Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things
Part 1 out of 3
KWAIDAN: Stories and Studies of Strange Things
By Lafcadio Hearn
A Note from the Digitizer
On Japanese Pronunciation
Although simplified, the following general rules will help the reader
unfamiliar with Japanese to come close enough to Japanese pronunciation.
There are five vowels: a (as in fAther), i (as in machIne), u (as in
fOOl), e (as in fEllow), and o (as in mOle). Although certain vowels become
nearly "silent" in some environments, this phenomenon can be safely ignored
for the purpose at hand.
Consonants roughly approximate their corresponding sounds in English,
except for r, which is actually somewhere between r and l (this is why the
Japanese have trouble distinguishing between English r and l), and f, which
is much closer to h.
The spelling "KWAIDAN" is based on premodern Japanese pronunciation; when
Hearn came to Japan, the orthography reflecting this pronunciation was
still in use. In modern Japanese the word is pronounced KAIDAN.
There are many ellipses in the text. Hearn often used them in this book;
they do not represent omissions by the digitizer.
Author's original notes are in brackets, those by the digitizer are in
parentheses. Diacritical marks in the original are absent from this
KWAIDAN: Stories and Studies of Strange Things
By Lafcadio Hearn
TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE STORY OF MIMI-NASHI-HOICHI
THE STORY OF O-TEI
OF A MIRROR AND A BELL
A DEAD SECRET
THE STORY OF AOYAGI
THE DREAM OF AKINOSUKE
The publication of a new volume of Lafcadio Hearn's exquisite studies of
Japan happens, by a delicate irony, to fall in the very month when the
world is waiting with tense expectation for news of the latest exploits of
Japanese battleships. Whatever the outcome of the present struggle between
Russia and Japan, its significance lies in the fact that a nation of the
East, equipped with Western weapons and girding itself with Western energy
of will, is deliberately measuring strength against one of the great powers
of the Occident. No one is wise enough to forecast the results of such a
conflict upon the civilization of the world. The best one can do is to
estimate, as intelligently as possible, the national characteristics of the
peoples engaged, basing one's hopes and fears upon the psychology of the
two races rather than upon purely political and statistical studies of the
complicated questions involved in the present war. The Russian people have
had literary spokesmen who for more than a generation have fascinated the
European audience. The Japanese, on the other hand, have possessed no such
national and universally recognized figures as Turgenieff or Tolstoy. They
need an interpreter.
It may be doubted whether any oriental race has ever had an interpreter
gifted with more perfect insight and sympathy than Lafcadio Hearn has
brought to the translation of Japan into our occidental speech. His long
residence in that country, his flexibility of mind, poetic imagination, and
wonderfully pellucid style have fitted him for the most delicate of
literary tasks. Hi has seen marvels, and he has told of them in a marvelous
way. There is scarcely an aspect of contemporary Japanese life, scarcely an
element in the social, political, and military questions involved in the
present conflict with Russia which is not made clear in one or another of
the books with which he has charmed American readers.
He characterizes Kwaidan as "stories and studies of strange things." A
hundred thoughts suggested by the book might be written down, but most of
them would begin and end with this fact of strangeness. To read the very
names in the table of contents is like listening to a Buddhist bell, struck
somewhere far away. Some of his tales are of the long ago, and yet they
seem to illumine the very souls and minds of the little men who are at this
hour crowding the decks of Japan's armored cruisers. But many of the
stories are about women and children,-- the lovely materials from which the
best fairy tales of the world have been woven. They too are strange, these
Japanese maidens and wives and keen-eyed, dark-haired girls and boys; they
are like us and yet not like us; and the sky and the hills and the flowers
are all different from our. Yet by a magic of which Mr. Hearn, almost alone
among contemporary writers, is the master, in these delicate, transparent,
ghostly sketches of a world unreal to us, there is a haunting sense of
In a penetrating and beautiful essay contributed to the "Atlantic Monthly"
in February, 1903, by Paul Elmer More, the secret of Mr. Hearn's magic is
said to lie in the fact that in his art is found "the meeting of three
ways." "To the religious instinct of India -- Buddhism in particular,--
which history has engrafted on the aesthetic sense of Japan, Mr. Hearn
brings the interpreting spirit of occidental science; and these three
traditions are fused by the peculiar sympathies of his mind into one rich
and novel compound,-- a compound so rare as to have introduced into
literature a psychological sensation unknown before." Mr. More's essay
received the high praise of Mr. Hearn's recognition and gratitude, and if
it were possible to reprint it here, it would provide a most suggestive
introduction to these new stories of old Japan, whose substance is, as Mr.
More has said, "so strangely mingled together out of the austere dreams of
India and the subtle beauty of Japan and the relentless science of Europe."
= = = = = = = *** = = = = = = =
Most of the following Kwaidan, or Weird Tales, have been taken from old
Japanese books,-- such as the Yaso-Kidan, Bukkyo-Hyakkwa-Zensho,
Kokon-Chomonshu, Tama-Sudare, and Hyaku-Monogatari. Some of the stories may
have had a Chinese origin: the very remarkable "Dream of Akinosuke," for
example, is certainly from a Chinese source. But the story-teller, in every
case, has so recolored and reshaped his borrowing as to naturalize it...
One queer tale, "Yuki-Onna," was told me by a farmer of Chofu,
Nishitama-gori, in Musashi province, as a legend of his native village.
Whether it has ever been written in Japanese I do not know; but the
extraordinary belief which it records used certainly to exist in most parts
of Japan, and in many curious forms... The incident of "Riki-Baka" was a
personal experience; and I wrote it down almost exactly as it happened,
changing only a family-name mentioned by the Japanese narrator.
Tokyo, Japan, January 20th, 1904.
THE STORY OF MIMI-NASHI-HOICHI
More than seven hundred years ago, at Dan-no-ura, in the Straits of
Shimonoseki, was fought the last battle of the long contest between the
Heike, or Taira clan, and the Genji, or Minamoto clan. There the Heike
perished utterly, with their women and children, and their infant emperor
likewise -- now remembered as Antoku Tenno. And that sea and shore have
been haunted for seven hundred years... Elsewhere I told you about the
strange crabs found there, called Heike crabs, which have human faces on
their backs, and are said to be the spirits of the Heike warriors . But
there are many strange things to be seen and heard along that coast. On
dark nights thousands of ghostly fires hover about the beach, or flit above
the waves,-- pale lights which the fishermen call Oni-bi, or demon-fires;
and, whenever the winds are up, a sound of great shouting comes from that
sea, like a clamor of battle.
In former years the Heike were much more restless than they now are. They
would rise about ships passing in the night, and try to sink them; and at
all times they would watch for swimmers, to pull them down. It was in order
to appease those dead that the Buddhist temple, Amidaji, was built at
Akamagaseki . A cemetery also was made close by, near the beach; and
within it were set up monuments inscribed with the names of the drowned
emperor and of his great vassals; and Buddhist services were regularly
performed there, on behalf of the spirits of them. After the temple had
been built, and the tombs erected, the Heike gave less trouble than before;
but they continued to do queer things at intervals,-- proving that they had
not found the perfect peace.
Some centuries ago there lived at Akamagaseki a blind man named Hoichi,
who was famed for his skill in recitation and in playing upon the biwa .
>From childhood he had been trained to recite and to play; and while yet a
lad he had surpassed his teachers. As a professional biwa-hoshi he became
famous chiefly by his recitations of the history of the Heike and the
Genji; and it is said that when he sang the song of the battle of
Dan-no-ura "even the goblins [kijin] could not refrain from tears."
At the outset of his career, Hoichi was very poor; but he found a good
friend to help him. The priest of the Amidaji was fond of poetry and music;
and he often invited Hoichi to the temple, to play and recite. Afterwards,
being much impressed by the wonderful skill of the lad, the priest proposed
that Hoichi should make the temple his home; and this offer was gratefully
accepted. Hoichi was given a room in the temple-building; and, in return
for food and lodging, he was required only to gratify the priest with a
musical performance on certain evenings, when otherwise disengaged.
One summer night the priest was called away, to perform a Buddhist service
at the house of a dead parishioner; and he went there with his acolyte,
leaving Hoichi alone in the temple. It was a hot night; and the blind man
sought to cool himself on the verandah before his sleeping-room. The
verandah overlooked a small garden in the rear of the Amidaji. There
Hoichi waited for the priest's return, and tried to relieve his solitude by
practicing upon his biwa. Midnight passed; and the priest did not appear.
But the atmosphere was still too warm for comfort within doors; and Hoichi
remained outside. At last he heard steps approaching from the back gate.
Somebody crossed the garden, advanced to the verandah, and halted directly
in front of him -- but it was not the priest. A deep voice called the blind
man's name -- abruptly and unceremoniously, in the manner of a samurai
summoning an inferior:--
"Hai!" (1) answered the blind man, frightened by the menace in the
voice,-- "I am blind! -- I cannot know who calls!"
"There is nothing to fear," the stranger exclaimed, speaking more gently.
"I am stopping near this temple, and have been sent to you with a message.
My present lord, a person of exceedingly high rank, is now staying in
Akamagaseki, with many noble attendants. He wished to view the scene of the
battle of Dan-no-ura; and to-day he visited that place. Having heard of
your skill in reciting the story of the battle, he now desires to hear your
performance: so you will take your biwa and come with me at once to the
house where the august assembly is waiting."
In those times, the order of a samurai was not to be lightly disobeyed.
