Part 5 out of 7
"Farewell, all you who are present. May harm keep far from you.
Farewell! farewell!" and as her voice waxed faint, the second spear
was thrust in from her right side, and she breathed out her spirit.
Sogoro, the colour of his face not even changing, showed no sign of
fear, but opening his eyes wide, said--
"Listen, my masters! all you who have come to see this sight.
Recollect that I shall pay my thanks to my lord Kotsuke no Suke for
this day's work. You shall see it for yourselves, so that it shall be
talked of for generations to come. As a sign, when I am dead, my head
shall turn and face towards the castle. When you see this, doubt not
that my words shall come true."
When he had spoken thus, the officer directing the execution gave a
sign to the Eta, Shigayemon, and ordered him to finish the execution,
so that Sogoro should speak no more. So Shigayemon pierced him twelve
or thirteen times, until he died. And when he was dead, his head
turned and faced the castle. When the two councillors beheld this
miracle, they came down from their raised platform, and knelt down
before Sogoro's dead body and said--
"Although you were but a peasant on this estate, you conceived a noble
plan to succour the other farmers in their distress. You bruised your
bones, and crushed your heart, for their sakes. Still, in that you
appealed to the Shogun in person, you committed a grievous crime, and
made light of your superiors; and for this it was impossible not to
punish you. Still we admit that to include your wife and children in
your crime, and kill them before your eyes, was a cruel deed. What is
done, is done, and regret is of no avail. However, honours shall be
paid to your spirit: you shall be canonized as the Saint Daimiyo, and
you shall be placed among the tutelar deities of my lord's family."
With these words the two councillors made repeated reverences before
the corpse; and in this they showed their faithfulness to their lord.
But he, when the matter was reported to him, only laughed scornfully
at the idea that the hatred of a peasant could affect his feudal lord;
and said that a vassal who had dared to hatch a plot which, had it not
been for his high office, would have been sufficient to ruin him, had
only met with his deserts. As for causing him to be canonized, let him
be as he was. Seeing their lord's anger, his councillors could only
obey. But it was not long before he had cause to know that, though
Sogoro was dead, his vengeance was yet alive.
The relations of Sogoro and the elders of the villages having been
summoned to the Court-house, the following document was issued:--
"Although the property of Sogoro, the elder of the village of
Iwahashi, is confiscated, his household furniture shall be made over
to his two married daughters; and the village officials will look to
it that these few poor things be not stolen by lawless and
"His rice-fields and corn-fields, his mountain land and forest land,
will be sold by auction. His house and grounds will be given over to
the elder of the village. The price fetched by his property will be
paid over to the lord of the estate.
"The above decree will be published, in full, to the peasants of the
village; and it is strictly forbidden to find fault with this
"The 12th day of the 2d month, of the 2d year of the period Shoho."
The peasants, having heard this degree with all humility, left the
Court-house. Then the following punishments were awarded to the
officers of the castle, who, by rejecting the petition of the peasants
in the first instance, had brought trouble upon their lord:--
"Dismissed from their office, the resident councillors at Yedo and at
"Banished from the province, four district governors, and three
bailiffs, and nineteen petty officers.
"Dismissed from office, three metsukes, or censors, and seven
"Condemned to _hara-kiri_, one district governor and one Yedo bailiff.
"The severity of this sentence is owing to the injustice of the
officials in raising new and unprecedented taxes, and bringing
affliction upon the people, and in refusing to receive the petitions
of the peasants, without consulting their lord, thus driving them to
appeal to the Shogun in person. In their avarice they looked not to
the future, but laid too heavy a burden on the peasants, so that they
made an appeal to a higher power, endangering the honour of their
lord's house. For this bad government the various officials are to be
punished as above."
In this wise was justice carried out at the palace at Yedo and at the
Court-house at home. But in the history of the world, from the dark
ages down to the present time, there are few instances of one man
laying down his life for the many, as Sogoro did: noble and peasant
praise him alike.
As month after month passed away, towards the fourth year of the
period Shoho, the wife of my lord Kotsuke no Suke, being with child,
was seized with violent pains; and retainers were sent to all the
different temples and shrines to pray by proxy, but all to no purpose:
she continued to suffer as before. Towards the end of the seventh
month of the year, there appeared, every night, a preternatural light
above the lady's chamber; this was accompanied by hideous sounds as of
many people laughing fiendishly, and sometimes by piteous wailings, as
though myriads of persons were lamenting. The profound distress caused
by this added to her sufferings; so her own privy councillor, an old
man, took his place in the adjoining chamber, and kept watch. All of a
sudden, he heard a noise as if a number of people were walking on the
boards of the roof of my lady's room; then there was a sound of men
and women weeping; and when, thunderstruck, the councillor was
wondering what it could all be, there came a wild burst of laughter,
and all was silent. Early the following morning, the old women who had
charge of my lady's household presented themselves before my lord
Kotsuke no Suke, and said--
"Since the middle of last month, the waiting-women have been
complaining to us of the ghostly noises by which my lady is nightly
disturbed, and they say that they cannot continue to serve her. We
have tried to soothe them, by saying that the devils should be
exorcised at once, and that there was nothing to be afraid of. Still
we feel that their fears are not without reason, and that they really
cannot do their work; so we beg that your lordship will take the
matter into your consideration."
"This is a passing strange story of yours; however, I will go myself
to-night to my lady's apartments and keep watch. You can come with
Accordingly, that night my lord Kotsuke no Suke sat up in person. At
the hour of the rat (midnight) a fearful noise of voices was heard,
and Sogoro and his wife, bound to the fatal crosses, suddenly
appeared; and the ghosts, seizing the lady by the hand, said--
"We have come to meet you. The pains you are suffering are terrible,
but they are nothing in comparison with those of the hell to which we
are about to lead you."
At these words, Kotsuke no Suke, seizing his sword, tried to sweep the
ghosts away with a terrific cut; but a loud peal of laughter was
heard, and the visions faded away. Kotsuke no Suke, terrified, sent
his retainers to the temples and shrines to pray that the demons
might be cast out; but the noises were heard nightly, as before. When
the eleventh month of the year came round, the apparitions of human
forms in my lady's apartments became more and more frequent and
terrible, all the spirits railing at her, and howling out that they
had come to fetch her. The women would all scream and faint; and then
the ghosts would disappear amid yells of laughter. Night after night
this happened, and even in the daytime the visions would manifest
themselves; and my lady's sickness grew worse daily, until in the last
month of the year she died, of grief and terror. Then the ghost of
Sogoro and his wife crucified would appear day and night in the
chamber of Kotsuke no Suke, floating round the room, and glaring at
him with red and flaming eyes. The hair of the attendants would stand
on end with terror; and if they tried to cut at the spirits, their
limbs would be cramped, and their feet and hands would not obey their
bidding. Kotsuke no Suke would draw the sword that lay by his bedside;
but, as often as he did so, the ghosts faded away, only to appear
again in a more hideous shape than before, until at last, having
exhausted his strength and spirits, even he became terror-stricken.
The whole household was thrown into confusion, and day after day
mystic rites and incantations were performed by the priests over
braziers of charcoal, while prayers were recited without ceasing; but
the visions only became more frequent, and there was no sign of their
ceasing. After the 5th year of Shoho, the style of the years was
changed to Keian; and during the 1st year of Keian the spirits
continued to haunt the palace; and now they appeared in the chamber of
Kotsuke no Suke's eldest son, surrounding themselves with even more
terrors than before; and when Kotsuke no Suke was about to go to the
Shogun's castle, they were seen howling out their cries of vengeance
in the porch of the house. At last the relations of the family and the
members of the household took counsel together, and told Kotsuke no
Suke that without doubt no ordinary means would suffice to lay the
ghosts; a shrine must be erected to Sogoro, and divine honours paid to
him, after which the apparitions would assuredly cease. Kotsuke no
Suke having carefully considered the matter and given his consent,
Sogoro was canonized under the name of Sogo Daimiyo, and a shrine was
erected in his honour. After divine honours had been paid to him, the
awful visions were no more seen, and the ghost of Sogoro was laid for
In the 2d year of the period Keian, on the 11th day of the 10th month,
on the occasion of the festival of first lighting the fire on the
hearth, the various Daimios and Hatamotos of distinction went to the
castle of the Shogun, at Yedo, to offer their congratulations on this
occasion. During the ceremonies, my lord Hotta Kotsuke no Suke and
Sakai Iwami no Kami, lord of the castle of Matsumoto, in the province
of Shinshiu, had a quarrel, the origin of which was not made public;
and Sakai Iwami no Kami, although he came of a brave and noble
family, received so severe a wound that he died on the following day,
at the age of forty-three; and in consequence of this, his family was
ruined and disgraced. My lord Kotsuke no Suke, by great good
fortune, contrived to escape from the castle, and took refuge in his
own house, whence, mounting a famous horse called Hira-Abumi, he
fled to his castle of Sakura, in Shimosa, accomplishing the distance,
which is about sixty miles, in six hours. When he arrived in front of
the castle, he called out in a loud voice to the guard within to open
the gate, answering, in reply to their challenge, that he was Kotsuke
no Suke, the lord of the castle. The guard, not believing their ears,
sent word to the councillor in charge of the castle, who rushed out to
see if the person demanding admittance were really their lord. When he
saw Kotsuke no Suke, he caused the gates to be opened, and, thinking
it more than strange, said--
"Is this indeed you, my lord? What strange chance brings your lordship
hither thus late at night, on horseback and alone, without a single
[Footnote 67: In the old days, if a noble was murdered, and died
outside his own house, he was disgraced, and his estates were
forfeited. When the Regent of the Shogun was murdered, some years
since, outside the castle of Yedo, by a legal fiction it was given out
that he had died in his own palace, in order that his son might
succeed to his estates.]
[Footnote 68: Level stirrups.]
With these words he ushered in Kotsuke no Suke, who, in reply to the
anxious inquiries of his people as to the cause of his sudden
"You may well be astonished. I had a quarrel to-day in the castle at
Yedo, with Sakai Iwami no Kami, the lord of the castle of Matsumoto,
and I cut him down. I shall soon be pursued; so we must strengthen the
fortress, and prepare for an attack."
The household, hearing this, were greatly alarmed, and the whole
castle was thrown into confusion. In the meanwhile the people of
Kotsuke no Suke's palace at Yedo, not knowing whether their lord had
fled, were in the greatest anxiety, until a messenger came from
Sakura, and reported his arrival there.
When the quarrel inside the castle of Yedo and Kotsuke no Suke's
flight had been taken cognizance of, he was attainted of treason, and
soldiers were sent to seize him, dead or alive. Midzuno Setsu no Kami
and Goto Yamato no Kami were charged with the execution of the order,
and sallied forth, on the 13th day of the 10th month, to carry it out.
When they arrived at the town of Sasai, they sent a herald with the
"Whereas Kotsuke no Suke killed Sakai Iwami no Kami inside the castle
of Yedo, and has fled to his own castle without leave, he is attainted
of treason; and we, being connected with him by ties of blood and of
friendship, have been charged to seize him."
