collected all the ashes
that remained, and, having put them in a basket, the wicked old man
went out into the castle town, and gave out that he was the old man
who had the power of reviving dead trees, and causing them to flower.
He had not to wait long before he was called into the prince's palace,
and ordered to exhibit his power. But when he climbed up into a
withered tree, and began to scatter the ashes, not a bud nor a flower
appeared; but the ashes all flew into the prince's eyes and mouth,
blinding and choking him. When the prince's retainers saw this, they
seized the old man, and beat him almost to death, so that he crawled
off home in a very sorry plight. When he and his wife found out what a
trap they had fallen into, they stormed and scolded and put
themselves into a passion; but that did no good at all.
The good old man and woman, so soon as they heard of their neighbours'
distress, sent for them, and, after reproving them for their greed and
cruelty, gave them a share of their own riches, which, by repeated
strokes of luck, had now increased to a goodly sum. So the wicked old
people mended their ways, and led good and virtuous lives ever after.
THE BATTLE OF THE APE AND THE CRAB
If a man thinks only of his own profit, and tries to benefit himself
at the expense of others, he will incur the hatred of Heaven. Men
should lay up in their hearts the story of the Battle of the Ape and
Crab, and teach it, as a profitable lesson, to their children.
Once upon a time there was a crab who lived in a marsh in a certain
part of the country. It fell out one day that, the crab having picked
up a rice cake, an ape, who had got a nasty hard persimmon-seed, came
up, and begged the crab to make an exchange with him. The crab, who
was a simple-minded creature, agreed to this proposal; and they each
went their way, the ape chuckling to himself at the good bargain which
he had made.
When the crab got home, he planted the persimmon-seed in his garden,
and, as time slipped by, it sprouted, and by degrees grew to be a big
tree. The crab watched the growth of his tree with great delight; but
when the fruit ripened, and he was going to pluck it, the ape came in,
and offered to gather it for him. The crab consenting, the ape climbed
up into the tree, and began eating all the ripe fruit himself, while
he only threw down the sour persimmons to the crab, inviting him, at
the same time, to eat heartily. The crab, however, was not pleased at
this arrangement, and thought that it was his turn to play a trick
upon the ape; so he called out to him to come down head foremost. The
ape did as he was bid; and as he crawled down, head foremost, the ripe
fruit all came tumbling out of his pockets, and the crab, having
picked up the persimmons, ran off and hid himself in a hole. The ape,
seeing this, lay in ambush, and as soon as the crab crept out of his
hiding-place gave him a sound drubbing, and went home. Just at this
time a friendly egg and a bee, who were the apprentices of a certain
rice-mortar, happened to pass that way, and, seeing the crab's piteous
condition, tied up his wounds, and, having escorted him home, began to
lay plans to be revenged upon the cruel ape.
[Illustration: THE APE AND THE CRAB.]
Having agreed upon a scheme, they all went to the ape's house, in his
absence; and each one having undertaken to play a certain part, they
waited in secret for their enemy to come home. The ape, little
dreaming of the mischief that was brewing, returned home, and, having
a fancy to drink a cup of tea, began lighting the fire in the hearth,
when, all of a sudden, the egg, which was hidden in the ashes, burst
with. the heat, and bespattered the frightened ape's face, so that he
fled, howling with pain, and crying, "Oh! what an unlucky beast I am!"
Maddened with the heat of the burst egg, he tried to go to the back of
the house, when the bee darted out of a cupboard, and a piece of
seaweed, who had joined the party, coming up at the same time, the ape
was surrounded by enemies. In despair, he seized the clothes-rack, and
fought valiantly for awhile; but he was no match for so many, and was
obliged to run away, with the others in hot pursuit after him. Just as
he was making his escape by a back door, however, the piece of seaweed
tripped him up, and the rice-mortar, closing with him from behind,
made an end of him.
[Illustration: THE APE AND THE CRAB. (2)]
So the crab, having punished his enemy, went home in triumph, and
lived ever after on terms of brotherly love with the seaweed and the
mortar. Was there ever such a fine piece of fun!
THE ADVENTURES OF LITTLE PEACHLING
Many hundred years ago there lived an honest old wood-cutter 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.
[Footnote 53: _Momo_ means a peach, and _Taro_ is the termination of
the names of eldest sons, as _Hikotaro_, _Tokutaro_, &c. In modern
times, however, the termination has been applied indifferently to any
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
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 an ape, 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 ape.
So Little Peachling gave one of his dumplings to the ape, who received
it and followed him. When he had gone a little further, he heard a
"Ken! ken! ken! where are you off to, Master Peachling?"
[Footnote 54: The country folk in Japan pretend that the pheasant's
call is a sign of an approaching earthquake.]
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.
[Illustration: LITTLE PEACHLING.]
"With all my heart," said Little Peachling. So he went on his way,
with the ape, the pheasant, and the dog following after him.
When they got to the ogres' island, the pheasant flew over the castle
gate, and the ape 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 tortoiseshell, besides gold and silver. All these were laid before
Little Peachling by the conquered ogres.
[Illustration: LITTLE PEACHLING. (2)]
So Little Peachling went home laden with riches, and maintained his
foster-parents in peace and plenty for the remainder of their lives.
THE FOXES' WEDDING
Once upon a time there was a young white fox, whose name was
Fukuyemon. When he had reached the fitting age, he shaved off his
forelock and began to think of taking to himself a beautiful
bride. The old fox, his father, resolved to give up his inheritance to
his son, and retired into private life; so the young fox, in
gratitude for this, laboured hard and earnestly to increase his
patrimony. Now it happened that in a famous old family of foxes there
was a beautiful young lady-fox, with such lovely fur that the fame of
her jewel-like charms was spread far and wide. The young white fox,
who had heard of this, was bent on making her his wife, and a meeting
was arranged between them. There was not a fault to be found on either
side; so the preliminaries were settled, and the wedding presents sent
from the bridegroom to the bride's house, with congratulatory speeches
from the messenger, which were duly acknowledged by the person deputed
to receive the gifts; the bearers, of course, received the customary
fee in copper cash.
