Ugetsu Monogatari (Tales of Moonlight and Rain) (雨月物語)
It consists of five volumes. A preface was written in 1768, and the book was published in 1776. It comprises nine short tales of the supernatural adapted from Japanese and Chinese classics. It is a representative work of Japanese literature in the early modern times, and often mentioned even today (See Adaptations).
Although there are some different conjectures, "Ugetsu Monogatari" was written from 1768 to 1776 (See How the book was published), and it was published in 1776 by Hanbei UMEMURA of Teramachi-dori Street, Kyoto and Chobei NOMURA of Osaka Koraibashi-suji (street). It had five volumes in total and consisted of nine stories. The illustrations were drawn by Munenobu KATSURA, who also drew illustrations for "Shigeshige Yawa" by Teisho TSUGA, which had great influence on "Ugetsu Monogatari." Each story has one illustration, except for 'A Serpent's Lust,' a medium-length story that has two illustrations.
"Ugetsu Monogatari" was published under the name of 'Senshi Kijin (strange man cutting branches),' and after his death it came to be revealed that the author would have been Akinari UEDA. Also, the book sold in numbers that were only moderate at that time, so it is conjectured that, unlike today, it wasn't necessarily popular or highly evaluated.
In literary history, "Ugetsu Monogatari" is considered to be an early yomihon like "The Tales of Nishiyama," written by Ayatari TAKEBE, between the periods of the Genroku and Kasei cultures or the Anei and Temmei cultural periods during which ukiyozoshi was becoming obsolete. It had a great influence on later Kyoden SANTO and Bakin KYOKUTEI.
The majority of the content had been adapted from Chinese hakuwa shosetsu (Chinese novels). However, it is wrong to take the work as a literary theft or plagiarism because of this. It should be noted that Akinari brought his work to a higher state than the original, adapting classics of the day such as by using a poetic device of Honkadori in composing waka poems; he wrote in an elegant style, interweaving Japanese writing, mixing Japanese elements and his original parts, adding his thoughts.
The stories were arranged in the following order, and Mamoru TAKADA advocated a theory that the order of the story reflected the author's deep thinking. In short, some elements of the previous story were linked with the contents of the next story, which formed a circular structure.
Shiramine - When Saigyo visits Sanuki Province and pays reverence at Shiramine no Misasagi, as a layman visiting the imperial mausoleum of Emperor Sutoku, he meets a departed spirit of the Emperor and argues with him.
Collected in Book 1
The Chrysanthemum Vow - A man who has killed himself becomes a ghost and appears to keep a promise with his best friend on the night of the agreed day.
Collected in Book 2
(See The Chrysanthemum Vow)
The Reed-Choked House - During an age of confusion, a man who has separated from his wife and left for Kyo to try to make his fortune is to meet his wife, who becomes a ghost, after seven years.
Collected in Book 2
(See The Reed-Choked House)
The Carp of My Dreams - A monk who is in a coma turns into a carp and swims around in his dream.
Collected in Book 3
(See The Carp of My Dreams)
The Owl of the Three Jewels - A traveling parent and child see a feast held by Hidetsugu TOYOTOMI and his retainers, who are vengeful ghosts, and have scary experiences at Mt. Koya.
Collected in Book 3
(See The Owl of the Three Jewels)
The Kibitsu Cauldron - A woman whose lecherous husband betrays her and has an affair with another woman curses and kills him.
Collected in Book 3
(See The Kibitsu Cauldron)
A Serpent's Lust - A man is stalked by a woman who is an incarnation of a serpent, but she is at last destroyed by a monk of the Dojo-ji Temple.
Collected in Book 4
(See A Serpent's Lust)
The Blue Hood - A traveling monk, Myokei Kaian, leads an abbot to deliverance, who has been attracted by a servant boy and turned into an ogre.
Collected in Book 5
(See The Blue Hood)
On Poverty and Wealth - Sanai OKANO is a samurai who loves money; the spirit of gold appears at his bedside taking the form of an old dwarf, and talks about the relationship between money and the person who spends it.
Collected in Book 5
(See On Poverty and Wealth)
How the book was published
Akinari UEDA wrote his first work of fiction, "Shodo kikimimi sekenzaru" (A Worldly Monkey Who Hears About Everything) in 1766, and then wrote the ukiyo zoshi (popular stories of everyday life in the Edo period) "Seken tekake katagi (Characters of Worldly Mistresses)" in 1767. In the preface of "Ugetsu Monogatari" there is a description '明和戊子晩春,' which indicates that "Tales of Moonlight and Rain" was completed in the late spring of 1768. However, "Ugetsu Monogatari" was actually published in 1776, eight years after its completion.
Here is a mystery of the creation of "Ugetsu Monogatari." In other words, there are questions about whether "Ugetsu Monogatari" was really finished in 1768 as the preface said, and what is meant by the long period of eight years before its publication. After a study conducted by Takeshi YAMAGUCHI, which was followed by Tomoki SHIGE and Yukihiko NAKAMURA, it was generally considered that the work was roughly complete as a manuscript in 1768, and that the author spent the following eight years working on the choice of diction. The previous two works, "Sekenzaru" and "Tekake katagi," belonged to the ukiyo zoshi. And an announcement of forthcoming titles at the end of "Tekake" shows two works of "Tidings from a Cargo Ship in Various Provinces" and "Saigyo Stories: Poetic Sites Bundled in a Dyed Cloth," and Akinari seems to have intended to write Ukiyo zoshi, which supported the conjecture.
