Yei Theodora Ozaki.

Warriors of old Japan : and other stories online

. (page 13 of 14)
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her little son! She said to herself that if this were granted she would
be the happiest woman in the whole world.

Now let us turn back and see what happened to Lord Minetaka and his
wicked wife. As time went on, her vicious disposition only became worse.
At last it became so unbearable that all the servants took their leave.
There was now no one left to care for her child or the house, and the
fortunes of the family gradually declined. Lord Minetaka became poorer
and poorer. Where once in the days of the first wife there had been
sweet peace and harmony, discord now reigned in the house.

Lord Minetaka grew weary of his life. He decided to leave his home and
set out on a pilgrimage. He started at last to wander on foot from
province to province and from temple to temple, learning from the
priests all he could of Buddhist lore. He had plenty of time for
reflection; and no longer harassed by a scolding wife, he began to
ponder over his past life. No words can tell how much he regretted
having listened to her slanderous stories about his little daughter; and
when he thought of how he had allowed her to be driven from her home,
like an outcast or a beggar, his nights were sleepless.

He asked himself every day what could have happened to her all this
time. He would search for her through the length and the breadth of the
land, and if she were still alive, he told himself that he would surely
meet with her again. In every temple he came to he prayed that he might
find her, wheresoever she might be. On and on he wandered over the
country, stopping for the night at the different villages he came to on
his way.

At last he reached the famous Kwannon of the Hatsuse Temple, of the
Yamato Province. Kwannon, the Goddess of Mercy, grants to mortals
whatever they need the most, the greatest desire of their hearts. Here
Minetaka ardently prayed for his lost daughter, prayed that she might be
preserved from all ill, and that Kwannon would mercifully grant them a
speedy meeting.

Saisho and his wife were devoted to this very temple, and often used to
visit it to offer thanksgiving for their mutual happiness, and to pray
for their children. Now this day, as was their wont, they had come with
their three little sons and some of their retainers. The little boys
were beautifully dressed in silk and crape, and the whole party had the
appearance of a nobleman and his retinue.

The retainers went up the temple steps first to clear the way, and found
a pilgrim before the temple shrine lost in earnest prayer.

"Oh, pilgrim!" they cried, "out of the way! Our lord comes to worship,
make way instantly!"

The man, hearing himself spoken to in this way, got up and looked at the
approaching party, moving aside at the same time to let them pass. He
was travel-stained and worn out with fatigue, and it was easy to see
that he was broken down by some sorrow. As the little boys passed him,
he looked at them eagerly, and as he did so the tears fell from his
eyes. One of the retainers, who thought his behaviour strange, asked the
pilgrim why he wept.

"Those children," answered Lord Minetaka, for it was he, "remind me so
much of my daughter, for whom I am searching, that when I looked at
their faces the tears fell in spite of myself;" and he told the man all
that had happened, glad for once to find a sympathetic listener on his
lonely wanderings.

When the Princess heard the story, she told the retainers to bring the
pilgrim to her. As soon as they led him to her a glance was enough for
her to recognize that, aged and emaciated as he was, the pilgrim was
none other than her father.

"I am the Bowl-Wearer!" she exclaimed quickly, catching hold of her
father's sleeve and bursting into tears, overcome with joy and filial
affection at this unexpected meeting.

Saisho congratulated his wife and her father on their happy reunion, and
after many bows and salutations on both sides, he said: "I felt sure
that my wife was of noble birth, though she always remained silent when
I questioned her as to her parentage. Now I understand it all. So, after
all, she is the daughter of Lord Minetaka of Katano."

He then insisted that his father-in-law should give up his wanderings
and make his home with them for the rest of his days.

So Lord Minetaka at last found his good daughter married to one of his
own rank, and so happy that even in dreams he could have wished for
nothing better for her. What a joyous home-coming it was that day for
the Bowl-Wearer, as she led her father back with her and presented her
three little sons to him, and showed him her beautiful home, and told
him how good and faithful her husband had been to her while she was only
the unhappy and despised Bowl-Wearer!

They all felt that their cup of happiness was full, and lived together
more harmoniously than ever, and in their mutual joy all past sorrow was
forgotten.

Such is the story of the Bowl-Wearing Princess, which is told from
grandmother to mother and from mother to daughter in all households in
Japan.