The herald delivered this message to the councillor of Kotsuke no
Suke, who, pleading as an excuse that his lord was mad, begged the two
nobles to intercede for him. Goto Yamato no Kami upon this called the
councillor to him, and spoke privately to him, after which the latter
took his leave and returned to the castle of Sakura.
In the meanwhile, after consultation at Yedo, it was decided that, as
Goto Yamato no Kami and Midzuno Setsu no Kami were related to Kotsuke
no Suke, and might meet with difficulties for that very reason, two
other nobles, Ogasawara Iki no Kami and Nagai Hida no Kami, should be
sent to assist them, with orders that should any trouble arise they
should send a report immediately to Yedo. In consequence of this
order, the two nobles, with five thousand men, were about to march for
Sakura, on the 15th of the month, when a messenger arrived from that
place bearing the following despatch for the Gorojiu, from the two
nobles who had preceded them--
"In obedience to the orders of His Highness the Shogun, we
proceeded, on the 13th day of this month, to the castle of
Sakura, and conducted a thorough investigation of the affair.
It is true that Kotsuke no Suke has been guilty of treason, but
he is out of his mind; his retainers have called in physicians,
and he is undergoing treatment by which his senses are being
gradually restored, and his mind is being awakened from its
sleep. At the time when he slew Sakai Iwami no Kami he was not
accountable for his actions, and will be sincerely penitent
when he is aware of his crime. We have taken him prisoner, and
have the honour to await your instructions; in the meanwhile,
we beg by these present to let you know what we have done.
"(Signed) GOTO YAMATO NO KAMI.
MIDZUNO SETSU NO KAMI.
_To the Gorojiu, 2d year of Keian, 2d month, 14th day_."
This despatch reached Yedo on the 16th of the month, and was read by
the Gorojiu after they had left the castle; and in consequence of the
report of Kotsuke no Suke's madness, the second expedition was put a
stop to, and the following instructions were sent to Goto Yamato no
Kami and Midzuno Setsu no Kami--
"With reference to the affair of Hotta Kotsuke no Suke, lord of
the castle of Sakura, in Shimosa, whose quarrel with Sakai
Iwami no Kami within the castle of Yedo ended in bloodshed. For
this heinous crime and disregard of the sanctity of the castle,
it is ordered that Kotsuke no Suke be brought as a prisoner to
Yedo, in a litter covered with nets, that his case may be
"2d year of Keian, 2d month.
(_Signed by the Gorojiu_) INABA MINO NO KAMI.
INOUYE KAWACHI NOKAMI.
KATO ECCHIU NO KAMI."
Upon the receipt of this despatch, Hotta Kotsuke no Suke was
immediately placed in a litter covered with a net of green silk, and
conveyed to Yedo, strictly guarded by the retainers of the two
nobles; and, having arrived at the capital, was handed over to the
charge of Akimoto Tajima no Kami. All his retainers were quietly
dispersed; and his empty castle was ordered to be thrown open, and
given in charge to Midzuno Iki no Kami.
At last Kotsuke no Suke began to feel that the death of his wife and
his own present misfortunes were a just retribution for the death of
Sogoro and his wife and children, and he was as one awakened from a
dream. Then night and morning, in his repentance, he offered up
prayers to the sainted spirit of the dead farmer, and acknowledged and
bewailed his crime, vowing that, if his family were spared from ruin
and re-established, intercession should be made at the court of the
Mikado, at Kiyoto, on behalf of the spirit of Sogoro, so that,
being worshipped with even greater honours than before, his name
should be handed down to all generations.
[Footnote 69: In the days of Shogun's power, the Mikado remained the
Fountain of Honour, and, as chief of the national religion and the
direct descendant of the gods, dispensed divine honours.]
In consequence of this it happened that the spirit of Sogoro having
relaxed in its vindictiveness, and having ceased to persecute the
house of Hotta, in the 1st month of the 4th year of Keian, Kotsuke no
Suke received a summons from the Shogun, and, having been forgiven,
was made lord of the castle of Matsuyama, in the province of Dewa,
with a revenue of twenty thousand kokus. In the same year, on the 20th
day of the 4th month, the Shogun, Prince Iyemitsu, was pleased to
depart this life, at the age of forty-eight; and whether by the
forgiving spirit of the prince, or by the divine interposition of the
sainted Sogoro, Kotsuke no Suke was promoted to the castle of Utsu no
Miya, in the province of Shimotsuke, with a revenue of eighty thousand
kokus; and his name was changed to Hotta Hida no Kami. He also
received again his original castle of Sakura, with a revenue of twenty
thousand kokus: so that there can be no doubt that the saint was
befriending him. In return for these favours, the shrine of Sogoro was
made as beautiful as a gem. It is needless to say how many of the
peasants of the estate flocked to the shrine: any good luck that might
befall the people was ascribed to it, and night and day the devout
worshipped at it.
Here follows a copy of the petition which Sogoro presented to the
"We, the elders of the hundred and thirty-six villages of the district
of Chiba, in the province of Shimosa, and of the district of Buji, in
the province of Kadzusa, most reverently offer up this our humble
"When our former lord, Doi Shosho, was transferred to another castle,
in the 9th year of the period Kanye, Hotta Kaga no Kami became lord of
the castle of Sakura; and in the 17th year of the same period, my lord
Kotsuke no Suke succeeded him. Since that time the taxes laid upon us
have been raised in the proportion of one to and two sho to each
[Footnote 70: 10 Sho = 1 To. 10 To = 1 Koku.]
"_Item_.--At the present time, taxes are raised on nineteen of our
articles of produce; whereas our former lord only required that we
should furnish him with pulse and sesamum, for which he paid in rice.
"_Item_.--Not only are we not paid now for our produce, but, if it is
not given in to the day, we are driven and goaded by the officials;
and if there be any further delay, we are manacled and severely
reprimanded; so that if our own crops fail, we have to buy produce
from other districts, and are pushed to the utmost extremity of
"_Item_.--We have over and over again prayed to be relieved from these
burthens, but our petitions are not received. The people are reduced
to poverty, so that it is hard for them to live under such grievous
taxation. Often they have tried to sell the land which they till, but
none can be found to buy; so they have sometimes given over their land
to the village authorities, and fled with their wives to other
provinces, and seven hundred and thirty men or more have been reduced
to begging, one hundred and eighty-five houses have fallen into ruins;
land producing seven thousand kokus has been given up, and remains
untilled, and eleven temples have fallen into decay in consequence of
the ruin of those upon whom they depended.
"Besides this, the poverty-stricken farmers and women, having been
obliged to take refuge in other provinces, and having no
abiding-place, have been driven to evil courses and bring men to speak
ill of their lord; and the village officials, being unable to keep
order, are blamed and reproved. No attention has been paid to our
repeated representations upon this point; so we were driven to
petition the Gorojiu Kuze Yamato no Kami as he was on his way to the
castle, but our petition was returned to us. And now, as a last
resource, we tremblingly venture to approach his Highness the Shogun
"The 1st year of the period Shoho, 12th month, 20th day.
[Illustration: Seal] "The seals of the elders of the 136 villages."
The Shogun at that time was Prince Iyemitsu, the grandson of Iyeyasu.
He received the name of Dai-yu-In after his death.
The Gorojiu at that time were Hotta Kotsuke no Suke, Sakai Iwami no
Kami, Inaba Mino no Kami, Kato Ecchiu no Kami, Inouye Kawachi no Kami.
The Wakadoshiyori (or 2d council) were Torii Wakasa no Kami, Tsuchiya
Dewa no Kami, and Itakura Naizen no Sho.
* * * * *
The belief in ghosts appears to be as universal as that in the
immortality of the soul, upon which it depends. Both in China and
Japan the departed spirit is invested with the power of revisiting the
earth, and, in a visible form, tormenting its enemies and haunting
those places where the perishable part of it mourned and suffered.
Haunted houses are slow to find tenants, for ghosts almost always come
with revengeful intent; indeed, the owners of such houses will almost
pay men to live in them, such is the dread which they inspire, and the
anxiety to blot out the stigma.
One cold winter's night at Yedo, as I was sitting, with a few Japanese
friends, huddled round the imperfect heat of a brazier of charcoal,
the conversation turned upon the story of Sogoro and upon ghostly
apparitions in general. Many a weird tale was told that evening, and I
noted down the three or four which follow, for the truth of which the
narrators vouched with the utmost confidence.
About ten years ago there lived a fishmonger, named Zenroku, in the
Mikawa-street, at Kanda, in Yedo. He was a poor man, living with his
wife and one little boy. His wife fell sick and died, so he engaged an
old woman to look after his boy while he himself went out to sell his
fish. It happened, one day, that he and the other hucksters of his
guild were gambling; and this coming to the ears of the authorities,
they were all thrown into prison. Although their offence was in itself
a light one, still they were kept for some time in durance while the
matter was being investigated; and Zenroku, owing to the damp and foul
air of the prison, fell sick with fever. His little child, in the
meantime, had been handed over by the authorities to the charge of the
petty officers of the ward to which his father belonged, and was being
well cared for; for Zenroku was known to be an honest fellow, and his
fate excited much compassion. One night Zenroku, pale and emaciated,
entered the house in which his boy was living; and all the people
joyfully congratulated him on his escape from jail. "Why, we heard
that you were sick in prison. This is, indeed, a joyful return." Then
Zenroku thanked those who had taken care of the child, saying that he
had returned secretly by the favour of his jailers that night; but
that on the following day his offence would be remitted, and he should
be able to take possession of his house again publicly. For that
night, he must return to the prison. With this he begged those present
to continue their good offices to his babe; and, with a sad and
reluctant expression of countenance, he left the house. On the
following day, the officers of that ward were sent for by the prison
authorities. They thought that they were summoned that Zenroku might
be handed back to them a free man, as he himself had said to them; but
to their surprise, they were told that he had died the night before in
prison, and were ordered to carry away his dead body for burial. Then
they knew that they had seen Zenroku's ghost; and that when he said
that he should be returned to them on the morrow, he had alluded to
his corpse. So they buried him decently, and brought up his son, who
is alive to this day.
The next story was told by a professor in the college at Yedo, and,
although it is not of so modern a date as the last, he stated it to be
well authenticated, and one of general notoriety.
About two hundred years ago there was a chief of the police, named
Aoyama Shuzen, who lived in the street called Bancho, at Yedo. His
duty was to detect thieves and incendiaries. He was a cruel and
violent man, without heart or compassion, and thought nothing of
killing or torturing a man to gratify spite or revenge. This man
Shuzen had in his house a servant-maid, called O Kiku (the
Chrysanthemum), who had lived in the family since her childhood, and
was well acquainted with her master's temper. One day O Kiku
accidentally broke one of a set of ten porcelain plates, upon which he
set a high value. She knew that she would suffer for her carelessness;
but she thought that if she concealed the matter her punishment would
be still more severe; so she went at once to her master's wife, and,
in fear and trembling, confessed what she had done. When Shuzen came
home, and heard that one of his favourite plates was broken, he flew
into a violent rage, and took the girl to a cupboard, where he left
her bound with cords, and every day cut off one of her fingers. O
Kiku, tightly bound and in agony, could not move; but at last she
contrived to bite or cut the ropes asunder, and, escaping into the
garden, threw herself into a well, and was drowned. From that time
forth, every night a voice was heard coming from the well, counting
one, two, three, and so on up to nine--the number of the plates that
remained unbroken--and then, when the tenth plate should have been
counted, would come a burst of lamentation. The servants of the house,
terrified at this, all left their master's service, until Shuzen, not
having a single retainer left, was unable to perform his public
duties; and when the officers of the government heard of this, he was
dismissed from his office. At this time there was a famous priest,
called Mikadzuki Shonin, of the temple Denzuin, who, having been told
of the affair, came one night to the house, and, when the ghost began
to count the plates, reproved the spirit, and by his prayers and
admonitions caused it to cease from troubling the living.
