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Kotto : being Japanese curios, with sundry cobwebs online

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in the Imperial University
Tokyo, Japan



CM I LL AN ,xg^J^^i|

& do;,



I. The Legend of Yurei-Daki 3

II. In a Cup of Tea 9

III. Common Sense 19

IV. Ikiryo 29

V. Shiryo 37

VI. The Story of O-Kame 45

VII. Story of a Fly 55

VIII. Story of a Pheasant 63

IX. The Story of Chugoro 71













Old Stories

The following nine tales have been selected from the "Shin-
Chomon-Shu^ " Hyaku Monogatari? " Uji-J&i-Monogatari-Sho?
and other old Japanese books, to illustrate some strange beliefs.
They are only Curios.

The Legend of Yurei-Daki

The Legend of Yurei-Daki

NEAR the village of Kurosaka, in the
province of Hoki, there is a waterfall
called Yurei-Daki, or The Cascade of
Ghosts. Why it is so called I do not know.
Near the foot of the fall there is a small Shinto
shrine of the god of the locality, whom the people
name Taki-Daimyojin ; and in front of the shrine
is a little wooden money-box saisen-bako to
receive the offerings of believers. And there is a
story about that money-box.

One icy winter s evening, thirty-five years ago,
the women and girls employed at a certain asa-
toriba, or hemp-factory, in Kurosaka, gathered
around the big brazier in the spinning-room after
their day s work had been done. Then they amused
themselves by telling ghost-stories. By the time
that a dozen stories had been told, most of the gath
ering felt uncomfortable; and a girl cried out, just to



heighten the pleasure of fear, "Only think of going
this night, all by one s self, to the Yurei-Daki ! "
The suggestion provoked a general scream, fol
lowed by nervous bursts of laughter. ... "I ll
give all the hemp I spun to-day," mockingly said
one of the party, " to the person who goes ! "
"So will I," exclaimed another. "And I," said a
third. " All of us," affirmed a fourth. . . . Then
from among the spinners stood up one Yasumoto
O-Katsu, the wife of a carpenter ; she had her
only son, a boy of two years old, snugly wrapped
up and asleep upon her back. " Listen," said
O-Katsu ; " if you will all really agree to make over
to me all the hemp spun to-day, I will go to the
Yurei-Daki." Her proposal was received with cries
of astonishment and of defiance. But after having
been several times repeated, it was seriously taken.
Each of the spinners in turn agreed to give up
her share of the day s work to O-Katsu, providing
that O-Katsu should go to the Yurei-Daki. " But
how are we to know if she really goes there ? "
a sharp voice asked. "Why, let her bring back
the money-box of the god," answered an old
woman whom the spinners called Obaa-San, the
Grandmother ; " that will be proof enough " " I ll



bring it," cried O-Katsu. And out she darted into
the street, with her sleeping boy upon her back.

The night was frosty, but clear. Down the
empty street O-Katsu hurried ; and she saw that all
the house fronts were tightly closed, because of the
piercing cold. Out of the village, and along the
high road she ran picba-picha with the great
silence of frozen rice-fields on either hand, and only
the stars to light her. Half an hour she followed
the open road ; then she turned down a narrower
way, winding under cliffs. Darker and rougher the
path became as she proceeded ; but she knew it well,
and she soon heard the dull roar of the water.
A few minutes more, and the way widened into a
glen, and the dull roar suddenly became a loud
clamor, and before her she saw, looming against
a mass of blackness, the long glimmering of the
fall. Dimly she perceived the shrine, the
money-box. She rushed forward, put out her
hand. . . .

"O/7 O-Katsu-San!" 1 suddenly called a warn
ing voice above the crash of the water.

1 The exclamation Oi ! is used to call the attention of a person : it is the Japan
ese equivalent for such English exclamations as " Halloa ! " * Ho, there ! " etc.


O-Katsu stood motionless, stupefied by terror.

" Oi / O-Katsu-San ! " again pealed the voice,
this time with more of menace in its tone.

But O-Katsu was really a bold woman. At once
recovering from her stupefaction, she snatched up
the money-box and ran. She neither heard nor saw
anything more to alarm her until she reached the
highroad, where she stopped a moment to take
breath. Then she ran on^steadily, picha-picha,
till she got to Kurosaka, and thumped at the door
of the asa-toriba.