[1] Tofu. A lady famous for her beautiful handwriting.




THE STORY OF LAZY TARO


Long, long ago, in the province of Shinano there lived a lad called
Monogusa Taro. Monogusa was not his surname. The word means "lazy," or
"good-for-nothing," and he was so nicknamed because by nature he was so
lazy that he would not even take the trouble to pick up anything that
was lying in the way. When the neighbours asked him to do something for
them, saying, "Do this," or "Do that," he would shrug his shoulders and
say, "It is really too much bother," and go away without attempting to
obey, or even wishing to be kind to those about him.

At last all turned their backs on him, and would have nothing to do with
him. Strange to say, no one knew who his father or mother was, or from
where he had come. He seemed to be a waif and stray that had drifted
into the province of Shinano, and yet there was an air about him which
excited interest and respect.

But this lazy lad, Monogusa Taro, had his dreams and ambitions. He
wanted to live in a large house. In his imagination he pictured this
house like a _daimio's_ palace. It was to stand in its own grounds and
be closed by four high walls, with large roofed gates opening out on
three sides of it. In the park-like garden he would have four miniature
lakes, laid out in the four directions, north, south, east, and west,
and each pond was to have an island in its centre, and dainty arched
bridges were to span the distances between the islands and the shores of
the little lakes. And oh! how beautiful the garden should be, with its
miniature hills and valleys, its tiny bamboo forests and dwarfed pine
trees, its rivulets and dells with little cascades. And he would keep
all kinds of singing-birds in the garden, the nightingale and the lark
and the cuckoo. And the house itself was to be large, with spacious
rooms hung with costly tapestries of brocade, and the ceilings were to
be inlaid with rare wood of fine markings, and the pillars supporting
the corridors must be adorned with silver and gold. And he would eat off
costly trays of lacquer, and the dishes and bowls should be of the
finest porcelain, and the servants who glided through the rooms to serve
him should be beautiful maidens clothed in silk and crape and brocade,
daughters of ancient families, glad to enter his house, so that they
might learn the etiquette and manners of a princely house. Such were the
day-dreams and visions of Lazy Taro. Once or twice he spoke of these
things to a kind neighbour who brought him food and little gifts, but
he was laughed to scorn for his pains, and so he kept silent henceforth
and dreamed only for himself.

But he had to come down to stern reality. Instead of the grand palace
that he dreamed of building, he had to content himself with a little
shed by the roadside. Instead of the fine pillars of his visionary
palace he put up four bamboo posts; and in place of the grand walls he
hung up pieces of grass matting; and instead of the fine cream-white
mats on which the foot glides softly and noiselessly, he spread a common
straw mat. Here Lazy Taro lay day and night doing nothing, neither
working nor begging for his living, only dreaming away the hours and
building castles in the air of what he would do and have if only he were
rich.

One day a near neighbour who felt sorry for the lad sent him by his
servant a present of five rice-dumplings. Lazy Taro was delighted. He
was in one of his dreamy moods and ate up four of them, without thinking
what he was about. When he came to the last one, somehow he suddenly
felt unwilling to part with it. He held it in his hand, and looked at it
for some minutes. It took him a long time to make up his mind whether he
would eat it or keep it. At last he decided to keep it until some one
was kind enough to send him something else. Lazy Taro, having made up
his mind on this point, lay down on his straw mat again to dream away
the hours with his foolish visions of future grandeur and to play with
the remaining rice-dumpling which he still held in his hand. He was
tossing it up and down when it slipped from his hand and went rolling
into the road.

"How tiresome!" said Taro, looking after it wistfully as it lay in the
dusty road; but he was so terribly lazy that he would not stir out of
his place to pick it up.

"It is too much trouble," said Lazy Taro; "some one is sure to come
along and pick it up for me."

So he lay in his shed and watched the dumpling in the road. When a dog,
however, came along or a crow flew down to steal it, he drove them away
by making a noise or by flapping his sleeves at them.

On the third day after this, the Governor of the District passed by on
his way home from hawking. He rode a fine horse and was followed by a
number of retainers. Now as Lazy Taro lay in his shed he saw the
Governor and his suite coming.