The laying of disturbed spirits appears to form one of the regular
functions of the Buddhist priests; at least, we find them playing a
conspicuous part in almost every ghost-story.
About thirty years ago there stood a house at Mitsume, in the Honjo of
Yedo, which was said to be nightly visited by ghosts, so that no man
dared to live in it, and it remained untenanted on that account.
However, a man called Miura Takeshi, a native of the province of
Oshiu, who came to Yedo to set up in business as a fencing-master, but
was too poor to hire a house, hearing that there was a haunted house,
for which no tenant could be found, and that the owner would let any
man live in it rent free, said that he feared neither man nor devil,
and obtained leave to occupy the house. So he hired a fencing-room, in
which he gave his lessons by day, and after midnight returned to the
haunted house. One night, his wife, who took charge of the house in
his absence, was frightened by a fearful noise proceeding from a pond
in the garden, and, thinking that this certainly must be the ghost
that she had heard so much about, she covered her head with the
bed-clothes and remained breathless with terror. When her husband came
home, she told him what had happened; and on the following night he
returned earlier than usual, and waited for the ghostly noise. At the
same time as before, a little after midnight, the same sound was
heard--as though a gun had been fired inside the pond. Opening the
shutters, he looked out, and saw something like a black cloud floating
on the water, and in the cloud was the form of a bald man. Thinking
that there must be some cause for this, he instituted careful
inquiries, and learned that the former tenant, some ten years
previously, had borrowed money from a blind shampooer, and, being
unable to pay the debt, had murdered his creditor, who began to press
him for his money, and had thrown his head into the pond. The
fencing-master accordingly collected his pupils and emptied the pond,
and found a skull at the bottom of it; so he called in a priest, and
buried the skull in a temple, causing prayers to be offered up for the
repose of the murdered man's soul. Thus the ghost was laid, and
appeared no more.
[Footnote 71: The apparently poor shaven-pated and blind shampooers of
Japan drive a thriving trade as money-lenders. They give out small
sums at an interest of 20 per cent. per month--210 per cent. per
annum--and woe betide the luckless wight who falls into their
The belief in curses hanging over families for generations is as
common as that in ghosts and supernatural apparitions. There is a
strange story of this nature in the house of Asai, belonging to the
Hatamoto class. The ancestor of the present representative, six
generations ago, had a certain concubine, who was in love with a man
who frequented the house, and wished in her heart to marry him; but,
being a virtuous woman, she never thought of doing any evil deed. But
the wife of my lord Asai was jealous of the girl, and persuaded her
husband that her rival in his affections had gone astray; when he
heard this he was very angry, and beat her with a candlestick so that
he put out her left eye. The girl, who had indignantly protested her
innocence, finding herself so cruelly handled, pronounced a curse
against the house; upon which, her master, seizing the candlestick
again, dashed out her brains and killed her. Shortly afterwards my
lord Asai lost his left eye, and fell sick and died; and from that
time forth to this day, it is said that the representatives of the
house have all lost their left eyes after the age of forty, and
shortly afterwards they have fallen sick and died at the same age as
the cruel lord who killed his concubine.
Of the many fair scenes of Yedo, none is better worth visiting than
the temple of Zojoji, one of the two great burial-places of the
Shoguns; indeed, if you wish to see the most beautiful spots of any
Oriental city, ask for the cemeteries: the homes of the dead are ever
the loveliest places. Standing in a park of glorious firs and pines
beautifully kept, which contains quite a little town of neat,
clean-looking houses, together with thirty-four temples for the use of
the priests and attendants of the shrines, the main temple, with its
huge red pillars supporting a heavy Chinese roof of grey tiles, is
approached through a colossal open hall which leads into a stone
courtyard. At one end of this courtyard is a broad flight of
steps--the three or four lower ones of stone, and the upper ones of
red wood. At these the visitor is warned by a notice to take off his
boots, a request which Englishmen, with characteristic disregard of
the feelings of others, usually neglect to comply with. The main hall
of the temple is of large proportions, and the high altar is decorated
with fine bronze candelabra, incense-burners, and other ornaments, and
on two days of the year a very curious collection of pictures
representing the five hundred gods, whose images are known to all
persons who have visited Canton, is hung along the walls. The big bell
outside the main hall is rather remarkable on account of the great
beauty of the deep bass waves of sound which it rolls through the city
than on account of its size, which is as nothing when compared with
that of the big bells of Moscow and Peking; still it is not to be
despised even in that respect, for it is ten feet high and five feet
eight inches in diameter, while its metal is a foot thick: it was hung
up in the year 1673. But the chief objects of interest in these
beautiful grounds are the chapels attached to the tombs of the
It is said that as Prince Iyeyasu was riding into Yedo to take
possession of his new castle, the Abbot of Zojoji, an ancient temple
which then stood at Hibiya, near the castle, went forth and waited
before the gate to do homage to the Prince. Iyeyasu, seeing that the
Abbot was no ordinary man, stopped and asked his name, and entered the
temple to rest himself. The smooth-spoken monk soon found such favour
with Iyeyasu, that he chose Zojoji to be his family temple; and seeing
that its grounds were narrow and inconveniently near the castle, he
caused it to be removed to its present site. In the year 1610 the
temple was raised, by the intercession of Iyeyasu, to the dignity of
the Imperial Temples, which, until the last revolution, were presided
over by princes of the blood; and to the Abbot was granted the right,
on going to the castle, of sitting in his litter as far as the
entrance-hall, instead of dismounting at the usual place and
proceeding on foot through several gates and courtyards. Nor were the
privileges of the temple confined to barren honours, for it was
endowed with lands of the value of five thousand kokus of rice yearly.
When Iyeyasu died, the shrine called Antoku In was erected in his
honour to the south of the main temple. Here, on the seventeenth day
of the fourth month, the anniversary of his death, ceremonies are held
in honour of his spirit, deified as Gongen Sama, and the place is
thrown open to all who may wish to come and pray. But Iyeyasu is not
buried here; his remains lie in a gorgeous shrine among the mountains
some eighty miles north of Yedo, at Nikko, a place so beautiful that
the Japanese have a rhyming proverb which says, that he who has not
seen Nikko should never pronounce the word Kekko (charming, delicious,
Hidetada, the son and successor of Iyeyasu, together with Iyenobu,
Iyetsugu, Iyeshige, Iyeyoshi, and Iyemochi, the sixth, seventh, ninth,
twelfth, and fourteenth Shoguns of the Tokugawa dynasty, are buried in
three shrines attached to the temple; the remainder, with the
exception of Iyemitsu, the third Shogun, who lies with his grandfather
at Nikko, are buried at Uyeno.
The shrines are of exceeding beauty, lying on one side of a splendid
avenue of Scotch firs, which border a broad, well-kept gravel walk.
Passing through a small gateway of rare design, we come into a large
stone courtyard, lined with a long array of colossal stone lanterns,
the gift of the vassals of the departed Prince. A second gateway,
supported by gilt pillars carved all round with figures of dragons,
leads into another court, in which are a bell tower, a great cistern
cut out of a single block of stone like a sarcophagus, and a smaller
number of lanterns of bronze; these are given by the Go San Ke, the
three princely families in which the succession to the office of
Shogun was vested. Inside this is a third court, partly covered like a
cloister, the approach to which is a doorway of even greater beauty
and richness than the last; the ceiling is gilt, and painted with
arabesques and with heavenly angels playing on musical instruments,
and the panels of the walls are sculptured in high relief with
admirable representations of birds and flowers, life-size, life-like,
all being coloured to imitate nature. Inside this enclosure stands a
shrine, before the closed door of which a priest on one side, and a
retainer of the house of Tokugawa on the other, sit mounting guard,
mute and immovable as though they themselves were part of the carved
ornaments. Passing on one side of the shrine, we come to another
court, plainer than the last, and at the back of the little temple
inside it is a flight of stone steps, at the top of which, protected
by a bronze door, stands a simple monumental urn of bronze on a stone
pedestal. Under this is the grave itself; and it has always struck me
that there is no small amount of poetical feeling in this simple
ending to so much magnificence; the sermon may have been preached by
design, or it may have been by accident, but the lesson is there.
There is little difference between the three shrines, all of which are
decorated in the same manner. It is very difficult to do justice to
their beauty in words. Writing many thousand miles away from them, I
have the memory before me of a place green in winter, pleasant and
cool in the hottest summer; of peaceful cloisters, of the fragrance of
incense, of the subdued chant of richly robed priests, and the music
of bells; of exquisite designs, harmonious colouring, rich gilding.
The hum of the vast city outside is unheard here: Iyeyasu himself, in
the mountains of Nikko, has no quieter resting-place than his
descendants in the heart of the city over which they ruled.
Besides the graves of the Shoguns, Zojoji contains other lesser
shrines, in which are buried the wives of the second, sixth, and
eleventh Shoguns, and the father of Iyenobu, the sixth Shogun, who
succeeded to the office by adoption. There is also a holy place
called the Satsuma Temple, which has a special interest; in it is a
tablet in honour of Tadayoshi, the fifth son of Iyeyasu, whose title
was Matsudaira Satsuma no Kami, and who died young. At his death, five
of his retainers, with one Ogasasawara Kemmotsu at their head,
disembowelled themselves, that they might follow their young master
into the next world. They were buried in this place; and I believe
that this is the last instance on record of the ancient Japanese
custom of _Junshi_, that is to say, "dying with the master."
There are, during the year, several great festivals which are
specially celebrated at Zojoji; the chief of these are the Kaisanki,
or founder's day, which is on the eighteenth day of the seventh month;
the twenty-fifth day of the first month, the anniversary of the death
of the monk Honen, the founder of the Jodo sect of Buddhism (that to
which the temple belongs); the anniversary of the death of Buddha, on
the fifteenth of the second month; the birthday of Buddha, on the
eighth day of the fourth month; and from the sixth to the fifteenth of
the tenth month.
At Uyeno is the second of the burial-grounds of the Shoguns. The
Temple To-yei-zan, which stood in the grounds of Uyeno, was built by
Iyemitsu, the third of the Shoguns of the house of Tokugawa, in the
year 1625, in honour of Yakushi Niorai, the Buddhist AEsculapius. It
faces the Ki-mon, or Devil's Gate, of the castle, and was erected upon
the model of the temple of Hi-yei-zan, one of the most famous of the
holy places of Kiyoto. Having founded the temple, the next care of
Iyemitsu was to pray that Morizumi, the second son of the retired
emperor, should come and reside there; and from that time until 1868,
the temple was always presided over by a Miya, or member of the
Mikado's family, who was specially charged with the care of the tomb
of Iyeyasu at Nikko, and whose position was that of an ecclesiastical
chief or primate over the east of Japan.