How the women and the girls cried out as she
entered, panting, with the money-box of the god
in her hand ! Breathlessly they heard her story ;
sympathetically they screeched when she told them
of the Voice that had called her name, twice, out of
the haunted water. . . . What a woman ! Brave
O-Katsu! well had she earned the hemp! . . .
" But your boy must be cold, O-Katsu ! " cried
the Obaa-San, "let us have him here by the
fire ! "

"He ought to be hungry," exclaimed the
mother ; " I must give him his milk presently."
..." Poor O-Katsu ! " said the Obaa-San, help-


ing to remove the wraps in which the boy had
been carried, "why, you are all wet behind! 3
Then, with a husky scream, the helper vocifer
ated, "Aral it is blood!"

And out of the wrappings unfastened there fell
to the floor a blood-soaked bundle of baby clothes

that left
very small
and two very
hands no-
The child s
been torn

exposed two
brown feet,
small brown
thing more,
head had
off! .

In a Cup of Tea

In a Cup of Tea

HAVE you ever attempted to mount some
old tower stairway, spiring up through
darkness, and in the heart of that darkness
found yourself at the cobwebbed edge of nothing ?
Or have you followed some coast path, cut along
the face of a cliff, only to discover yourself, at a
turn, on the jagged verge of a break ? The emo
tional worth of such experience from a literary
point of view is proved by the force of the sen
sations aroused, and by the vividness with which
they are remembered.

Now there have been curiously preserved, in old
Japanese story-books, certain fragments of fiction
that produce an almost similar emotional experience.
. . . Perhaps the writer was lazy ; perhaps he
had a quarrel with the publisher ; perhaps he was
suddenly called away from his little table, and
never came back ; perhaps death stopped the
writing-brush in the very middle of a sentence.



But no mortal man can ever tell us exactly why
these things were left unfinished. ... I select
a typical example.


On the fourth day of the first month of the third
Tenwa, that is to say, about two hundred and
twenty years ago, the lord Nakagawa Sado, while
on his way to make a New Year s visit, halted with
his train at a tea-house in Hakusan, in the Hongo
district of Yedo. While the party were resting
there, one of the lord s attendants, a wakato l
named Sekinai, feeling very thirsty, filled for
himself a large water-cup with tea. He was rais
ing the cup to his lips when he suddenly perceived,
in the transparent yellow infusion, the image or
reflection of a face that was not his own. Startled,
he looked around, but could see no one near him.
The face in the tea appeared, from the coiffure, to
be the face of a young samurai : it was strangely

1 The armed attendant of a samurai was thus called. The relation of the ivakatd
tp the sartfurai was that of scjuire to knight.


distinct, and very handsome, delicate as the face
of a girl. And it seemed the reflection of a living
face ; for the eyes and the lips were moving.
Bewildered by this mysterious apparition, Sekinai
threw away the tea, and carefully examined the
cup. It proved to be a very cheap water-cup, with
no artistic devices of any sort. He found and
rilled another cup ; and again the face appeared in
the tea. He then ordered fresh tea, and refilled
the cup ; and once more the strange face appeared,
this time with a mocking smile. But Sekinai
did not allow himself to be frightened. " Whoever
you are," he muttered, " you shall delude me no
further ! " then he swallowed the tea, face and all,
and went his way, wondering whether he had
swallowed a ghost.

Late in the evening of the same day, while on
watch in the palace of the lord Nakagawa, Sekinai
was surprised by the soundless coming of a
stranger into the apartment. This stranger, a
richly dressed young samurai, seated himself
directly in front of Sekinai, and, saluting the wakato
with a slight bow, observed :

" I am Shikibu Heinai met you to-day for


the first time. . . . You do not seem to recognize

He spoke in a very low, but penetrating voice.
And Sekinai was astonished to find before him the
same sinister, handsome face of which he had seen,
and swallowed, the apparition in a cup of tea.
It was smiling now, as the phantom had smiled ;
but the steady gaze of the eyes, above the smiling
lips, was at once a challenge and an insult.

" No, I do not recognize you," returned Sekinai,
angry but cool ; " and perhaps you will now be
good enough to inform me how you obtained
admission to this house ? "

[In feudal times the residence of a lord was
strictly guarded at all hours ; and no one could enter
unannounced, except through some unpardonable
negligence on the part of the armed watch.]