"Now this is lucky!" said Taro. He did not care whether the approaching
man was the Governor of the Province or a daimio or not. When the
Governor was opposite the door of the hut Taro raised his voice and
called out to the rider, asking him to pick up his dumpling and bring it
to him. No notice whatever was taken of him. The procession of riders
went slowly by the hut. Then Taro called out still more loudly to make
them hear.

"Ho, there!" he shouted, "will no one do what I ask? It can't be much
trouble to get down from your horse and pick up that dumpling for me!"

Still no one heeded him.

Then Taro got angry and shouted still more loudly: "What a lazy person
you must be!"

Thus Taro arrogantly found fault with others, entirely forgetful of his
own laziness, and talked to those older and better than himself in this
hateful way. Had the Governor, whose attention was now directed to the
little shed by the roadside, been an ordinary man, he would have given
orders to his men to kill the presumptuous fellow on the spot; for a
_samurai_ of high rank in old Japan, in his domain and along the road,
possessed the power of life and death over the lower classes. When a
lord or any great dignitary rode abroad, the peasants and the farmers
bowed themselves in the dust as he passed by. They dared not lift up
their heads on pain of death.

But this Governor was an unusual man, and renowned throughout the
district for his goodness and mildness of disposition. His curiosity too
was aroused at the queer proceeding. He had heard of the strange
Monogusa Taro, and he concluded that the boy in the hut must be he. So
the Governor got down from his horse, and sitting on a stool that one
of his retainers placed for him opposite the hut, said: "Are you
Monogusa Taro of whom the people talk?"

Taro, not in the least afraid, answered boldly that he was. He did not
even move from his position on the mat to bow to the great man. He
behaved just as indifferently as if he were a lord speaking to a
servant.

"You are indeed an interesting fellow," said the Governor. "Now tell me
what do you do to earn a living?"

"As my name tells you," answered Lazy Taro, "I do nothing. I lie in this
shed night and day. I am Lazy Taro!"

"Then you must get little to eat!" said the Governor.

"It is exactly as you say!" answered Taro; "when the neighbours bring me
food, I eat it; but when I get nothing I lie in this shed night and day
just like this, sometimes for three and four and five days without
eating!"

"I am very sorry for you," said the Governor. "Now if I give you a piece
of ground, will you till it and grow your own rice and vegetables? What
you do not want you might sell to the neighbours and so make a little
money."

"You are very kind," answered Taro, "and I thank you; but it is too much
trouble to till the ground to get my own rice. Why should I when I can
get people to give me just enough to live upon? No, thank you, I beg to
be excused."

"Well," said the Governor, "if you don't like the idea of tilling the
ground, I will give you some money to start in business. What do you say
to that?"

"That would be too much trouble too, so I will remain as I am," said
Taro.

The kind-hearted Governor could not but be astonished at the
good-for-nothing boy's answer, but he was a man of great patience, and
he felt sorry for Monogusa Taro.

"You are," he said, "as everyone says, the laziest man in the whole of
Japan. In all my experience of all sorts and conditions of men, never
have I come across such a don't-care, happy-go-lucky creature as
yourself - but as it is your nature, I suppose there is no help for it.
Your condition is a pitiful one. I can't let you starve in my district
- which you certainly will do if you go on like this."

Then the kind-hearted Governor took out a piece of paper from his
sleeve, and on this paper with brush and Indian ink he wrote an order to
the effect that the people of his dominion of Shinano were to provide
Monogusa Taro twice daily with three go of rice and a little _saké_ once
a day to cheer his spirits. Whoever disobeyed the order must quit the
district at once. This order the Governor had published and made known
throughout the whole province.

To the people of the province it seemed a strange command, and they were
lost in amazement; but however strange they thought it, they had to obey
the Governor's order. So from that day on Taro was taken care of and fed
by his neighbours with rice and _saké_ daily.

Time slipped slowly by in the rustic place, and for three years Taro
lived in ease and plenty, as free from care as the birds of the air. To
all appearance he was perfectly satisfied with himself and his useless
life, and he seemed to desire nothing better.

At the end of three years the feudal _Daimio_ of Shinano, who always
lived in the capital, advertised for a man-servant who was young and
strong. One of Taro's kindest neighbours suggested that this was a good
opportunity for Taro to make a beginning and that he ought to apply for
the place. But others shook their heads and said that Taro was a
good-for-nothing fellow, who would never do any good in the world - he
would only be a trouble wherever he went.