However, Mamoru TAKADA pointed out that there was a tendency to look down on Ukiyo zoshi in those days if the conjecture was put the other way around. He also advocated his theory that the stories were written roughly in the order stated in the preface. In short, these two Ukiyo zoshi works, "Sekenzaru" and "Tekake katagi," and the Yomihon "Tales of Moonlight and Rain" were series. Also, 'A Serpent's Lust' in Book 4 was known for its inconsistency in counting the number of days, but Yasuhiro OWA refuted this. If 'A Serpent's Lust' was written in 1767, a year before the preface was written, and one takes into consideration the year 1767, which had a leap ninth month, these dates in the work become coherent.
This theory doesn't make it clear what the author was doing with "Ugetsu Monogatari" during the eight years after completing the manuscript, but in 1771 and 1772 Chobei NOMURA and Hanbei UMEMURA respectively issued announcements of the forthcoming title of "Ugetsu Monogatari." After Akinari lost his family business (Shimaya) in a fire in 1771, he began to study medicine under Teisho TSUGA and opened a hospital. Takeo BANDO admitted that a theory advocated by TAKADA was commonly accepted, but both theories had no conclusive evidences and he pointed out that it would be difficult to deny the possibility of revising the work for the eight years until the book was published.
"Hanabusa Soshi" and "Shigeshige Yawa," written by Teisho TSUGA, influenced the work.
When Akinari published his first ukiyo zoshi, "Shodo kikimimi sekenzaru" in 1766, Teisho TSUGA brought out "Shigeshige Yawa." This work and his previous work, "Hanabusa Soshi," were different from the ukiyo zoshi that had been in fashion until then, and should be called the first yomihon whose original texts (hakuwa shosetsu) were evident, emphasizing a Chinese flavor. It was around the time that the freshness of ukiyo zoshi, whose pioneer was Saikaku IHARA, had faded and its popularity was declining. Akinari stopped writing the ukiyo zoshi that was scheduled to be published, and started writing "Ugetsu Monogatari" under the influence of the works by Teisho.
The period in which "Ugetsu Monogatari" was written is not clear, as mentioned above, but Akinari studied medicine either before or after it was written. And he came to live as a doctor. It is not certain how much he learned other than medicine (such as hakuwa shosetsu) from Teisho, but "Ugetsu Monogatari" itself would be evidence of the influence.
For example, it consists of five volumes and has nine stories; each of the eight short-length stories has an illustration covering two facing pages, but one medium-length story includes two illustrations ('A Serpent's Lust'), which is the same as the yomihon work by Teisho. Regarding the difference in style, the expression of titles is different; Teisho put a long title such as 'The story of Emperor Godaigo, who rejected the fujifusa's advice three times' as the first story in "Hanabusa Soshi," and 'The story of talking about souls and the scene of clouds that promise long-lasting relationships' as the first story in "Shigeshige Yawa," while "Ugetsu Monogatari" has short titles like 'Shiramine,' which is the first story, and 'The Chrysanthemum Vow,' which is the second. As for the contents, it takes the form of yomihon without focusing on each scene but on the development of the plot and the human nature of the character; and it targets intellectuals, incorporating his ideas, view of history and arguments in the work.
A mentor, Miki KATO
An influence of KAMO no Mabuchi, a classical Japanese scholar, seems to have lay behind the author, Akinari, of "Ugetsu Monogatari," especially in the character of Saigyo in 'Shiramine.'
Akinari had been studying alone about Keichu until then, and he became a disciple of Miki KATO (his family name is also known as FUJIWARA or KAWAZU, and first name Umaki), a classical Japanese scholar, before or after writing "Ugetsu Monogatari." Miki was also a high disciple of Mabuchi. Akinari had been an intelligent 'Noramono' (means a lazybones in Kansai dialect) until then, but after he was taught by Miki, his thought was deepened and knowledge of the classics was organized systematically, which meant a lot to him. It could be considered that such influences were reflected in "Ugetsu Monogatari."
The writing style of "Ugetsu Monogatari" also suggests it. It can be said that Teisho's works were written in Wakan Konkobun (writing in literary Japanese and Chinese words), but that they had a stronger Chinese flavor. However, "Ugestu Monogatari" transformed the style of the original text, hakuwa shosetsu, into a unique style that was a mixture of Chinese and Japanese. It is reasonable that his mentor Miki's teaching formed the style.
Origin of the title "Ugetsu Monogatari"
Where did the title "Ugetsu Monogatari" come from?
The preface written by Akinari says, 'I edited this at night with a hazy moon after the rain, to hand it to a publisher. That's why this is titled Ugetsu Monogatari.'
Also, it should be noted that descriptions of rain and moon are used a lot as omens for unnatural phenomenon in the story.
And some people considered that this is just an official reason and the author's self-concealment, constructing another theory.
Takeshi YAMAGUCHI advocated a theory that it was based on the Yokyoku "Rain and Moon" in which Saigyo appears as a waki, but Hiroaki NAGASHIMA denied it because it had little to do with the contents of 'Shiramine.'
Also, Tomoki SHIGE claimed that the title came from a passage in "Sento-shinwa" and "Botanto-ki"; 'The night which the sky turns dark to rain, the moon which goes down to dawn,' which sometimes appears in "Ugetsu Monogatari" as well. Mamoru TAKADA considered that Akinari would have been familiar with both of them, so it was not necessary to think one of them was correct.
Preface to Tales of Moonlight and Rain
Lo Kuan-chung wrote "Suikoden (Water Margin)." After that, mutes are born in his family for three generations in a row. Murasaki Shikibu wrote "The Tale of Genji." After that, she went down to Hell one time. That's because the karma of her writing fake stories as true ones had come back to her.
However, what about their tales?
The scenes, which I can't imagine, are fascinating. The cadence of the sentences is vivid such as birds are warbling and stop warbling. The intonations are excellent. They are good for readers to feel empathy for. It seems as if the tales are real and they show us the facts of today in ancient times. It just so happens that I have an empty story that deserves to talk in this piping time of peace.