Hoichi donned his sandals, took his biwa, and went away with the stranger,
who guided him deftly, but obliged him to walk very fast. The hand that
guided was iron; and the clank of the warrior's stride proved him fully
armed,-- probably some palace-guard on duty. Hoichi's first alarm was over:
he began to imagine himself in good luck; -- for, remembering the
retainer's assurance about a "person of exceedingly high rank," he thought
that the lord who wished to hear the recitation could not be less than a
daimyo of the first class. Presently the samurai halted; and Hoichi became
aware that they had arrived at a large gateway; -- and he wondered, for he
could not remember any large gate in that part of the town, except the main
gate of the Amidaji. "Kaimon!"  the samurai called,-- and there was a
sound of unbarring; and the twain passed on. They traversed a space of
garden, and halted again before some entrance; and the retainer cried in a
loud voice, "Within there! I have brought Hoichi." Then came sounds of feet
hurrying, and screens sliding, and rain-doors opening, and voices of womeni
n converse. By the language of the women Hoichi knew them to be domestics
in some noble household; but he could not imagine to what place he had been
conducted. Little time was allowed him for conjecture. After he had been
helped to mount several stone steps, upon the last of which he was told to
leave his sandals, a woman's hand guided him along interminable reaches of
polished planking, and round pillared angles too many to remember, and over
widths amazing of matted floor,-- into the middle of some vast apartment.
There he thought that many great people were assembled: the sound of the
rustling of silk was like the sound of leaves in a forest. He heard also a
great humming of voices,-- talking in undertones; and the speech was the
speech of courts.
Hoichi was told to put himself at ease, and he found a kneeling-cushion
ready for him. After having taken his place upon it, and tuned his
instrument, the voice of a woman -- whom he divined to be the Rojo, or
matron in charge of the female service -- addressed him, saying,--
"It is now required that the history of the Heike be recited, to the
accompaniment of the biwa."
Now the entire recital would have required a time of many nights:
therefore Hoichi ventured a question:--
"As the whole of the story is not soon told, what portion is it augustly
desired that I now recite?"
The woman's voice made answer:--
"Recite the story of the battle at Dan-no-ura,-- for the pity of it is the
most deep." 
Then Hoichi lifted up his voice, and chanted the chant of the fight on the
bitter sea,-- wonderfully making his biwa to sound like the straining of
oars and the rushing of ships, the whirr and the hissing of arrows, the
shouting and trampling of men, the crashing of steel upon helmets, the
plunging of slain in the flood. And to left and right of him, in the pauses
of his playing, he could hear voices murmuring praise: "How marvelous an
artist!" -- "Never in our own province was playing heard like this!" --
"Not in all the empire is there another singer like Hoichi!" Then fresh
courage came to him, and he played and sang yet better than before; and a
hush of wonder deepened about him. But when at last he came to tell the
fate of the fair and helpless,-- the piteous perishing of the women and
children,-- and the death-leap of Nii-no-Ama, with the imperial infant in
her arms,-- then all the listeners uttered together one long, long
shuddering cry of anguish; and thereafter they wept and wailed so loudly
and so wildly that the blind man was frightened by the violence and grief
that he had made. For much time the sobbing and the wailing continued. But
gradually the sounds of lamentation died away; and again, in the great
stillness that followed, Hoichi heard the voice of the woman whom he
supposed to be the Rojo.
"Although we had been assured that you were a very skillful player upon
the biwa, and without an equal in recitative, we did not know that any one
could be so skillful as you have proved yourself to-night. Our lord has
been pleased to say that he intends to bestow upon you a fitting reward.
But he desires that you shall perform before him once every night for the
next six nights -- after which time he will probably make his august
return-journey. To-morrow night, therefore, you are to come here at the
same hour. The retainer who to-night conducted you will be sent for you...
There is another matter about which I have been ordered to inform you. It
is required that you shall speak to no one of your visits here, during the
time of our lord's august sojourn at Akamagaseki. As he is traveling
incognito,  he commands that no mention of these things be made... You
are now free to go back to your temple."
After Hoichi had duly expressed his thanks, a woman's hand conducted him
to the entrance of the house, where the same retainer, who had before
guided him, was waiting to take him home. The retainer led him to the
verandah at the rear of the temple, and there bade him farewell.
It was almost dawn when Hoichi returned; but his absence from the temple
had not been observed,-- as the priest, coming back at a very late hour,
had supposed him asleep. During the day Hoichi was able to take some rest;
and he said nothing about his strange adventure. In the middle of the
following night the samurai again came for him, and led him to the august
assembly, where he gave another recitation with the same success that had
attended his previous performance. But during this second visit his absence
from the temple was accidentally discovered; and after his return in the
morning he was summoned to the presence of the priest, who said to him, in
a tone of kindly reproach:--
"We have been very anxious about you, friend Hoichi. To go out, blind and
alone, at so late an hour, is dangerous. Why did you go without telling us?
I could have ordered a servant to accompany you. And where have you been?"
Hoichi answered, evasively,--
"Pardon me kind friend! I had to attend to some private business; and I
could not arrange the matter at any other hour."
The priest was surprised, rather than pained, by Hoichi's reticence: he
felt it to be unnatural, and suspected something wrong. He feared that the
blind lad had been bewitched or deluded by some evil spirits. He did not
ask any more questions; but he privately instructed the men-servants of the
temple to keep watch upon Hoichi's movements, and to follow him in case
that he should again leave the temple after dark.
On the very next night, Hoichi was seen to leave the temple; and the
servants immediately lighted their lanterns, and followed after him. But it
was a rainy night, and very dark; and before the temple-folks could get to
the roadway, Hoichi had disappeared. Evidently he had walked very fast,-- a
strange thing, considering his blindness; for the road was in a bad
condition. The men hurried through the streets, making inquiries at every
house which Hoichi was accustomed to visit; but nobody could give them any
news of him. At last, as they were returning to the temple by way of the
shore, they were startled by the sound of a biwa, furiously played, in the
cemetery of the Amidaji. Except for some ghostly fires -- such as usually
flitted there on dark nights -- all was blackness in that direction. But
the men at once hastened to the cemetery; and there, by the help of their
lanterns, they discovered Hoichi,-- sitting alone in the rain before the
memorial tomb of Antoku Tenno, making his biwa resound, and loudly chanting
the chant of the battle of Dan-no-ura. And behind him, and about him, and
everywhere above the tombs, the fires of the dead were burning, like
candles. Never before had so great a host of Oni-bi appeared in the sight
of mortal man...
"Hoichi San! -- Hoichi San!" the servants cried,-- "you are bewitched!...
But the blind man did not seem to hear. Strenuously he made his biwa to
rattle and ring and clang; -- more and more wildly he chanted the chant of
the battle of Dan-no-ura. They caught hold of him; -- they shouted into his
"Hoichi San! -- Hoichi San! -- come home with us at once!"
Reprovingly he spoke to them:--
"To interrupt me in such a manner, before this august assembly, will not
Whereat, in spite of the weirdness of the thing, the servants could not
help laughing. Sure that he had been bewitched, they now seized him, and
pulled him up on his feet, and by main force hurried him back to the
temple,-- where he was immediately relieved of his wet clothes, by order of
the priest. Then the priest insisted upon a full explanation of his
friend's astonishing behavior.
Hoichi long hesitated to speak. But at last, finding that his conduct had
really alarmed and angered the good priest, he decided to abandon his
reserve; and he related everything that had happened from the time of first
visit of the samurai.
The priest said:--
"Hoichi, my poor friend, you are now in great danger! How unfortunate that
you did not tell me all this before! Your wonderful skill in music has
indeed brought you into strange trouble. By this time you must be aware
that you have not been visiting any house whatever, but have been passing
your nights in the cemetery, among the tombs of the Heike; -- and it was
before the memorial-tomb of Antoku Tenno that our people to-night found
you, sitting in the rain. All that you have been imagining was illusion --
except the calling of the dead. By once obeying them, you have put yourself
in their power. If you obey them again, after what has already occurred,
they will tear you in pieces. But they would have destroyed you, sooner or
later, in any event... Now I shall not be able to remain with you to-night:
I am called away to perform another service. But, before I go, it will be
necessary to protect your body by writing holy texts upon it."
Before sundown the priest and his acolyte stripped Hoichi: then, with
their writing-brushes, they traced upon his breast and back, head and face
and neck, limbs and hands and feet,-- even upon the soles of his feet, and
upon all parts of his body,-- the text of the holy sutra called
Hannya-Shin-Kyo.  When this had been done, the priest instructed Hoichi,
"To-night, as soon as I go away, you must seat yourself on the verandah,
and wait. You will be called. But, whatever may happen, do not answer, and
do not move. Say nothing and sit still -- as if meditating. If you stir, or
make any noise, you will be torn asunder. Do not get frightened; and do not
think of calling for help -- because no help could save you. If you do
exactly as I tell you, the danger will pass, and you will have nothing more
After dark the priest and the acolyte went away; and Hoichi seated himself
on the verandah, according to the instructions given him. He laid his biwa
on the planking beside him, and, assuming the attitude of meditation,
remained quite still,-- taking care not to cough, or to breathe audibly.
For hours he stayed thus.
Then, from the roadway, he heard the steps coming. They passed the gate,
crossed the garden, approached the verandah, stopped -- directly in front
"Hoichi!" the deep voice called. But the blind man held his breath, and
"Hoichi!" grimly called the voice a second time. Then a third time --
Hoichi remained as still as a stone,-- and the voice grumbled:--
"No answer! -- that won't do!... Must see where the fellow is."...
There was a noise of heavy feet mounting upon the verandah. The feet
approached deliberately,-- halted beside him. Then, for long minutes,--
during which Hoichi felt his whole body shake to the beating of his
heart,-- there was dead silence.
At last the gruff voice muttered close to him:--
"Here is the biwa; but of the biwa-player I see -- only two ears!... So
that explains why he did not answer: he had no mouth to answer with --
there is nothing left of him but his ears... Now to my lord those ears I
will take -- in proof that the august commands have been obeyed, so far as
At that instant Hoichi felt his ears gripped by fingers of iron, and torn
off! Great as the pain was, he gave no cry. The heavy footfalls receded
along the verandah,-- descended into the garden,-- passed out to the
roadway,-- ceased. From either side of his head, the blind man felt a thick
warm trickling; but he dared not lift his hands...