The temples in Yedo are not to be compared in point of beauty with
those in and about Peking; what is marble there is wood here. Still
they are very handsome, and in the days of its magnificence the Temple
of Uyeno was one of the finest. Alas! the main temple, the hall in
honour of the sect to which it belongs, the hall of services, the
bell-tower, the entrance-hall, and the residence of the prince of the
blood, were all burnt down in the battle of Uyeno, in the summer of
1868, when the Shogun's men made their last stand in Yedo against the
troops of the Mikado. The fate of the day was decided by two
field-pieces, which the latter contrived to mount on the roof of a
neighbouring tea-house; and the Shogun's men, driven out of the place,
carried off the Miya in the vain hope of raising his standard in the
north as that of a rival Mikado. A few of the lesser temples and
tombs, and the beautiful park-like grounds, are but the remnants of
the former glory of Uyeno. Among these is a temple in the form of a
roofless stage, in honour of the thousand-handed Kwannon. In the
middle ages, during the civil wars between the houses of Gen and Hei,
one Morihisa, a captain of the house of Hei, after the destruction of
his clan, went and prayed for a thousand days at the temple of the
thousand-handed Kwannon at Kiyomidzu, in Kiyoto. His retreat having
been discovered, he was seized and brought bound to Kamakura, the
chief town of the house of Gen. Here he was condemned to die at a
place called Yui, by the sea-shore; but every time that the
executioner lifted his sword to strike, the blade was broken by the
god Kwannon, and at the same time the wife of Yoritomo, the chief of
the house of Gen, was warned in a dream to spare Morihisa's life. So
Morihisa was reprieved, and rose to power in the state; and all this
was by the miraculous intervention of the god Kwannon, who takes such
good care of his faithful votaries. To him this temple is dedicated. A
colossal bronze Buddha, twenty-two feet high, set up some two hundred
years ago, and a stone lantern, twenty feet high, and twelve feet
round at the top, are greatly admired by the Japanese. There are only
three such lanterns in the empire; the other two being at Nanzenji--a
temple in Kiyoto, and Atsura, a shrine in the province of Owari. All
three were erected by the piety of one man, Sakuma Daizen no Suke, in
the year A.D. 1631.
Iyemitsu, the founder of the temple, was buried with his grandfather,
Iyeyasu, at Nikko; but both of these princes are honoured with shrines
here. The Shoguns who are interred at Uyeno are Iyetsuna, Tsunayoshi,
Yoshimune, Iyeharu, Iyenori, and Iyesada, the fourth, fifth, eighth,
tenth, eleventh, and thirteenth Princes of the Line. Besides them, are
buried five wives of the Shoguns, and the father of the eleventh
HOW TAJIMA SHUME WAS TORMENTED BY A DEVIL OF HIS OWN CREATION
Once upon a time, a certain Ronin, Tajima Shume by name, an able and
well-read man, being on his travels to see the world, went up to
Kiyoto by the Tokaido. One day, in the neighbourhood of Nagoya, in
the province of Owari, he fell in with a wandering priest, with whom
he entered into conversation. Finding that they were bound for the
same place, they agreed to travel together, beguiling their weary way
by pleasant talk on divers matters; and so by degrees, as they became
more intimate, they began to speak without restraint about their
private affairs; and the priest, trusting thoroughly in the honour of
his companion, told him the object of his journey.
[Footnote 72: The road of the Eastern Sea, the famous high-road
leading from Kiyoto to Yedo. The name is also used to indicate the
provinces through which it runs.]
"For some time past," said he, "I have nourished a wish that has
engrossed all my thoughts; for I am bent on setting up a molten image
in honour of Buddha; with this object I have wandered through various
provinces collecting alms and (who knows by what weary toil?) we have
succeeded in amassing two hundred ounces of silver--enough, I trust,
to erect a handsome bronze figure."
What says the proverb? "He who bears a jewel in his bosom bears
poison." Hardly had the Ronin heard these words of the priest than an
evil heart arose within him, and he thought to himself, "Man's life,
from the womb to the grave, is made up of good and of ill luck. Here
am I, nearly forty years old, a wanderer, without a calling, or even a
hope of advancement in the world. To be sure, it seems a shame; yet if
I could steal the money this priest is boasting about, I could live at
ease for the rest of my days;" and so he began casting about how best
he might compass his purpose. But the priest, far from guessing the
drift of his comrade's thoughts, journeyed cheerfully on, till they
reached the town of Kuana. Here there is an arm of the sea, which is
crossed in ferry-boats, that start as soon as some twenty or thirty
passengers are gathered together; and in one of these boats the two
travellers embarked. About half-way across, the priest was taken with
a sudden necessity to go to the side of the boat; and the Ronin,
following him, tripped him up whilst no one was looking, and flung him
into the sea. When the boatmen and passengers heard the splash, and
saw the priest struggling in the water, they were afraid, and made
every effort to save him; but the wind was fair, and the boat running
swiftly under the bellying sails, so they were soon a few hundred
yards off from the drowning man, who sank before the boat could be
turned to rescue him.
When he saw this, the Ronin feigned the utmost grief and dismay, and
said to his fellow-passengers, "This priest, whom we have just lost,
was my cousin: he was going to Kiyoto, to visit the shrine of his
patron; and as I happened to have business there as well, we settled
to travel together. Now, alas! by this misfortune, my cousin is dead,
and I am left alone."
He spoke so feelingly, and wept so freely, that the passengers
believed his story, and pitied and tried to comfort him. Then the
Ronin said to the boatmen--
"We ought, by rights, to report this matter to the authorities; but as
I am pressed for time, and the business might bring trouble on
yourselves as well, perhaps we had better hush it up for the present;
and I will at once go on to Kiyoto and tell my cousin's patron,
besides writing home about it. What think you, gentlemen?" added he,
turning to the other travellers.
They, of course, were only too glad to avoid any hindrance to their
onward journey, and all with one voice agreed to what the Ronin had
proposed; and so the matter was settled. When, at length, they reached
the shore, they left the boat, and every man went his way; but the
Ronin, overjoyed in his heart, took the wandering priest's luggage,
and, putting it with his own, pursued his journey to Kiyoto.
On reaching the capital, the Ronin changed his name from Shume to
Tokubei, and, giving up his position as a Samurai, turned merchant,
and traded with the dead man's money. Fortune favouring his
speculations, he began to amass great wealth, and lived at his ease,
denying himself nothing; and in course of time he married a wife, who
bore him a child.
Thus the days and months wore on, till one fine summer's night, some
three years after the priest's death, Tokubei stepped out on to the
verandah of his house to enjoy the cool air and the beauty of the
moonlight. Feeling dull and lonely, he began musing over all kinds of
things, when on a sudden the deed of murder and theft, done so long
ago, vividly recurred to his memory, and he thought to himself, "Here
am I, grown rich and fat on the money I wantonly stole. Since then,
all has gone well with me; yet, had I not been poor, I had never
turned assassin nor thief. Woe betide me! what a pity it was!" and as
he was revolving the matter in his mind, a feeling of remorse came
over him, in spite of all he could do. While his conscience thus smote
him, he suddenly, to his utter amazement, beheld the faint outline of
a man standing near a fir-tree in the garden: on looking more
attentively, he perceived that the man's whole body was thin and worn
and the eyes sunken and dim; and in the poor ghost that was before him
he recognized the very priest whom he had thrown into the sea at
Kuana. Chilled with horror, he looked again, and saw that the priest
was smiling in scorn. He would have fled into the house, but the ghost
stretched forth its withered arm, and, clutching the back of his neck,
scowled at him with a vindictive glare, and a hideous ghastliness of
mien, so unspeakably awful that any ordinary man would have swooned
with fear. But Tokubei, tradesman though he was, had once been a
soldier, and was not easily matched for daring; so he shook off the
ghost, and, leaping into the room for his dirk, laid about him boldly
enough; but, strike as he would, the spirit, fading into the air,
eluded his blows, and suddenly reappeared only to vanish again: and
from that time forth Tokubei knew no rest, and was haunted night and
At length, undone by such ceaseless vexation, Tokubei fell ill, and
kept muttering, "Oh, misery! misery!--the wandering priest is coming
to torture me!" Hearing his moans and the disturbance he made, the
people in the house fancied he was mad, and called in a physician, who
prescribed for him. But neither pill nor potion could cure Tokubei,
whose strange frenzy soon became the talk of the whole neighbourhood.
Now it chanced that the story reached the ears of a certain wandering
priest who lodged in the next street. When he heard the particulars,
this priest gravely shook his head, as though he knew all about it,
and sent a friend to Tokubei's house to say that a wandering priest,
dwelling hard by, had heard of his illness, and, were it never so
grievous, would undertake to heal it by means of his prayers; and
Tokubei's wife, driven half wild by her husband's sickness, lost not a
moment in sending for the priest, and taking him into the sick man's
But no sooner did Tokubei see the priest than he yelled out, "Help!
help! Here is the wandering priest come to torment me again. Forgive!
forgive!" and hiding his head under the coverlet, he lay quivering all
over. Then the priest turned all present out of the room, put his
mouth to the affrighted man's ear, and whispered--
"Three years ago, at the Kuana ferry, you flung me into the water; and
well you remember it."
But Tokubei was speechless, and could only quake with fear.
"Happily," continued the priest, "I had learned to swim and to dive as
a boy; so I reached the shore, and, after wandering through many
provinces, succeeded in setting up a bronze figure to Buddha, thus
fulfilling the wish of my heart. On my journey homewards, I took a
lodging in the next street, and there heard of your marvellous
ailment. Thinking I could divine its cause, I came to see you, and am
glad to find I was not mistaken. You have done a hateful deed; but am
I not a priest, and have I not forsaken the things of this world? and
would it not ill become me to bear malice? Repent, therefore, and
abandon your evil ways. To see you do so I should esteem the height of
happiness. Be of good cheer, now, and look me in the face, and you
will see that I am really a living man, and no vengeful goblin come
to torment you."
Seeing he had no ghost to deal with, and overwhelmed by the priest's
kindness, Tokubei burst into tears, and answered, "Indeed, indeed, I
don't know what to say. In a fit of madness I was tempted to kill and
rob you. Fortune befriended me ever after; but the richer I grew, the
more keenly I felt how wicked I had been, and the more I foresaw that
my victim's vengeance would some day overtake me. Haunted by this
thought, I lost my nerve, till one night I beheld your spirit, and
from that time forth fell ill. But how you managed to escape, and are
still alive, is more than I can understand."
"A guilty man," said the priest, with a smile, "shudders at the
rustling of the wind or the chattering of a stork's beak: a murderer's
conscience preys upon his mind till he sees what is not. Poverty
drives a man to crimes which he repents of in his wealth. How true is
the doctrine of Moshi, that the heart of man, pure by nature, is
corrupted by circumstances."
