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Title: Warriors of Old Japan and Other Stories
Author: Ozaki, Yei Theodora
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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The kind reception given to "The Japanese Fairy Book" has encouraged me
to venture on a second volume of stories from Japan. I have invented
none of these stories. They are taken from many different sources, and
in clothing them with an English dress my work has been that of adapter
rather than translator. In picturesqueness of conception Japanese
stories yield the palm to none. And they are rich in quaint expressions
and dainty conceits. But they are apt to be written in a style almost
too bald. This defect the professional story-teller remedies by
colouring his story as he tells it. In the same way I have tried to
brighten the rather bare structure of a story, where it seemed to need
such treatment; with touches of local colour in order to give emphasis
to the narrative, and at the same time make the story more attractive to
the foreign reader. Whether I have succeeded or not, the reader must
judge for himself. I shall be satisfied if in some small measure I have
been able to do for Japanese folk-lore what Andrew Lang has done for
folk-lore in general, and if the tales in their English dress are found
to retain the essential features of Japanese stories.

Miss Fusa Okamoto and Mr. Taketaro Matsuda, my brother, Nobumori Ozaki,
and one or two friends have given me help in translation.

For the introductory note I am indebted to Mr. J.H. Gubbins, C.M.G., of
the British Embassy, Tokyo.

Most of the illustrations have been drawn by Mr. Shusui Okakura, of the
Peers' College, to whose painstaking and patient collaboration grateful
acknowledgment is due. A few of the pictures were drawn by Mr. Tsutsui,
of the "Jiji Shimbun," and some of the historical pictures by Mr. Kokuho
Utagawa and Mr. Tosen Toda.

Yei Theodora Ozaki.


     Introductory Note

     Madame Yukio Ozaki

     I. Hachiro Tametomo, the Archer
     II. Gen Sanmi Yorimasa, the Knight
     III. The Story of Yoshitsune
     IV. The Story of Benkei
     V. The Goblin of Oyeyama
     VI. Kidomaru the Robber, Raiko the Brave, and the Goblin Spider
     VII. The Story of the Pots of Plum, Cherry, and Pine
     VIII. Shiragiku, or White Chrysanthemum
     IX. The Princess of the Bowl
     X. The Story of Lazy Taro




Those who three years ago welcomed the appearance of "The Japanese Fairy
Book" will be grateful to Madame Ozaki for the new treat afforded in the
present volume. "The Japanese Fairy Book" appealed alike to the child,
in or out of the nursery, to the student of folk-lore, and to the lover
of things Japanese. To all of these the stories here told will come as
old friends with new faces.

In a country whose people are born story-tellers, where story-telling
long since rose to the dignity of a profession, and the story-teller is
sure of an appreciative audience, whether at a village fair or in a city
theatre, the authoress had not to go far afield in search of her
materials. But the range of this class of literature is wide, embracing
as it does all that goes to make folk-lore, legendary history, fairy
tales, and myths.

From all these sources the present stories are drawn, and in each case
the selection is justified and the story loses nothing in the telling.
The simple directness of narrative peculiar to Japanese tales is not
lost in the English setting, and the little glimpses we are given into
Japanese verse may tempt the reader to do like Oliver Twist and "ask for

J.H. Gubbins.

Tokyo, May, 1909.



In the attempt to describe a character it is wise to begin, if possible,
with its distinguishing attribute, the one which will leave its mark on
the time, after the popularity of definite achievements may have passed
away. So I will say, before going any further into the subject of this
sketch, that if I were asked to single out the person who, to-day, most
truly apprehends the points of contact and divergence in the thought of
East and West, I would name the gentle dark-eyed lady who is the light
of an ancient house in the loveliest part of Tokyo, a spot where, as she
sits under the great pines of her garden, she can hear the long Pacific
rollers breaking on the white beaches of Japan and listen to the wind as
it murmurs its haunting songs of other homes in distant lands where she
is known and loved. For though Yei Theodora Ozaki is a daughter of the
East in heart and soul and parentage, one to whom all the fine ways and
thoughts of it come by nature, she is also a child of the West in
training, in culture, in the intellectual justice which enables her to
discern the greatnesses and smile indulgently at the littlenesses of

Her father, Baron Saburo Ozaki, the descendant of a Kyoto samurai
family, a member of the House of Peers, and a Privy Councillor, was one
of the first Japanese who went to England to study its language and
institutions. While there, he made the acquaintance of Miss Bathia
Catherine Morrison, and shortly afterwards she became his wife. This
lady was the daughter of William Morrison, Esq., a profound scholar and
linguist, who would have been more famous had not his attainments, great
as they were, been overshadowed by those of his brother, the Rev.
Alexander Morrison, whose translations of the works of German
philosophers and historians placed much valuable material at the
disposal of English readers.

William Morrison's name, however, was known and loved in Japan many
years before his little granddaughter Yei (the Illustrious Flower Petal)
was born, for he was the instructor of most of the Japanese great men
who went to England to learn the ways and speech of modern
enlightenment. Prince Mori, Marquis Inouye, Baron Suyematsu, and many
others who afterwards rose to eminence, were among his pupils, and when
Baron Ozaki became his son-in-law it would have been natural to
conclude that Miss Morrison was fairly familiar already with many sides
of the complex Japanese character. But the union was not a happy one;
and when, several years later, I made her acquaintance, I thought I
could divine the reason. She was a charming and intelligent woman, but
she was English to the backbone, and it was impossible for her to
appreciate or sympathize with anything that was not British. And Saburo
Ozaki was as fundamentally Japanese.

Five years after their marriage they separated, by mutual consent; three
little girls, of whom Yei Theodora was the second, remained in England
with their mother and received a very thorough English education. Mr.
Morrison took great interest in O Yei and brought her many books, which
she devoured greedily, having inherited all his love of literature and
learning. I have often heard her say that whatever ability she possesses
in that direction is due to her English grandfather.

She was just sixteen when Baron Ozaki insisted upon her coming out to
live with him in Japan, and she gladly complied with his wishes. On
meeting her after their long separation, he was delighted with her charm
and grace, and pleasantly surprised to find that in appearance she was
quite a Japanese maiden, small and slender, with dark eyes, pale
complexion, and a mass of glossy black hair. Accustomed to rule as an
autocrat over his household, he decreed that henceforth she was to be
only Japanese. She was quite willing to please him in this, so far as
she could; the pretty picturesque ways of her new home appealed to her
artistic instinct, and the traditions and ideals of Japanese life at
once claimed her for their own; her mental inheritance responded to them
joyfully. But this was not quite enough for her father. His duty, from
his point of view, was to arrange a suitable marriage for her as soon as
possible; but here he met with an unexpected difficulty. The example of
her parents' estrangement had inspired the girl with something like
terror of the married state, and she had grown up with the resolve not
to run the risk of contracting a like ill-assorted union. In
consequence, she found herself in opposition to her father, an
impossible situation in a Japanese family, and especially undesirable
where there were younger children growing up, as in this case, for Baron
Ozaki had married again after his return to his own country. Various
other circumstances also combined to make her decide at this time to
become independent. Her knowledge of English qualified her to give
instruction in that language, and her superior education and well-known
social position brought her many pupils in a land where teaching is
looked upon as the highest of all professions.