Before sunrise the priest came back. He hastened at once to the verandah
in the rear, stepped and slipped upon something clammy, and uttered a cry
of horror; -- for he say, by the light of his lantern, that the clamminess
was blood. But he perceived Hoichi sitting there, in the attitude of
meditation -- with the blood still oozing from his wounds.
"My poor Hoichi!" cried the startled priest,-- "what is this?... You have
At the sound of his friend's voice, the blind man felt safe. He burst out
sobbing, and tearfully told his adventure of the night.
"Poor, poor Hoichi!" the priest exclaimed,-- "all my fault! -- my very
grievous fault!... Everywhere upon your body the holy texts had been
written -- except upon your ears! I trusted my acolyte to do that part of
the work; and it was very, very wrong of me not to have made sure that he
had done it!... Well, the matter cannot now be helped; -- we can only try
to heal your hurts as soon as possible... Cheer up, friend! -- the danger
is now well over. You will never again be troubled by those visitors."
With the aid of a good doctor, Hoichi soon recovered from his injuries.
The story of his strange adventure spread far and wide, and soon made him
famous. Many noble persons went to Akamagaseki to hear him recite; and
large presents of money were given to him,-- so that he became a wealthy
man... But from the time of his adventure, he was known only by the
appellation of Mimi-nashi-Hoichi: "Hoichi-the-Earless."
There was a falconer and hunter, named Sonjo, who lived in the district
called Tamura-no-Go, of the province of Mutsu. One day he went out hunting,
and could not find any game. But on his way home, at a place called
Akanuma, he perceived a pair of oshidori  (mandarin-ducks), swimming
together in a river that he was about to cross. to kill oshidori is not
good; but Sonjo happened to be very hungry, and he shot at the pair. His
arrow pierced the male: the female escaped into the rushes of the further
shore, and disappeared. Sonjo took the dead bird home, and cooked it.
That night he dreamed a dreary dream. It seemed to him that a beautiful
woman came into his room, and stood by his pillow, and began to weep. So
bitterly did she weep that Sonjo felt as if his heart were being torn out
while he listened. And the woman cried to him: "Why,-- oh! why did you kill
him? -- of what wrong was he guilty?... At Akanuma we were so happy
together,-- and you killed him!... What harm did he ever do you? Do you
even know what you have done? -- oh! do you know what a cruel, what a
wicked thing you have done?... Me too you have killed,-- for I will not
live without my husband!... Only to tell you this I came."... Then again
she wept aloud,-- so bitterly that the voice of her crying pierced into the
marrow of the listener's bones; -- and she sobbed out the words of this
Sasoeshi mono wo --
Makomo no kure no
Hitori-ne zo uki!
("At the coming of twilight I invited him to return with me --! Now to
sleep alone in the shadow of the rushes of Akanuma -- ah! what misery
And after having uttered these verses she exclaimed:-- "Ah, you do not know
-- you cannot know what you have done! But to-morrow, when you go to
Akanuma, you will see,-- you will see..." So saying, and weeping very
piteously, she went away.
When Sonjo awoke in the morning, this dream remained so vivid in his mind
that he was greatly troubled. He remembered the words:-- "But to-morrow,
when you go to Akanuma, you will see,-- you will see." And he resolved to
go there at once, that he might learn whether his dream was anything more
than a dream.
So he went to Akanuma; and there, when he came to the river-bank, he saw
the female oshidori swimming alone. In the same moment the bird perceived
Sonjo; but, instead of trying to escape, she swam straight towards him,
looking at him the while in a strange fixed way. Then, with her beak, she
suddenly tore open her own body, and died before the hunter's eyes...
Sonjo shaved his head, and became a priest.
THE STORY OF O-TEI
A long time ago, in the town of Niigata, in the province of Echizen, there
lived a man called Nagao Chosei.
Nagao was the son of a physician, and was educated for his father's
profession. At an early age he had been betrothed to a girl called O-Tei,
the daughter of one of his father's friends; and both families had agreed
that the wedding should take place as soon as Nagao had finished his
studies. But the health of O-Tei proved to be weak; and in her fifteenth
year she was attacked by a fatal consumption. When she became aware that
she must die, she sent for Nagao to bid him farewell.
As he knelt at her bedside, she said to him:--
"Nagao-Sama, (1) my betrothed, we were promised to each other from the
time of our childhood; and we were to have been married at the end of this
year. But now I am goingto die; -- the gods know what is best for us. If I
were able to live for some years longer, I could only continue to be a
cause of trouble and grief for others. With this frail body, I could not be
a good wife; and therefore even to wish to live, for your sake, would be a
very selfish wish. I am quite resigned to die; and I want you to promise
that you will not grieve... Besides, I want to tell you that I think we
shall meet again."...
"Indeed we shall meet again," Nagao answered earnestly. "And in that Pure
Land (2) there will be no pain of separation."
"Nay, nay!" she responded softly, "I meant not the Pure Land. I believe
that we are destined to meet again in this world,-- although I shall be
Nagao looked at her wonderingly, and saw her smile at his wonder. She
continued, in her gentle, dreamy voice,--
"Yes, I mean in this world,-- in your own present life, Nagao-Sama...
Providing, indeed, that you wish it. Only, for this thing to happen, I must
again be born a girl, and grow up to womanhood. So you would have to wait.
Fifteen -- sixteen years: that is a long time... But, my promised husband,
you are now only nineteen years old."...
Eager to soothe her dying moments, he answered tenderly:--
"To wait for you, my betrothed, were no less a joy than a duty. We are
pledged to each other for the time of seven existences."
"But you doubt?" she questioned, watching his face.
"My dear one," he answered, "I doubt whether I should be able to know you
in another body, under another name,-- unless you can tell me of a sign or
"That I cannot do," she said. "Only the Gods and the Buddhas know how and
where we shall meet. But I am sure -- very, very sure -- that, if you be
not unwilling to receive me, I shall be able to come back to you...
Remember these words of mine."...
She ceased to speak; and her eyes closed. She was dead.
* * *
Nagao had been sincerely attached to O-Tei; and his grief was deep. He had
a mortuary tablet made, inscribed with her zokumyo;  and he placed the
tablet in his butsudan,  and every day set offerings before it. He
thought a great deal about the strange things that O-Tei had said to him
just before her death; and, in the hope of pleasing her spirit, he wrote a
solemn promise to wed her if she could ever return to him in another body.
This written promise he sealed with his seal, and placed in the butsudan
beside the mortuary tablet of O-Tei.
Nevertheless, as Nagao was an only son, it was necessary that he should
marry. He soon found himself obliged to yield to the wishes of his family,
and to accept a wife of his father's choosing. After his marriage he
continued to set offerings before the tablet of O-Tei; and he never failed
to remember her with affection. But by degrees her image became dim in his
memory,-- like a dream that is hard to recall. And the years went by.
During those years many misfortunes came upon him. He lost his parents by
death,-- then his wife and his only child. So that he found himself alone
in the world. He abandoned his desolate home, and set out upon a long
journey in the hope of forgetting his sorrows.
One day, in the course of his travels, he arrived at Ikao,-- a
mountain-village still famed for its thermal springs, and for the beautiful
scenery of its neighborhood. In the village-inn at which he stopped, a
young girl came to wait upon him; and, at the first sight of her face, he
felt his heart leap as it had never leaped before. So strangely did she
resemble O-Tei that he pinched himself to make sure that he was not
dreaming. As she went and came,-- bringing fire and food, or arranging the
chamber of the guest,-- her every attitude and motion revived in him some
gracious memory of the girl to whom he had been pledged in his youth. He
spoke to her; and she responded in a soft, clear voice of which the
sweetness saddened him with a sadness of other days.
Then, in great wonder, he questioned her, saying:--
"Elder Sister (3), so much do you look like a person whom I knew long ago,
that I was startled when you first entered this room. Pardon me, therefore,
for asking what is your native place, and what is your name?"
Immediately,-- and in the unforgotten voice of the dead,-- she thus made
"My name is O-Tei; and you are Nagao Chosei of Echigo, my promised
husband. Seventeen years ago, I died in Niigata: then you made in writing a
promise to marry me if ever I could come back to this world in the body of
a woman; -- and you sealed that written promise with your seal, and put it
in the butsudan, beside the tablet inscribed with my name. And therefore I
As she uttered these last words, she fell unconscious.
Nagao married her; and the marriage was a happy one. But at no time
afterwards could she remember what she had told him in answer to his
question at Ikao: neither could she remember anything of her previous
existence. The recollection of the former birth,-- mysteriously kindled in
the moment of that meeting,-- had again become obscured, and so thereafter
Three hundred years ago, in the village called Asamimura, in the district
called Onsengori, in the province of Iyo, there lived a good man named
Tokubei. This Tokubei was the richest person in the district, and the
muraosa, or headman, of the village. In most matters he was fortunate; but
he reached the age of forty without knowing the happiness of becoming a
father. Therefore he and his wife, in the affliction of their
childlessness, addressed many prayers to the divinity Fudo Myo O, who had a
famous temple, called Saihoji, in Asamimura.
At last their prayers were heard: the wife of Tokubei gave birth to a
daughter. The child was very pretty; and she received the name of Tsuyu. As
the mother's milk was deficient, a milk-nurse, called O-Sode, was hired for
the little one.
O-Tsuyu grew up to be a very beautiful girl; but at the age of fifteen she
fell sick, and the doctors thought that she was going to die. In that time
the nurse O-Sode, who loved O-Tsuyu with a real mother's love, went to the
temple Saihoji, and fervently prayed to Fudo-Sama on behalf of the girl.
Every day, for twenty-one days, she went to the temple and prayed; and at
the end of that time, O-Tsuyu suddenly and completely recovered.