[Footnote 73: Mencius.]
Thus he held forth; and Tokubei, who had long since repented of his
crime, implored forgiveness, and gave him a large sum of money,
saying, "Half of this is the amount I stole from you three years
since; the other half I entreat you to accept as interest, or as a
The priest at first refused the money; but Tokubei insisted on his
accepting it, and did all he could to detain him, but in vain; for the
priest went his way, and bestowed the money on the poor and needy. As
for Tokubei himself, he soon shook off his disorder, and thenceforward
lived at peace with all men, revered both at home and abroad, and ever
intent on good and charitable deeds.
CONCERNING CERTAIN SUPERSTITIONS
CONCERNING CERTAIN SUPERSTITIONS
Cats, foxes, and badgers are regarded with superstitious awe by the
Japanese, who attribute to them the power of assuming the human shape
in order to bewitch mankind. Like the fairies of our Western tales,
however, they work for good as well as for evil ends. To do them a
good turn is to secure powerful allies; but woe betide him who injures
them!--he and his will assuredly suffer for it. Cats and foxes seem to
have been looked upon as uncanny beasts all the world over; but it is
new to me that badgers should have a place in fairy-land. The island
of Shikoku, the southernmost of the great Japanese islands, appears to
be the part of the country in which the badger is regarded with the
greatest veneration. Among the many tricks which he plays upon the
human race is one, of which I have a clever representation carved in
ivory. Lying in wait in lonely places after dusk, the badger watches
for benighted wayfarers: should one appear, the beast, drawing a long
breath, distends his belly and drums delicately upon it with his
clenched fist, producing such entrancing tones, that the traveller
cannot resist turning aside to follow the sound, which,
Will-o'-the-wisp-like, recedes as he advances, until it lures him on
to his destruction. Love is, however, the most powerful engine which
the cat, the fox, and the badger alike put forth for the ruin of man.
No German poet ever imagined a more captivating water-nymph than the
fair virgins by whom the knight of Japanese romance is assailed: the
true hero recognizes and slays the beast; the weaker mortal yields and
The Japanese story-books abound with tales about the pranks of these
creatures, which, like ghosts, even play a part in the histories of
ancient and noble families. I have collected a few of these, and now
beg a hearing for a distinguished and two-tailed connection of
Puss in Boots and the Chatte Blanche.
[Footnote 74: Cats are found in Japan, as in the Isle of Man, with
stumps, where they should have tails. Sometimes this is the result of
art, sometimes of a natural shortcoming. The cats of Yedo are of bad
repute as mousers, their energies being relaxed by much petting at the
hands of ladies. The Cat of Nabeshima, so says tradition, was a
monster with two tails.]
THE VAMPIRE CAT OF NABESHIMA
There is a tradition in the Nabeshima family that, many years ago,
the Prince of Hizen was bewitched and cursed by a cat that had been
kept by one of his retainers. This prince had in his house a lady of
rare beauty, called O Toyo: amongst all his ladies she was the
favourite, and there was none who could rival her charms and
accomplishments. One day the Prince went out into the garden with O
Toyo, and remained enjoying the fragrance of the flowers until sunset,
when they returned to the palace, never noticing that they were being
followed by a large cat. Having parted with her lord, O Toyo retired
to her own room and went to bed. At midnight she awoke with a start,
and became aware of a huge cat that crouched watching her; and when
she cried out, the beast sprang on her, and, fixing its cruel teeth in
her delicate throat, throttled her to death. What a piteous end for so
fair a dame, the darling of her prince's heart, to die suddenly,
bitten to death by a cat! Then the cat, having scratched out a grave
under the verandah, buried the corpse of O Toyo, and assuming her
form, began to bewitch the Prince.
[Footnote 75: The family of the Prince of Hizen, one of the eighteen
chief Daimios of Japan.]
But my lord the Prince knew nothing of all this, and little thought
that the beautiful creature who caressed and fondled him was an impish
and foul beast that had slain his mistress and assumed her shape in
order to drain out his life's blood. Day by day, as time went on, the
Prince's strength dwindled away; the colour of his face was changed,
and became pale and livid; and he was as a man suffering from a deadly
sickness. Seeing this, his councillors and his wife became greatly
alarmed; so they summoned the physicians, who prescribed various
remedies for him; but the more medicine he took, the more serious did
his illness appear, and no treatment was of any avail. But most of all
did he suffer in the night-time, when his sleep would be troubled and
disturbed by hideous dreams. In consequence of this, his councillors
nightly appointed a hundred of his retainers to sit up and watch over
him; but, strange to say, towards ten o'clock on the very first night
that the watch was set, the guard were seized with a sudden and
unaccountable drowsiness, which they could not resist, until one by
one every man had fallen asleep. Then the false O Toyo came in and
harassed the Prince until morning. The following night the same thing
occurred, and the Prince was subjected to the imp's tyranny, while
his guards slept helplessly around him. Night after night this was
repeated, until at last three of the Prince's councillors determined
themselves to sit up on guard, and see whether they could overcome
this mysterious drowsiness; but they fared no better than the others,
and by ten o'clock were fast asleep. The next day the three
councillors held a solemn conclave, and their chief, one Isahaya
"This is a marvellous thing, that a guard of a hundred men should thus
be overcome by sleep. Of a surety, the spell that is upon my lord and
upon his guard must be the work of witchcraft. Now, as all our efforts
are of no avail, let us seek out Ruiten, the chief priest of the
temple called Miyo In, and beseech him to put up prayers for the
recovery of my lord."
[Illustration: THE CAT OF NABESHIMA.]
And the other councillors approving what Isahaya Buzen had said, they
went to the priest Ruiten and engaged him to recite litanies that the
Prince might be restored to health.
So it came to pass that Ruiten, the chief priest of Miyo In, offered
up prayers nightly for the Prince. One night, at the ninth hour
(midnight), when he had finished his religious exercises and was
preparing to lie down to sleep, he fancied that he heard a noise
outside in the garden, as if some one were washing himself at the
well. Deeming this passing strange, he looked down from the window;
and there in the moonlight he saw a handsome young soldier, some
twenty-four years of age, washing himself, who, when he had finished
cleaning himself and had put on his clothes, stood before the figure
of Buddha and prayed fervently for the recovery of my lord the Prince.
Ruiten looked on with admiration; and the young man, when he had made
an end of his prayer, was going away; but the priest stopped him,
calling out to him--
"Sir, I pray you to tarry a little: I have something to say to you."
"At your reverence's service. What may you please to want?"
"Pray be so good as to step up here, and have a little talk."
"By your reverence's leave;" and with this he went upstairs.
Then Ruiten said--
"Sir, I cannot conceal my admiration that you, being so young a man,
should have so loyal a spirit. I am Ruiten, the chief priest of this
temple, who am engaged in praying for the recovery of my lord. Pray
what is your name?"
"My name, sir, is Ito Soda, and I am serving in the infantry of
Nabeshima. Since my lord has been sick, my one desire has been to
assist in nursing him; but, being only a simple soldier, I am not of
sufficient rank to come into his presence, so I have no resource but
to pray to the gods of the country and to Buddha that my lord may
regain his health."
When Ruiten heard this, he shed tears in admiration of the fidelity of
Ito Soda, and said--
"Your purpose is, indeed, a good one; but what a strange sickness
this is that my lord is afflicted with! Every night he suffers from
horrible dreams; and the retainers who sit up with him are all seized
with a mysterious sleep, so that not one can keep awake. It is very
"Yes," replied Soda, after a moment's reflection, "this certainly must
be witchcraft. If I could but obtain leave to sit up one night with
the Prince, I would fain see whether I could not resist this
drowsiness and detect the goblin."
At last the priest said, "I am in relations of friendship with Isahaya
Buzen, the chief councillor of the Prince. I will speak to him of you
and of your loyalty, and will intercede with him that you may attain
"Indeed, sir, I am most thankful. I am not prompted by any vain
thought of self-advancement, should I succeed: all I wish for is the
recovery of my lord. I commend myself to your kind favour."
"Well, then, to-morrow night I will take you with me to the
"Thank you, sir, and farewell." And so they parted.
On the following evening Ito Soda returned to the temple Miyo In, and
having found Ruiten, accompanied him to the house of Isahaya Buzen:
then the priest, leaving Soda outside, went in to converse with the
councillor, and inquire after the Prince's health.
"And pray, sir, how is my lord? Is he in any better condition since I
have been offering up prayers for him?"
"Indeed, no; his illness is very severe. We are certain that he must
be the victim of some foul sorcery; but as there are no means of
keeping a guard awake after ten o'clock, we cannot catch a sight of
the goblin, so we are in the greatest trouble."
"I feel deeply for you: it must be most distressing. However, I have
something to tell you. I think that I have found a man who will detect
the goblin; and I have brought him with me."
"Indeed! who is the man?"
"Well, he is one of my lord's foot-soldiers, named Ito Soda, a
faithful fellow, and I trust that you will grant his request to be
permitted to sit up with my lord."
"Certainly, it is wonderful to find so much loyalty and zeal in a
common soldier," replied Isahaya Buzen, after a moment's reflection;
"still it is impossible to allow a man of such low rank to perform the
office of watching over my lord."
"It is true that he is but a common soldier," urged the priest; "but
why not raise his rank in consideration of his fidelity, and then let
him mount guard?"
"It would be time enough to promote him after my lord's recovery. But
come, let me see this Ito Soda, that I may know what manner of man he
is: if he pleases me, I will consult with the other councillors, and
perhaps we may grant his request."
"I will bring him in forthwith," replied Ruiten, who thereupon went
out to fetch the young man.
When he returned, the priest presented Ito Soda to the councillor, who
looked at him attentively, and, being pleased with his comely and
gentle appearance, said--
"So I hear that you are anxious to be permitted to mount guard in my
lord's room at night. Well, I must consult with the other councillors,
and we will see what can be done for you."
When the young soldier heard this he was greatly elated, and took his
leave, after warmly thanking Buiten, who had helped him to gain his
object. The next day the councillors held a meeting, and sent for Ito
Soda, and told him that he might keep watch with the other retainers
that very night. So he went his way in high spirits, and at nightfall,
having made all his preparations, took his place among the hundred
gentlemen who were on duty in the prince's bed-room.
Now the Prince slept in the centre of the room, and the hundred guards
around him sat keeping themselves awake with entertaining conversation
and pleasant conceits. But, as ten o'clock approached, they began to
doze off as they sat; and in spite of all their endeavours to keep one
another awake, by degrees they all fell asleep. Ito Soda all this
while felt an irresistible desire to sleep creeping over him, and,
though he tried by all sorts of ways to rouse himself, he saw that
there was no help for it, but by resorting to an extreme measure, for
which he had already made his preparations. Drawing out a piece of oil
paper which he had brought with him, and spreading it over the mats,
he sat down upon it; then he took the small knife which he carried in
the sheath of his dirk, and stuck it into his own thigh. For awhile
the pain of the wound kept him awake; but as the slumber by which he
was assailed was the work of sorcery, little by little he became
drowsy again. Then he twisted the knife round and round in his thigh,
so that the pain becoming very violent, he was proof against the
feeling of sleepiness, and kept a faithful watch. Now the oil paper
which he had spread under his legs was in order to prevent the blood,
which might spurt from his wound, from defiling the mats.