In this way many interesting friendships were formed with Japanese
girls, one of whom opened for her the doors of that treasure house of
story, the ancient lore and romance of Japan. Here the ardent sensitive
mind was in its element. She says: "During those early years I loved the
heroes and heroines of my country with passionate and romantic devotion.
They were the companions of my solitude, royal and remote, yet near and
potential as the white fire of girlhood's idealisms; they peopled my
visions with beautiful images, tender and brave and loyal. In those days
I was often reproached with being a dreamer, but my dreams were all of
fair and noble things. The old stories had taken possession of me: they
were a wonder, a joy, an exaltation, though I little imagined that I
would ever write them down."

It was during this period of her life that there came a temporary
parting of the ways and Europe again claimed O Yei for a time. My
husband was the British Minister in Tokyo, and we proposed to Baron
Ozaki's daughter that she should come and live with us, acting as my
secretary and companion. She accepted, and became not only a dearly
loved friend, but an invaluable assistant to me, contributing very
materially to the success of my various books on Japan by her profound
knowledge of the country and the people. When I returned to Europe she
followed me, and remained with us in Italy for about two years. A part
of this time she spent in the house of my brother, Marion Crawford,
acting as his amanuensis, and cataloguing his great library with such
precision and intelligence that he remarked to me, "Miss Ozaki is a very
exceptional person. I had not imagined that the work could be so well

My brother discerned her literary talent and first suggested to her that
she should write and publish the stories of old Japan which she used to
tell in the family circle to the delight of old and young. "You have the
gifts of imagination and of language," he said to her. "You really ought
to lecture on those stories. You would have a great success."

Italy was a revelation to O Yei; her love of colour and romance was
satisfied there, and the never-silent music of the South, the gay yet
haunting songs of the people, found a ready echo in her sweet voice, her
delicate guitar-playing. But her heart had always turned faithfully to
her English mother, and when I went to live in London she passed some
time there, contributing her first stories and articles to the English
magazines. Then she returned to Japan, where the famous educator, Mr.
Fukuzawa, had offered her a post in his school.

Of all her varied experiences this was the strangest. The slight shy
girl had a class of two hundred young men and boys to instruct and keep
in order, but from the crowded classroom she returned to the eeriest and
loneliest of dwellings. She says: "I lived in the upper storey of an old
Buddhist temple, really enjoying the queerness and out-of-the-worldness
of it. Under my windows was a graveyard, where on summer nights I used
to look for ghosts; but I had a terrible time with the cold and the
draughts and the rats, in winter. Sometimes I was awakened at dawn by
the sound of gongs and bells, and would look out of my window to see a
funeral procession marshalled in the courtyard." In her spare time she
continued to write, and various articles and fairy stories of hers
appeared in the "Wide World," the "Girls' Realm," and the "Lady's
Realm." At last her health broke down and she gave up her post at the
school and devoted herself more closely to literary work, which
resulted, in 1903, in the publication of "The Japanese Fairy Book," a
work which has now become a classic. At the same time she belonged to
several of the societies, patriotic, educational, and charitable, by
which the Japanese ladies so quietly yet so efficiently aid the cause of
true progress in their country. Indeed it was in the interests of
Japanese womanhood that she first took up her pen, resolved to dispel
the hopeless misconceptions which existed in regard to it in western
minds. To use her own words: "When I was last in England and Europe and
found by the questions asked me that very mistaken notions about Japan,
and especially about its women, existed generally, I determined if
possible to write so as to dispel these wrong conceptions. Hence my
stories of Japanese heroines, Aoyagi and Kesa Gozen [in the 'Nineteenth
Century'] and Tomaye Gozen, last year ['Lady's Pictorial']. It has been
my hope too that the ancient tales and legends, retold in English, may
show to the West some of the good old ideals and sentiments for which
the Japanese lived and died."

But other than purely studious interests entered into O Yei's life; she
had many friends in the Court and Diplomatic circles, and they drew her
more and more into society, where she was always a welcome addition to
any gathering. She saw every side of the national existence, Imperial,
official, scholastic, and was equally intimate with the small but
brilliant foreign society. Her single state was a mystery to all except
her closest friends; they knew that she had resolved never to marry
until she met a man who should fulfil all her ideals.

She met him at last. In 1904 she made the acquaintance of Yukio Ozaki,
the Mayor of Tokyo. Each had long known of the other, and various
amusing complications had occurred through mistakes of the postman, who,
owing to identity of name (there was no connection of family),
sometimes got hopelessly confused, and delivered the Mayor's letters to
the young lady and the young lady's correspondence to the Mayor. From
the moment when the two first met, at a big dinner party, and laughed
together over the postman's mistakes, the result was a foregone
conclusion. Mr. Ozaki had already learned all that his friends could
tell him about the intellectual, attractive girl whose independent,
resolute spirit had in no way marred her gentle womanliness; she knew
him equally well by reputation--and to hear of Yukio Ozaki, in Japan, is
to admire and respect him. Many were the parents, both wealthy and
noble, who after his first wife's death would gladly have had him for a
son-in-law. His irreproachable morals and elevated character earned for
him during this period the title "Nihon no Dai Ichi no O musoko San,"
the "First (best) bridegroom in all Japan." But he too nursed an ideal,
and was not to be drawn into new ties until he had found it. Given two
such beings, it needed but one kindly touch of Fate's wand to bring them
together. The result was a marriage happy in its perfect romance and
blest with the deep sympathy of tastes and interests which forms the
surest foundation for married felicity.

I returned to Japan a few weeks before the wedding took place, and
counted myself fortunate in gaining the friendship of Yukio Ozaki. My
first impressions of him could be summed up in a very few
words--strength, calmness, largeness of heart. The fearless glance of
his eyes, the noble carriage of his fine dark head, the quiet voice and
direct yet eloquent speech--all this was the fitting index to a
character which through many long years of public stress and strain has
never let even a passing shadow flit over its crystal sincerity and
loyalty. Political corruption, temptations of personal ambition, lures
of advancement, popular feeling, the outcries of opponents and the
applause of adherents, all these have assailed him in vain, have fallen
like broken arrows from the shield of his spotless integrity. A Japanese
writer says of him: "Mr. Yukio Ozaki has had a wonderful political
career. He is a born orator, the most powerful debater, and the ablest
writer, in Japan; a staunch fighter for the cause of liberty and the
interests of the people; one of the political magnates, and a potent
factor in the introduction of the Meiji civilization; a man who is above
every form of political corruption; once the Minister for Education, and
now the highly renowned mayor of Tokyo who has never missed a single
election for the twenty-five Sessions of the Diet of Japan."

Mr. Ozaki is a strenuous and untiring worker. In his character of Mayor
no detail is too small for him to go into patiently. Drainage, street
cleaning, water supply, market regulations, everything that can conduce
to the health and morals of the city passes under his watchful eyes,
and Tokyo is governed marvellously well. His scrupulous
conscientiousness leads him to take upon himself a thousand minutiae
which another man would hand over to his subordinates. I shall never
forget the searching orders that were promulgated to prepare the capital
for the return of the troops from Manchuria. Hundreds of thousands of
men, war-worn and ragged, with all their invalids, were to be arriving
for months together, and no one could tell what germs of disease might
come with them. So before the first detachment reached Shimbashi, a
house-to-house visitation was made, the most thorough cleaning and
clearing away of rubbish was insisted upon, and the entire foundations
of the dwellings as well as out-houses and gateways were copiously
sprinkled with chloride of lime. Tokyo sneezed, Tokyo wept, but Tokyo
had no epidemics.