[Footnote 55: See the Appendix on "Ceremonies."]
[Footnote 56: See the note on the word Inkiyo, in the story of the
"Prince and the Badger."]
When the ceremonies had been concluded, an auspicious day was chosen
for the bride to go to her husband's house, and she was carried off in
solemn procession during a shower of rain, the sun shining all the
while. After the ceremonies of drinking wine had been gone
through, the bride changed her dress, and the wedding was concluded,
without let or hindrance, amid singing and dancing and merry-making.
[Footnote 57: A shower during sunshine, which we call "the devil
beating his wife," is called in Japan "the fox's bride going to her
The bride and bridegroom lived lovingly together, and a litter of
little foxes were born to them, to the great joy of the old grandsire,
who treated the little cubs as tenderly as if they had been
butterflies or flowers. "They're the very image of their old
grandfather," said he, as proud as possible. "As for medicine, bless
them, they're so healthy that they'll never need a copper coin's
As soon as they were old enough, they were carried off to the temple
of Inari Sama, the patron saint of foxes, and the old grand-parents
prayed that they might be delivered from dogs and all the other ills
to which fox flesh is heir.
[Illustration: THE FOXES' WEDDING.]
In this way the white fox by degrees waxed old and prosperous, and
his children, year by year, became more and more numerous around him;
so that, happy in his family and his business, every recurring spring
brought him fresh cause for joy. [Illustration: THE FOXES' WEDDING.
THE HISTORY OF SAKATA KINTOKI
A long time ago there was an officer of the Emperor's body-guard,
called Sakata Kurando, a young man who, although he excelled in valour
and in the arts of war, was of a gentle and loving disposition. This
young officer was deeply enamoured of a fair young lady, called
Yaegiri, who lived at Gojozaka, at Kiyoto. Now it came to pass that,
having incurred the jealousy of certain other persons, Kurando fell
into disgrace with the Court, and became a Ronin, so he was no longer
able to keep up any communication with his love Yaegiri; indeed, he
became so poor that it was a hard matter for him to live. So he left
the place and fled, no one knew whither. As for Yaegiri, lovesick and
lorn, and pining for her lost darling, she escaped from the house
where she lived, and wandered hither and thither through the country,
seeking everywhere for Kurando.
Now Kurando, when he left the palace, turned tobacco merchant, and, as
he was travelling about hawking his goods, it chanced that he fell in
with Yaegiri; so, having communicated to her his last wishes, he took
leave of her and put an end to his life.
Poor Yaegiri, having buried her lover, went to the Ashigara Mountain,
a distant and lonely spot, where she gave birth to a little boy, who,
as soon as he was born, was of such wonderful strength that he walked
about and ran playing all over the mountain. A woodcutter, who chanced
to see the marvel, was greatly frightened at first, and thought the
thing altogether uncanny; but after a while he got used to the child,
and became quite fond of him, and called him "Little Wonder," and gave
his mother the name of the "Old Woman of the Mountain."
One day, as "Little Wonder" was playing about, he saw that on the top
of a high cedar-tree there was a tengu's nest; so he began shaking
the tree with all his might, until at last the tengu's nest came
[Footnote 58: _Tengu_, or the Heavenly Dog, a hobgoblin who infests
desert places, and is invoked to frighten naughty little children.]
As luck would have it, the famous hero, Minamoto no Yorimitsu, with
his retainers, Watanabe Isuna, Usui Sadamitsu, and several others, had
come to the mountain to hunt, and seeing the feat which "Little
Wonder" had performed, came to the conclusion that he could be no
ordinary child. Minamoto no Yorimitsu ordered Watanabe Isuna to find
out the child's name and parentage. The Old Woman of the Mountain, on
being asked about him, answered that she was the wife of Kurando, and
that "Little Wonder" was the child of their marriage. And she
proceeded to relate all the adventures which had befallen her.
When Yorimitsu heard her story, he said, "Certainly this child does
not belie his lineage. Give the brat to me, and I will make him my
retainer." The Old Woman of the Mountain gladly consented, and gave
"Little Wonder" to Yorimitsu; but she herself remained in her mountain
home. So "Little Wonder" went off with the hero Yorimitsu, who named
him Sakata Kintoki; and in aftertimes he became famous and illustrious
as a warrior, and his deeds are recited to this day. He is the
favourite hero of little children, who carry his portrait in their
bosom, and wish that they could emulate his bravery and strength.