"Look," they said, "how he behaved to the good Governor, how he
dared - just think of it - to ask that great man to pick up the
rice-dumpling he had dropped in the road, because he was too atrociously
lazy to move out of his shed to get it for himself! Had the Governor
been any one else, he would have had him sworded to death on the Spot."

But in spite of all the neighbours' croaking and grumbling, the first
man persisted in his idea that the right thing for Taro to do was to try
for the place, regardless of opposition. To every one who raised an
objection, he answered wisely: "Don't you know the saying that 'Stupid
people and scissors depend on the way they are used for their
usefulness'; so even this Lazy Taro may change for the better if he is
taken up to the capital and made to work. Let us all persuade him to go
into service, and let him for pity's sake have a try at something or
other. Who knows but this may prove the turning-point in his life? Taro
may yet become a useful hard-working man in time, if he is given his
proper chance."

When the proposal was first made to Taro, he was very unwilling to do as
he was told. He said he knew nothing of the ways of a lord's house; and
how could he work, seeing that he was Lazy Taro, who had never done a
stroke of work in his life? But his neighbours and friends were
determined to make him go. Every day they came to his shed, and talked
to him, persuadingly, and at last Taro came round to reason and said
that, to please them, he would at any rate go and try to do his best - if
he failed, he couldn't help it. When Taro said this, his friends were
delighted, and said they would help him get ready. They gave him decent
clothes in which to make an appearance at the _Daimio's_ house and then
some money for the journey. In this way Lazy Taro left the rural
province of Shinano, where he had lived for so many years, and started
for the capital of Kyoto. Just as Tokyo is the seat of government
nowadays, so Kyoto was in olden times. The Emperor - the Son of Heaven,
as he was called - dwelt there in a magnificent palace, and all the great
_daimios_ lived near him in state, surrounded by their retainers. The
streets of the Imperial City were beautifully built and spotlessly
clean, and the houses were far grander than Taro had ever dreamed
of - with great sloping roofs and picturesque gates and park-like gardens
enclosing them. Very different indeed was the capital from the province
of Shinano, from which Taro had come.

The Japanese have a saying, "As different as the moon and the turtle,"
and what can be more utterly different from the Queen of Night, riding
above the clouds in her own bewitching radiance and beauty, attended by
innumerable stars, than the mud-burrowing turtle, who may sometimes be
seen crawling out from his slime to dry his back in the sunshine? As
Taro walked through the streets of the city of Kyoto, he thought of the
old proverb, and he said to himself that the Lady Moon was Kyoto and the
turtle his old-fashioned Shinano.

Then he noticed how fair of skin the people he met were, for the
citizens of Kyoto are famous for their white complexions; and some say
it is the purity of the water that gives them such fair skins, while
others say that they are of a different race from the yellow-skinned
people of the rest of Japan. And how elegantly every one was dressed!

Taro looked down at himself, and saw how dark his skin was, how long his
nails, and how rough his clothes were. For the first time in his life he
felt ashamed of himself, and repented of his past laziness.

Now he remembered that one of his neighbours in Shinano, kinder and more
thoughtful than the rest, had put in his bamboo basket a silken suit of
clothes, saying that Taro would be sure to want it in the capital, and
that when Taro got on, as he felt sure, somehow or other, that he would,
he might pay him back. Recollecting this, Taro stopped at a teahouse and
changed his rough cotton suit for the silken one. Then he inquired for
the residence of Nijo-Dainagon, the Lord of Shinano, and having made his
way there, he entered the large gate and presented himself at the porch,
saying that he had come in answer to an advertisement of the Lord of
Shinano for a servant, and he begged to be made use of.

When the lord of the house heard that a man had come from his own
province to ask for the vacant place in his household, he came out
himself to see Taro, and thanked him for his trouble in coming such a
long way.

"Work well and diligently, and you will not find service in my house
hard or bad!" said Lord Nijo.