Besides all his responsibilities as Mayor, a post which he has filled
for seven years, Mr. Ozaki has great political duties to occupy his
time. He has steadily refused to attach himself to any party in
particular, and, though he has many supporters in the Diet, is an
absolutely independent statesman, judging all measures from his only
standpoints--right and wrong, and the best interests of the country.
This uncompromising attitude has made many enemies for him, but even
they admire and respect him, knowing that he is a man who has said to
evil, "Stand thou on that side, for on this am I."[1]

There is another side to his character, the love of all that is
beautiful and inspiring. No one who saw the "Triumphal Return" of
Admiral Togo can forget the splendid scene of that imposing ceremony,
attended by half a million people and so deftly organized that all could
see the hero and the man who welcomed him in the country's name. The
welcome came from the nation's heart and found adequate expression in
Yukio Ozaki's magnificent address, delivered in the voice whose clear
tones had ever sounded in the cause of true patriotism. The thrill of
deepest feeling was in them that day, and I, who stood near the speaker,
saw that his hand trembled and his eyes were suffused with emotion as he
welcomed the beloved old sailor back, in glory, to the country he had

One more superb pageant--one where Yukio Ozaki and his bride were host
and hostess--returns to my memory, the fête given to Prince Arthur of
Connaught in 1906. This was the largest social reunion that has ever
taken place in the East, and most regally was the illustrious visitor
entertained. In the beautifully wooded park a banqueting pavilion had
been erected in the purest style of ancient Japanese architecture,
severely harmonious in outline and detail. The interior contained,
among other decorations, a great collection of rare Japanese flowers,
shrubs, and dwarf trees--pines and maples hundreds of years old, and,
from hoary trunk to new-born feathery branch tip, perfect miniatures of
their spreading, towering brethren of the forest. The crowning feature
of the day was the Daimyo's procession, a mile long, which defiled
before our eyes across the great lawns in the open air. For this the
last survivors of the feudal epoch had been sought out and brought in
from every part of Japan, old _samurai_ who had accompanied their
imperious masters in many a famous progress and had cut down all and any
who had the temerity to cross their path. In joyful arrogance they came
to show a degenerate world the martial splendours of their younger days,
and the sight was enough to make one overlook the wrongs and dangers of
the dead time and only regret that so much colour and fire had to be
swept away to make room for the nation's new life.

For things like these all art lovers are grateful to Yukio Ozaki, but
his two or three intimate friends have more exquisite moments to thank
him for. "Let me take you to my favourite garden," he said one day when
I was with him and his wife, "the Garden of the Seven Flowers of

The sun was setting as we drove for miles beside the river-bank; leaving
the city far behind, we came, through leafy lanes, to a half-hidden
gate through which we passed into a dreamland of misty beauty, all
shadowy and subdued in the late October twilight. Great pale moonflowers
swung, like scarce-lit lamps, from tree and trellis; feathery autumn
grasses waved their plumes below. The dark velvety paths led to dim
monuments on whose grey stones we could feel rather than read the
deep-cut characters of classic poems. All was imbued with the tender
melancholy which brings repose, not pain; and even now, in hours of
stress and weariness, my memory turns to the starlit peace that reigns
o' nights in the spirit-haunted Garden of the Seven Flowers of Autumn.

Things like these mean more to Yukio Ozaki and his wife than all the
social and public side of their existence. Both have the proud delicate
reserves of the aristocrat of mind and soul, and escape whenever they
can from the publicity which has been forced upon them. It required much
persuasion to obtain their permission for this sketch to be published.
Madame Ozaki's last words on the subject were: "It is true that my life
is varied and exceedingly interesting. One night I may dine at a State
banquet with Cabinet Ministers and foreign Ambassadors, or with
distinguished visitors like Mr. and Mrs. Taft, who recently visited this
country; the next will find me with a purely Japanese party at the Maple
Club. I assist at the Court functions, the Imperial wedding receptions;
I act as sponsor or go-between at Japanese marriage ceremonies; I see
all the ins and outs of Japanese life. I seem to live in the heart of
two distinct civilizations, those of the East and the West, but the East
is my spirit's fatherland. My mind still turns for companionship to the
great ones of the Past, the heroines of my country's history. I find
greater pleasure in the old classical drama of the 'No,' with its
Buddhist teachings and ideals, its human tragedies of chivalry and of
sorrow, than in all the sensational and spectacular modern drama. But my
greatest happiness is in my home life, in the companionship of my baby
daughter, in the few short hours that my husband can snatch from his
work to devote to me. If you must write about us, tell people about
Yukio--he is so good and great. I have no wish to be mentioned apart
from him."

Mary Crawford Fraser.

Note: Mr. Ozaki's collected works have just been published in Japan;
they include many essays on public and literary topics, original poems,
and a translation into Japanese of the Life of Lord Beaconsfield.

Madame Ozaki's writings include "The Shinto Fire-Walking," "The Hot
Water Ordeal," "Nikko Festival," "Singing Insects of Japan," and many
articles on travel and folk-lore, "The Japanese Fairy Book," "Japanese
in Time of War," "Japanese Peeresses in Tableaux," "Stories of Japanese
Heroines," "Buddha's Crystal" (in 1908), and "Japanese Girls' Home
Accomplishments" (in 1909).

[1] F.W. Myers.


Long, long ago there lived in Japan a man named Hachiro Tametomo, who
became famous as the most skilful archer in the whole of the realm at
that time. Hachiro means "the eighth," and he was so called because he
was the eighth son of his father, General Tameyoshi of the house of
Minamoto. Yoshitomo, who afterwards became such a great figure in
Japanese history, was his elder brother. Tametomo was therefore uncle to
the Shogun Yoritomo and the hero Yoshitsune, of whom you will soon read.
He belonged to an illustrious family indeed.

As a child Hachiro gave promise of being a very strong man, and as he
grew older this promise was more than fulfilled. He early showed a love
of archery, and his left arm being four inches longer than his right,
there was no one who could bend the bow better or send the arrow farther
than he could. By nature Hachiro was a rough, wild boy who did not know
what fear was, and he loved to challenge his elder brothers to fight. He
ever a grew wilder as he grew older, till at last he acted so rudely
and wilfully, respecting and obeying no one set over him, that even his
own father found him unmanageable.