THE ELVES AND THE ENVIOUS NEIGHBOUR
Once upon a time there was a certain man, who, being overtaken by
darkness among the mountains, was driven to seek shelter in the trunk
of a hollow tree. In the middle of the night, a large company of elves
assembled at the place; and the man, peeping out from his
hiding-place, was frightened out of his wits. After a while, however,
the elves began to feast and drink wine, and to amuse themselves by
singing and dancing, until at last the man, caught by the infection of
the fun, forgot all about his fright, and crept out of his hollow tree
to join in the revels. When the day was about to dawn, the elves said
to the man, "You're a very jolly companion, and must come out and have
a dance with us again. You must make us a promise, and keep it." So
the elves, thinking to bind the man over to return, took a large wen
that grew on his forehead and kept it in pawn; upon this they all left
the place, and went home. The man walked off to his own house in high
glee at having passed a jovial night, and got rid of his wen into the
bargain. So he told the story to all his friends, who congratulated
him warmly on being cured of his wen. But there was a neighbour of his
who was also troubled with a wen of long standing, and, when he heard
of his friend's luck, he was smitten with envy, and went off to hunt
for the hollow tree, in which, when he had found it, he passed the
Towards midnight the elves came, as he had expected, and began
feasting and drinking, with songs and dances as before. As soon as he
saw this, he came out of his hollow tree, and began dancing and
singing as his neighbour had done. The elves, mistaking him for their
former boon-companion, were delighted to see him, and said--
"You're a good fellow to recollect your promise, and we'll give you
back your pledge;" so one of the elves, pulling the pawned wen out of
his pocket, stuck it on to the man's forehead, on the top of the other
wen which he already bad. So the envious neighbour went home weeping,
with two wens instead of one. This is a good lesson to people who
cannot see the good luck of others, without coveting it for
THE GHOST OF SAKURA
The misfortunes and death of the farmer Sogoro, which, although the
preternatural appearances by which they are said to have been followed
may raise a smile, are matters of historic notoriety with which every
Japanese is familiar, furnish a forcible illustration of the relations
which exist between the tenant and the lord of the soil, and of the
boundless power for good or for evil exercised by the latter. It is
rather remarkable that in a country where the peasant--placed as he is
next to the soldier, and before the artisan and merchant, in the four
classes into which the people are divided--enjoys no small
consideration, and where agriculture is protected by law from the
inroads of wild vegetation, even to the lopping of overshadowing
branches and the cutting down of hedgerow timber, the lord of the
manor should be left practically without control in his dealings with
The land-tax, or rather the yearly rent paid by the tenant, is usually
assessed at forty per cent. of the produce; but there is no principle
clearly defining it, and frequently the landowner and the cultivator
divide the proceeds of the harvest in equal shapes. Rice land is
divided into three classes; and, according to these classes, it is
computed that one _tan_ (1,800 square feet) of the best land should
yield to the owner a revenue of five bags of rice per annum; each of
these bags holds four to (a to is rather less than half an imperial
bushel), and is worth at present (1868) three riyos, or about sixteen
shillings; land of the middle class should yield a revenue of three or
four bags. The rent is paid either in rice or in money, according to
the actual price of the grain, which varies considerably. It is due in
the eleventh month of the year, when the crops have all been gathered,
and their market value fixed.
The rent of land bearing crops other than rice, such as cotton, beans,
roots, and so forth, is payable in money during the twelfth month. The
choice of the nature of the crops to be grown appears to be left to
The Japanese landlord, when pressed by poverty, does not confine
himself to the raising of his legitimate rents: he can always enforce
from his needy tenantry the advancement of a year's rent, or the loan
of so much money as may be required to meet his immediate necessities.
Should the lord be just, the peasant is repaid by instalments, with
interest, extending over ten or twenty years. But it too often happens
that unjust and merciless lords do not repay such loans, but, on the
contrary, press for further advances. Then it is that the farmers,
dressed in their grass rain-coats, and carrying sickles and bamboo
poles in their hands, assemble before the gate of their lord's palace
at the capital, and represent their grievances, imploring the
intercession of the retainers, and even of the womankind who may
chance to go forth. Sometimes they pay for their temerity by their
lives; but, at any rate, they have the satisfaction of bringing shame
upon their persecutor, in the eyes of his neighbours and of the
[Illustration: THE DEPUTATION OF PEASANTS AT THEIR LORD'S GATE.]
The official reports of recent travels in the interior of Japan have
fully proved the hard lot with which the peasantry had to put up
during the government of the Tycoons, and especially under the
Hatamotos, the created nobility of the dynasty. In one province, where
the village mayors appear to have seconded the extortions of their
lord, they have had to flee before an exasperated population, who,
taking advantage of the revolution, laid waste and pillaged their
houses, loudly praying for a new and just assessment of the land;
while, throughout the country, the farmers have hailed with
acclamations the resumption of the sovereign power by the Mikado, and
the abolition of the petty nobility who exalted themselves upon the
misery of their dependants. Warming themselves in the sunshine of the
court at Yedo, the Hatamotos waxed fat and held high revel, and
little cared they who groaned or who starved. Money must be found, and
it was found.
It is necessary here to add a word respecting the position of the
village mayors, who play so important a part in the tale.
The peasants of Japan are ruled by three classes of officials: the
Nanushi, or mayor; the Kumigashira, or chiefs of companies; and the
Hiyakushodai, or farmers' representatives. The village, which is
governed by the Nanushi, or mayor, is divided into companies, which,
consisting of five families each, are directed by a Kumigashira; these
companies, again, are subdivided into groups of five men each, who
choose one of their number to represent them in case of their having
any petition to present, or any affairs to settle with their
superiors. This functionary is the Hiyakushodai. The mayor, the chief
of the company, and the representative keep registers of the families
and people under their control, and are responsible for their good and
orderly behaviour. They pay taxes like the other farmers, but receive
a salary, the amount of which depends upon the size and wealth of the
village. Five per cent. of the yearly land tax forms the salary of the
mayor, and the other officials each receive five per cent. of the tax
paid by the little bodies over which they respectively rule.
The average amount of land for one family to cultivate is about one
cho, or 9,000 square yards; but there are farmers who have inherited
as much as five or even six cho from their ancestors. There is also a
class of farmers called, from their poverty, "water-drinking farmers,"
who have no land of their own, but hire that of those who have more
than they can keep in their own hands. The rent so paid varies; but
good rice land will bring in as high a rent as from L1 18s. to L2 6s.
per tan (1,800 square feet).
Farm labourers are paid from six or seven riyos a year to as much as
thirty riyos (the riyo being worth about 5s. 4d.); besides this, they
are clothed and fed, not daintily indeed, but amply. The rice which
they cultivate is to them an almost unknown luxury: millet is their
staple food, and on high days and holidays they receive messes of
barley or buckwheat. Where the mulberry-tree is grown, and the
silkworm is "educated," there the labourer receives the highest wage.
The rice crop on good land should yield twelve and a half fold, and on
ordinary land from six to seven fold only. Ordinary arable land is
only half as valuable as rice land, which cannot be purchased for less
than forty riyos per tan of 1,800 square feet. Common hill or wood
land is cheaper, again, than arable land; but orchards and groves of
the Pawlonia are worth from fifty to sixty riyos per tan.