If I let it out as I want to speak,
It would be a strange story as if pheasants crow and dragons fight. I think about the randomness of it. The readers of this book would not take it as true stories from the beginning.
If I write stories that are originally known as fakes,
Would I pay the piper of the karma like Lo Kuan-chung or Murasaki Shikibu and have cleft-lipped and nose-lacking babies in my family in the future?
Late spring, year 5 of the Meiwa era
I edited this book at night with a hazy moon after the rain, to hand it to a publisher. That's why this is titled "Ugetsu Monogatari (The Tales of Moon and Rain)." Senshi-Kijin (strange man cutting branches) wrote.
The sentences mentioned above are the entire preface to "Tales of Moonlight and Rain." It suggests that Akinari UEDA was enthusiastic about writing "Tales of Moonlight and Rain," and offers insight about how it was written. In this writing, Akinari took "The Tale of Genji" by Murasaki Shikibu and "Water Margin" by Lo Kuan-chung as examples of authors who wrote masterpieces that were true to life and then fell into a dreadful realm (a tradition saying that Murasaki Shikibu went to Hell was recorded in both "Hobutsushu" written by TAIRA no Yasuyori during the Jisho era and "The Tales of Ima," considered to have been written by FUJIWARA no Nobuzane after the Eno period, while the traditional story that Lo Kuan-chung's offspring over three generations became dumb was according to "Seiko Yuran Shiyo" (edited by Josei DEN in Ming) and "Hsu wen-hsien t'ung-k'ao"). And he wrote that an author who wrote "Ugetsu Monogatari," which was imperfect and absurd, wouldn't have such a terrible experience, pretending to be humble. However, he can't have compared his works with "The Tale of Genji" and "Water Margin," which were considered masterpieces in those days, if he really thought his stories were terrible.
Also, an attempt is being carried out to find Akinari's true intention by focusing on the signature at the end, 'Senshi Kijin (strange man cutting branches) wrote.'
In this 'Senshi Kijin (剪枝畸人),' '枝' means 'arms and legs' and also indicates 'fingers,' so the signature is Akinari's mocking the middle finger of right hand and index finger of the left hand, which became disabled when he was a child. It should be noted that he made this signature in spite of writing that he was sure he wouldn't have such a terrible experience. Also, Mitsutoshi NAKANO pointed out that this was derived from "Soshi (a book)."
Jinkansei, of "Soshi," says of a tree that bears a useful fruit, 'limbs are broken, twigs are stored,' and that a useless tree 'is never clipped.'
In short, 'Senshi (剪枝)' might mean that he thought his fingers (枝) were broken (剪) because he was a useful man. The latter part of 'Kijin (畸人)' is associated with a part of Daisoshi-hen.
It says, 'Kijin is not a human but is equal to Heaven.'
Therefore, 'Senshi Kijin' can be an arrogant claim that unlike Murasaki Shikibu and Lo Kuan-chung, who had undergone terrible experiences after they wrote the books, the author of "Ugetsu Monogatari" was punished by birth and was equivalent to Heaven. It would suggest how much Akinari was self-confident about "Ugetsu Monogatari."
Shiramine' begins with Michiyukibun (rhymed description of scenes reflected in the eyes of a traveler) by Saigyo, who has traveled around the country.
This part is based on the two books that were attributed to Saigyo at that time: "Senjusho" (Selected Stories) Book 1, 'About Shiramine, Shinin's Mausoleum,' and Book 2, 'About Eigen zojo of Kerinin.'
Saigyo visits Shiramine to pray for the repose of the soul of his old master Emperor Sutoku, chants Buddhist sutras and makes a poem.
The wave lapping onto the Matsuyama shore is unchanged as before, while you are so changed.'
Then Saigyo hears somebody call him, 'Eni, Eni.'
An ode in reply says, 'I drifted with the waves to this far Matsuyama. I could not paddle back to Kyo to be an ogre under a foreign sky.'
So Saigyo notices that the voice is Sutokuin's.
After this, a dispute between Saigyo and In begins. Saigyo argues from the viewpoint of the rule of right, citing examples of Emperor Nintoku appearing in 'Nintokugi' of "Nihon Shoki" (Chronicles of Japan) and Iratsuko UJINOWAKI, who abdicated the Imperial Throne, while In argues from the Ekisei revolution (an old Chinese political thought). Then, Saigyo points out that "The Book of Mencius," which advocated Ekisei Revolution, wasn't introduced to Japan, and cites a passage from 'Shoga (aristocracy)' in "Sikyo" (Chinese Poetry Book), Brothers conflict in house, but prevent downgrading outward,' succeeding in getting the truth out of In that it was from personal spite. In says that after the incident of 'sinking the Buddhist scriptures,' he felt very bitter against the people who had become enemies in the Hogen no Ran War (the turmoil of the Hogen War) and pulled the strings to bring on the Heiji no Ran War (the turmoil of the Heiji War). And a strong wind blows, which reveals the uncanny appearance of In for the first time. His follower Tengu (long-nosed goblin), Sagami, appears. And In makes a prediction for the fall of the Taira clan. Saigyo grieves at the shameful In, and makes a poem.
Even if you were an Emperor in this world, who cares since you are dead?'
Then In's expression seems to become calm, and his body fades away. At some time or other, the moon goes down and dawn is approaching. Saigyo holds a memorial service for a book of Kongo kyo Buddhist scriptures, and then descends the mountain. Since then, Saigyo has told no one about the incident. In's prediction comes true, and his grave is arranged and he comes to be revered as a spirit.