Now it happened when Hachiro was thirteen years old that a learned man,
named Fujiwara-no-Shinsei, came to the Palace of the Emperor one day to
give a lecture on a certain book. During the lecture he said that there
could not be found in the whole of Japan a warrior whose skill in
archery could match that of Kiyomori, the chief of the Taira clan, or of
Yorimasa, the Minamoto knight. These two knights, though belonging to
two different clans, were the best archers throughout the land. Now
Hachiro, when he heard these words, laughed aloud in scorn, and said, so
that every one might hear him, that Fujiwara-no-Shinsei was right about
Yorimasa, but to call their enemy, that coward of a Kiyomori, a clever
archer, only showed what a foolish and ignorant man Fujiwara-no-Shinsei

This rude speech, so contrary to the rules of Japanese courtesy, which
commands young people to maintain a respectful and humble silence in the
presence of their elders, made Fujiwara very angry. When the lecture was
finished, he therefore sent for Tametomo and rebuked him sternly for his
behaviour, but the daring Tametomo, instead of being ashamed of his
unmannerly conduct and prostrating himself in apology before the
learned man, would not listen to anything he had to say, and was so
boisterous in declaring that he was right that Fujiwara gave up his task
of correction as a hopeless one.

But the lad's father, Tameyoshi, when he heard of what had happened, was
very angry with his son for daring to dispute with his elder and
superior, especially in the sacred precincts of the Palace. He was so
wroth indeed that at last he refused to see him or to keep him any
longer under his roof, and to punish him he sent him far away from his
home to the island of Kiushiu.

Now Tametomo, like the wilful, headstrong boy that he was, did not mind
his banishment at all; on the contrary, he felt like a hound let loose
from the leash, and rejoiced in his liberty, even though he had incurred
his father's displeasure.

When he reached the island of Kiushiu he made his way to the province of
Higo, and finally settled down in the plain of Kumamoto. Now that
Tametomo found himself free to do just as he liked, his thirst for
conflict became so great that he could not restrain himself. He gathered
round him a band of fighters as wild as himself and challenged the men
in all the neighbouring provinces to come out and match their strength
against his. In twenty battles which followed this challenge Tametomo
was never once defeated, so great was his strength, and his cleverness
in directing his soldiers. He was like a silkworm eating up the mulberry
tree. Just as the silkworm devours one leaf after another, with slow but
sure relentlessness, so Tametomo fought and fought the inhabitants of
the provinces round about till he had brought them all into subjection
under him. By the time he was eighteen years old he had made himself
chief of a large band of outlaws, distinguished for their reckless
bravery, and with them he had mastered the whole of Kiushiu, the western
part of Japan. It was now that the name of Chinsei was given him on
account of his having conquered the West. _Chin_ means "to put down,"
and _sei_ means the "West."

Tidings travelled slowly in those days, for there were no railways or
telegraph wires forming a network of lightning speed communication
across the land, and all carrying of news was done on foot by
messengers; so it was a long time before the Government at the capital
heard of the wild and lawless doings of Chinsei Hachiro Tametomo, but at
last his daring exploits became known, and the Government decided to
interfere and to put a stop to his outlawry. They sent a regiment of
soldiers to hunt him down and take him prisoner, but Tametomo and his
band were not only strong and fearless, but sharp of wit, and in the
frequent skirmishes that took place they always came out victorious. At
last the soldiers gave up their task of capturing him, for they found it
impossible to overcome him and nothing would make Tametomo surrender. So
the general returned to the capital and confessed that his expedition
had failed. The Government now decided to arrest the outlaw's father,
Tameyoshi, and so try to bring the rebel to bay. Tameyoshi was therefore
seized and punished for being the parent of such an incorrigible rebel.

Now even the wilful Tametomo was moved and distressed when he heard of
what had happened to his father, because of him. Although he was
undisciplined by nature, and ever ready to rebel against all authority,
yet hidden deep in his heart there was still a sense of duty to his
father, and on this his enemies had counted. He knew that it was
inexcusable to let his father suffer punishment for his misdoings. As
soon as the bad tidings reached him, he gave up without the least
hesitation all the land in Kiushiu, which had cost him several years of
hard fighting to wrest from the inhabitants, and taking with him only
ten of his men, with all the speed he could make, he went up to the

As soon as he reached the city he sent in a document signed and sealed
in his blood, asking pardon of the Government for all his former
offences, and begging that his father might be released at once. He
then waited calmly and quietly for his sentence of punishment to be

Now when those in authority saw his filial piety and his good conduct at
this crisis, they could not find it in their hearts to treat him with

"Even this man who has behaved like a demon can feel so much for his
father," they exclaimed; and merely rebuking him for his lawlessness
they handed him over to his father, whom they had set free.

At this time civil war broke out in the land, for two brothers, sons of
the late ex-Emperor Toba, aspired to sit on the Imperial throne. Owing
to the favouritism of their father the elder brother, Sutoku, was forced
to abdicate and retire, while Go-Shirakawa, the younger brother, was put
on the throne. On his deathbed the ex-Emperor Toba (also called the
Pontiff-Emperor) had foreseen that there would be strife between the
two, and left sealed instructions in case of emergency. On opening this
document it was found to contain a command to all the principal generals
to support Go-Shirakawa.

Hence the great chief of the Taira, Kiyomori, and Tametomo's eldest
brother, Yoshitomo,--indeed all the warriors of repute and
strength,--supported Go-Shirakawa, while such nobles as Yorinaga and
Fujiwara-no-Shinsei, who knew nothing of fighting, sided with the
retired Emperor Sutoku. Yorinaga, it is said, could not mount his
horse. Indeed the only efficient soldiers on Sutoku's side were
Tameyoshi and his seven younger sons, Tametomo, the reformed rebel,
amongst them. Sutoku was told of Tametomo's strength and wonderful skill
as an archer, and was advised to make use of him, so Tametomo was
summoned ere long to the ex-Emperor's presence.

Tametomo was now just twenty years of age; he was more than seven feet
in height; his eyes were sharp and piercing like those of a hawk, and he
carried himself with great pride and noble bearing. As he entered the
Imperial Audience Hall, so strong and brave and such a fine soldier did
he look, that Sutoku at once felt confidence in him, and without delay
consulted the young knight about the impending war.

Then Tametomo told the Emperor of how, when he had been banished to the
West by his father, he had lived the life of an outlaw for many
years--all that time his hand had been raised against every one, and
every one had fought against him. It had been his delight and pastime to
fight all who opposed his being lord of Kiushiu. He and his band had
always conquered, he said, because they had always fought at night. It
would be a good plan, he thought, for Sutoku and his men to attack the
Palace of Go-Shirakawa by night, to set fire to the Palace on three
sides and to place soldiers on the fourth side to seize the new Emperor
and his party when they tried to escape. If the ex-Emperor would follow
his advice, Tametomo said he felt sure that he would win the victory.

Yorinaga, who was attending the Council when he heard Tametomo's plan,
shook his head in disapproval, and said that Tametomo's scheme of attack
was an inferior one; that in his opinion it was a coward's trick to
attack by night; and that it was more befitting brave soldiers to fight
by day in the ordinary way. When Tametomo saw that his advice was
overruled and that Sutoku's Council would not follow his tactics, he
left the Palace.

When he reached home he told his men of all that had passed, and added
in his anger that Yorinaga was a conceited fellow who knew nothing of
fighting, though he had dared to give his worthless opinion and to
contradict him, Tametomo, who had fought without once being beaten all
his life long. Thus giving vent to his disappointment, Tametomo seated
himself on the mats, and as his anger passed away, he added with a sigh:
"I only fear that Sutoku will be defeated in the coming struggle!"

Had Tametomo's tactics been followed, Japanese history would certainly
have been different, for Kiyomori and Yoshitomo won a victory by the
very plan which Tametomo had advised Sutoku to follow.