With regard to the punishment of crucifixion, by which Sogoro was put
to death, it is inflicted for the following offences:--parricide
(including the murder or striking of parents, uncles, aunts, elder
brothers, masters, or teachers) coining counterfeit money, and passing
the barriers of the Tycoon's territory without a permit. The
criminal is attached to an upright post with two cross bars, to which
his arms and feet are fastened by ropes. He is then transfixed with
spears by men belonging to the Eta or Pariah class. I once passed the
execution-ground near Yedo, when a body was attached to the cross. The
dead man had murdered his employer, and, having been condemned to
death by crucifixion, had died in prison before the sentence could be
carried out. He was accordingly packed, in a squatting position, in a
huge red earthenware jar, which, having been tightly filled up with.
salt, was hermetically sealed. On the anniversary of the commission of
the crime, the jar was carried down to the execution-ground and
broken, and the body was taken out and tied to the cross, the joints
of the knees and arms having been cut, to allow of the extension of
the stiffened and shrunken limbs; it was then transfixed with spears,
and allowed to remain exposed for three days. An open grave, the
upturned soil of which seemed almost entirely composed of dead men's
remains, waited to receive the dishonoured corpse, over which three or
four Etas, squalid and degraded beings, were mounting guard, smoking
their pipes by a scanty charcoal fire, and bandying obscene jests. It
was a hideous and ghastly warning, had any cared to read the lesson;
but the passers-by on the high road took little or no notice of the
sight, and a group of chubby and happy children were playing not ten
yards from the dead body, as if no strange or uncanny thing were near
[Footnote 59: This last crime is, of course, now obsolete.]
THE GHOST OF SAKURA.
[Footnote 60: The story, which also forms the subject of a play, is
published, but with altered names, in order that offence may not be
given to the Hotta family. The real names are preserved here. The
events related took place during the rule of the Shogun Iyemitsu, in
the first half of the seventeenth century.]
How true is the principle laid down by Confucius, that the benevolence
of princes is reflected in their country, while their wickedness
causes sedition and confusion!
[Illustration: THE GHOST OF SAKURA.]
In the province of Shimosa, and the district of Soma, Hotta Kaga no
Kami was lord of the castle of Sakura, and chief of a family which had
for generations produced famous warriors. When Kaga no Kami, who had
served in the Gorojiu, the cabinet of the Shogun, died at the castle
of Sakura, his eldest son Kotsuke no Suke Masanobu inherited his
estates and honours, and was appointed to a seat in the Gorojiu; but
he was a different man from the lords who had preceded him. He treated
the farmers and peasants unjustly, imposing additional and grievous
taxes, so that the tenants on his estates were driven to the last
extremity of poverty; and although year after year, and month after
month, they prayed for mercy, and remonstrated against this injustice,
no heed was paid to them, and the people throughout the villages were
reduced to the utmost distress. Accordingly, the chiefs of the one
hundred and thirty-six villages, producing a total revenue of 40,000
kokus of rice, assembled together in council and determined
unanimously to present a petition to the Government, sealed with their
seals, stating that their repeated remonstrances had been taken no
notice of by their local authorities. Then they assembled in numbers
before the house of one of the councillors of their lord, named Ikeura
Kazuye, in order to show the petition to him first, but even then no
notice was taken of them; so they returned home, and resolved, after
consulting together, to proceed to their lord's yashiki, or palace, at
Yedo, on the seventh day of the tenth month. It was determined, with
one accord, that one hundred and forty-three village chiefs should go
to Yedo; and the chief of the village of Iwahashi, one Sogoro, a man
forty-eight years of age, distinguished for his ability and judgment,
ruling a district which produced a thousand kokus, stepped forward,
"This is by no means an easy matter, my masters. It certainly is of
great importance that we should forward our complaint to our lord's
palace at Yedo; but what are your plans? Have you any fixed
"It is, indeed, a most important matter," rejoined the others; but
they had nothing further to say. Then Sogoro went on to say--
"We have appealed to the public office of our province, but without
avail; we have petitioned the Prince's councillors, also in vain. I
know that all that remains for us is to lay our case before our lord's
palace at Yedo; and if we go there, it is equally certain that we
shall not be listened to--on the contrary, we shall be cast into
prison. If we are not attended to here, in our own province, how much
less will the officials at Yedo care for us. We might hand our
petition into the litter of one of the Gorojiu, in the public streets;
but, even in that case, as our lord is a member of the Gorojiu, none
of his peers would care to examine into the rights and wrongs of our
complaint, for fear of offending him, and the man who presented the
petition in so desperate a manner would lose his life on a bootless
errand. If you have made up your minds to this, and are determined, at
all hazards, to start, then go to Yedo by all means, and bid a long
farewell to parents, children, wives, and relations. This is my
The others all agreeing with what Sogoro said, they determined that,
come what might, they would go to Yedo; and they settled to assemble
at the village of Funabashi on the thirteenth day of the eleventh
On the appointed day all the village officers met at the place agreed
upon,--Sogoro, the chief of the village of Iwahashi, alone being
missing; and as on the following day Sogoro had not yet arrived, they
deputed one of their number, named Rokurobei, to inquire the reason.
Rokurobei arrived at Sogoro's house towards four in the afternoon, and
found him warming himself quietly over his charcoal brazier, as if
nothing were the matter. The messenger, seeing this, said rather
"The chiefs of the villages are all assembled at Funabashi according
to covenant, and as you, Master Sogoro, have not arrived, I have come
to inquire whether it is sickness or some other cause that prevents
"Indeed," replied Sogoro, "I am sorry that you should have had so much
trouble. My intention was to have set out yesterday; but I was taken
with a cholic, with which I am often troubled, and, as you may see, I
am taking care of myself; so for a day or two I shall not be able to
start. Pray be so good as to let the others know this."
Rokurobei, seeing that there was no help for it, went back to the
village of Funabashi and communicated to the others what had occurred.