The Chrysanthemum Vow
The whole work of 'The Chrysanthemum Vow' was adapted from Hakuwa Shosetsu 'Fan Juqing jishu sisheng jiao (Fan Chu-ch'ing's Eternal Friendship)' in "Gujin xiaoshuo (Old and New Stories)," and the background is based on "Intoku Taiheiki (records of great peace)" by Masanori KAGAWA. The characters of Samon HASEBE and Soemon AKANA respectively correspond to sho CHO and Hankyoko. The time is set in the Sengoku period, and the place is Kako, Harima Province (the present-day Kakogawa City, Hyogo Prefecture).
Samon is a Confucian scholar who lives with his mother, being contented with his poor but honest life. One day, when he goes to visit his friend, he finds a casual passerby samurai is sick in bed. HASEBE begins to take care of him. This samurai is Soemon AKANA, a scholar of military science, and he tells the story that he was on his way home from Omi Province, where Ujitsuna SASAKI lives, because he had heard that his old master Kamonnosuke ENYA, who was in his hometown Izumo Province, had been defeated by Tsunehisa AMAKO. After a few days, Soemon recovers from illness. During this time, Samon and Soemon talk about the Hundred Schools and others, becoming good friends and pledging their brotherhood. Soemon, being five years older than Samon, becomes an older brother, and Samon becomes a younger brother. Soemon also meets Samon's mother, and they spend a few more days together.
It is summer now. Soemon comes to go back to Izumo to see if everything is all right in his hometown. He promises Samon that he will return to see him on the day of the Chrysanthemum Festival. The title of 'The Chrysanthemum Vow' comes from this. Then, the season turns and autumn arrives, and at last it is the ninth day of the ninth month agreed on. Samon is preparing food and cleaning the house to welcome Soemon from the morning, and waiting for his return, ignoring his mother's advice. Outside of the house, many travelers pass by, but Soemon doesn't show up. The night advances and when Samon gives up waiting and is about to enter the house, Soemon appears like a shadow. Soemon is welcomed by Samon but he acts strangely like rejecting sake and some dishes of food for him. When he is asked, he confesses that he has become a ghost. Soemon tells the story that Tsunehisa, who has killed ENYA, has ordered that his cousin Tanji AKANA be kept in confinement. And at last the day they promised has come.
Soemon remembered the words that 'A man cannot travel a thousand ri in one day; a spirit can easily do so.'
So he killed himself and became a ghost to come here. He says goodbye to Samon, and disappears.
The HASEBE mother and son mourn over his death and pass the night raising their voices in lamentation. On the next day, Samon leaves for Izumo, and meets Tanji. Samon blames Tanji for his lack of loyalty, citing a historical event of Koshukuza in Wei. Samon, who has killed Tanji, is missing.
The story ends repeating a similar line to an opening, 'Truly, one must not form bonds of friendship with a shallow man.'
The Reed-Choked House
The source of 'The Reed-Choked House' is 'Aiqing zhuan (The Story of Aiqing)' in "Jiandeng xinhua (New Tales After Trimming the Lamp)" and its adaptation made by Ryoji ASAI, 'Fujii Seiroku yujo Miyagino o metoru koto (In Which Fujii Seiroku Marries the Courtesan Miyagino),' in "Otogiboko (Talisman Dolls)." In the period of Sengoku, Katsushiro and his wife Miyagi live together in Mama, in the Katsushika district of Shimousa Province. The family was originally rich, but Katsushiro doesn't like working and they are growing poor, and their relatives have shunned them. Katsushiro is stimulated and makes up his mind to turn his entire fortune into silk and go up to Kyoto with a merchant called Soji SASABE. Katsushiro promises to return in the autumn, and he departs from home. Before long, the Kyotoku no Ran War (the turmoil of the Kyotoku War) takes place in the Kanto region, and the peace is disturbed. Some men who are attracted by Miyagi's beauty try to get close to her, but she refuses them and continues to wait alone for her husband. However, when the autumn arrives, Katsushiro doesn't come back.
Meanwhile, Katsushiro sells silk in Kyo and makes a fortune. And when he knows the turmoil taking place in the Kanto region, he tries to hurry on his way home, but he is attacked by robbers and loses his entire fortune in Kiso. Also, he hears that there is a barrier station farther ahead and that travelers are being stopped there. Katsushiro assumes that Miyagi is dead, and he heads for Omi. There Katsushiro gets sick, and he stays at a house of SASABE's relatives, the Kodama family. In the course of time, he gets to know some people and lives there for seven years. Around this time, the disturbances break out in Omi and Kyo, Katsushiro remembers Miyagi. And he makes up his mind to return home. It takes 10 days and more to return, and it has already gets dark. He looks for his house in the completely changed land, and at last he comes home. When he sees the house, a light glimmers through a gap in the house. He wonders if Miyagi is still alive and clears his throat, then he is asked, 'Who is there?,' which is his wife Miyagi's voice, though it sounds husky.
When the wife comes out of the door, she looks completely changed as if she was a different woman. When Miyagi sees Katsushiro, she bursts into tears, and Katsushiro is also astonished at the unexpected situation. Soon Katsushiro tells her about what he was doing, and Miyagi tells him about the hard times she experienced as she waited for him; that night, they sleep together. Next morning, when Katsushiro gets awake, he notices that he is in a deserted house. Miyagi, who he thought slept beside him, is gone. Katsushiro realizes that his wife was dead, and when he looks around inside of the house, he founds a burial mound at the place where the bed was. A sheet of paper is put there. There is a poem on it in his wife's handwriting.
My husband will come back some day. To believe so, I can live until today.'
When he sees this, Katsushiro realizes his wife's death again and cries out and collapses. He thinks that it is a pity for him not to know when his wife died, and goes outside, where the sun rises high already, in order to see somebody who knows it.