That night, without any warning, the enemy made an attack on the
ex-Emperor's Palace.

The wary Tametomo, however, expected an assault and had stationed
himself at the South Gate on guard. On seeing Kiyomori and his band
approaching he exclaimed: "You feeble worms! I'll surprise you!" and
taking his bow and arrow shot a _samurai_ named Ito Roku through the
breast. The arrow was shot with such skill and force that it went right
through the soldier's body, and coming out through his back, pierced the
sleeve of the armour of Ito Go, his younger brother, who was riding
close behind him.

Ito Go, when he saw the precision and strength with which the arrow was
shot, knew that they had to deal with no common foe, and in alarm
carried the arrow to his general, Kiyomori, to show it to him. Kiyomori
examined the arrow carefully and found that it was made from a strong
bamboo of more than the usual thickness, and that the metal head was
like a big chisel, a formidable weapon indeed! It was so large that it
resembled a spear more than an arrow, and even the redoubtable Kiyomori
trembled at the sight of it.

"This looks more like the arrow of a demon than of a man. Let us find
another place of assault where our enemies are weaker and where the
leaders are not such remarkable marksmen!" said he.

Kiyomori then retired from the attack on the South Gate.

When Yoshitomo (who was now supporting Kiyomori, though later on he left
the Taira chief) heard of his brother Tametomo's doings, he said:
"Tametomo may be a daredevil and boast of his skill as an archer, but he
will surely not take up his bow and arrow against the person of his
elder brother," and he took Kiyomori's place at the South Gate of the
Palace which Tametomo was guarding.

Drawing near the great roofed gate, Yoshitomo called aloud to Tametomo
and said: "Is that you, Tametomo, on guard there? What a wicked deed you
commit to fight against your elder brother? Now quickly open the gate
and let me in. Tametomo! Do you hear? I am Yoshitomo! Retire there!"

Tametomo laughed aloud at his elder brother's command and answered
boldly: "If it is wrong for me to take up arms against you, my brother,
are you not an undutiful son to take up arms against your father?"
(Tameyoshi, his father, was fighting on the ex-Emperor's side.)

Yoshitomo had no words wherewith to answer his brother and was silent.
Tametomo, with his archer's eye, saw what a good mark his brother made
just outside the gate, and he was greatly tempted to shoot at him even
for sport. But he said that though war found them fighting on opposite
sides, yet they were brothers, born of the same mother, and that it
would be acting against his conscience to kill or hurt his own brother,
for surely he would do so if he took aim seriously! He would however for
the sake and love of sport continue to show Yoshitomo what a clever
marksman he was. Taking good aim at Yoshitomo's helmet, Tametomo raised
his bow and shot an arrow right into the middle of the star that topped
it. The arrow pierced the star, came out the other side, and then cut
through a wooden gate five or six inches in thickness.

Even Yoshitomo was astonished at the skill which his brother displayed
by this feat of archery. He now led his soldiers forward to the attack.

But Sutoku's army was far outnumbered by the enemy, who swept down upon
the Palace in overwhelming numbers, and though Tametomo fought bravely
and with great skill, his strength and valour were of no avail against
the great odds which assailed him. The enemy gained ground slowly, inch
by inch, till at last the gates were battered down, and they ruthlessly
entered the Palace. Calamity was added to calamity, the foe set fire to
several parts of the building, and great confusion ensued.

The ex-Emperor, in making a vain attempt to escape with Yorinaga, was
caught and taken prisoner. Seeing that for the present there was
nothing to be done, Tametomo, with his father Tameyoshi and his other
brothers, all loyal to Sutoku's cause, made good their escape and fled
to the province of Omi.

Tameyoshi was an old man unable to endure the hardships of a hunted
life, and he found that he could go no further; so he told his sons
that, as the Emperor had been taken prisoner, and as there was no hope
of raising Sutoku's flag again, at any rate for the present, it would be
wiser for them all to return to the capital and surrender themselves to
the conquerors--the Taira. They all agreed to this proposal except
Tametomo, so Tameyoshi, the aged general, and the rest of his sons went
back to Kyoto.

Now Tametomo was left behind, alone in his brave resolution to fight
another battle for the ex-Emperor Sutoku. As soon as he had parted, sad
and determined, from his father and brothers, he made his way towards
the Eastern provinces. But unfortunately, as he was journeying, the
wound he had received in the recent fight became so painful that he
stopped at some springs along the route, with the hope that the healing
waters, a panacea for so many ills in Japan, would heal his hurt. But
while taking the cure, his enemies came upon him and made him prisoner
and he was sent back a captive to the capital.

By the time Tametomo reached the city, his father and his brothers had
been put to death, and he was soon told that he was to meet the same
cruel fate.

But courage always arouses chivalry in the hearts of friends and foes
alike, and it seemed to Tametomo's enemies a pity to put such a brave
man to death. In the whole land there was no man who could match him in
bending the bow and sending the arrow home to its mark, so it was
decided to spare his life at the last moment. But to prevent him from
using his wonderful skill against them, his enemies cut the sinews of
both his arms and sent him away to the island of Oshima off the coast of
the province of Idzuto live. Lest he should escape on the way they bound
him hand and foot and put him in a palanquin. He was surrounded by a
guard of fifty men, and so big and heavy was he that twenty bearers were
required to carry the palanquin.

In spite of all the misfortunes that had befallen him, he carried the
same courage, the same stout merry heart, the same love of wildness with
him, even into exile. As the twenty men carried him along in the
palanquin, Tametomo just for fun would now and again put forth all his
strength. So great was his weight then that the twenty bearers would
stagger and fall to the ground. These feats of strength alarmed the
escort of fifty soldiers. They feared lest he should act more savagely
and become unmanageable, past their power of control, so they treated
him in much the same way as they would have treated a lion or a tiger.
They tried not to anger him, but did their utmost to keep him in a good
humour during the journey.

At last they reached the province of Idzu and the seashore from whence
they had to cross over to the island. Here they hired a boat, and
putting Tametomo safely on board they took him to his last destination
and left him there.

Though Tametomo was banished to this island, yet once there his enemies
left him free to do much as he liked. He was not treated as a common
prisoner, but as a brave though vanquished foe. The simple islanders
recognized in him a great man and behaved to him accordingly and
listened to everything he chose to say. So he led an unmolested life,
free from care, except the sorrow of being an exile--but his was a
nature which took life as it came, without worrying about what he could
not help.

Now one day Tametomo was standing on the beach gazing out to sea,
thinking of the many adventures he had passed through and wondering if
fate would ever bring any change in the quiet life he was leading, when
he saw a sea-gull come flying over the water. At first Tametomo with his
keen eyes saw only a speck in the distance, but the speck grew larger
and larger till at last the seabird appeared. Tametomo now guessed that
there was an island lying in the direction from which the bird came. So
he got into a boat and set out on a voyage of discovery.

As he expected, he came to an island, after sailing from sunrise to
sundown. To his amazement he found the place inhabited by creatures very
different from human beings. They had dark red faces, with shocks of
bright red hair, the locks of which hung over their foreheads and eyes.
They looked just like demons. A whole crowd of these alarming-looking
creatures were standing on the beach when Tametomo landed. When they
caught sight of him they talked and gesticulated wildly amongst
themselves and with fierce looks they rushed towards him.