" Ah, you do not recognize me ! " exclaimed the
visitor, in a tone of irony, drawing a little nearer
as he spoke. " No, you do not recognize me !
Yet you took upon yourself this morning to do me
a deadly injury ! . . ."

Sekinai instantly seized the tanfo 1 at his girdle,

1 The shorter of the two swords carried by samurai. The longer sword was

called katana.


and made a fierce thrust at the throat of the man.
But the blade seemed to touch no substance.
Simultaneously and soundlessly the intruder leaped
sideward to the chamber-wall, and through it / . . .
The wall showed no trace of his exit. He had
traversed it only as the light of a candle passes
through lantern-paper.

When Sekinai made report of the incident, his
recital astonished and puzzled the retainers. No
stranger had been seen either to enter or to leave
the palace at the hour of the occurrence ; and no one
in the service of the lord Nakagawa had ever heard
of the name " Shikibu Heinai."

On the following night Sekinai was off duty, and
remained at home with his parents. At a rather
late hour he was informed that some strangers had
called at the house, and desired to speak with him
for a moment. Taking his sword, he went to the
entrance, and there found three armed men,
apparently retainers, waiting in front of the door
step. The three bowed respectfully to Sekinai ;
and one of them said :



" Our names are Matsuoka Bungo, Tsuchibashi
Bungo, and Okamura Heiroku. We are retainers
of the noble Shikibu Heinai. When our master
last night deigned to pay you a visit, you struck
him with a .... ....... sword. He

hurt, and has
to go to the
where his
being treated,
sixteenth day
month he will
he will then
you for the
him. . . ."

waiting to
Sekinai leaped

was much
been obliged
hot springs,
wound is now
But on the
of the coming
return ; and
fitly repay
injury done
hear more,
out, sword in hand, and slashed right and left, at
the strangers. But the three men sprang to the
wall of the adjoining building, and flitted up the
wall like shadows, and . . .


Here the old narrative breaks off; the rest of
the story existed only in some brain that has been
dust for a century.

I am able to imagine several possible endings ;
but none of them would satisfy an Occidental
imagination. I prefer to let the reader attempt to
decide for himself the probable consequence of
swallowing a Soul.

Common Sense


Common Sense

ONCE there lived upon the mountain called
Atagoyama, near Kyoto, a certain learned
priest who devoted all his time to medi
tation and the study of the sacred books. The
little temple in which he dwelt was far from any
village ; and he could not, in such a solitude, have
obtained without help the common necessaries of
life. But several devout country people regularly
contributed to his maintenance, bringing him each
month supplies of vegetables and of rice.

Among these good folk there was a certain
hunter, who sometimes visited the mountain in
search of game. One day, when this hunter had
brought a bag of rice to the temple, the priest said
to him :

" Friend, I must tell "you that wonderful things
have happened here since the last time I saw you.
I do not certainly know why such things should
have happened in my unworthy presence. But you



are aware that I have been meditating, and reciting
the sutras daily, for many years ; and it is possible
that what has been vouchsafed me is due to the
merit obtained through these religious exercises.
I am not sure of this. But I am sure that Fugen
Bosatsu 1 comes nightly to this temple, riding upon
his elephant. . . . Stay here with me this night,
friend ; then you will be able to see and to worship
the Buddha."

" To witness so holy a vision," the hunter
replied, * were a privilege indeed ! Most gladly
I shall stay, and worship with you."

So the hunter remained at the temple. But
while the priest was engaged in his religious exer
cises, the hunter began to think about the prom
ised miracle, and to doubt whether such a thing
could be. And the more he thought, the more he
doubted. There was a little boy in the temple,
an acolyte, and the hunter found an opportunity
to question the boy.

"The priest told me," said the hunter, "that
Fugen Bosatsu comes to this temple every night.
Have you also seen Fugen Bosatsu ? "

1 Samantabhadra Bodhisattva.


" Six times, already," the acolyte replied, " I have
seen and reverently worshipped Fugen Bosatsu."