Then there was great rejoicing in the house of Tokubei; and he gave a
feast to all his friends in celebration of the happy event. But on the
night of the feast the nurse O-Sode was suddenly taken ill; and on the
following morning, the doctor, who had been summoned to attend her,
announced that she was dying.
Then the family, in great sorrow, gathered about her bed, to bid her
farewell. But she said to them:--
"It is time that I should tell you something which you do not know. My
prayer has been heard. I besought Fudo-Sama that I might be permitted to
die in the place of O-Tsuyu; and this great favor has been granted me.
Therefore you must not grieve about my death... But I have one request to
make. I promised Fudo-Sama that I would have a cherry-tree planted in the
garden of Saihoji, for a thank-offering and a commemoration. Now I shall
not be able myself to plant the tree there: so I must beg that you will
fulfill that vow for me... Good-bye, dear friends; and remember that I was
happy to die for O-Tsuyu's sake."
After the funeral of O-Sode, a young cherry-tree,-- the finest that could
be found,-- was planted in the garden of Saihoji by the parents of O-Tsuyu.
The tree grew and flourished; and on the sixteenth day of the second month
of the following year,-- the anniversary of O-Sode's death,-- it blossomed
in a wonderful way. So it continued to blossom for two hundred and
fifty-four years,-- always upon the sixteenth day of the second month; --
and its flowers, pink and white, were like the nipples of a woman's
breasts, bedewed with milk. And the people called it Ubazakura, the
Cherry-tree of the Milk-Nurse.
It had been ordered that the execution should take place in the garden of
the yashiki (1). So the man was taken there, and made to kneel down in a
wide sanded space crossed by a line of tobi-ishi, or stepping-stones, such
as you may still see in Japanese landscape-gardens. His arms were bound
behind him. Retainers brought water in buckets, and rice-bags filled with
pebbles; and they packed the rice-bags round the kneeling man,-- so wedging
him in that he could not move. The master came, and observed the
arrangements. He found them satisfactory, and made no remarks.
Suddenly the condemned man cried out to him:--
"Honored Sir, the fault for which I have been doomed I did not wittingly
commit. It was only my very great stupidity which caused the fault. Having
been born stupid, by reason of my Karma, I could not always help making
mistakes. But to kill a man for being stupid is wrong,-- and that wrong
will be repaid. So surely as you kill me, so surely shall I be avenged; --
out of the resentment that you provoke will come the vengeance; and evil
will be rendered for evil."...
If any person be killed while feeling strong resentment, the ghost of that
person will be able to take vengeance upon the killer. This the samurai
knew. He replied very gently,-- almost caressingly:--
"We shall allow you to frighten us as much as you please -- after you are
dead. But it is difficult to believe that you mean what you say. Will you
try to give us some sign of your great resentment -- after your head has
been cut off?"
"Assuredly I will," answered the man.
"Very well," said the samurai, drawing his long sword; -- "I am now going
to cut off your head. Directly in front of you there is a stepping-stone.
After your head has been cut off, try to bite the stepping-stone. If your
angry ghost can help you to do that, some of us may be frightened... Will
you try to bite the stone?"
"I will bite it!" cried the man, in great anger,-- "I will bite it! -- I
will bite" --
There was a flash, a swish, a crunching thud: the bound body bowed over
the rice sacks,-- two long blood-jets pumping from the shorn neck; -- and
the head rolled upon the sand. Heavily toward the stepping-stone it rolled:
then, suddenly bounding, it caught the upper edge of the stone between its
teeth, clung desperately for a moment, and dropped inert.
None spoke; but the retainers stared in horror at their master. He seemed
to be quite unconcerned. He merely held out his sword to the nearest
attendant, who, with a wooden dipper, poured water over the blade from haft
to point, and then carefully wiped the steel several times with sheets of
soft paper... And thus ended the ceremonial part of the incident.
For months thereafter, the retainers and the domestics lived in ceaseless
fear of ghostly visitation. None of them doubted that the promised
vengeance would come; and their constant terror caused them to hear and to
see much that did not exist. They became afraid of the sound of the wind in
the bamboos,-- afraid even of the stirring of shadows in the garden. At
last, after taking counsel together, they decided to petition their master
to have a Segaki-service (2) performed on behalf of the vengeful spirit.
"Quite unnecessary," the samurai said, when his chief retainer had uttered
the general wish... "I understand that the desire of a dying man for
revenge may be a cause for fear. But in this case there is nothing to
The retainer looked at his master beseechingly, but hesitated to ask the
reason of the alarming confidence.
"Oh, the reason is simple enough," declared the samurai, divining the
unspoken doubt. "Only the very last intention of the fellow could have been
dangerous; and when I challenged him to give me the sign, I diverted his
mind from the desire of revenge. He died with the set purpose of biting the
stepping-stone; and that purpose he was able to accomplish, but nothing
else. All the rest he must have forgotten... So you need not feel any
further anxiety about the matter."
-- And indeed the dead man gave no more trouble. Nothing at all happened.
OF A MIRROR AND A BELL
Eight centuries ago, the priests of Mugenyama, in the province of Totomi
(1), wanted a big bell for their temple; and they asked the women of their
parish to help them by contributing old bronze mirrors for bell-metal.
[Even to-day, in the courts of certain Japanese temples, you may see heaps
of old bronze mirrors contributed for such a purpose. The largest
collection of this kind that I ever saw was in the court of a temple of the
Jodo sect, at Hakata, in Kyushu: the mirrors had been given for the making
of a bronze statue of Amida, thirty-three feet high.]
There was at that time a young woman, a farmer's wife, living at
Mugenyama, who presented her mirror to the temple, to be used for
bell-metal. But afterwards she much regretted her mirror. She remembered
things that her mother had told her about it; and she remembered that it
had belonged, not only to her mother but to her mother's mother and
grandmother; and she remembered some happy smiles which it had reflected.
Of course, if she could have offered the priests a certain sum of money in
place of the mirror, she could have asked them to give back her heirloom.
But she had not the money necessary. Whenever she went to the temple, she
saw her mirror lying in the court-yard, behind a railing, among hundreds of
other mirrors heaped there together. She knew it by the Sho-Chiku-Bai in
relief on the back of it,-- those three fortunate emblems of Pine, Bamboo,
and Plumflower, which delighted her baby-eyes when her mother first showed
her the mirror. She longed for some chance to steal the mirror, and hide
it,-- that she might thereafter treasure it always. But the chance did not
come; and she became very unhappy,-- felt as if she had foolishly given
away a part of her life. She thought about the old saying that a mirror is
the Soul of a Woman -- (a saying mystically expressed, by the Chinese
character for Soul, upon the backs of many bronze mirrors),-- and she
feared that it was true in weirder ways than she had before imagined. But
she could not dare to speak of her pain to anybody.
Now, when all the mirrors contributed for the Mugenyama bell had been sent
to the foundry, the bell-founders discovered that there was one mirror
among them which would not melt. Again and again they tried to melt it; but
it resisted all their efforts. Evidently the woman who had given that
mirror to the temple must have regretted the giving. She had not presented
her offering with all her heart; and therefore her selfish soul, remaining
attached to the mirror, kept it hard and cold in the midst of the furnace.
Of course everybody heard of the matter, and everybody soon knew whose
mirror it was that would not melt. And because of this public exposure of
her secret fault, the poor woman became very much ashamed and very angry.
And as she could not bear the shame, she drowned herself, after having
written a farewell letter containing these words:--
"When I am dead, it will not be difficult to melt the mirror and to cast
the bell. But, to the person who breaks that bell by ringing it, great
wealth will be given by the ghost of me."
-- You must know that the last wish or promise of anybody who dies in
anger, or performs suicide in anger, is generally supposed to possess a
supernatural force. After the dead woman's mirror had been melted, and the
bell had been successfully cast, people remembered the words of that
letter. They felt sure that the spirit of the writer would give wealth to
the breaker of the bell; and, as soon as the bell had been suspended in the
court of the temple, they went in multitude to ring it. With all their
might and main they swung the ringing-beam; but the bell proved to be a
good bell, and it bravely withstood their assaults. Nevertheless, the
people were not easily discouraged. Day after day, at all hours, they
continued to ring the bell furiously,-- caring nothing whatever for the
protests of the priests. So the ringing became an affliction; and the
priests could not endure it; and they got rid of the bell by rolling it
down the hill into a swamp. The swamp was deep, and swallowed it up,-- and
that was the end of the bell. Only its legend remains; and in that legend
it is called the Mugen-Kane, or Bell of Mugen.
* * *
Now there are queer old Japanese beliefs in the magical efficacy of a
certain mental operation implied, though not described, by the verb
nazoraeru. The word itself cannot be adequately rendered by any English
word; for it is used in relation to many kinds of mimetic magic, as well as
in relation to the performance of many religious acts of faith. Common
meanings of nazoraeru, according to dictionaries, are "to imitate," "to
compare," "to liken;" but the esoteric meaning is to substitute, in
imagination, one object or action for another, so as to bring about some
magical or miraculous result.
For example:-- you cannot afford to build a Buddhist temple; but you can
easily lay a pebble before the image of the Buddha, with the same pious
feeling that would prompt you to build a temple if you were rich enough to
build one. The merit of so offering the pebble becomes equal, or almost
equal, to the merit of erecting a temple... You cannot read the six
thousand seven hundred and seventy-one volumes of the Buddhist texts; but
you can make a revolving library, containing them, turn round, by pushing
it like a windlass. and if you push with an earnest wish that you could
read the six thousand seven hundred and seventy-one volumes, you will
acquire the same merit has the reading of them would enable you to gain...