Tametomo saw at once that they meant him harm, but he was nothing
daunted. He went up to a large pine tree that was growing near by, laid
his hands on it, and uprooting it with as much ease as if it were a
weed, he brandished it over his head and called aloud threateningly:
"Come, you demons, fight if you will. I am Chinsei Hachiro Tametomo, the
Archer of great Japan. If you will henceforth become my servants and
look up to me as master in all things, it is well; otherwise I will beat
you all to little pieces."

When the demons saw Tametomo's great strength and his fearlessness they
trembled. They held a short parley amongst themselves, and then the
demon chief stepped forward, followed by all his band. They came in
front of Tametomo and prostrating themselves before him on the sand,
they one and all surrendered. Tametomo with much pride took possession
of this island of demons and made himself monarch of all he surveyed.
Having subdued the demons he returned to Oshima with the news. Great was
the praise and merit awarded him by all the islanders.

Another day, soon after this, Tametomo was walking along the sands of
the seashore, when he saw coming towards him, floating nearer and nearer
on the top of the waves, a little old man. Tametomo could hardly believe
his sight; he had never seen anything so strange in his whole life; he
rubbed his eyes, thinking he must be dreaming, and looked and looked
again. There sure enough was a tiny man, no bigger than one foot five
inches high, sitting gracefully on a round straw mat.

Filled with wonder, Tametomo walked to the edge of the sand, and as the
little creature floated nearer on an incoming wave he said: "Who are

"I am the microbe of small-pox," answered the stranger pigmy.

"And why, may I ask, do you come to this island?" inquired Tametomo.

"I have never been here before, so I came partly for sight-seeing and
partly with the desire to seize hold of the inhabitants--" answered the
little creature.

Before he could finish his sentence Tametomo said angrily: "You spirit
of hateful pestilence! Silence, I say! I am no other than Chinsei
Hachiro Tametomo! Get out of my presence at once and take yourself far
from this place, or I will make you repent the day you ever came here!"

As Tametomo spoke, the small-pox microbe shrank and shrank from the form
of a tiny man one foot five inches high, till only something the size of
a pea was left in the middle of the straw mat. As he dwindled and
dwindled, the little creature said that he was sorry that he had
intruded into the island, but he had not known that it was in Tametomo's
possession; and he then floated away out to sea on his straw mat as
quickly and mysteriously as he had come.

The island of Oshima has always been free from small-pox, and to this
day the islanders ascribe the immunity they enjoy from the horrible
pestilence to Tametomo, who drove away the microbe when the hateful
creature would have landed there.

Now that Tametomo had subdued the demons on the neighbouring island and
had driven away the spirit of small-pox from Oshima, he was looked upon
as a king by the simple islanders. They rendered him every possible
honour and bowed their heads in the dust before him whenever he went

At last this state of affairs was reported to the authorities in the
capital. The Ministers of State decided that it was unsafe to allow this
to go on. Such a popular and powerful hero was a menace to the
Government. Tametomo, the Champion Archer, must be put down and without
delay. Such was the decree. A messenger was then and there despatched
with sealed orders to General Shigemitsu, in Idzu, to set sail with his
men for Oshima and subdue Tametomo.

One day Tametomo was standing on the beach and watching with pleasure,
as he often did, the ever-whispering sea laughing and sparkling in the
sunshine, when he saw fifty war-junks coming towards the island. The
soldiers standing on the fifty decks were all armed with swords and bows
and arrows, and clad in armour from head to foot, and they were beating
drums and singing martial songs. Tametomo smiled when he saw this fleet
all mustered in martial array and sent against him, a single man, for he
knew, somehow or other, what they had come for.

"Now," he said proudly to himself, "the opportunity is given me of
trying my archer's skill once more." Seizing his bow, he pulled it to
the shape of a full moon, and aiming it at the foremost ship, sent an
arrow right into the prow. In an instant the boat was upset and the
soldiers pitched into the sea.

Till that moment Tametomo had feared that his arm had lost its first
great strength, since his enemies had cut the sinews; but on the
contrary he now found that not only were his arms as strong as ever, but
that they had even grown longer, and that he was able to pull his bow
wider than before. He clapped his hands with joy at the discovery and
called aloud: "This is a happy thing!"

But now Tametomo reflected that if he fought against those who had been
sent by the Government to take him, he would only bring trouble on the
people of the island, who had been so kind to him and who had sheltered
him in his exile; he thought of how in their simple reverence for his
great strength they had almost worshipped him as a deified hero and had
looked up to him as their leader. No,--he would not, could not, bring
war and trouble and certain punishment upon these good folk, so for
their sake he decided not to fight more. He looked back with the keen
flight of thought that comes to mortals in moments of great crises, and
he remembered how with special mercy his life had been spared when he
was taken prisoner in the civil war. Since then he had enjoyed life for
over ten years. As a strong, brave man he could not grudge losing it
now. He had made himself owner of the islands and the people called him
their king; he felt that there was no shame or regret in dying when he
had reached the height of his glory. Therefore, with firm and quick
decision he made up his mind to die. He withdrew at once from the beach
and retired to his house, and here he committed suicide by harikiri,
thus saving himself from all dishonour and the islanders from all
trouble. He was only thirty-two years of age when he died. His death was
greatly regretted by all who loved him. But his glory did not die with
him. The people ever afterward honoured and reverenced him as a great

Such is one story of the death of Tametomo, but legend has created
another, still more interesting, about him. Instead of taking his own
life, this tradition says that he escaped from Oshima and reached
Sanuki. Here he visited the late Emperor's tomb and offered up prayers
for the illustrious dead. He then, believing that his day of usefulness
was over, prepared to kill himself; when suddenly, as in a dream, the
Emperor, Yorinaga, his father, and all those royalists who had fought
and died in the civil war, or had been taken prisoners and killed by
the victorious parties of the new Emperor, appeared to him in the clouds
and with a warning gesture prevented him from committing the dread deed
of harakiri. As Tametomo gazed wonderingly at the beautiful vision, the
bamboo curtain which hung before the ex-Emperor's palanquin lifted, and
as the sunshine and grace of His Majesty's smile fell upon the
awe-stricken man, the sword dropped from his hand and the wish to die
expired in his breast. He fell forward in humble prostration to the
ground. When Tametomo lifted his head, the vision had vanished within
the clouds; nothing remained to be seen of the royal array which had
saved him from his self-imposed death.