Now, strange to relate, from the time that Lazy Taro was taken into the
service of this _Daimio_, a great change came over him. He was from this
time forth like another man. He showed great eagerness to please those
set over him and worked with great industry. Before any one else was
astir in the big household, he arose and swept the garden; he ran
errands more quickly than the other servants, and sat up late at night
to guard the gate. When Lord Nijo went out, Taro was the first to put
his sandals ready, and the most eager to accompany him. So assiduous, so
earnest was he in all he did, that his master was much impressed by his
faithfulness and industry.

"How true is the proverb," said the _Daimio_, "that even the beautiful
lotus blooms in the slime of the pond, and that precious gems are found
in the sand. Who would have dreamt that this rustic would turn out to
be such a jewel of a servant? This Monogusa Taro is a clever fellow,
quite unlike any countryman I have ever seen."

In this way Lazy Taro won the favour of his master, who gradually
promoted him from the position of a menial servant to the higher service
of a retainer.

One day, soon after his promotion, Taro had been summoned to the inner
apartments to wait upon O Hime San, or the Honourable Princess, the
_Daimio's_ daughter. As he moved across the room, he fell over the
Princess's _koto_ and broke it.

Now the Japanese have always considered it a virtue to repress their
feelings, whether they be feelings of joy or feelings of sorrow. No
matter what happens, one must learn to present an impassive countenance
to the world, whether the heart be bounding with joy or withering with
pain. Instead of making a display of your emotion, control it and
compose a poem or a beautiful sentence. Such is the training and
etiquette instilled by custom, and more especially amongst the upper
classes are these rules rigidly observed.

Now the Princess was a very high-born damsel, so, though she was sorely
grieved when she saw that Taro had broken her favourite _koto_, instead
of betraying any anger or impatience, she expressed her grief in an
impromptu verse and repeated aloud: -

Kiyo yori wa
[Oh! from to-day]
Waga nagusami ni
[For my amusement]
Nani ka sen?
[What shall I do?]

Then Taro, who was very, very sorry for the accident and for the
displeasure he knew he must have caused the Princess, was moved to the
heart, and the words of apology and regret suddenly rose to his lips, in
the form of the second half of the Princess's poem, and he said: -

Kotowari nareba
Mono mo iwarezu.

This has two meanings, because of the play on the first word _kotowari_,
which means either a broken _koto_ or an excuse. So Taro's couplet meant
first that there was indeed good reason for the Princess's sorrow, and
that he had no excuse to offer; and secondly, that as the _koto_ was
broken, he had no words wherewith to excuse himself.

The _Daimio_ was sitting in the adjoining room and heard Taro answer his
daughter in verse. His astonishment at finding that Taro was a poet was
great. "Certainly, appearances are deceptive," said the _Daimio_ to
himself.

Now the next time that the Daimio went to Court, thinking to amuse the
Palace circles with Taro's story, he told them first how he had taken a
"potato-digger" (Japanese expression for a country bumpkin) into his
service, and then he told of the progress of the transformation of the
rough rustic, who had proved himself to be such a jewel, into a valuable
retainer, and last, and most astonishing of all, how Taro had turned out
to be a poet. Every one in the Palace listened to the tale with much
interest, and said that Taro's story was like a novel.

At last this story reached the ears of the Emperor, who felt interested
in the poetical rustic, and he thought that he would like to see Taro;
for literary and poetic talent has always been held in high esteem in
Japan and has in a special manner enjoyed royal patronage. The Emperor
sent word to Lord Nijo that he was to bring Taro to the Palace.

So the next time that Lord Nijo went up to the Palace he ordered Taro to
accompany him. So Taro at last had the highest honour that could befall
a mortal, for he was commanded to enter the august presence of the Son
of Heaven.

The Emperor sat on a dais behind the closely slatted bamboo blinds, with
cords and tassels of gold and purple, so that he could see and not be
seen, for he was thought to be too sacred for the eyes of his subjects
to fall on him.

The _Daimio_ Nijo prostrated himself before the throne three times, and
then presented Taro. The Emperor, from behind the screen that hid him
from view, deigned at last to speak, and this is what he said: -

"I hear that you are a poet. Therefore compose a verse for me on the
spot!"

Taro obeyed without any hesitation whatsoever. Looking about him for a


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Online LibraryYei Theodora OzakiWarriors of old Japan : and other stories → online text (page 13 of 14)