He asks his neighbor, who knows about an old man. He is the old man who has lived here for a long time; he is called Uruma no Okina, and Katsushiro also knows him. Uruma no Okina tells him what it was like there amid the turmoil after Katsushiro left, that Miyagi had bravely waited alone for him but the autumn passed and she died on the tenth day of August in the following year, and that Uruma no Okina performed a memorial service for the dead; then he advises Katsushiro to hold a memorial service for her. At night, both of them raise their voices in lamentation and pass the night invoking the Buddha's name. When Uruma no Okina tells him a story of Tegona, which has been handed down in the village, Katsushiro makes a poem.
Men of former days would love Tegona in Mama, who lived long ago, the way I did Miyaki.'
This is a tale passed down by merchants who traveled often to that province.
The Carp of My Dreams
"Recent Anecdote, Yoshino of Shoetsu" already made clear in 1783 that 'The Carp of My Dreams' was based on 'Xue lu-shi yu fu zheng xian (Junior Magistrate Xue's Piscine Metamorphosis)' in "Xingshi hengyan (Constant Words of Awakening the World)," and Tanji GOTO pointed out that the work also referred to the hakuwa shosetsu 'Yu fu ji (Account of a Piscine Metamorphosis)' in "Gujin shuohai (Sea of Tales Old and New)" during the Ming period.
A main character is Kogi, who is well known as a painter-monk at Onjo-ji Temple in Omi Province.
He particularly likes a painting of fish, and following a dream in which he swims around with many kinds of fish, he paints exactly what he has seen and calls the painting 'The Carp in My Dreams.'
But he never gives the painting of the carp to anyone. Such Kogi dies of disease. However, around his chest it is strangely warm. The disciples wonder and leave the dead alone, and three days later Kogi recovers consciousness. Kogi says that at the house of the TAIRA officer, one of the supporters of the temple, a banquet is being held and they are eating fresh Namasu (a dish of raw fish and vegetables seasoned in vinegar) and others, so he sends a messenger to ask the supporter to come to the temple, and the TAIRA officer is really having a banquet. Kogi tells everybody how the banquet was going in detail, and explains why he knows that.
While Kogi was sick in bed, he didn't notice that he was dead and instead went to Lake Biwa, with the use of his walking stick, and swam there. He wanted to swim more freely and envied the fish, then Watadumi (the lake god) changed his body into that of a carp. So, Kogi began to swim as he liked.
The Michiyukibun in which beauty spots of the Lake Biwa like the Eight Views at Omi appears was praised highly by Yukio MISHIMA, who said, 'the ultimate poem composed by Akinari.'
However, after a while Kogi felt hungry and took a bait, whereupon he was caught and taken to the officer's house; he was awake when he was killed with a sword in spite of asking for help. The officer wonders at the story, but he makes his servant throw the rest of Namasu dish into the lake. Kogi, whose illness passes, eventually dies a natural death. At his death, the paintings of carp by Kogi are released into the lake, and the carp leave the paper and begin to swim. It is recorded in "Kokon Chomonju" (A Collection of Tales Heard, Past and Present) that his disciple Narimitsu is well known for his divine skill in painting pictures of chickens.
The Owl of the Three Jewels
The Owl of the Three Jewels' is set in the Edo era. After Muzen HAYASHI of Ise Province retires from his position, he starts on a journey with his youngest son, Sakunoji. They see various things around them, and then head for Mt. Koya in the summer. They are late, and it is already night when they arrive. They had wanted to stay at Kongobu-ji Temple, but they are refused because of the temple's rule, so they decide to spend the night chanting the Buddhist invocation at the veranda of the Lantern Hall before the mausoleum.
When they spend their time in silence, outside a Bupposo bird cries 'buppan buppan.'
Muzen becomes interested in the unusual voice of the bird, and creates a poem.
The mysterious chirping of birds is heard from a bush on the sacred mountain (of the Shingonshu sect), Mt. Koya.'
When he strains his ears in hopes of hearing the voice of the bird again, he hears something different. Somebody seems to come over to them. They are surprised and try to hide, but they are found by a samurai; in a panic, they climb down from the veranda and prostrate themselves on the ground. With the sound of many shoes, a nobleman in eboshinoshi (court robes and cap) appears. And he starts to have a banquet brightly. After a while, the nobleman calls Rengashi (linked-verse poet) Joha SATOMURA and has him tell a story.
The story proceeds to an interpretation of a poem written by Kukai and is collected in "Fuga Collection of Poetry (Waka)," 'If travelers forget that the stream of the Tamagawa River is poisoned, would they take water from it in far-away Koya?'
When Joha finishes his story, Bupposo cries again. So, the nobleman tells Joha to make a poem. Joha says, Muzen prostrating himself on the ground should present his poem to us. When Muzen asks who they are, he knows that the nobleman is a ghost of Hidetsugu TOYOTOMI and that the others are the ghosts of his followers. Muzen writes his poem down with difficulty and presents it to them, whereupon Tonomo YAMAMOTO recites it.
The mysterious chirping of birds is heard from a bush on the sacred mountain (of the Shingonshu sect), Mt. Koya.'
Hidetsugu praises the poem. A pageboy Sanjuro YAMADA adds a linking stanza to the poem.
Spending a short summer night at the bedside, burning poppies.'
Joha and Hidetsugu say, well done, and the party becomes livelier.
One of the retainers, Awaji (Shigemasa SASABE) suddenly gets upset and tells them that the asura time is coming. So, the calm atmosphere that had filled the place instead becomes bloodthirsty, and everybody there becomes pale. Hidetsugu orders his retainers to take the two people outside on the ground to the asura realm, but he is protested by his retainer and soon they disappear. The father and son are so scared that they faint. When the morning arrives, they get up and climb down the mountain in a hurry. The story ends by stating that when Muzen passed by the brutality mound of Hidetsugu in the Zuisen-ji Temple, he felt something horrible even in daylight, and that this story has been recorded just as he told it.