So much will perhaps suffice to explain the religious meanings of
The magical meanings could not all be explained without a great variety of
examples; but, for present purposes, the following will serve. If you
should make a little man of straw, for the same reason that Sister Helen
made a little man of wax,-- and nail it, with nails not less than five
inches long, to some tree in a temple-grove at the Hour of the Ox (2),--
and if the person, imaginatively represented by that little straw man,
should die thereafter in atrocious agony,-- that would illustrate one
signification of nazoraeru... Or, let us suppose that a robber has entered
your house during the night, and carried away your valuables. If you can
discover the footprints of that robber in your garden, and then promptly
burn a very large moxa on each of them, the soles of the feet of the robber
will become inflamed, and will allow him no rest until he returns, of his
own accord, to put himself at your mercy. That is another kind of mimetic
magic expressed by the term nazoraeru. And a third kind is illustrated by
various legends of the Mugen-Kane.
After the bell had been rolled into the swamp, there was, of course, no
more chance of ringing it in such wise as to break it. But persons who
regretted this loss of opportunity would strike and break objects
imaginatively substituted for the bell,-- thus hoping to please the spirit
of the owner of the mirror that had made so much trouble. One of these
persons was a woman called Umegae,-- famed in Japanese legend because of
her relation to Kajiwara Kagesue, a warrior of the Heike clan. While the
pair were traveling together, Kajiwara one day found himself in great
straits for want of money; and Umegae, remembering the tradition of the
Bell of Mugen, took a basin of bronze, and, mentally representing it to be
the bell, beat upon it until she broke it,-- crying out, at the same time,
for three hundred pieces of gold. A guest of the inn where the pair were
stopping made inquiry as to the cause of the banging and the crying, and,
on learning the story of the trouble, actually presented Umegae with three
hundred ryo (3) in gold. Afterwards a song was made about Umegae's basin
of bronze; and that song is sung by dancing girls even to this day:--
Umegae no chozubachi tataite
O-kane ga deru naraba
Mina San mi-uke wo
["If, by striking upon the wash-basin of Umegae, I could make honorable
money come to me, then would I negotiate for the freedom of all my
After this happening, the fame of the Mugen-Kane became great; and many
people followed the example of Umegae,-- thereby hoping to emulate her
luck. Among these folk was a dissolute farmer who lived near Mugenyama, on t
he bank of the Oigawa. Having wasted his substance in riotous living, this
farmer made for himself, out of the mud in his garden, a clay-model of the
Mugen-Kane; and he beat the clay-bell, and broke it,-- crying out the while
for great wealth.
"Then, out of the ground before him, rose up the figure of a white-robed
woman, with long loose-flowing hair, holding a covered jar. And the woman
said: "I have come to answer your fervent prayer as it deserves to be
answered. Take, therefore, this jar." So saying, she put the jar into his
hands, and disappeared.
Into his house the happy man rushed, to tell his wife the good news. He
set down in front of her the covered jar,-- which was heavy,-- and they
opened it together. And they found that it was filled, up to the very brim,
But no! -- I really cannot tell you with what it was filled.
Once, when Muso Kokushi, a priest of the Zen sect, was journeying alone
through the province of Mino (1), he lost his way in a mountain-district
where there was nobody to direct him. For a long time he wandered about
helplessly; and he was beginning to despair of finding shelter for the
night, when he perceived, on the top of a hill lighted by the last rays of
the sun, one of those little hermitages, called anjitsu, which are built
for solitary priests. It seemed to be in ruinous condition; but he hastened
to it eagerly, and found that it was inhabited by an aged priest, from whom
he begged the favor of a night's lodging. This the old man harshly refused;
but he directed Muso to a certain hamlet, in the valley adjoining where
lodging and food could be obtained.
Muso found his way to the hamlet, which consisted of less than a dozen
farm-cottages; and he was kindly received at the dwelling of the headman.
Forty or fifty persons were assembled in the principal apartment, at the
moment of Muso's arrival; but he was shown into a small separate room,
where he was promptly supplied with food and bedding. Being very tired, he
lay down to rest at an early hour; but a little before midnight he was
roused from sleep by a sound of loud weeping in the next apartment.
Presently the sliding-screens were gently pushed apart; and a young man,
carrying a lighted lantern, entered the room, respectfully saluted him, and
"Reverend Sir, it is my painful duty to tell you that I am now the
responsible head of this house. Yesterday I was only the eldest son. But
when you came here, tired as you were, we did not wish that you should feel
embarrassed in any way: therefore we did not tell you that father had died
only a few hours before. The people whom you saw in the next room are the
inhabitants of this village: they all assembled here to pay their last
respects to the dead; and now they are going to another village, about
three miles off,-- for by our custom, no one of us may remain in this
village during the night after a death has taken place. We make the proper
offerings and prayers; -- then we go away, leaving the corpse alone.
Strange things always happen in the house where a corpse has thus been
left: so we think that it will be better for you to come away with us. We
can find you good lodging in the other village. But perhaps, as you are a
priest, you have no fear of demons or evil spirits; and, if you are not
afraid of being left alone with the body, you will be very welcome to the
use of this poor house. However, I must tell you that nobody, except a
priest, would dare to remain here tonight."
Muso made answer:--
"For your kind intention and your generous hospitality and am deeply
grateful. But I am sorry that you did not tell me of your father's death
when I came; -- for, though I was a little tired, I certainly was not so
tired that I should have found difficulty in doing my duty as a priest. Had
you told me, I could have performed the service before your departure. As
it is, I shall perform the service after you have gone away; and I shall
stay by the body until morning. I do not know what you mean by your words
about the danger of staying here alone; but I am not afraid ofghosts or
demons: therefore please to feel no anxiety on my account."
The young man appeared to be rejoiced by these assurances, and expressed
his gratitude in fitting words. Then the other members of the family, and
the folk assembled in the adjoining room, having been told of the priest's
kind promises, came to thank him,-- after which the master of the house
"Now, reverend Sir, much as we regret to leave you alone, we must bid you
farewell. By the rule of our village, none of us can stay here after
midnight. We beg, kind Sir, that you will take every care of your honorable
body, while we are unable to attend upon you. And if you happen to hear or
see anything strange during our absence, please tell us of the matter when
we return in the morning."
All then left the house, except the priest, who went to the room where the
dead body was lying. The usual offerings had been set before the corpse;
and a small Buddhist lamp -- tomyo -- was burning. The priest recited the
service, and performed the funeral ceremonies,-- after which he entered
into meditation. So meditating he remained through several silent hours;
and there was no sound in the deserted village. But, when the hush of the
night was at its deepest, there noiselessly entered a Shape, vague and
vast; and in the same moment Muso found himself without power to move or
speak. He saw that Shape lift the corpse, as with hands, devour it, more
quickly than a cat devours a rat,-- beginning at the head, and eating
everything: the hair and the bones and even the shroud. And the monstrous
Thing, having thus consumed the body, turned to the offerings, and ate them
also. Then it went away, as mysteriously as it had come.
When the villagers returned next morning, they found the priest awaiting
them at the door of the headman's dwelling. All in turn saluted him; and
when they had entered, and looked about the room, no one expressed any
surprise at the disappearance of the dead body and the offerings. But the
master of the house said to Muso:--
"Reverent Sir, you have probably seen unpleasant things during the night:
all of us were anxious about you. But now we are very happy to find you
alive and unharmed. Gladly we would have stayed with you, if it had been
possible. But the law of our village, as I told you last evening, obliges
us to quit our houses after a death has taken place, and to leave the
corpse alone. Whenever this law has been broken, heretofore, some great
misfortune has followed. Whenever it is obeyed, we find that the corpse and
the offerings disappear during our absence. Perhaps you have seen the
Then Muso told of the dim and awful Shape that had entered the
death-chamber to devour the body and the offerings. No person seemed to be
surprised by his narration; and the master of the house observed:--
"What you have told us, reverend Sir, agrees with what has been said about
this matter from ancient time."
Muso then inquired:--
"Does not the priest on the hill sometimes perform the funeral service for
"What priest?" the young man asked.
"The priest who yesterday evening directed me to this village," answered
Muso. "I called at his anjitsu on the hill yonder. He refused me lodging,
but told me the way here."
The listeners looked at each other, as in astonishment; and, after a
moment of silence, the master of the house said:--
"Reverend Sir, there is no priest and there is no anjitsu on the hill. For
the time of many generations there has not been any resident-priest in this
Muso said nothing more on the subject; for it was evident that his kind
hosts supposed him to have been deluded by some goblin. But after having
bidden them farewell, and obtained all necessary information as to his
road, he determined to look again for the hermitage on the hill, and so to
ascertain whether he had really been deceived. He found the anjitsu without
any difficulty; and, this time, its aged occupant invited him to enter.
When he had done so, the hermit humbly bowed down before him, exclaiming:--
"Ah! I am ashamed ! -- I amvery much ashamed! -- I am exceedingly
"You need not be ashamed for having refused me shelter," said Muso. "you
directed me to the village yonder, where I was very kindly treated; and I
thank you for that favor.
"I can give no man shelter," the recluse made answer; -- and it is not for
the refusal that I am ashamed. I am ashamed only that you should have seen
me in my real shape,-- for it was I who devoured the corpse and the
offerings last night before your eyes... Know, reverend Sir, that I am a
jikininki,  -- an eater of human flesh. Have pity upon me, and suffer me
to confess the secret fault by which I became reduced to this condition.
"A long, long time ago, I was a priest in this desolate region. There was
no other priest for many leagues around. So, in that time, the bodies of
the mountain-folk who died used to be brought here,-- sometimes from great
distances,-- in order that I might repeat over them the holy service. But I
repeated the service and performed the rites only as a matter of business;
-- I thought only of the food and the clothes that my sacred profession
enabled me to gain. And because of this selfish impiety I was reborn,
immediately after my death, into the state of a jikininki. Since then I
have been obliged to feed upon the corpses of the people who die in this
district: every one of them I must devour in the way that you saw last
night... Now, reverend Sir, let me beseech you to perform a Segaki-service
 for me: help me by your prayers, I entreat you, so that I may be soon
able to escape from this horrible state of existence"...