So Ito Soda remained awake, but the rest of the guard slept; and as he
watched, suddenly the sliding-doors of the Prince's room were drawn
open, and he saw a figure coming in stealthily, and, as it drew
nearer, the form was that of a marvellously beautiful woman some
twenty-three years of age. Cautiously she looked around her; and when
she saw that all the guard were asleep, she smiled an ominous smile,
and was going up to the Prince's bedside, when she perceived that in
one corner of the room there was a man yet awake. This seemed to
startle her, but she went up to Soda and said--
"I am not used to seeing you here. Who are you?"
"My name is Ito Soda, and this is the first night that I have been on
"A troublesome office, truly! Why, here are all the rest of the guard
asleep. How is it that you alone are awake? You are a trusty
"There is nothing to boast about. I'm asleep myself, fast and sound."
"What is that wound on your knee? It is all red with blood."
"Oh! I felt very sleepy; so I stuck my knife into my thigh, and the
pain of it has kept me awake."
"What wondrous loyalty!" said the lady.
"Is it not the duty of a retainer to lay down his life for his master?
Is such a scratch as this worth thinking about?"
Then the lady went up to the sleeping prince and said, "How fares it
with my lord to-night?" But the Prince, worn out with sickness, made
no reply. But Soda was watching her eagerly, and guessed that it was O
Toyo, and made up his mind that if she attempted to harass the Prince
he would kill her on the spot. The goblin, however, which in the form
of O Toyo had been tormenting the Prince every night, and had come
again that night for no other purpose, was defeated by the
watchfulness of Ito Soda; for whenever she drew near to the sick man,
thinking to put her spells upon him, she would turn and look behind
her, and there she saw Ito Soda glaring at her; so she had no help for
it but to go away again, and leave the Prince undisturbed.
At last the day broke, and the other officers, when they awoke and
opened their eyes, saw that Ito Soda had kept awake by stabbing
himself in the thigh; and they were greatly ashamed, and went home
That morning Ito Soda went to the house of Isahaya Buzen, and told him
all that had occurred the previous night. The councillors were all
loud in their praises of Ito Soda's behaviour, and ordered him to keep
watch again that night. At the same hour, the false O Toyo came and
looked all round the room, and all the guard were asleep, excepting
Ito Soda, who was wide awake; and so, being again frustrated, she
returned to her own apartments.
Now as since Soda had been on guard the Prince had passed quiet
nights, his sickness began to get better, and there was great joy in
the palace, and Soda was promoted and rewarded with an estate. In the
meanwhile O Toyo, seeing that her nightly visits bore no fruits, kept
away; and from that time forth the night-guard were no longer subject
to fits of drowsiness. This coincidence struck Soda as very strange,
so he went to Isahaya Buzen and told him that of a certainty this O
Toyo was no other than a goblin. Isahaya Buzen reflected for a while,
"Well, then, how shall we kill the foul thing?"
"I will go to the creature's room, as if nothing were the matter, and
try to kill her; but in case she should try to escape, I will beg you
to order eight men to stop outside and lie in wait for her."
Having agreed upon this plan, Soda went at nightfall to O Toyo's
apartment, pretending to have been sent with a message from the
Prince. When she saw him arrive, she said--
"What message have you brought me from my lord?"
"Oh! nothing in particular. Be so look as to look at this letter;" and
as he spoke, he drew near to her, and suddenly drawing his dirk cut at
her; but the goblin, springing back, seized a halberd, and glaring
fiercely at Soda, said--
"How dare you behave like this to one of your lord's ladies? I will
have you dismissed;" and she tried to strike Soda with the halberd.
But Soda fought desperately with his dirk; and the goblin, seeing that
she was no match for him, threw away the halberd, and from a beautiful
woman became suddenly transformed into a cat, which, springing up the
sides of the room, jumped on to the roof. Isahaya Buzen and his eight
men who were watching outside shot at the cat, but missed it, and the
beast made good its escape.
So the cat fled to the mountains, and did much mischief among the
surrounding people, until at last the Prince of Hizen ordered a great
hunt, and the beast was killed.
But the Prince recovered from his sickness; and Ito Soda was richly
THE STORY OF THE FAITHFUL CAT
About sixty years ago, in the summertime, a man went to pay a visit at
a certain house at Osaka, and, in the course of conversation, said--
"I have eaten some very extraordinary cakes to-day," and on being
asked what he meant, he told the following story:--
"I received the cakes from the relatives of a family who were
celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the death of a cat that had
belonged to their ancestors. When I asked the history of the affair, I
was told that, in former days, a young girl of the family, when she
was about sixteen years old, used always to be followed about by a
tom-cat, who was reared in the house, so much so that the two were
never separated for an instant. When her father perceived this, he was
very angry, thinking that the tom-cat, forgetting the kindness with
which he had been treated for years in the house, had fallen in love
with his daughter, and intended to cast a spell upon her; so he
determined that he must kill the beast. As he was planning this in
secret, the cat overheard him, and that night went to his pillow, and,
assuming a human voice, said to him--
"'You suspect me of being in love with your daughter; and although you
might well be justified in so thinking, your suspicions are
groundless. The fact is this:--There is a very large old rat who has
been living for many years in your granary. Now it is this old rat who
is in love with my young mistress, and this is why I dare not leave
her side for a moment, for fear the old rat should carry her off.
Therefore I pray you to dispel your suspicions. But as I, by myself,
am no match for the rat, there is a famous cat, named Buchi, at the
house of Mr. So-and-so, at Ajikawa: if you will borrow that cat, we
will soon make an end of the old rat.'
"When the father awoke from his dream, he thought it so wonderful,
that he told the household of it; and the following day he got up very
early and went off to Ajikawa, to inquire for the house which the cat
had indicated, and had no difficulty in finding it; so he called upon
the master of the house, and told him what his own cat had said, and
how he wished to borrow the cat Buchi for a little while.
"'That's a very easy matter to settle,' said the other: 'pray take him
with you at once;' and accordingly the father went home with the cat
Buchi in charge. That night he put the two cats into the granary; and
after a little while, a frightful clatter was heard, and then all was
still again; so the people of the house opened the door, and crowded
out to see what had happened; and there they beheld the two cats and
the rat all locked together, and panting for breath; so they cut the
throat of the rat, which was as big as either of the cats: then they
attended to the two cats; but, although they gave them ginseng and
other restoratives, they both got weaker and weaker, until at last
they died. So the rat was thrown into the river; but the two cats were
buried with all honours in a neighbouring temple."
[Footnote 76: A restorative in high repute. The best sorts are brought
HOW A MAN WAS BEWITCHED AND HAD HIS HEAD SHAVED BY THE FOXES
In the village of Iwahara, in the province of Shinshiu, there dwelt a
family which had acquired considerable wealth in the wine trade. On
some auspicious occasion it happened that a number of guests were
gathered together at their house, feasting on wine and fish; and as
the wine-cup went round, the conversation turned upon foxes. Among the
guests was a certain carpenter, Tokutaro by name, a man about thirty
years of age, of a stubborn and obstinate turn, who said--
"Well, sirs, you've been talking for some time of men being bewitched
by foxes; surely you must be under their influence yourselves, to say
such things. How on earth can foxes have such power over men? At any
rate, men must be great fools to be so deluded. Let's have no more of
Upon this a man who was sitting by him answered--
"Tokutaro little knows what goes on in the world, or he would not
speak so. How many myriads of men are there who have been bewitched by
foxes? Why, there have been at least twenty or thirty men tricked by
the brutes on the Maki Moor alone. It's hard to disprove facts that
have happened before our eyes."
"You're no better than a pack of born idiots," said Tokutaro. "I will
engage to go out to the Maki Moor this very night and prove it. There
is not a fox in all Japan that can make a fool of Tokutaro."
"Thus he spoke in his pride; but the others were all angry with him
for boasting, and said--
"If you return without anything having happened, we will pay for five
measures of wine and a thousand copper cash worth of fish; and if you
are bewitched, you shall do as much for us."
Tokutaro took the bet, and at nightfall set forth for the Maki Moor by
himself. As he neared the moor, he saw before him a small bamboo
grove, into which a fox ran; and it instantly occurred to him that the
foxes of the moor would try to bewitch him. As he was yet looking, he
suddenly saw the daughter of the headman of the village of Upper
Horikane, who was married to the headman of the village of Maki.
"Pray, where are you going to, Master Tokutaro?" said she.
"I am going to the village hard by."
"Then, as you will have to pass my native place, if you will allow me,
I will accompany you so far."
Tokutaro thought this very odd, and made up his mind that it was a fox
trying to make a fool of him; he accordingly determined to turn the
tables on the fox, and answered--"It is a long time since I have had
the pleasure of seeing you; and as it seems that your house is on my
road, I shall be glad to escort you so far."
With this he walked behind her, thinking he should certainly see the
end of a fox's tail peeping out; but, look as he might, there was
nothing to be seen. At last they came to the village of Upper
Horikane; and when they reached the cottage of the girl's father, the
family all came out, surprised to see her.
"Oh dear! oh dear! here is our daughter come: I hope there is nothing
And so they went on, for some time, asking a string of questions.
In the meanwhile, Tokutaro went round to the kitchen door, at the back
of the house, and, beckoning out the master of the house, said--
"The girl who has come with me is not really your daughter. As I was
going to the Maki Moor, when I arrived at the bamboo grove, a fox
jumped up in front of me, and when it had dashed into the grove it
immediately took the shape of your daughter, and offered to accompany
me to the village; so I pretended to be taken in by the brute, and
came with it so far."
On hearing this, the master of the house put his head on one side, and
mused a while; then, calling his wife, he repeated the story to her,
in a whisper.
But she flew into a great rage with Tokutaro, and said--
"This is a pretty way of insulting people's daughters. The girl is our
daughter, and there's no mistake about it. How dare you invent such
"Well," said Tokutaro, "you are quite right to say so; but still there
is no doubt that this is a case of witchcraft."
Seeing how obstinately he held to his opinion, the old folks were
sorely perplexed, and said--
"What do you think of doing?"
"Pray leave the matter to me: I'll soon strip the false skin off, and
show the beast to you in its true colours. Do you two go into the
store-closet, and wait there."
With this he went into the kitchen, and, seizing the girl by the back
of the neck, forced her down by the hearth.
"Oh! Master Tokutaro, what means this brutal violence? Mother! father!
So the girl cried and screamed; but Tokutaro only laughed, and said--
"So you thought to bewitch me, did you? From the moment you jumped
into the wood, I was on the look-out for you to play me some trick.
I'll soon make you show what you really are;" and as he said this, he
twisted her two hands behind her back, and trod upon her, and tortured
her; but she only wept, and cried--
"Oh! it hurts, it hurts!"
"If this is not enough to make you show your true form, I'll roast you
to death;" and he piled firewood on the hearth, and, tucking up her
dress, scorched her severely.