The Kibitsu Cauldron
The jealous woman's discussion in the opening of 'The Kibitsu Cauldron' was derived from Book 8 of "Wuzazu (Five Miscellanies)." In the Province of Kibi lives a man called Shodayu IZAWA. His son, Shotaro, has a strong sexual desire, and he doesn't listen to his father but indulges in sensual pleasure. So, he comes up with the idea of taking a woman as his son's wife in order to make him behave, and he arranges a match between his son and Miki KASADA, a daughter of the head priest at Kibitsu Shrine. In order to pray to the god for happiness, the Cauldron Purification ritual is going to be held. When the water boils in the cauldron, if a sound like lowing cattle is produced, it indicates a good fortune, but if not, a bad fortune. However, there is no sound, so this marriage is considered to be a bad fortune. When KASADA consults his wife about this oracle, she says they can't change their decision because their daughter and the groom's family are counting the days, so if they reveal the bad fortune like this, they won't know what might happen, and the marriage is decided.
The bride, Isora, is a woman of well-formed character, and serves the family very hard, being a perfect wife. Shotaro also considers that Isora is a good wife. However, after a while he takes a prostitute mistress called Sode outside; he does not return home but instead lives with the mistress. The father of IZAWA confines Shotaro, who doesn't change his behavior at all, in a room. Isora waits on Shotaro faithfully, but he betrays Isora and runs away with money. Isora, who has been so cruelly deceived, becomes sick and bedridden, weakening day by day.
Meanwhile Shotaro, who has run away with Sode, stays at the home of Hikoroku, a relative of Sode, and they live happily next door to Hikoroku. But something is wrong with Sode. She is as if possessed by some malign spirit. While he doubts if Isora curses her, Sode passes away after seven days in spite of all the care. Although Shotaro is in deep distress, he prays for the repose of her soul. Then Shotaro continues to visit her grave in the evenings.
One day, when he goes to the grave as usual, he sees a woman there. She says that her master passed away, and she pays a daily visit to the grave on behalf of her master's wife, who is sick in bed. Shotaro gets interested in the wife, who has been well known for her beauty, and he follows the woman to visit the wife and share sorrows with her. In a small thatched house, over a folding screen, the wife is there. When Shotaro offers his condolences, it is Isora who appears from the folding screen. Shotaro is frightened by her ghastly pale face, and he faints.
When he opens his eyes, he is in a Samadhi hall. He rushes to his house and tells Hikoroku what has happened, and Hikoroku leads him to the yin-yang diviner. The yin-yang diviner writes Chinese characters in Ten and Chu style on Shotaro's body, and warns him to shut himself inside for forty-two days and says that he must make sure not to go outside at all if he doesn't want to die.
At night, while he shuts himself inside as he was told to do, he hears a woman's voice say, 'So disappointed. The sentences of blessed charms are written here (so I can't enter).'
He tells Hikoroku how he was scared through the wall. He goes through the terror of that constant voice, and at last the forty-second day comes.
When Hikoroku notices daybreak, he calls Shotaro over the wall, and he hears Shotaro's scream, 'Oh, no!'
He hurries outside and sees that the sky is still dark, and then he sees blood dribbling from the wall and a man's topknot hanging from the edge of the eaves. It is not known where Shotaro has gone. When IZAWA and KASADA hear the story, they become sad. Thus it is said that the accuracy of the yin-yang diviner's divination and the rightness of the cauldron's oracle are truly sacred.
A Serpent's Lust
A Serpent's Lust' is the only medium-length story in "Ugetsu Monogatari." It was an adaptation from 'Bai Niangzi yong zhen lifengda (Eternal Prisoner Under the Thunder Peak Pagoda)' in "Jingshi tongyan 'Warning Words to Penetrate the Age)," but it has a unique ending connected with the story of Anchin and Kiyohime. Kyosen, Hakujoshi and Seisei in the original story respectively correspond to Toyoo, Manago and Maroya. The story begins with a line of 'I wonder whose era it was,' which is like a narrative. There is a fishermen's boss called OYA no Takesuke in Shingu City, Kii Province. His third child, Toyoo, is a gentle boy who favors the refined ways of the capital and shows no interest in his family business, so he and the oldest son let him do as he like. One day, when he goes back home from his mentor ABE no Yumimaro, a priest at Shingu, the rain began to pour down from the southeast, so he folds his umbrella and takes shelter from the rain in the fisherman's hut. Then a woman of about twenty comes into the hut with her servant girl to get out of the rain. This woman is incredibly beautiful and graceful, so Toyoo is attracted by her. So Toyoo lends his umbrella to the woman, and a few days later he is going to visit a house of AGATA no Manago for the umbrella.
At night, he has a dream that Manago appears and he flirts with her at her house. That is why he visits Manago's house soon. A servant girl, Maroya, leads him to the splendid house that is exactly what he saw in his dream, and he has a fun time with Manago, although he wonders about it only for a second. Manago tells him that she lost her husband and is alone now, then she proposes marriage to him. Although Toyoo hesitates, thinking of his father and older brother, he accepts the offer, is given a treasured sword and returns to his house that day. On the following day, his father, mother and older brother found Toyoo have a dubious treasured sword, and they sternly asks him how he got it. Toyoo explains that he was given it by somebody, but they wouldn't believe him. His sister-in-law cannot remain indifferent, and she asks him and tells her husband what Toyoo has explained to her. The oldest brother doubts his story because there is no such a house like Agata, and he notices that this is a treasured sword which was recently stolen from Kumano Hayatama Taisha Shrine, and father and older brother takes him to the head priest. Toyoo also explains his story to the officer and says he is going to Agata's house.