This wonderful visitation changed Tametomo's mind. He gave up all idea
of seeking death, and, leaving Sanuki, journeyed to Kiushiu, and took up
his abode on Mount Kihara. Here he collected a band of followers, and
with them embarked on board a ship with the intention of reaching the
capital and once more striking a blow at the arrogant and usurping House
of Taira. But misfortune followed him. He was overtaken by a storm, his
ship was wrecked, his men lost, while he only narrowly escaped with his
life to the island of Riukiu. Here he found the people in a state of
great excitement, for a party of rebels had risen against the King, who
was greatly oppressed by them, Tametomo put himself at the head of the
loyalists, rescued the King, who had been taken prisoner, subdued the
rebels, and then restored peace to the disturbed land. For these
meritorious services the King adopted him as his son, bestowed upon him
the title of Prince, and married him to one of the royal Princesses. At
last one day, when Tametomo had reached a good old age, happy in the
life of peace and bliss with which his later years had been crowned, as
he was walking along one of the spacious verandahs of the Palace, his
attendants noticed a trail of cloud coming towards their master from the
sky. As soon as the cloud touched Tametomo, he began to rise in the air
before their astonished gaze. Lost in speechless amazement, they watched
the hero mount higher and higher, till the clouds closed round him and
hid him from their view. Such is the pretty legend of the earthly end of
the brave archer Tametomo, one of the most interesting figures in
Japanese history, who conquered the trials and misfortunes of his youth,
and won through to bright days of prosperity. He left a son called
Shun-Tenno, who became King of Riukiu in due time.



Long, long ago in Japan there lived a brave knight named Gen Sanmi
Yorimasa. Yorimasa was his own name, while _Gen_ was the great clan to
which he belonged, the _Genji_, or _Minamoto_, famous in history, and
_Sanmi_ showed that he was a knight of the Third Rank at Court, from the
word _san_, which means "three."

Now Yorimasa is so celebrated a warrior that to this day his picture is
painted on the kites which the little boys of Japan fly at the New Year,
and if you visit the temple of the Goddess of Mercy, at Asakusa, in
Tokyo, you will see his portrait even there. And at the Boys' Festival,
on the fifth of the fifth month, when in every household where there are
sons the favourite heroes of the land are set out in the alcove of
honour of the guest-room, you will surely find amidst the martial show
of toys the figure of an archer clothed from head to foot in gay armour,
with a huge bow in his hand and a quiver full of arrows on his back.
That is Yorimasa of brave and dear memory.

Yorimasa was the fifth descendant of the Great Knight Raiko, who killed
the demons of Oyeyama about whom you will soon read. As a youth Yorimasa
was noted for his valour and his skill in archery, and he was soon
called to the Court and given the important post of Chief Guard of the
Imperial Palace.

Now, though Yorimasa was a man of ability and the greatest archer of his
time, and though he had done deeds of note which had brought him into
prominence, yet for some unaccountable reason his rank at Court remained
stationary, and he did not advance from the Fourth degree (_Shi-i_),
which he had when he first entered the sacred precincts of the Palace.
The humour of the situation caught Yorimasa's fancy, for he was very
quick-witted, and one day, smiling to himself, he sat down at his
writing-table and composed a poem lamenting his bad luck. From the
earliest ages the Japanese have trained themselves, at the times when
their feelings are stirred by some event which causes happiness or
sorrow or disappointment, not to give way to their emotions, but to
control their minds sufficiently to compose a poem on the subject.

Yorimasa's poem was of thirty-one syllables,[1] and in five short lines
he said gracefully that "one who has not the means of climbing upwards
remains under the tree and passes his life in picking up beechnuts." Now
in Japanese the word for beechnuts is _shi-i_, and this word also means
the Fourth Rank at Court. So that the couplet was a pun on his not being
promoted. Yorimasa read the poem laughingly to some of his friends, and
they, admiring his wit, repeated it and talked about it till it became
quite famous in the Palace, and at last reached the Emperor's ear. The
sympathy of His Majesty was aroused, and soon after this Yorimasa was
raised to the rank of the Third degree, _sanmi_, and by this title he
has ever afterwards been known.

Now it happened that at this time the Emperor became ill and could not
sleep at night. He complained of disturbance and a great sense of
oppression from sunset to sunrise. His courtiers, full of anxiety, sat
up to watch the night through, to see if they could discover the cause
of the Emperor's agitation. Some kept vigil in and round the Imperial
chamber, others on the wide-eaved verandahs, and some in the courtyard
of the Palace. Then the watchers on the verandahs and in the courtyard
noticed that as soon as the sun set a black cloud came from the eastern
horizon of the capital, and travelling across the city finally rested on
the roof of the Palace called the Purple Hall (_Shishinden_) of the
North Star, where the Emperor slept. As soon as this cloud alighted on
the Palace, the Emperor's sleep became disturbed, as if by frightful
nightmare. Those in attendance round the royal bed heard strange
scratchings and noises on the roof as if some dreadful beast were there.
These unusual sounds and the nightmare of the Imperial sleeper lasted
till dawn, when it was noticed that the black cloud always withdrew.

Now in the Palace there was great commotion. The Minister of the Right
and the Minister of the Left, whose duty it was to guard the Emperor
from all harm, held long and anxious consultation as to what should be
done. Every one in the Palace was of the opinion that the black cloud
hid some monster which for some unknown cause haunted the Emperor. It
was quite certain that unless the monster were killed, and that soon,
the Emperor's life would be endangered, for he was growing weaker and
thinner every day. The question was, who was brave enough to undertake
the task? The Palace sentinels were already scared, so it was useless to
expect help from them. The Ministers must seek for some brave _samurai_
well known for his daring and his skill as an archer and put him on
night-duty, charging him to kill the monster as soon as it should
appear. The courtiers, one and all, said that Yorimasa was the man. An
Imperial messenger was therefore at once sent to the knight, with a
letter telling him what was demanded of him.

Yorimasa, when he read the letter, looked very grave, for he felt the
responsibility of his new duty, which was different from all other work;
for on him now depended the recovery of the Emperor, who was visibly
growing worse and living through each day in terror of the nightmare
which haunted him in the darkness.

Yorimasa was a man of great courage and resource, and lost not a moment
in getting ready. He strung his best bow most carefully and placed his
quiver in two steel-headed arrows. He then put on his armour, and over
his armour he donned a hunting-dress, and to look more courtly he put on
a ceremonial cap instead of a helmet. He chose his favourite retainer,
the bravest and strongest of all his soldiers, to accompany him.
Yorimasa now set out as calmly and quietly as if he were simply going to
his every-day duty and nothing more. As soon as his arrival was made
known, he was summoned to the presence of the Ministers of the Right and
the Left and told of all that was happening at Court--how every night at
the hour of sunset a black cloud was seen to issue from the east,
approach the Palace, and finally cover the roof of the Purple Hall of
the North Star where the Emperor always slept. Then the Ministers told
the knight of the strange noises that were heard on the roof, of the
howlings and scratchings which lasted all night till the dawn broke. It
behoved him, they said, to do his best to kill the monster, if such it
was, for all the guards were now thoroughly frightened, and none of them
dared attack it in hand-to-hand fight, and none had skill enough to hit
it in the dark, though the Emperor's own body-guard of archers had tried
again and again.

Yorimasa listened to the strange story gravely. He saw that the whole
Palace was in a state of alarm and disturbance, but he did not lose
heart. With the greatest self-possession he waited for the end of the
day. As soon as the sun set, the night grew stormy; the wind blew a
hurricane, the lightning flashed, and the thunder roared. Nothing
daunted by the fury of the elements, the brave archer waited and waited.
It must have been near midnight when Yorimasa saw a thick black cloud
sweep down and settle on the roof of the Palace. He bade his retainer be
ready with sword and torch at any moment and to follow him closely. The
black cloud moved along the ridge of the grey-tiled roof till it stopped
at the northeast corner, just over the Imperial sleeping-chamber.