They were all indignant at what they looked upon as the cowardly
defection of a man who had spoken so fairly, but resolved that the
conduct of one man should not influence the rest, and talked
themselves into the belief that the affair which they had in hand
would be easily put through; so they agreed with one accord to start
and present the petition, and, having arrived at Yedo, put up in the
street called Bakurocho. But although they tried to forward their
complaint to the various officers of their lord, no one would listen
to them; the doors were all shut in their faces, and they had to go
back to their inn, crestfallen and without success.
On the following day, being the 18th of the month, they all met
together at a tea-house in an avenue, in front of a shrine of Kwannon
Sama; and having held a consultation, they determined that, as
they could hit upon no good expedient, they would again send for
Sogoro to see whether he could devise no plan. Accordingly, on the
19th, Rokurobei and one Jiuyemon started for the village of Iwahashi
at noon, and arrived the same evening.
[Footnote 61: A Buddhist deity.]
Now the village chief Sogoro, who had made up his mind that the
presentation of this memorial was not a matter to be lightly treated,
summoned his wife and children and his relations, and said to them--
"I am about to undertake a journey to Yedo, for the following
reasons:--Our present lord of the soil has increased the land-tax, in
rice and the other imposts, more than tenfold, so that pen and paper
would fail to convey an idea of the poverty to which the people are
reduced, and the peasants are undergoing the tortures of hell upon
earth. Seeing this, the chiefs of the various villages have presented
petitions, but with what result is doubtful. My earnest desire,
therefore, is to devise some means of escape from this cruel
persecution. If my ambitious scheme does not succeed, then shall I
return home no more; and even should I gain my end, it is hard to say
how I may be treated by those in power. Let us drink a cup of wine
together, for it may be that you shall see my face no more. I give my
life to allay the misery of the people of this estate. If I die, mourn
not over my fate; weep not for me."
Having spoken thus, he addressed his wife and his four children,
instructing them carefully as to what he desired to be done after his
death, and minutely stating every wish of his heart. Then, having
drunk a parting cup with them, he cheerfully took leave of all
present, and went to a tea-house in the neighbouring village of
Funabashi, where the two messengers, Rokurobei and Jiuyemon, were
anxiously awaiting his arrival, in order that they might recount to
him all that had taken place at Yedo.
"In short," said they, "it appears to us that we have failed
completely; and we have come to meet you in order to hear what you
propose. If you have any plan to suggest, we would fain be made
acquainted with it."
"We have tried the officers of the district," replied Sogoro, "and we
have tried my lord's palace at Yedo. However often we might assemble
before my lord's gate, no heed would be given to us. There is nothing
left for us but to appeal to the Shogun."
So they sat talking over their plans until the night was far advanced,
and then they went to rest. The winter night was long; but when the
cawing of the crows was about to announce the morning, the three
friends started on their journey for the tea-house at Asakusa, at
which, upon their arrival, they found the other village elders already
"Welcome, Master Sogoro," said they. "How is it that you have come so
late? We have petitioned all the officers to no purpose, and we have
broken our bones in vain. We are at our wits' end, and can think of no
other scheme. If there is any plan which seems good to you, we pray
you to act upon it."
"Sirs," replied Sogoro, speaking very quietly, "although we have met
with no better success here than in our own place, there is no use in
grieving. In a day or two the Gorojiu will be going to the castle; we
must wait for this opportunity, and following one of the litters,
thrust in our memorial. This is my opinion: what think you of it, my
One and all, the assembled elders were agreed as to the excellence of
this advice; and having decided to act upon it, they returned to their
Then Sogoro held a secret consultation with Jiuyemon, Hanzo,
Rokurobei, Chinzo, and Kinshiro, five of the elders, and, with their
assistance, drew up the memorial; and having heard that on the 26th of
the month, when the Gorojiu should go to the castle, Kuze Yamato no
Kami would proceed to a palace under the western enclosure of the
castle, they kept watch in a place hard by. As soon as they saw the
litter of the Gorojiu approach, they drew near to it, and, having
humbly stated their grievances, handed in the petition; and as it was
accepted, the six elders were greatly elated, and doubted not that
their hearts' desire would be attained; so they went off to a
tea-house at Riyogoku, and Jiuyemon said--
"We may congratulate ourselves on our success. We have handed in our
petition to the Gorojiu, and now we may set our minds at rest; before
many days have passed, we shall hear good news from the rulers. To
Master Sogoro is due great praise for his exertions."
Sogoro, stepping forward, answered, "Although we have presented our
memorial to the Gorojiu, the matter will not be so quickly decided; it
is therefore useless that so many of us should remain here: let eleven
men stay with me, and let the rest return home to their several
villages. If we who remain are accused of conspiracy and beheaded, let
the others agree to reclaim and bury our corpses. As for the expenses
which we shall incur until our suit is concluded, let that be
according to our original covenant. For the sake of the hundred and
thirty-six villages we will lay down our lives, if needs must, and
submit to the disgrace of having our heads exposed as those of common
Then they had a parting feast together, and, after a sad leave-taking,
the main body of the elders went home to their own country; while the
others, wending their way to their quarters waited patiently to be
summoned to the Supreme Court. On the 2d day of the 12th month,
Sogoro, having received a summons from the residence of the Gorojiu
Kuze Yamato no Kami, proceeded to obey it, and was ushered to the
porch of the house, where two councillors, named Aijima Gidaiyu and
Yamaji Yori, met him, and said--
"Some days since you had the audacity to thrust a memorial into the
litter of our lord Yamato no Kami. By an extraordinary exercise of
clemency, he is willing to pardon this heinous offence; but should you
ever again endeavour to force your petitions; upon him, you will be
held guilty of riotous conduct;" and with this they gave back the
"I humbly admit the justice of his lordship's censure. But oh! my
lords, this is no hasty nor ill-considered action. Year after year,
affliction upon affliction has been heaped upon us, until at last the
people are without even the necessaries of life; and we, seeing no end
to the evil, have humbly presented this petition. I pray your
lordships of your great mercy to consider our case" and deign to
receive our memorial. Vouchsafe to take some measures that the people
may live, and our gratitude for your great kindness will know no
"Your request is a just one," replied the two councillors after
hearing what he said; "but your memorial cannot be received: so you
must even take it back."