No sooner had the hermit uttered this petition than he disappeared; and
the hermitage also disappeared at the same instant. And Muso Kokushi found
himself kneeling alone in the high grass, beside an ancient and moss-grown
tomb of the form called go-rin-ishi,  which seemed to be the tomb of a
On the Akasaka Road, in Tokyo, there is a slope called Kii-no-kuni-zaka,--
which means the Slope of the Province of Kii. I do not know why it is
called the Slope of the Province of Kii. On one side of this slope you see
an ancient moat, deep and very wide, with high green banks rising up to
some place of gardens; -- and on the other side of the road extend the long
and lofty walls of an imperial palace. Before the era of street-lamps and
jinrikishas, this neighborhood was very lonesome after dark; and belated
pedestrians would go miles out of their way rather than mount the
Kii-no-kuni-zaka, alone, after sunset.
All because of a Mujina that used to walk there. (1)
The last man who saw the Mujina was an old merchant of the Kyobashi
quarter, who died about thirty years ago. This is the story, as he told
One night, at a late hour, he was hurrying up the Kii-no-kuni-zaka, when
he perceived a woman crouching by the moat, all alone, and weeping
bitterly. Fearing that she intended to drown herself, he stopped to offer
her any assistance or consolation in his power. She appeared to be a slight
and graceful person, handsomely dressed; and her hair was arranged like
that of a young girl of good family. "O-jochu,"  he exclaimed,
approaching her,-- "O-jochu, do not cry like that!... Tell me what the
trouble is; and if there be any way to help you, I shall be glad to help
you." (He really meant what he said; for he was a very kind man.) But she
continued to weep,-- hiding her face from him with one of her long sleeves.
"O-jochu," he said again, as gently as he could,-- "please, please listen
to me!... This is no place for a young lady at night! Do not cry, I implore
you! -- only tell me how I may be of some help to you!" Slowly she rose up,
but turned her back to him, and continued to moan and sob behind her
sleeve. He laid his hand lightly upon her shoulder, and pleaded:--
"O-jochu! -- O-jochu! -- O-jochu!... Listen to me, just for one little
moment!... O-jochu! -- O-jochu!"... Then that O-jochu turned around, and
dropped her sleeve, and stroked her face with her hand; -- and the man saw
that she had no eyes or nose or mouth,-- and he screamed and ran away. (2)
Up Kii-no-kuni-zaka he ran and ran; and all was black and empty before
him. On and on he ran, never daring to look back; and at last he saw a
lantern, so far away that it looked like the gleam of a firefly; and he
made for it. It proved to be only the lantern of an itinerant soba-seller,
 who had set down his stand by the road-side; but any light and any
human companionship was good after that experience; and he flung himself
down at the feet of the soba-seller, crying out, "Ah! -- aa!! -- aa!!!"...
"Kore! kore!" (3) roughly exclaimed the soba-man. "Here! what is the
matter with you? Anybody hurt you?"
"No -- nobody hurt me," panted the other,-- "only... Ah! -- aa!"
"-- Only scared you?" queried the peddler, unsympathetically. "Robbers?"
"Not robbers,-- not robbers," gasped the terrified man... "I saw... I saw
a woman -- by the moat; -- and she showed me... Ah! I cannot tell you what
she showed me!"...
"He! (4) Was it anything like THIS that she showed you?" cried the
soba-man, stroking his own face --which therewith became like unto an
Egg... And, simultaneously, the light went out.
Nearly five hundred years ago there was a samurai, named Isogai
Heidazaemon Taketsura, in the service of the Lord Kikuji, of Kyushu. This
Isogai had inherited, from many warlike ancestors, a natural aptitude for
military exercises, and extraordinary strength. While yet a boy he had
surpassed his teachers in the art of swordsmanship, in archery, and in the
use of the spear, and had displayed all the capacities of a daring and
skillful soldier. Afterwards, in the time of the Eikyo  war, he so
distinguished himself that high honors were bestowed upon him. But when the
house of Kikuji came to ruin, Isogai found himself without a master. He
might then easily have obtained service under another daimyo; but as he had
never sought distinction for his own sake alone, and as his heart remained
true to his former lord, he preferred to give up the world. so he cut off
his hair, and became a traveling priest,-- taking the Buddhist name of
But always, under the koromo  of the priest, Kwairyo kept warm within
him the heart of the samurai. As in other years he had laughed at peril, so
now also he scorned danger; and in all weathers and all seasons he
journeyed to preach the good Law in places where no other priest would have
dared to go. For that age was an age of violence and disorder; and upon the
highways there was no security for the solitary traveler, even if he
happened to be a priest.
In the course of his first long journey, Kwairyo had occasion to visit the
province of Kai. (1) One evening, as he was traveling through the mountains
of that province, darkness overcame him in a very lonesome district,
leagues away from any village. So he resigned himself to pass the night
under the stars; and having found a suitable grassy spot, by the roadside,
he lay down there, and prepared to sleep. He had always welcomed
discomfort; and even a bare rock was for him a good bed, when nothing
better could be found, and the root of a pine-tree an excellent pillow. His
body was iron; and he never troubled himself about dews or rain or frost or
Scarcely had he lain down when a man came along the road, carrying an axe
and a great bundle of chopped wood. This woodcutter halted on seeing
Kwairyo lying down, and, after a moment of silent observation, said to him
in a tone of great surprise:--
"What kind of a man can you be, good Sir, that you dare to lie down alone
in such a place as this?... There are haunters about here,-- many of them.
are you not afraid of Hairy Things?"
"My friend," cheerfully answered Kwairyo, "I am only a wandering priest,--
a 'Cloud-and-Water-Guest,' as folks call it: Unsui-no-ryokaku. (2) And I am
not in the least afraid of Hairy Things,-- if you mean goblin-foxes, or
goblin-badgers, or any creatures of that kind. As for lonesome places, I
like them: they are suitable for meditation. I am accustomed to sleeping in
the open air: and I have learned never to be anxious aboutmy life."
"You must be indeed a brave man, Sir Priest," the peasant responded, "to
lie down here! This place has a bad name,-- a very bad name. But, as the
proverb has it, Kunshi ayayuki ni chikayorazu ['The superior man does not
needlessly expose himself to peril']; and I must assure you, Sir, that it
is very dangerous to sleep here. Therefore, although my house is only a
wretched thatched hut, let me beg of you to come home with me at once. In
the way of food, I have nothing to offer you; but there is a roof at least,
and you can sleep under it without risk."
He spoke earnestly; and Kwairyo, liking the kindly tone of the man,
accepted this modest offer. The woodcutter guided him along a narrow path,
leading up from the main road through mountain-forest. It was a rough and
dangerous path,-- sometimes skirting precipices,-- sometimes offering
nothing but a network of slippery roots for the foot to rest upon,--
sometimes winding over or between masses of jagged rock. But at last
Kwairyo found himself upon a cleared space at the top of a hill, with a
full moon shining overhead; and he saw before him a small thatched cottage,
cheerfully lighted from within. The woodcutter led him to a shed at the
back of the house, whither water had been conducted, through bamboo-pipes,
from some neighboring stream; and the two men washed their feet. Beyond the
shed was a vegetable garden, and a grove of cedars and bamboos; and beyond
the trees appeared the glimmer of a cascade, pouring from some loftier
height, and swaying in the moonshine like a long white robe.
As Kwairyo entered the cottage with his guide, he perceived four persons
-- men and women -- warming their hands at a little fire kindled in the ro
 of the principle apartment. They bowed low to the priest, and greeted
him in the most respectful manner. Kwairyo wondered that persons so poor,
and dwelling in such a solitude, should be aware of the polite forms of
greeting. "These are good people," he thought to himself; "and they must
have been taught by some one well acquainted with the rules of propriety."
Then turning to his host,-- the aruji, or house-master, as the others
called him,-- Kwairyo said:--
"From the kindness of your speech, and from the very polite welcome given
me by your household, I imagine that you have not always been a woodcutter.
Perhaps you formerly belonged to one of the upper classes?"
Smiling, the woodcutter answered:--
"Sir, you are not mistaken. Though now living as you find me, I was once a
person of some distinction. My story is the story of a ruined life --
ruined by my own fault. I used to be in the service of a daimyo; and my
rank in that service was not inconsiderable. But I loved women and wine too
well; and under the influence of passion I acted wickedly. My selfishness
brought about the ruin of our house, and caused the death of many persons.
Retribution followed me; and I long remained a fugitive in the land. Now I
often pray that I may be able to make some atonement for the evil which I
did, and to reestablish the ancestral home. But I fear that I shall never
find any way of so doing. Nevertheless, I try to overcome the karma of my
errors by sincere repentance, and by helping as afar as I can, those who
Kwairyo was pleased by this announcement of good resolve; and he said to
"My friend, I have had occasion to observe that man, prone to folly in
their youth, may in after years become very earnest in right living. In the
holy sutras it is written that those strongest in wrong-doing can become,
by power of good resolve, the strongest in right-doing. I do not doubt
that you have a good heart; and I hope that better fortune will come to
you. To-night I shall recite the sutras for your sake, and pray that you
may obtain the force to overcome the karma of any past errors."
With these assurances, Kwairyo bade the aruji good-night; and his host
showed him to a very small side-room, where a bed had been made ready. Then
all went to sleep except the priest, who began to read the sutras by the
light of a paper lantern. Until a late hour he continued to read and pray:
then he opened a little window in his little sleeping-room, to take a last
look at the landscape before lying down. The night was beautiful: there
was no cloud in the sky: there was no wind; and the strong moonlight threw
down sharp black shadows of foliage, and glittered on the dews of the
garden. Shrillings of crickets and bell-insects (3) made a musical tumult;
and the sound of the neighboring cascade deepened with the night. Kwairyo
felt thirsty as he listened to the noise of the water; and, remembering the
bamboo aqueduct at the rear of the house, he thought that he could go there
and get a drink without disturbing the sleeping household. Very gently he
pushed apart the sliding-screens that separated his room from the main
apartment; and he saw, by the light of the lantern, five recumbent bodies
-- without heads!