When he arrives, the splendid Agata's house has been in ruins. When they ask a neighbor about it, they figure out that nobody has lived there for three years. A fishy smell drifts from inside. A courageous samurai becomes the first to go into the house to look around, and he finds a beautiful woman. When he tries to catch her, thunder rumbles loudly and the woman disappears. And then there is a mountain of treasures that were stolen. Toyoo's punishment is reduced but not pardoned, and the OYA family pays money; after a hundred days, he is released.
Toyoo's older sister marries a merchant called TANABE no Kanetada and lives in Tsubaichi, Yamato Province. Toyoo goes to live there. In the spring, many people visit Hase-dera Temple, and Manago and Maroya appear. Toyoo is scared, but Manago proves herself not to be a monster and makes him feel relieved. She also makes the excuse that it was a trick in order to protect herself, and through the Kanatada couple's intervention Toyoo at last marries Manago. They are married and live happily together. In March, Kanatada comes to travel Yoshino with Toyoo and his wife. Manago refuses the offer because of her chronic complaint at first, but she is persuaded. They enjoys the travel and are eating their meal by the waterfall in the Yoshino Detached Palace, when someone comes over. He is an old man who serves Oyamato-jinja Shrine, and he instantly looks through the true form of Manago and Maroya, and then two people plunge into the falls and vanish with water flowing out. The old man tells Toyoo that if he kept being on intimate terms with the demon, Toyoo would die, but if he took his courage, he could get rid of the demon, and advises him to keep himself calm.
Toyoo returns to Kii Province. And he is going to takes a daughter of the steward of Shiba, Tomiko, as his wife. When he spends the second night with Tomiko, she is possessed by Manago. Being in the figure of Tomiko, she blames Toyoo for his indifferent attitude. Maroya too appears in front of Toyoo, who is about to faint, and he spends the night in terror. Next day, Toyoo explains it to the steward, and they go to a monk of Kurama-dera Temple, who happens to come here, and ask him to pray for Toyoo. The confident monk, however, is defeated by Manago, and he dies of her poison despite their care.
Toyoo corrects his thought by noticing that other people have become victims for the sake of his own life, and he faces Manago and requests that if she will spare Tomiko's life she can take him anywhere she likes. The steward thinks of this situation, and he makes up his mind to ask a priest called Hokai at the Dojo-ji Temple this time. And Hokai says he will come later, and tells him to press down the demon until Hokai arrives. When Toyoo is pressing down Manago with a given stole, Hokai shows up before long. When Toyoo lifts the stole, Tomiko and a three-foot serpent are there, unconscious. He catches the serpent and a little snake jumping toward him, places them a bowl, wraps up it with his stole, buries it in the ground of the temple and makes a serpent mound. After that, it is said that Tomiko dies of disease, and Toyoo's life is spared.
The Blue Hood
A main character of 'The Blue Hood' is a Zen master Kaian, also known as Kaian Myokei, who really existed and is known for establishing Daichu-ji Temple in Shimotsuke Province. After Zen master Kaian led a tranquil life in Mino Province, he sets out on a journey for the Ou district. It is evening when he reaches Tomita, in Shimotsuke Province. He visits a big house in the village to ask for a night's lodging, and when people of low birth see the Zen master, they run off to the corners, making a fuss and crying, the mountain ogre has come.
The master of the house appears; he welcomes Kaian, apologizes to him for the people's rudeness and offers an explanation for the misunderstanding. At a temple in the nearby mountain, there was an Ajari (high rank of priest), who was very studious and respected by everyone, but when he brought back a servant boy with him from Koshi, where he had administered the vows at an initiation ceremony, he came to favor the boy. When the boy died of disease in April of this year, Ajari stayed close beside the body for days, and he went mad, eating the flesh and licking the bones, till at last he had eaten up everything. The Ajari turned into an ogre and came to eat dead bodies, digging up the graves, so those fellows are terrified. When the Zen master hears this, he tells about various stories of Gosho (baggage of evil manners) that have been handed down. He says, 'That's because he was a person of such straight and sturdy nature,' and 'If his mind is released, he will be a monster; if his mind is set in, he will become Buddha,' so he decides to instruct the ogre and lead him back to his original mind.
At night, the Zen master goes to the mountain temple, and it falls to utter ruin. He asks for a night's lodging, and the owner abbot says, "Suit yourself," and goes to his bedroom. At midnight the abbot appears and looks for the Zen master, but he seems not to be able to find the Zen master, passing by him. He runs around, dances crazily, gets tired and falls down. Dawn comes and when the abbot regains his sanity, he is dumbfounded to see the Zen master sitting right where he was sitting. The Zen master says, 'if you are hungry, you can eat my flesh,' and when he tells the abbot that he was sitting here without sleeping, the abbot feels shame at his wretched state, and reveres the Zen master as Buddha. The Zen master has the abbot sit on the stone and put his blue hood on the head of abbot in order to instruct him. And he gives the abbot two shodoka (Chinese long poetry).
The moon lights the cove, the wind blows through pine trees. Why does this holy night exist, which seems to be forever?'
And he says, 'if you understand the meaning of this phrase, you can regain your merciful heart.'
He then climbs down the mountain and tells the villagers not to go up to the mountain, and he sets out on his journey to the Ou district.