"Oh! oh! this is more than I can bear;" and with this she expired.
The two old people then came running in from the rear of the house,
and, pushing aside Tokutaro, folded their daughter in their arms, and
put their hands to her mouth to feel whether she still breathed; but
life was extinct, and not the sign of a fox's tail was to be seen
about her. Then they seized Tokutaro by the collar, and cried--
"On pretence that our true daughter was a fox, you have roasted her to
death. Murderer! Here, you there, bring ropes and cords, and secure
So the servants obeyed, and several of them seized Tokutaro and bound
him to a pillar. Then the master of the house, turning to Tokutaro,
"You have murdered our daughter before our very eyes. I shall report
the matter to the lord of the manor, and you will assuredly pay for
this with your head. Be prepared for the worst."
And as he said this, glaring fiercely at Tokutaro, they carried the
corpse of his daughter into the store-closet. As they were sending to
make the matter known in the village of Maki, and taking other
measures, who should come up but the priest of the temple called
Anrakuji, in the village of Iwahara, with an acolyte and a servant,
who called out in a loud voice from the front door--
"Is all well with the honourable master of this house? I have been to
say prayers to-day in a neighbouring village, and on my way back I
could not pass the door without at least inquiring after your welfare.
If you are at home, I would fain pay my respects to you."
As he spoke thus in a loud voice, he was heard from the back of the
house; and the master got up and went out, and, after the usual
compliments on meeting had been exchanged, said--
"I ought to have the honour of inviting you to step inside this
evening; but really we are all in the greatest trouble, and I must beg
you to excuse my impoliteness."
"Indeed! Pray, what may be the matter?" replied the priest. And when
the master of the house had told the whole story, from beginning to
end, he was thunderstruck, and said--
"Truly, this must be a terrible distress to you." Then the priest
looked on one side, and saw Tokutaro bound, and exclaimed, "Is not
that Tokutaro that I see there?"
"Oh, your reverence," replied Tokutaro, piteously, "it was this, that,
and the other: and I took it into my head that the young lady was a
fox, and so I killed her. But I pray your reverence to intercede for
me, and save my life;" and as he spoke, the tears started from his
"To be sure," said the priest, "you may well bewail yourself; however,
if I save your life, will you consent to become my disciple, and enter
"Only save my life, and I'll become your disciple with all my heart."
When the priest heard this, he called out the parents, and said to
"It would seem that, though I am but a foolish old priest, my coming
here to-day has been unusually well timed. I have a request to make of
you. Your putting Tokutaro to death won't bring your daughter to life
again. I have heard his story, and there certainly was no malice
prepense on his part to kill your daughter. What he did, he did
thinking to do a service to your family; and it would surely be better
to hush the matter up. He wishes, moreover, to give himself over to
me, and to become my disciple."
"It is as you say," replied the father and mother, speaking together.
"Revenge will not recall our daughter. Please dispel our grief, by
shaving his head and making a priest of him on the spot."
"I'll shave him at once, before your eyes," answered the priest, who
immediately caused the cords which bound Tokutaro to be untied, and,
putting on his priest's scarf, made him join his hands together in a
posture of prayer. Then the reverend man stood up behind him, razor in
hand, and, intoning a hymn, gave two or three strokes of the razor,
which he then handed to his acolyte, who made a clean shave of
Tokutaro's hair. When the latter had finished his obeisance to the
priest, and the ceremony was over, there was a loud burst of laughter;
and at the same moment the day broke, and Tokutaro found himself
alone, in the middle of a large moor. At first, in his surprise, he
thought that it was all a dream, and was much annoyed at having been
tricked by the foxes. He then passed his hand over his head, and found
that he was shaved quite bald. There was nothing for it but to get up,
wrap a handkerchief round his head, and go back to the place where his
friends were assembled.
"Hallo, Tokutaro! so you've come back. Well, how about the foxes?"
"Really, gentlemen," replied he, bowing, "I am quite ashamed to appear
Then he told them the whole story, and, when he had finished, pulled
off the kerchief, and showed his bald pate.
"What a capital joke!" shouted his listeners, and amid roars of
laughter, claimed the bet of fish, and wine. It was duly paid; but
Tokutaro never allowed his hair to grow again, and renounced the
world, and became a priest under the name of Sainen.
There are a great many stories told of men being shaved by the foxes;
but this story came under the personal observation of Mr. Shominsai, a
teacher of the city of Yedo, during a holiday trip which he took to
the country where the event occurred; and I have recorded it in
the very selfsame words in which he told it to me.
[Footnote 77: The author of the "Kanzen-Yawa," the book from which the
story is taken.]
THE GRATEFUL FOXES
One fine spring day, two friends went out to a moor to gather fern,
attended by a boy with a bottle of wine and a box of provisions. As
they were straying about, they saw at the foot of a hill a fox that
had brought out its cub to play; and whilst they looked on, struck by
the strangeness of the sight, three children came up from a
neighbouring village with baskets in their hands, on the same errand
as themselves. As soon as the children saw the foxes, they picked up a
bamboo stick and took the creatures stealthily in the rear; and when
the old foxes took to flight, they surrounded them and beat them with
the stick, so that they ran away as fast as their legs could carry
them; but two of the boys held down the cub, and, seizing it by the
scruff of the neck, went off in high glee.
The two friends were looking on all the while, and one of them,
raising his voice, shouted out, "Hallo! you boys! what are you doing
with that fox?"
The eldest of the boys replied, "We're going to take him home and sell
him to a young man in our village. He'll buy him, and then he'll boil
him in a pot and eat him."
"Well," replied the other, after considering the matter attentively,
"I suppose it's all the same to you whom you sell him to. You'd better
let me have him."
"Oh, but the young man from our village promised us a good round sum
if we could find a fox, and got us to come out to the hills and catch
one; and so we can't sell him to you at any price."
"Well, I suppose it cannot be helped, then; but how much would the
young man give you for the cub?"
"Oh, he'll give us three hundred cash at least."
"Then I'll give you half a bu; and so you'll gain five hundred
cash by the transaction."
[Footnote 78: _Bu_. This coin is generally called by foreigners
"ichibu," which means "one bu." To talk of "_a hundred ichibus_" is as
though a Japanese were to say "_a hundred one shillings."_ Four bus
make a _riyo>,_ or ounce; and any sum above three bus is spoken of as
so many riyos and bus--as 101 riyos and three bus equal 407 bus. The
bu is worth about 1s. 4d.]
"Oh, we'll sell him for that, sir. How shall we hand him over to you?"
"Just tie him up here," said the other; and so he made fast the cub
round the neck with the string of the napkin in which the luncheon-box
was wrapped, and gave half a bu to the three boys, who ran away
The man's friend, upon this, said to him, "Well, certainly you have
got queer tastes. What on earth are you going to keep the fox for?"
"How very unkind of you to speak of my tastes like that. If we had not
interfered just now, the fox's cub would have lost its life. If we had
not seen the affair, there would have been no help for it. How could I
stand by and see life taken? It was but a little I spent--only half a
bu--to save the cub, but had it cost a fortune I should not have
grudged it. I thought you were intimate enough with me to know my
heart; but to-day you have accused me of being eccentric, and I see
how mistaken I have been in you. However, our friendship shall cease
from this day forth."
And when he had said this with a great deal of firmness, the other,
retiring backwards and bowing with his hands on his knees, replied--
"Indeed, indeed, I am filled with admiration at the goodness of your
heart. When I hear you speak thus, I feel more than ever how great is
the love I bear you. I thought that you might wish to use the cub as a
sort of decoy to lead the old ones to you, that you might pray them to
bring prosperity and virtue to your house. When I called you eccentric
just now, I was but trying your heart, because I had some suspicions
of you; and now I am truly ashamed of myself."
And as he spoke, still bowing, the other replied, "Really! was that
indeed your thought? Then I pray you to forgive me for my violent
When the two friends had thus become reconciled, they examined the
cub, and saw that it had a slight wound in its foot, and could not
walk; and while they were thinking what they should do, they spied out
the herb called "Doctor's Nakase," which was just sprouting; so they
rolled up a little of it in their fingers and applied it to the part.
Then they pulled out some boiled rice from their luncheon-box and
offered it to the cub, but it showed no sign of wanting to eat; so
they stroked it gently on the back, and petted it; and as the pain of
the wound seemed to have subsided, they were admiring the properties
of the herb, when, opposite to them, they saw the old foxes sitting
watching them by the side of some stacks of rice straw.
"Look there! the old foxes have come back, out of fear for their cub's
safety. Come, we will set it free!" And with these words they untied
the string round the cub's neck, and turned its head towards the spot
where the old foxes sat; and as the wounded foot was no longer
painful, with one bound it dashed to its parents' side and licked them
all over for joy, while they seemed to bow their thanks, looking
towards the two friends. So, with peace in their hearts, the latter
went off to another place, and, choosing a pretty spot, produced the
wine bottle and ate their noon-day meal; and after a pleasant day,
they returned to their homes, and became firmer friends than ever.
Now the man who had rescued the fox's cub was a tradesman in good
circumstances: he had three or four agents and two maid-servants,
besides men-servants; and altogether he lived in a liberal manner. He
was married, and this union had brought him one son, who had reached
his tenth year, but had been attacked by a strange disease which
defied all the physician's skill and drugs. At last a famous physician
prescribed the liver taken from a live fox, which, as he said, would
certainly effect a cure. If that were not forthcoming, the most
expensive medicine in the world would not restore the boy to health.
When the parents heard this, they were at their wits' end. However,
they told the state of the case to a man who lived on the mountains.
"Even though our child should die for it," they said, "we will not
ourselves deprive other creatures of their lives; but you, who live
among the hills, are sure to hear when your neighbours go out
fox-hunting. We don't care what price we might have to pay for a fox's
liver; pray, buy one for us at any expense." So they pressed him to
exert himself on their behalf; and he, having promised faithfully to
execute the commission, went his way.
In the night of the following day there came a messenger, who
announced himself as coming from the person who had undertaken to
procure the fox's liver; so the master of the house went out to see
"I have come from Mr. So-and-so. Last night the fox's liver that you
required fell into his hands; so he sent me to bring it to you." With
these words the messenger produced a small jar, adding, "In a few days
he will let you know the price."
When he had delivered his message, the master of the house was greatly
pleased, and said, "Indeed, I am deeply grateful for this kindness,
which will save my son's life."
Then the goodwife came out, and received the jar with every mark of
"We must make a present to the messenger."
"Indeed, sir, I've already been paid for my trouble."
"Well, at any rate, you must stop the night here."
"Thank you, sir: I've a relation in the next village whom I have not
seen for a long while, and I will pass the night with him;" and so he
took his leave, and went away.
The parents lost no time in sending to let the physician know that
they had procured the fox's liver. The next day the doctor came and
compounded a medicine for the patient, which at once produced a good
effect, and there was no little joy in the household. As luck would
have it, three days after this the man whom they had commissioned to
buy the fox's liver came to the house; so the goodwife hurried out to
meet him and welcome him.
"How quickly you fulfilled our wishes, and how kind of you to send at
once! The doctor prepared the medicine, and now our boy can get up and
walk about the room; and it's all owing to your goodness."