With this they gave back the document, and wrote down the names of
Sogoro and six of the elders who had accompanied him. There was no
help for it: they must take back their petition, and return to their
inn. The seven men, dispirited and sorrowful, sat with folded arms
considering what was best to be done, what plan should be devised,
until at last, when they were at their wits' end, Sogoro said, in a
"So our petition, which we gave in after so much pains, has been
returned after all! With what f ace can we return to our villages
after such a disgrace? I, for one, do not propose to waste my labour
for nothing; accordingly, I shall bide my time until some day, when
the Shogun shall go forth from the castle, and, lying in wait by the
roadside, I shall make known our grievances to him, who is lord over
our lord. This is our last chance."
[Illustration: SOGORO THRUSTING THE PETITION INTO THE SHOGUN'S
The others all applauded this speech, and, having with one accord
hardened their hearts, waited for their opportunity.
Now it so happened that, on the 20th day of the 12th month, the then
Shogun, Prince Iyemitsu, was pleased to worship at the tombs of his
ancestors at Uyeno; and Sogoro and the other elders, hearing this,
looked upon it as a special favour from the gods, and felt certain
that this time they would not fail. So they drew up a fresh memorial,
and at the appointed time Sogoro hid himself under the Sammaye Bridge,
in front of the black gate at Uyeno. When Prince Iyemitsu passed in
his litter, Sogoro clambered up from under the bridge, to the great
surprise of the Shogun's attendants, who called out, "Push the fellow
on one side;" but, profiting by the confusion, Sogoro, raising his
voice and crying, "I wish to humbly present a petition to his Highness
in person," thrust forward his memorial, which he had tied on to the
end of a bamboo stick six feet long, and tried to put it into the
litter; and although there were cries to arrest him, and he was
buffeted by the escort, he crawled up to the side of the litter, and
the Shogun accepted the document. But Sogoro was arrested by the
escort, and thrown into prison. As for the memorial, his Highness
ordered that it should be handed in to the Gorojiu Hotta Kotsuke no
Suke, the lord of the petitioners.
[Footnote 62: Destroyed during the revolution, in the summer of 1868,
by the troops of the Mikado. See note on the tombs of the Shoguns, at
the end of the story.]
When Hotta Kotsuke no Suke had returned home and read the memorial, he
summoned his councillor, Kojima Shikibu, and said--
"The officials of my estate are mere bunglers. When the peasants
assembled and presented a petition, they refused to receive it, and
have thus brought this trouble upon me. Their folly has been beyond
belief; however, it cannot be helped. We must remit all the new taxes,
and you must inquire how much was paid to the former lord of the
castle. As for this Sogoro, he is not the only one who is at the
bottom of the conspiracy; however, as this heinous offence of his in
going out to lie in wait for the Shogun's procession is unpardonable,
we must manage to get him given up to us by the Government, and, as an
example for the rest of my people, he shall be crucified--he and his
wife and his children; and, after his death, all that he possesses
shall be confiscated. The other six men shall be banished; and that
"My lord," replied Shikibu, prostrating himself, "your lordship's
intentions are just. Sogoro, indeed, deserves any punishment for his
outrageous crime. But I humbly venture to submit that his wife and
children cannot be said to be guilty in the same degree: I implore
your lordship mercifully to be pleased to absolve them from so severe
"Where the sin of the father is great, the wife and children cannot be
spared," replied Kotsuke no Suke; and his councillor, seeing that his
heart was hardened, was forced to obey his orders without further
So Kotsuke no Suke, having obtained that Sogoro should be given up to
him by the Government, caused him to be brought to his estate of
Sakura as a criminal, in a litter covered with nets, and confined him
in prison. When his case had been inquired into, a decree was issued
by the Lord Kotsuke no Suke that he should be punished for a heinous
crime; and on the 9th day of the 2d month of the second year of the
period styled Shoho (A.D. 1644) he was condemned to be crucified.
Accordingly Sogoro, his wife and children, and the elders of the
hundred and thirty-six villages were brought before the Court-house of
Sakura, in which were assembled forty-five chief officers. The elders
were then told that, yielding to their petition, their lord was
graciously pleased to order that the oppressive taxes should be
remitted, and that the dues levied should not exceed those of the
olden time. As for Sogoro and his wife, the following sentence was
passed upon them:--
"Whereas you have set yourself up as the head of the villagers;
whereas, secondly, you have dared to make light of the Government by
petitioning his Highness the Shogun directly, thereby offering an
insult to your lord; and whereas, thirdly, you have presented a
memorial to the Gorojiu; and, whereas, fourthly, you were privy to a
conspiracy: for these four heinous crimes you are sentenced to death
by crucifixion. Your wife is sentenced to die in like manner; and your
children will be decapitated.
"This sentence is passed upon the following persons:--
"Sogoro, chief of the village of Iwahashi, aged 48.
"His wife, Man, aged 38.
"His son, Gennosuke, aged 13.
"His son, Sohei, aged 10.
"His son, Kihachi, aged 7."
The eldest daughter of Sogoro, named Hatsu, nineteen years of age, was
married to a man named Jiuyemon, in the village of Hakamura, in
Shitachi, beyond the river, in the territory of Matsudaira Matsu no
Kami (the Prince of Sendai). His second daughter, whose name was Saki,
sixteen years of age, was married to one Tojiuro, chief of a village
on the property of my lord Naito Geki. No punishment was decreed
against these two women.