In October of the following year, the Zen master returns to Tomita and asks the owner of the house in which he had stayed about the ogre; the owner is very pleased because the ogre has not climbed down the mountain since then. The Zen master climbs the mountain to find the abbot murmuring the shodoka on the stone in the deserted temple. So, he takes his Zen stick and strikes the abbot's head with it, saying, 'What do you live for? (What is the reason for your existence in this world?),' and the body of the abbot dissolves instantly like ice melts, along with the bones, leaving only the blue hood that had been on his head. And the abbot's obsession disappears. After that, Kaian the Zen master becomes the abbot of the temple, changing it from the Shingon sect to the Soto sect, and it is said that the temple continues to flourish.
On Poverty and Wealth
On Poverty and Wealth' is a so-called dialogue about money. A main character is Sanai OKA, or Sanai OKANO, who served Ujisato GAMO. Sanai OKA was a person who is well known for his anecdotes about money, and his name appears in various books.
Sanai is known for respecting thrift, desiring riches and honor, as well as for his way of killing time, which is to set gold coins on the floor in the room. However, he is not stinginess, and when he knew that a servant saved a gold coin, he talked about the importance of money, praising the servant and giving him 10 gold coins. That is why he was popular even among the ordinary people.
One day at night when Sanai is sleeping, a tiny old man appears beside his pillow. He asks the old man who he is, and the old man answers that he is a spirit of the gold. He says that he comes here because he wants to talk about various things to take his mind off daily life. And he wails about the trend among people to consider money as something dirty. He recites proverbs such as, 'Those who have ambition are not killed by creeps,' judging that a wise man who is contented with honest poverty may be wise, but such behavior is not wise in that he doesn't consider money important.
Sanai becomes interested in him, and asks some questions like why eight of ten rich people are greedy and cruel, why the honest hard worker can't be rich, whether it is because of the actions in former lives in the Buddhist context, and whether it is because of the Will of Heaven in the Confucian context. The old man criticizes the teaching of Buddhism as perfunctory, and states his opinion. He explains that, in short, money is something without feelings, and 'it acts by nature's sense'--there is interposition of the logic of right and wrong--therefore, money is gathered to those who treat it with respect; he says it is a skill to save money, so it is irrelevant to the actions in former lives or the Will of Heaven.
Sanai is pleased with his story because his long-held doubts have been dispelled, and he asks one more question about a movement of a power struggle in the future.
The old man talks about military commanders from the perspective of 'wealth.'
And he makes a prediction that Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI reigned over the whole country after Kenshin UESUGI, Shingen TAKEDA, and Nobunaga ODA, but it won't last long. And he intones an eight-character verse.
Red-letter grass grows, the sun rises high and shines, and farmers return home (that is, Ieyasu TOKUGAWA will conquer a country).'
Dawn is approaching, and the old man greets him and vanishes. Sanai thinks of the given poem, and when he grasps the meaning he comes to believe it deeply. And times have changed as the old man predicted.
It is a Japanese movie made in 1953. Director, Kenji MIZOGUCHI. Matsutaro KAWAGUCHI and Yoshikata YODA adapted both 'The Reed-Choked House' and 'A Serpent's Lust' for the movie. The story takes place in Omi Province and Kyo. Machiko Kyo, Kinuyo TANAKA, and others appear in the movie. The movie was honored with the Silver Lion Award at the Venice International Film Festival. Because the copyright expired completely (50 years after its release and 38 years after the director's death), a public-domain DVD has become available.
Kyoto Specters Map, the new wife of a 900-year old who lives in Sagano
It is a TV drama which was broadcast on TV Asahi Corporation Network, 'Saturday Waido Theater' in 1980. It is an adaptation from 'The Reed-Choked House' and 'A Serpent's Lust,' which is the same as the movie, and this is also homage to the movie. The director was Tokuzo TANAKA, who once was an assistant director in film productions. The creative team was Shochiku, which made the dramatic TV series of Hissatsu Shigotonin (actually, Kyoto Film Studio), and despite its being an entertainment it was made elaborately with the visual beauty so characteristic of Hissatsu series.
Very Strange Stories
KK paperback library, Kodansha Ltd., published in 1991
Masamoto NASU adapted the stories of 'The Chrysanthemum Vow,' 'The Blue Hood,' 'The Reed-Choked House,' 'A Serpent's Lust,' and 'The Carp of My Dreams,' for children's stories respectively, 'Promise,' 'Ogre,' 'Burned-out Site,' 'Snake's Eyes,' and 'Gengorobuna (Dytiscid carp).'
He asked himself, 'Is it possible to reproduce the yearning for mystery that Japanese people have held in their minds since old times?,' and he is said to have written them. The illustrations were by Toshiya KOBAYASHI.
Yakai Vol. 5
A title of the play by Miyuki NAKAJIMA, 'Yakai' Vol. 5 (1993), was 'The flowers lost their colors, while I set myself in this life and became lost in thought as time went by in vain; during spring the rain continually fell downward.'
Miyuki NAKAJIMA appeared in the poster wearing twelve-layered ceremonial kimono, pretending to be ONO no Komachi and showing her back. The story was based on a tradition of ONO no Komachi and 'The Reed-Choked House' in Ugetsu Monogatari.
Emissary of Rain and the Moon
It was a TV drama of an hour-and-a-half that was aired in 1987 by the Japan Broadcasting Corporation. Screenplay by Juro KARA, and directed by Kenki SAEGUSA. Starring Tetta SUGIMOTO and Megumi YOKOYAMA.
Although the relationship of the main characters was changed into that between brother and sister, it was inspired by 'A Serpent's Lust.'
Miyuki NAKAJIMA wrote the music for a theme song written by Juro KARA, which has the same name as the original title, and she sang it, featuring it on her album entitled "Jidai - Time Goes Around."
A recitation CD
In November 2005, 'The Chrysanthemum Vow' was adapted for a recitation CD read by Akira ISHIDA and produced by U-zra8 (Beepa).