For one instant he stood bewildered,-- imagining a crime. But in another
moment he perceived that there was no blood, and that the headless necks
did not look as if they had been cut. Then he thought to himself:-- "Either
this is an illusion made by goblins, or I have been lured into the dwelling
of a Rokuro-Kubi... (4) In the book Soshinki (5) it is written that if one
find the body of a Rokuro-Kubi without its head, and remove the body to
another place, the head will never be able to join itself again to the
neck. And the book further says that when the head comes back and finds
that its body has been moved, it will strike itself upon the floor three
times,-- bounding like a ball,-- and will pant as in great fear, and
presently die. Now, if these be Rokuro-Kubi, they mean me no good;-- so I
shall be justified in following the instructions of the book."...
He seized the body of the aruji by the feet, pulled it to the window, and
pushed it out. Then he went to the back-door, which he found barred; and he
surmised that the heads had made their exit through the smoke-hole in the
roof, which had been left open. Gently unbarring the door, he made his way
to the garden, and proceeded with all possible caution to the grove beyond
it. He heard voices talking in the grove; and he went in the direction of
the voices,-- stealing from shadow to shadow, until he reached a good
hiding-place. Then, from behind a trunk, he caught sight of the heads,--
all five of them,-- flitting about, and chatting as they flitted. They were
eating worms and insects which they found on the ground or among the trees.
Presently the head of the aruji stopped eating and said:--
"Ah, that traveling priest who came to-night!-- how fat all his body is!
When we shall have eaten him, our bellies will be well filled... I was
foolish to talk to him as I did;-- it only set him to reciting the sutras
on behalf of my soul! To go near him while he is reciting would be
difficult; and we cannot touch him so long as he is praying. But as it is
now nearly morning, perhaps he has gone to sleep... Some one of you go to
the house and see what the fellow is doing."
Another head -- the head of a young woman -- immediately rose up and
flitted to the house, lightly as a bat. After a few minutes it came back,
and cried out huskily, in a tone of great alarm:--
"That traveling priest is not in the house;-- he is gone! But that is not
the worst of the matter. He has taken the body of our aruji; and I do not
know where he has put it."
At this announcement the head of the aruji -- distinctly visible in the
moonlight -- assumed a frightful aspect: its eyes opened monstrously; its
hair stood up bristling; and its teeth gnashed. Then a cry burst from its
lips; and -- weeping tears of rage -- it exclaimed:--
"Since my body has been moved, to rejoin it is not possible! Then I must
die!... And all through the work of that priest! Before I die I will get at
that priest! -- I will tear him! -- I will devour him!... AND THERE HE IS
-- behind that tree! -- hiding behind that tree! See him ! -- the fat
In the same moment the head of the aruji, followed by the other four
heads, sprang at Kwairyo. But the strong priest had already armed himself
by plucking up a young tree; and with that tree he struck the heads as they
came,-- knocking them from him with tremendous blows. Four of them fled
away. But the head of the aruji, though battered again and again,
desperately continued to bound at the priest, and at last caught him by the
left sleeve of his robe. Kwairyo, however, as quickly gripped the head by
its topknot, and repeatedly struck it. It did not release its hold; but it
uttered a long moan, and thereafter ceased to struggle. It was dead. But
its teeth still held the sleeve; and, for all his great strength, Kwairyo
could not force open the jaws.
With the head still hanging to his sleeve he went back to the house, and
there caught sight of the other four Rokuro-Kubi squatting together, with
their bruised and bleeding heads reunited to their bodies. But when they
perceived him at the back-door all screamed, "The priest! the priest!" --
and fled, through the other doorway, out into the woods.
Eastward the sky was brightening; day was about to dawn; and Kwairyo knew
that the power of the goblins was limited to the hours of darkness. He
looked at the head clinging to his sleeve,-- its face all fouled with blood
and foam and clay; and he laughed aloud as he thought to himself: "What a
miyage!  -- the head of a goblin!" After which he gathered together his
few belongings, and leisurely descended the mountain to continue his
Right on he journeyed, until he came to Suwa in Shinano; (6) and into the
main street of Suwa he solemnly strode, with the head dangling at his
elbow. Then woman fainted, and children screamed and ran away; and there
was a great crowding and clamoring until the torite (as the police in those
days were called) seized the priest, and took him to jail. For they
supposed the head to be the head of a murdered man who, in the moment of
being killed, had caught the murderer's sleeve in his teeth. As the
Kwairyo, he only smiled and said nothing when they questioned him. So,
after having passed a night in prison, he was brought before the
magistrates of the district. Then he was ordered to explain how he, a
priest, had been found with the head of a man fastened to his sleeve, and
why he had dared thus shamelessly to parade his crime in the sight of
Kwairyo laughed long and loudly at these questions; and then he said: --
"Sirs, I did not fasten the head to my sleeve: it fastened itself there --
much against my will. And I have not committed any crime. For this is not
the head of a man; it is the head of a goblin; -- and, if I caused the
death of the goblin, I did not do so by any shedding of blood, but simply
by taking the precautions necessary to assure my own safety."... And he
proceeded to relate the whole of the adventure, -- bursting into another
hearty laugh as he told of his encounter with the five heads.
But the magistrates did not laugh. They judged him to be a hardened
criminal, and his story an insult to their intelligence. Therefore, without
further questioning, they decided to order his immediate execution, -- all
of them except one, a very old man. This aged officer had made no remark
during the trial; but, after having heard the opinion of his colleagues, he
rose up, and said: --
"Let us first examine the head carefully; for this, I think, has not yet
been done. If the priest has spoken truth, the head itself should bear
witness for him... Bring the head here!"
So the head, still holding in its teeth the koromo that had been stripped
from Kwairyo's shoulders, was put before the judges. The old man turned it
round and round, carefully examined it, and discovered, on the nape of its
neck, several strange red characters. He called the attention of his
colleagues to these, and also bad them observe that the edges of the neck
nowhere presented the appearance of having been cut by any weapon. On the
contrary, the line of leverance was smooth as the line at which a falling
leaf detaches itself from the stem... Then said the elder: --
"I am quite sure that the priest told us nothing but the truth. This is
the head of a Rokuro-Kubi. In the book Nan-ho-i-butsu-shi it is written
that certain red characters can always be found upon the nape of the neck
of a real Rokuro-Kubi. There are the characters: you can see for yourselves
that they have not been painted. Moreover, it is well known that such
goblins have been dwelling in the mountains of the province of Kai from
very ancient time... But you, Sir," he exclaimed, turning to Kwairyo, --
"what sort of sturdy priest may you be? Certainly you have given proof of a
courage that few priests possess; and you have the air of a soldier rather
than a priest. Perhaps you once belonged to the samurai-class?"
"You have guessed rightly, Sir," Kwairyo responded. "Before becoming a
priest, I long followed the profession of arms; and in those days I never
feared man or devil. My name then was Isogai Heidazaemon Taketsura of
Kyushu: there may be some among you who remember it."
At the mention of that name, a murmur of admiration filled the
court-room.; for there were many present who remembered it. And Kwairyo
immediately found himself among friends instead of judges, -- friends
anxious to prove their admiration by fraternal kindness. With honor they
escorted him to the residence of the daimyo, who welcomed him, and feasted
him, and made him a handsome present before allowing him to depart. When
Kwairyo left Suwa, he was as happy as any priest is permitted to be in this
transitory world. As for the head, he took it with him, -- jocosely
insisting that he intended it for a miyage.
And now it only remains to tell what became of the head.
A day or two after leaving Suwa, Kwairyo met with a robber, who stopped
him in a lonesome place, and bade him strip. Kwairyo at once removed his
koromo, and offered it to the robber, who then first perceived what was
hanging to the sleeve. Though brave, the highwayman was startled: he
dropped the garment, and sprang back. Then he cried out:-- "You! -- what
kind of a priest are you? Why, you are a worse man than I am! It is true
that I have killed people; but I never walked about with anybody's head
fastened to my sleeve... Well, Sir priest, I suppose we are of the same
calling; and I must say that I admire you!... Now that head would be of use
to me: I could frighten people with it. Will you sell it? You can have my
robe in exchange for your koromo; and I will give you five ryo for the
"I shall let you have the head and the robe if you insist; but I must tell
you that this is not the head of a man. It is a goblin's head. So, if you
buy it, and have any trouble in consequence, please to remember that you
were not deceived by me."
"What a nice priest you are!" exclaimed the robber. "You kill men, and
jest about it!... But I am really in earnest. Here is my robe; and here is
the money;-- and let me have the head... What is the use of joking?"
"Take the thing," said Kwairyo. "I was not joking. The only joke -- if
there be any joke at all -- is that you are fool enough to pay good money
for a goblin's head." And Kwairyo, loudly laughing, went upon his way.
Thus the robber got the head and the koromo; and for some time he played
goblin-priest upon the highways. But, reaching the neighborhood of Suwa, he
there leaned the true story of the head; and he then became afraid that the
spirit of the Rokuro-Kubi might give him trouble. So he made up his mind to
take back the head to the place from which it had come, and to bury it with
its body. He found his way to the lonely cottage in the mountains of Kai;
but nobody was there, and he could not discover the body. Therefore he
buried the head by itself, in the grove behind the cottage; and he had a
tombstone set up over the grave; and he caused a Segaki-service to be
performed on behalf of the spirit of the Rokuro-Kubi. And that tombstone --
known as the Tombstone of the Rokuro-Kubi -- may be seen (at least so the
Japanese story-teller declares) even unto this day.