The six elders who had accompanied Sogoro were told that although by
good rights they had merited death, yet by the special clemency of
their lord their lives would be spared, but that they were condemned
to banishment. Their wives and children would not be attainted, and
their property would be spared. The six men were banished to Oshima,
in the province of Idzu.
Sogoro heard his sentence with pure courage.
The six men were banished; but three of them lived to be pardoned on
the occasion of the death of the Shogun, Prince Genyuin, and
returned to their country.
[Footnote 63: The name assigned after death to Iyetsuna, the fourth of
the dynasty of Tokugawa, who died on the 8th day of the 5th month of
the year A.D. 1680.]
According to the above decision, the taxes were remitted; and men and
women, young and old, rejoiced over the advantage that had been gained
for them by Sogoro and by the six elders, and there was not one that
did not mourn for their fate.
When the officers of the several villages left the Court-house, one
Zembei, the chief of the village of Sakato, told the others that he
had some important subjects to speak to them upon, and begged them to
meet him in the temple called Fukushoin. Every man having consented,
and the hundred and thirty-six men having assembled at the temple,
Zembei addressed them as follows:--
"The success of our petition, in obtaining the reduction of our taxes
to the same amount as was levied by our former lord, is owing to
Master Sogoro, who has thus thrown away his life for us. He and his
wife and children are now to suffer as criminals for the sake of the
one hundred and thirty-six villages. That such a thing should take
place before our very eyes seems to me not to be borne. What say you,
"Ay! ay! what you say is just from top to bottom," replied the others.
Then Hanzayemon, the elder of the village of Katsuta, stepped forward
"As Master Zembei has just said, Sogoro is condemned to die for a
matter in which all the village elders are concerned to a man. We
cannot look on unconcerned. Full well I know that it is useless our
pleading for Sogoro; but we may, at least, petition that the lives of
his wife and children may be spared."
The assembled elders having all applauded this speech, they determined
to draw up a memorial; and they resolved, should their petition not be
accepted by the local authorities, to present it at their lord's
palace in Yedo, and, should that fail, to appeal to the Government.
Accordingly, before noon on the following day, they all affixed their
seals to the memorial, which four of them, including Zembei and
Hanzayemon, composed, as follows:--
"With deep fear we humbly venture to present the following petition,
which the elders of the one hundred and thirty-six villages of this
estate have sealed with their seals. In consequence of the humble
petition which we lately offered up, the taxes have graciously been
reduced to the rates levied by the former lord of the estate, and new
laws have been vouchsafed to us. With reverence and joy the peasants,
great and small, have gratefully acknowledged these favours. With
regard to Sogoro, the elder of the village of Iwahashi, who ventured
to petition his highness the Shogun in person, thus being guilty of a
heinous crime, he has been sentenced to death in the castle-town. With
fear and trembling we recognize the justice of his sentence. But in
the matter of his wife and children, she is but a woman, and they are
so young and innocent that they cannot distinguish the east from the
west: we pray that in your great clemency you will remit their sin,
and give them up to the representatives of the one hundred and
thirty-six villages, for which we shall be ever grateful. We, the
elders of the villages, know not to what extent we may be
transgressing in presenting this memorial. We were all guilty of
affixing our seals to the former petition; but Sogoro, who was chief
of a large district, producing a thousand kokus of revenue, and was
therefore a man of experience, acted for the others; and we grieve
that he alone should suffer for all. Yet in his case we reverently
admit that there can be no reprieve. For his wife and children,
however, we humbly implore your gracious mercy and consideration.
"Signed by the elders of the villages of the estate, the 2d year of
Shoho, and the 2d month."
Having drawn up this memorial, the hundred and thirty-six elders, with
Zembei at their head, proceeded to the Court-house to present the
petition, and found the various officers seated in solemn conclave.
Then the clerk took the petition, and, having opened it, read it
aloud; and the councillor, Ikeura Kazuye, said--
"The petition which you have addressed to us is worthy of all praise.
But you must know that this is a matter which is no longer within our
control. The affair has been reported to the Government; and although
the priests of my lord's ancestral temple have interceded for Sogoro,
my lord is so angry that he will not listen even to them, saying that,
had he not been one of the Gorojiu, he would have been in danger of
being ruined by this man: his high station alone saved him. My lord
spoke so severely that the priests themselves dare not recur to the
subject. You see, therefore, that it will be no use your attempting to
take any steps in the matter, for most certainly your petition will
not be received. You had better, then, think no more about it." And
with these words he gave back the memorial.
Zembei and the elders, seeing, to their infinite sorrow, that their
mission was fruitless, left the Court-house, and most sorrowfully took
counsel together, grinding their teeth in their disappointment when
they thought over what the councillor had said as to the futility of
their attempt. Out of grief for this, Zembei, with Hanzayemon and
Heijiuro, on the 11th day of the 2d month (the day on which Sogoro and
his wife and children suffered), left Ewaradai, the place of
execution, and went to the temple Zenkoji, in the province of
Shinshiu, and from thence they ascended Mount Koya in Kishiu, and, on
the 1st day of the 8th month, shaved their heads and became priests;
Zembei changed his name to Kakushin, and Hanzayemon changed his to
Zensho: as for Heijiuro, he fell sick at the end of the 7th month, and
on the 11th day of the 8th month died, being forty-seven years old
that year. These three men, who had loved Sogoro as the fishes love
water, were true to him to the last. Heijiuro was buried on Mount
Koya. Kakushin wandered through the country as a priest, praying for
the entry of Sogoro and his children into the perfection of paradise;
and, after visiting all the shrines and temples, came back at last to
his own province of Shimosa, and took up his abode at the temple
Riukakuji, in the village of Kano, and in the district of Imban,
praying and making offerings on behalf of the souls of Sogoro, his
wife and children. Hanzayemon, now known as the priest Zensho,
remained at Shinagawa, a suburb of Yedo, and, by the charity of good
people, collected enough money to erect six bronze Buddhas, which
remain standing to this day. He fell sick and died, at the age of
seventy, on the 10th day of the 2d month of the 13th year of the
period styled Kambun. Zembei, who, as a priest, had changed his name
to Kakushin, died, at the age of seventy-six, on the 17th day of the
10th month of the 2d year of the period styled Empo. Thus did those
men, for the sake of Sogoro and his family, give themselves up to
works of devotion; and the other villagers also brought food to soothe
the spirits of the dead, and prayed for their entry into paradise; and
as litanies were repeated without intermission, there can be no doubt
that Sogoro attained salvation.