"Wait a bit!" cried the guest, who did not know what to make of the
joy of the two parents. "The commission with which you entrusted me
about the fox's liver turned out to be a matter of impossibility, so I
came to-day to make my excuses; and now I really can't understand what
you are so grateful to me for."
"We are thanking you, sir," replied the master of the house, bowing
with his hands on the ground, "for the fox's liver which we asked you
to procure for us."
"I really am perfectly unaware of having sent you a fox's liver: there
must be some mistake here. Pray inquire carefully into the matter."
"Well, this is very strange. Four nights ago, a man of some five or
six and thirty years of age came with a verbal message from you, to
the effect that you had sent him with a fox's liver, which you had
just procured, and said that he would come and tell us the price
another day. When we asked him to spend the night here, he answered
that he would lodge with a relation in the next village, and went
The visitor was more and more lost in amazement, and; leaning his head
on one side in deep thought, confessed that he could make nothing of
it. As for the husband and wife, they felt quite out of countenance at
having thanked a man so warmly for favours of which he denied all
knowledge; and so the visitor took his leave, and went home.
That night there appeared at the pillow of the master of the house a
woman of about one or two and thirty years of age, who said, "I am the
fox that lives at such-and-such a mountain. Last spring, when I was
taking out my cub to play, it was carried off by some boys, and only
saved by your goodness. The desire to requite this kindness pierced me
to the quick. At last, when calamity attacked your house, I thought
that I might be of use to you. Your son's illness could not be cured
without a liver taken from a live fox, so to repay your kindness I
killed my cub and took out its liver; then its sire, disguising
himself as a messenger, brought it to your house."
And as she spoke, the fox shed tears; and the master of the house,
wishing to thank her, moved in bed, upon which his wife awoke and
asked him what was the matter; but he too, to her great astonishment,
was biting the pillow and weeping bitterly.
"Why are you weeping thus?" asked she.
At last he sat up in bed, and said, "Last spring, when I was out on a
pleasure excursion, I was the means of saving the life of a fox's cub,
as I told you at the time. The other day I told Mr. So-and-so that,
although my son were to die before my eyes, I would not be the means
of killing a fox on purpose; but asked him, in case he heard of any
hunter killing a fox, to buy it for me. How the foxes came to hear of
this I don't know; but the foxes to whom I had shown kindness killed
their own cub and took out the liver; and the old dog-fox, disguising
himself as a messenger from the person to whom we had confided the
commission, came here with it. His mate has just been at my
pillow-side and told me all about it; hence it was that, in spite of
myself, I was moved to tears."
[Illustration: THE FEAST OF INARI SAMA.]
When she heard this, the goodwife likewise was blinded by her tears,
and for a while they lay lost in thought; but at last, coming to
themselves, they lighted the lamp on the shelf on which the family
idol stood, and spent the night in reciting prayers and praises, and
the next day they published the matter to the household and to their
relations and friends. Now, although there are instances of men
killing their own children to requite a favour, there is no other
example of foxes having done such a thing; so the story became the
talk of the whole country.
Now, the boy who had recovered through the efficacy of this medicine
selected the prettiest spot on the premises to erect a shrine to Inari
Sama, the Fox God, and offered sacrifice to the two old foxes, for
whom he purchased the highest rank at the court of the Mikado.
[Footnote 79: Inari Sama is the title under which was deified a
certain mythical personage, called Uga, to whom tradition attributes
the honour of having first discovered and cultivated the rice-plant.
He is represented carrying a few ears of rice, and is symbolized by a
snake guarding a bale of rice grain. The foxes wait upon him, and do
his bidding. Inasmuch as rice is the most important and necessary
product of Japan, the honours which Inari Sama receives are
extraordinary. Almost every house in the country contains somewhere
about the grounds a pretty little shrine in his honour; and on a
certain day of the second month of the year his feast is celebrated
with much beating of drums and other noises, in which the children
take a special delight. "On this day," says the O-Satsuyo, a Japanese
cyclopaedia, "at Yedo, where there are myriads upon myriads of shrines
to Inari Sama, there are all sorts of ceremonies. Long banners with
inscriptions are erected, lamps and lanterns are hung up, and the
houses are decked with various dolls and figures; the sound of flutes
and drums is heard, the people dance and make holiday according to
their fancy. In short, it is the most bustling festival of the Yedo
* * * * *
The passage in the tale which speaks of rank being purchased for the
foxes at the court of the Mikado is, of course, a piece of nonsense.
"The saints who are worshipped in Japan," writes a native authority,
"are men who, in the remote ages, when the country was developing
itself, were sages, and by their great and virtuous deeds having
earned the gratitude of future generations, received divine honours
after their death. How can the Son of Heaven, who is the father and
mother of his people, turn dealer in ranks and honours? If rank were a
matter of barter, it would cease to be a reward to the virtuous."
All matters connected with the shrines of the Shinto, or indigenous
religion, are confided to the superintendence of the families of
Yoshida and Fushimi, Kuges or nobles of the Mikado's court at Kiyoto.
The affairs of the Buddhist or imported religion are under the care of
the family of Kanjuji. As it is necessary that those who as priests
perform the honourable office of serving the gods should be persons of
some standing, a certain small rank is procured for them through the
intervention of the representatives of the above noble families, who,
on the issuing of the required patent, receive as their perquisite a
fee, which, although insignificant in itself, is yet of importance to
the poor Kuges, whose penniless condition forms a great contrast to
the wealth of their inferiors in rank, the Daimios. I believe that
this is the only case in which rank can be bought or sold in Japan. In
China, on the contrary, in spite of what has been written by Meadows
and other admirers of the examination system, a man can be what he
pleases by paying for it; and the coveted button, which is nominally
the reward of learning and ability, is more often the prize of wealthy
The saints who are alluded to above are the saints of the whole
country, as distinct from those who for special deeds are locally
worshipped. To this innumerable class frequent allusion is made in
Touching the remedy of the fox's liver, prescribed in the tale, I may
add that there would be nothing strange in this to a person acquainted
with the Chinese pharmacopoeia, which the Japanese long exclusively
followed, although they are now successfully studying the art of
healing as practised in the West. When I was at Peking, I saw a
Chinese physician prescribe a decoction of three scorpions for a child
struck down with fever; and on another occasion a groom of mine,
suffering from dysentery, was treated with acupuncture of the tongue.
The art of medicine would appear to be at the present time in China
much in the state in which it existed in Europe in the sixteenth
century, when the excretions and secretions of all manner of animals,
saurians, and venomous snakes and insects, and even live bugs, were
administered to patients. "Some physicians," says Matthiolus, "use the
ashes of scorpions, burnt alive, for retention caused by either renal
or vesical calculi. But I have myself thoroughly experienced the
utility of an oil I make myself, whereof scorpions form a very large
portion of the ingredients. If only the region of the heart and all
the pulses of the body be anointed with it, it will free the patients
from the effects of all kinds of poisons taken by the mouth, corrosive
ones excepted." Decoctions of Egyptian mummies were much commended,
and often prescribed with due academical solemnity; and the bones of
the human skull, pulverized and administered with oil, were used as a
specific in cases of renal calculus. (See Petri Andreae Matthioli
These remarks were made to me by a medical gentleman to whom I
mentioned the Chinese doctor's prescription of scorpion tea, and they
seem to me so curious that I insert them for comparison's sake.
THE BADGER'S MONEY
It is a common saying among men, that to forget favours received is
the part of a bird or a beast: an ungrateful man will be ill spoken of
by all the world. And yet even birds and beasts will show gratitude;
so that a man who does not requite a favour is worse even than dumb
brutes. Is not this a disgrace?
Once upon a time, in a hut at a place called Namekata, in Hitachi,
there lived an old priest famous neither for learning nor wisdom, but
bent only on passing his days in prayer and meditation. He had not
even a child to wait upon him, but prepared his food with his own
hands. Night and morning he recited the prayer "Namu Amida Butsu,"
intent upon that alone. Although the fame of his virtue did not reach
far, yet his neighbours respected and revered him, and often brought
him food and raiment; and when his roof or his walls fell out of
repair, they would mend them for him; so for the things of this world
he took no thought.
[Footnote 80: A Buddhist prayer, in which something approaching to the
sounds of the original Sanscrit has been preserved. The meaning of the
prayer is explained as, "Save us, eternal Buddha!" Many even of the
priests who repeat it know it only as a formula, without understanding
One very cold night, when he little thought any one was outside, he
heard a voice calling "Your reverence! your reverence!" So he rose and
went out to see who it was, and there he beheld an old badger
standing. Any ordinary man would have been greatly alarmed at the
apparition; but the priest, being such as he has been described above,
showed no sign of fear, but asked the creature its business. Upon this
the badger respectfully bent its knees, and said--
"Hitherto, sir, my lair has been in the mountains, and of snow or
frost I have taken no heed; but now I am growing old, and this severe
cold is more than I can bear. I pray you to let me enter and warm
myself at the fire of your cottage, that I may live through this
When the priest heard what a helpless state the beast was reduced to,
he was filled with pity, and said--
"That's a very slight matter: make haste and come in and warm
The badger, delighted with so good a reception, went into the hut, and
squatting down by the fire began to warm itself; and the priest, with
renewed fervour, recited his prayers and struck his bell before the
image of Buddha, looking straight before him. After two hours the
badger took its leave, with profuse expressions of thanks, and went
out; and from that time forth it came every night to the hut. As the
badger would collect and bring with it dried branches and dead leaves
from the hills for firewood, the priest at last became very friendly
with it, and got used to its company; so that if ever, as the night
wore on, the badger did not arrive, he used to miss it, and wonder why
it did not come. When the winter was over, and the spring-time came at
the end of the second month, the Badger gave up its visits, and was no
more seen; but, on the return of the winter, the beast resumed its old
habit of coming to the hut. When this practice had gone on for ten
years, one day the badger said to the priest, "Through your
reverence's kindness for all these years, I have been able to pass the
winter nights in comfort. Your favours are such, that during all my
life, and even after my death, I must remember them. What can I do to
requite them? If there is anything that you wish for, pray tell me."
The priest, smiling at this speech, answered, "Being such as I am, I
have no desire and no wishes. Glad as I am to hear your kind
intentions, there is nothing that I can ask you to do for me. You need
feel no anxiety on my account. As long as I live, when the winter
comes, you shall be welcome here." The badger, on hearing this, could
not conceal its admiration of the depth of the old man's benevolence;
but having so much to be grateful for, it felt hurt at not being able
to requite it. As this subject was often renewed between them, the
priest at last, touched by the goodness of the badger's heart, said,
"Since I have shaven my head, renounced the world, and forsaken the
pleasures of this life, I have no desire to gratify, yet I own I
should like to possess three riyos in gold. Food and raiment I receive
by the favour of the villagers, so I take no heed for those things.
Were I to die to-morrow, and attain my wish of being born again into
the next world, the same kind folk have promised to meet and bury my
body. Thus, although I have no other reason to wish for money, still
if I had three riyos I would offer them up at some holy shrine, that
masses and prayers might be said for me, whereby I might enter into