A DEAD SECRET
A long time ago, in the province of Tamba (1), there lived a rich merchant
named Inamuraya Gensuke. He had a daughter called O-Sono. As she was very
clever and pretty, he thought it would be a pity to let her grow up with
only such teaching as the country-teachers could give her: so he sent her,
in care of some trusty attendants, to Kyoto, that she might be trained in
the polite accomplishments taught to the ladies of the capital. After she
had thus been educated, she was married to a friend of her father's family
-- a merchant named Nagaraya;-- and she lived happily with him for nearly
four years. They had one child, -- a But O-Sono fell ill and died, in the
fourth year after her marriage.
On the night after the funeral of O-Sono, her little son said that his
mamma had come back, and was in the room upstairs. She had smiled at him,
but would not talk to him: so he became afraid, and ran away. Then some of
the family went upstairs to the room which had been O-Sono's; and they were
startled to see, by the light of a small lamp which had been kindled before
a shrine in that room, the figure of the dead mother. She appeared as if
standing in front of a tansu, or chest of drawers, that still contained her
ornaments and her wearing-apparel. Her head and shoulders could be very
distinctly seen; but from the waist downwards the figure thinned into
invisibility;-- it was like an imperfect reflection of her, and transparent
as a shadow on water.
Then the folk were afraid, and left the room. Below they consulted
together; and the mother of O-Sono's husband said: "A woman is fond of her
small things; and O-Sono was much attached to her belongings. Perhaps she
has come back to look at them. Many dead persons will do that, -- unless
the things be given to the parish-temple. If we present O-Sono's robes and
girdles to the temple, her spirit will probably find rest."
I was agreed that this should be done as soon as possible. So on the
following morning the drawers were emptied; and all of O-Sono's ornaments
and dresses were taken to the temple. But she came back the next night, and
looked at the tansu as before. And she came back also on the night
following, and the night after that, and every night; -- and the house
became a house of fear.
The mother of O-Sono's husband then went to the parish-temple, and told
the chief priest all that had happened, and asked for ghostly counsel. The
temple was a Zen temple; and the head-priest was a learned old man, known
as Daigen Osho. He said: "There must be something about which she is
anxious, in or near that tansu." -- "But we emptied all the drawers,"
replied the woman; -- "there is nothing in the tansu." -- "Well," said
Daigen Osho, "to-night I shall go to your house, and keep watch in that
room, and see what can be done. You must give orders that no person shall
enter the room while I am watching, unless I call."
After sundown, Daigen Osho went to the house, and found the room made
ready for him. He remained there alone, reading the sutras; and nothing
appeared until after the Hour of the Rat.  Then the figure of O-Sono
suddenly outlined itself in front of the tansu. Her face had a wistful
look; and she kept her eyes fixed upon the tansu.
The priest uttered the holy formula prescribed in such cases, and then,
addressing the figure by the kaimyo  of O-Sono, said: -- "I have come
here in order to help you. Perhaps in that tansu there is something about
which you have reason to feel anxious. Shall I try to find it for you?" The
shadow appeared to give assent by a slight motion of the head; and the
priest, rising, opened the top drawer. It was empty. Successively he opened
the second, the third, and the fourth drawer; -- he searched carefully
behind them and beneath them;-- he carefully examined the interior of the
chest. He found nothing. But the figure remained gazing as wistfully as
before. "What can she want?" thought the priest. Suddenly it occurred to
him that there might be something hidden under the paper with which the
drawers were lined. He removed the lining of the first drawer:-- nothing!
He removed the lining of the second and third drawers:-- still nothing. But
under the lining of the lowermost drawer he found -- a letter. "Is this the
thing about which you have been troubled?" he asked. The shadow of the
woman turned toward him, -- her faint gaze fixed upon the letter. "Shall I
burn it for you?" he asked. She bowed before him. "It shall be burned in
the temple this very morning," he promised;-- "and no one shall read it,
except myself." The figure smiled and vanished.
Dawn was breaking as the priest descended the stairs, to find the family
waiting anxiously below. "Do not be anxious," he said to them: "She will
not appear again." And she never did.
The letter was burned. It was a love-letter written to O-Sono in the time
of her studies at Kyoto. But the priest alone knew what was in it; and the
secret died with him.
In a village of Musashi Province (1), there lived two woodcutters: Mosaku
and Minokichi. At the time of which I am speaking, Mosaku was an old man;
and Minokichi, his apprentice, was a lad of eighteen years. Every day they
went together to a forest situated about five miles from their village. On
the way to that forest there is a wide river to cross; and there is a
ferry-boat. Several times a bridge was built where the ferry is; but the
bridge was each time carried away by a flood. No common bridge can resist
the current there when the river rises.
Mosaku and Minokichi were on their way home, one very cold evening, when a
great snowstorm overtook them. They reached the ferry; and they found that
the boatman had gone away, leaving his boat on the other side of the river.
It was no day for swimming; and the woodcutters took shelter in the
ferryman's hut, -- thinking themselves lucky to find any shelter at all.
There was no brazier in the hut, nor any place in which to make a fire: it
was only a two-mat  hut, with a single door, but no window. Mosaku and
Minokichi fastened the door, and lay down to rest, with their straw
rain-coats over them. At first they did not feel very cold; and they
thought that the storm would soon be over.
The old man almost immediately fell asleep; but the boy, Minokichi, lay
awake a long time, listening to the awful wind, and the continual slashing
of the snow against the door. The river was roaring; and the hut swayed and
creaked like a junk at sea. It was a terrible storm; and the air was every
moment becoming colder; and Minokichi shivered under his rain-coat. But at
last, in spite of the cold, he too fell asleep.
He was awakened by a showering of snow in his face. The door of the hut
had been forced open; and, by the snow-light (yuki-akari), he saw a woman
in the room, -- a woman all in white. She was bending above Mosaku, and
blowing her breath upon him;-- and her breath was like a bright white
smoke. Almost in the same moment she turned to Minokichi, and stooped over
him. He tried to cry out, but found that he could not utter any sound. The
white woman bent down over him, lower and lower, until her face almost
touched him; and he saw that she was very beautiful, -- though her eyes
made him afraid. For a little time she continued to look at him;-- then she
smiled, and she whispered:-- "I intended to treat you like the other man.
But I cannot help feeling some pity for you, -- because you are so young...
You are a pretty boy, Minokichi; and I will not hurt you now. But, if you
ever tell anybody -- even your own mother -- about what you have seen this
night, I shall know it; and then I will kill you... Remember what I say!"
With these words, she turned from him, and passed through the doorway.
Then he found himself able to move; and he sprang up, and looked out. But
the woman was nowhere to be seen; and the snow was driving furiously into
the hut. Minokichi closed the door, and secured it by fixing several
billets of wood against it. He wondered if the wind had blown it open;-- he
thought that he might have been only dreaming, and might have mistaken the
gleam of the snow-light in the doorway for the figure of a white woman: but
he could not be sure. He called to Mosaku, and was frightened because the
old man did not answer. He put out his hand in the dark, and touched
Mosaku's face, and found that it was ice! Mosaku was stark and dead...
By dawn the storm was over; and when the ferryman returned to his station,
a little after sunrise, he found Minokichi lying senseless beside the
frozen body of Mosaku. Minokichi was promptly cared for, and soon came to
himself; but he remained a long time ill from the effects of the cold of
that terrible night. He had been greatly frightened also by the old man's
death; but he said nothing about the vision of the woman in white. As soon
as he got well again, he returned to his calling,-- going alone every
morning to the forest, and coming back at nightfall with his bundles of
wood, which his mother helped him to sell.
One evening, in the winter of the following year, as he was on his way
home, he overtook a girl who happened to be traveling by the same road. She
was a tall, slim girl, very good-looking; and she answered Minokichi's
greeting in a voice as pleasant to the ear as the voice of a song-bird.
Then he walked beside her; and they began to talk. The girl said that her
name was O-Yuki ; that she had lately lost both of her parents; and that
she was going to Yedo (2), where she happened to have some poor relations,
who might help her to find a situation as a servant. Minokichi soon felt
charmed by this strange girl; and the more that he looked at her, the
handsomer she appeared to be. He asked her whether she was yet betrothed;
and she answered, laughingly, that she was free. Then, in her turn, she
asked Minokichi whether he was married, or pledge to marry; and he told her
that, although he had only a widowed mother to support, the question of an
"honorable daughter-in-law" had not yet been considered, as he was very
young... After these confidences, they walked on for a long while without
speaking; but, as the proverb declares, Ki ga areba, me mo kuchi hodo ni
mono wo iu: "When the wish is there, the eyes can say as much as the
mouth." By the time they reached the village, they had become very much
pleased with each other; and then Minokichi asked O-Yuki to rest awhile at
his house. After some shy hesitation, she went there with him; and his
mother made her welcome, and prepared a warm meal for her. O-Yuki behaved
so nicely that Minokichi's mother took a sudden fancy to her, and persuaded
her to delay her journey to Yedo. And the natural end of the matter was
that Yuki never went to Yedo at all. She remained in the house, as an
O-Yuki proved a very good daughter-in-law. When Minokichi's mother came to
die,-- some five years later,-- her last words were words of affection and
praise for the wife of her son. And O-Yuki bore Minokichi ten children,
boys and girls,-- handsome children all of them, and very fair of skin.
The country-folk thought O-Yuki a wonderful person, by nature different
from themselves. Most of the peasant-women age early; but O-Yuki, even
after having become the mother of ten children, looked as young and fresh
as on the day when she had first come to the village.
One night, after the children had gone to sleep, O-Yuki was sewing by the
light of a paper lamp; and Minokichi, watching her, said:--
"To see you sewing there, with the light on your face, makes me think of a
strange thing that happened when I was a lad of eighteen. I then saw
somebody as beautiful and white as you are now -- indeed, she was very like
Without lifting her eyes from her work, O-Yuki responded:--
"Tell me about her... Where did you see her?
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