"In paradise, where the blessings of God are distributed without
favour, the soul learns its faults by the measure of the rewards
given. The lusts of the flesh are abandoned; and the soul, purified,
attains to the glory of Buddha."
[Footnote 64: Buddhist text.]
On the 11th day of the 2d month of the 2d year of Shoho, Sogoro having
been convicted of a heinous crime, a scaffold was erected at Ewaradai,
and the councillor who resided at Yedo and the councillor who resided
on the estate, with the other officers, proceeded to the place in all
solemnity. Then the priests of Tokoji, in the village of Sakenaga,
followed by coffin-bearers, took their places in front of the
councillors, and said--
"We humbly beg leave to present a petition."
"What have your reverences to say?"
"We are men who have forsaken the world and entered the priesthood,"
answered the monks, respectfully; "and we would fain, if it be
possible, receive the bodies of those who are to die, that we may bury
them decently. It will be a great joy to us if our humble petition be
graciously heard and granted."
"Your request shall be granted; but as the crime of Sogoro was great,
his body must be exposed for three days and three nights, after which
the corpse shall be given to you."
At the hour of the snake (10 A.M.), the hour appointed for the
execution, the people from the neighbouring villages and the
castle-town, old and young, men and women, flocked to see the sight:
numbers there were, too, who came to bid a last farewell to Sogoro,
his wife and children, and to put up a prayer for them. When the hour
had arrived, the condemned were dragged forth bound, and made to sit
upon coarse mats. Sogoro and his wife closed their eyes, for the sight
was more than they could bear; and the spectators, with heaving
breasts and streaming eyes, cried "Cruel!" and "Pitiless!" and taking
sweetmeats and cakes from the bosoms of their dresses threw them to
the children. At noon precisely Sogoro and his wife were bound to the
crosses, which were then set upright and fixed in the ground. When
this had been done, their eldest son Gennosuke was led forward to the
scaffold, in front of the two parents. Then Sogoro cried out--
"Oh! cruel, cruel! what crime has this poor child committed that he
is treated thus? As for me, it matters not what becomes of me." And
the tears trickled down his face.
The spectators prayed aloud, and shut their eyes; and the executioner
himself, standing behind the boy, and saying that it was a pitiless
thing that the child should suffer for the father's fault, prayed
silently. Then Gennosuke, who had remained with his eyes closed, said
to his parents--
"Oh! my father and mother, I am going before you to paradise, that
happy country, to wait for you. My little brothers and I will be on
the banks of the river Sandzu, and stretch out our hands and help
you across. Farewell, all you who have come to see us die; and now
please cut off my head at once."
[Footnote 65: The Buddhist Styx, which separates paradise from hell,
across which the dead are ferried by an old woman, for whom a small
piece of money is buried with them.]
With this he stretched out his neck, murmuring a last prayer; and not
only Sogoro and his wife, but even the executioner and the spectators
could not repress their tears; but the headsman, unnerved as he was,
and touched to the very heart, was forced, on account of his office,
to cut off the child's head, and a piteous wail arose from the parents
and the spectators.
Then the younger child Sohei said to the headsman, "Sir, I have a sore
on my right shoulder: please, cut my head off from the left shoulder,
lest you should hurt me. Alas! I know not how to die, nor what I
When the headsman and the officers present heard the child's artless
speech, they wept again for very pity; but there was no help for it,
and the head fell off more swiftly than water is drunk up by sand.
Then little Kihachi, the third son, who, on account of his tender
years, should have been spared, was butchered as he was in his
simplicity eating the sweetmeats which had been thrown to him by the
When the execution of the children was over, the priests of Tokoji
took their corpses, and, having placed them in their coffins, carried
them away, amidst the lamentations of the bystanders, and buried them
with great solemnity.
Then Shigayemon, one of the servants of Danzayemon, the chief of the
Etas, who had been engaged for the purpose, was just about to thrust
his spear, when O Man, Sogoro's wife, raising her voice, said--
"Remember, my husband, that from the first you had made up your mind
to this fate. What though our bodies be disgracefully exposed on these
crosses?--we have the promises of the gods before us; therefore, mourn
not. Let us fix our minds upon death: we are drawing near to paradise,
and shall soon be with the saints. Be calm, my husband. Let us
cheerfully lay down our single lives for the good of many. Man lives
but for one generation; his name, for many. A good name is more to be
prized than life."
So she spoke; and Sogoro on the cross, laughing gaily, answered--
"Well said, wife! What though we are punished for the many? Our
petition was successful, and there is nothing left to wish for. Now I
am happy, for I have attained my heart's desire. The changes and
chances of life are manifold. But if I had five hundred lives, and
could five hundred times assume this shape of mine, I would die five
hundred times to avenge this iniquity. For myself I care not; but that
my wife and children should be punished also is too much. Pitiless and
cruel! Let my lord fence himself in with iron walls, yet shall my
spirit burst through them and crush his bones, as a return for this
And as he spoke, his eyes became vermilion red, and flashed like the
sun or the moon, and he looked like the demon Razetsu.
[Footnote 66: A Buddhist fiend.]
"Come," shouted he, "make haste and pierce me with the spear."
"Your wishes shall be obeyed," said the Eta, Shigayemon, and thrust in
a spear at his right side until it came out at his left shoulder, and
the blood streamed out like a fountain. Then he pierced the wife from
the left side; and she, opening her eyes, said in a dying voice--