This declaration only served to increase the
hunter s suspicions, though he did not in the
least doubt the truthfulness of the boy. He
reflected, however, that he would probably be able
to see whatever the boy had seen ; and he waited
with eagerness for the hour of the promised

Shortly before midnight the priest announced
that it was time to prepare for the coming of Fugen
Bosatsu. The doors of the little temple were
thrown open ; and the priest knelt down at the
threshold, with his face to the east. The acolyte
knelt at his left hand, and the hunter respectfully
placed himself behind the priest.

It was the night of the twentieth of the ninth
month, a dreary, dark, and very windy night ;
and the three waited a long time for the coming of
Fugen Bosatsu. But at last a point of white light
appeared, like a star, in the direction of the east ;
and this light approached quickly, growing larger
and larger as it came, and illuminating all the slope
of the mountain. Presently the light took shape


the shape of a being divine, riding upon a
snow-white elephant with six tusks. And, in
another moment, the elephant with its shining rider
arrived before the temple, and there stood towering,
like a mountain of moonlight, wonderful and

Then the priest and the boy, prostrating them
selves, began with exceeding fervour to repeat the
holy invocation to Fugen Bosatsu. But suddenly
the hunter rose up behind them, bow in hand ;
and, bending his bow to the full, he sent a long
arrow whizzing straight at the luminous Buddha,
into whose breast it sank up to the very feathers.

Immediately, with a sound like a thunder-clap,
the white light vanished, and the vision disap
peared. Before the temple there was nothing but
windy darkness.

" O miserable man ! " cried out the priest, with
tears of shame and despair, " O most wretched
and wicked man ! what have you done ? what
have you done ? "

But the hunter received the reproaches of the
priest without any sign of compunction or of
anger. Then he said, very gently :

" Reverend sir, please try to calm yourself, and


listen to me. You thought that you were able
to see Fugen Bosatsu because of some merit ob
tained through your constant meditations and
your recitation of the sutras. But if that had
been the case, the Buddha would have appeared
to you only not to me, nor even to the boy.
I am an ignorant hunter, and my occupation is
to kill ; and the taking of life is hateful to the
Buddhas. How then should I be able to see
Fugen Bosatsu ? I have been taught that the
Buddhas are everywhere about us, and that we
remain unable to see them because of our igno
rance and our imperfections. You being a
learned priest of pure life might indeed acquire
such enlightenment as would enable you to see
the Buddhas ; but how should a man who kills
animals for his livelihood find the power to see
the divine ? Both I and this little boy could see
all that you saw. And let me now assure you,
reverend sir, that what you saw was not Fugen
Bosatsu, but a goblinry intended to deceive you
perhaps even to destroy you. I beg that you
will try to control your feelings until daybreak.
Then I will prove to you the truth of what I
have said."



At sunrise the hunter and the priest examined
the spot where the vision had been standing, and
they discovered a thin trail of blood. And after
having followed this trail to a hollow some hun
dred paces away, they came upon the body of a
great badger, transfixed by the hunter s arrow.

The priest, although a learned and pious per
son, had easily been deceived by a badger. But

the hunter,
and irrelig-
gifted with
mon sense ;
er-wit alone
at once to
destroy a

an ignorant
strong com-
and by moth-
he was able
detect and to
dangerous il-




FORMERLY, in the quarter of Reiganjima,
in Yedo, there was a great porcelain shop
called the Setomonodana, kept by a rich
man named Kihei. Kihei had in his employ, for
many years, a head clerk named Rokubei. Under
Rokubei s care the business prospered; and at
last it grew so large that Rokubei found himself
unable to manage it without help. He therefore
asked and obtained permission to hire an experi
enced assistant; and he then engaged one of his
own nephews, a young man about twenty-two
years old, who had learned the porcelain trade in

The nephew proved a very capable assistant,

shrewder in business than his experienced

uncle. His enterprise extended the trade of the

1 Literally, "living spirit," that is to say, the ghost of a person still alive.
An ikiryo may detach itself from the body under the influence of anger, and proceed
to haunt and torment the individual by whom the anger was caused.



house, and Kihei was greatly pleased. But about
seven months after his engagement, the young
man became very ill, and seemed likely to die.
The best physicians in Yedo were summoned to
attend him ; but none of them could understand
the nature of his sickness. They prescribed no
medicine, and expressed the opinion that such a
sickness could only have been caused by some
secret grief.

Rokubei imagined that it might be a case of
lovesickness. He therefore said to his nephew:

" I have been thinking that, as you are still very
young, you might have formed some secret attach
ment which is making you unhappy, perhaps
even making you ill. If this be the truth, you
certainly ought to tell me all about your troubles.
Here I stand to you in the place of a father,
as you are far away from your parents ; and if
you have any anxiety or sorrow, I am ready to
do for you whatever a father should do. If
money can help you, do not be ashamed to tell
me, even though the amount be large. I
think that I could assist you ; and I am sure
that Kihei would be glad to do anything to make
you happy and well."


The sick youth appeared to be embarrassed by
these kindly assurances ; and for some little time
he remained silent. At last he answered :

" Never in this world can I forget those gener
ous words. But I have no secret attachment
no longing for any woman. This sickness of
mine is not a sickness that doctors can cure ; and
money could not help me in the least. The
truth is, that I have been so persecuted in this
house that I scarcely care to live. Everywhere
by day and by night, whether in the shop or
in my room, whether alone or in company I
have been unceasingly followed and tormented by
the Shadow of a woman. And it is long, long
since I have been able to get even one night s rest.
For so soon as I close my eyes, the Shadow of
the woman takes me by the throat and strives to
strangle me. So I cannot sleep. . . ."

"And why did you not tell me this before? 3
asked Rokubei.

"Because I thought," the nephew answered,
" that it would be of no use to tell you. The
Shadow is not the ghost of a dead person. It
is made by the hatred of a living person a per
son whom you very well know."


" What person ? " questioned Rokubei, in great
astonishment. 1

" The mistress of this house," whispered the
youth, " the wife of Kihei Sama. . . . She
wishes to kill me."

Rokubei was bewildered by this confession.
He doubted nothing of what his nephew had
said ; but he could not imagine a reason for the
haunting. An ikiryo might be caused by disap
pointed love, or by violent hate, without the
knowledge of the person from whom it had ema
nated. To suppose any love in this case was
impossible ; the wife of Kihei was considerably
more than fifty years of age. But, on the other
hand, what could the young clerk have done to
provoke hatred, a hatred capable of producing
an ikiryo ? He had been irreproachably well con
ducted, unfailingly courteous, and earnestly devoted
to his duties. The mystery troubled Rokubei ; but,
after careful reflection, he decided to tell everything
to Kihei, and to request an investigation.

1 An ikiryo is seen only by the person haunted. For another illustration of
this curious belief, see the paper entitled " The Stone Buddha" in my Out of the
East, p. 171,


Kihei was astounded ; but in the time of forty
years he had never had the least reason to doubt
the word of Rokubei. He therefore summoned
his wife at once, and carefully questioned her,
telling her, at the same time, what the sick clerk
had said. At first she turned pale, and wept ; but,
after some hesitation, she answered frankly :

" I suppose that what the new clerk has said
about the ikiryo is true, though I really tried
never to betray, by word or look, the dislike
which I could not help feeling for him. You
know that he is very skilful in commerce, very
shrewd in everything that he does. And you
have given him much authority in this house
power over the apprentices and the servants.
But our only son, who should inherit this busi
ness, is very simple-hearted and easily deceived ;
and I have long been thinking that your clever
new clerk might so delude our boy as to get
possession of all this property. Indeed, I am
certain that your clerk could at any time, without
the least difficulty, and without the least risk to
himself, ruin our business and ruin our son.
And with this certainty in my mind, I cannot
help fearing and hating the man. I have often


and often wished that he were dead ; I have even
wished that it were in my own power to kill him.
. . . Yes, I know that it is wrong to hate any
one in such a way ; but I could not check the
feeling. Night and day I have been wishing evil
to that clerk. So I cannot doubt that he has really
seen the thing of which he spoke to Rokubei."

" How absurd of you," exclaimed Kihei, " to
torment yourself thus ! Up to the present time
that clerk has done no single thing for which he
could be blamed; and you have caused him to
suffer cruelly. . . . Now if I should send him
away, with his uncle, to another town, to establish
a branch business, could you not endeavour to
think more kindly of him ? "

" If I do not see his face or hear his voice,"
the wife answered, C if you will only send him
away from this house, then I think that I shall
be able to conquer my hatred of him."

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