Yorimasa cautiously followed the movements of the cloud, his man just
behind him. Straining his eyes, Yorimasa saw, during a vivid flash of
lightning, the form of a large animal. Keeping his eyes on the spot
where he had seen the head, while the peals of thunder crashed like
cannon above, in the darkness which followed he caught the glare first
of one eye and then of the other as the creature moved along.

"This must be the monster who disturbs the Emperor's rest!" said
Yorimasa to himself.

With these words he fitted an arrow to the bow, and aiming to the left
of where he saw the left eye glare he pulled his bow as round as the
full moon and let fly. Yorimasa felt that his arrow had touched flesh.
At the same moment there was a frightful howl and a heavy thud, and the
writhing in agony of some animal on the ground, which showed that
Yorimasa had done his work well.

Now Yorimasa's retainer rushed upon the monster; in one hand he held a
blazing torch, in the other a short sword with which he stabbed the
creature nine times and quickly despatched him. Then they both raised
their voices and called to the sentinels and the courtiers to come and
look. A strange sight was in store for them. Never had any of them seen
anything like the monster that lay before them. The dreadful beast was
as large as a horse; it had the head of an ape, the body and claws of a
tiger, the tail of a serpent, the wings of a bird, and the scales of a
dragon. They had heard and read of such creatures in some of the old
books, but had always thought that such stories were old women's
fables, to be told and whispered by grey-haired dames round the
_hibachi_ (fire-brazier) to their wonder-struck grandchildren, but never
to be entertained seriously by men of sense. For a few moments they were
all struck dumb with astonishment; they gazed silently first at the
strange and horrible beast before them, then at Yorimasa, the slayer of
it. Exclamations of wonder burst from their lips. Then one and all
turned to the brave archer and congratulated him on his wonderful feat,
his courage and his marksmanship. It seemed as if they would never cease
applauding him.

The animal was flayed and its skin was carried to the Emperor, who
ordered it to be stored as a curiosity in the Imperial treasure-house.
His Majesty was highly pleased. He sent for Yorimasa and bestowed on him
a sword called _Shishi-Wo_, or the King of Lions. The time of the year
was the beginning of the fifth month; the crescent moon hung like a
silver bow in the twilight sky, and the cuckoo[2] was calling from the
trees near by; so the Minister of the Left who handed the sword to
Yorimasa improvised the first half of a stanza saying:

     "O cuckoo of wonder, even your name
      Climbs ever upward to the Heaven!"

Then Yorimasa, on his knees with uplifted hands and bowed head,
received the sword, and as he did so he completed the short poem with
these words:--

    "Not through thine own: but through the merit of a moon-shaped bow!"

The Minister used the cuckoo then calling in the trees as simile of the
brave warrior whose fame was rising now at Court because of his brave
deeds, and Yorimasa modestly answered that all was due not to his skill,
but to his bow, which he likened to the crescent moon then reigning in
the sky. Both turned to the scenery of the moment for inspiration--the
Minister in expressing his praise and the warrior in receiving it with
becoming humility and grace.

The Emperor also considered this a fitting occasion to give Yorimasa the
Lady Ayame (Iris) for his wife, and about this incident there is a
pretty story.

The Lady Ayame was the most lovely lady-in-waiting in the Palace, and as
good as she was beautiful. Not only in beauty, but in mind and heart,
was she superior to all the other ladies-in-waiting, and both the
Emperor and Empress held her in high esteem. Many were the Court nobles
who fell in love with her, but all in vain; there was not one, however
great or rich or handsome, who could make her so much as grant him even
a fleeting smile. Time after time these noble suitors wrote her letters
and poems, telling her of their hopeless love and beseeching her to send
them but a single line in reply. But only her silence answered them. She
remained obdurate to all entreaties.

One day Yorimasa, when on duty in the Palace, caught a passing glimpse
of the Lady Ayame, and from that hour his heart knew no rest. He could
not forget the witching grace nor the modest beauty of her lovely face;
sleeping or waking the vision of his lady-love was always before his
eyes, and it seemed to grow more vivid as the days went by. Time after
time he wrote her letters and composed poems asking her to marry him,
but the Lady Ayame treated Yorimasa as she treated all her other
wooers--she vouchsafed him no reply. For three long years Yorimasa
waited and hoped and despaired, and waited and hoped again, content if
once in a way from a respectful distance he could catch a glimpse of
her. In spite of long and cold discouragement he loved her

The Emperor had heard of the knight's constancy, and now sent for his
favourite lady-in-waiting, thinking this the right time to reward
Yorimasa's prowess and the Lady Ayame's merit, and to make them both

As soon as Ayame appeared, His Majesty said: "Lady Ayame, is it true
that you have received many letters from the knight Yorimasa? Is it

At this the Lady Ayame blushed like a peach-blossom in the glow of dawn,
and hesitating a moment she replied: "May it please the Son of Heaven to
condescend to send for Yorimasa and ask him!"

His Majesty then commanded her to retire, and forthwith summoned
Yorimasa to his presence.

It was the fifth of May, the Spring Festival, and Yorimasa came robed in
gala attire. He presented himself below the dais on which the Emperor
was seated and prostrated himself before the throne.

"Is it true," and the Emperor smiled as he spoke, "that you love the
Lady Ayame?"

Yorimasa was bewildered by the suddenness of the question and knew not
what to reply, for he knew it to be strictly forbidden by Court
etiquette to write love-letters to any lady-in-waiting, and he had done
this persistently.

Now the Emperor saw Yorimasa's confusion and felt sorry for him. A
bright thought struck His Majesty. He would please and puzzle Yorimasa
and have some fun at his expense at the same time as well. He whispered
an order to the chief master of ceremony.

In a short time three ladies appeared, heralded by attendants. As they
moved across the mats of the immense hall, Yorimasa saw that they were
all dressed exactly alike, and that even their hair was done in the
same style, so that it would be impossible for any one who did not know
them well to distinguish one from the other.

Who were they? Was the Lady Ayame one of them?

Like maidens of Heaven (_tennin_) did the three noble damsels appear and
their robes were beautiful to behold. So alike were they, and their
beauty so extraordinary, that Yorimasa compared them to plum-blossoms on
a branch seen through a window.

"The Lady Ayame is here," said the Emperor. "Choose her from among three
ladies and take her."

Yorimasa bowed to the ground. He was overcome with the graciousness and
kindness of the Emperor. But the task laid upon him he felt to be too
difficult. Being a military man and inferior in rank to the Court
circle, Yorimasa had never had an opportunity of seeing any of the Court
ladies face to face. All he had seen of the Lady Ayame was sometimes a
glimpse of her from the courtyard, where he was stationed, as she passed
along the corridors of the Palace. Once at a poetical party, to which he
had been admitted as a great favour, he had seen her, at the further end
of the hall, glide with trailing robes of ceremony into her place behind
the silken screen which always hid the women from view at such
gatherings. That was all he had ever seen of her, so that now he could
not distinguish her from the rest.


The Emperor was pleased at the success of his pleasantry. He saw that
Yorimasa was fairly perplexed, and that he was unable to pick out his
lady-love from her companions.

"I am a soldier and no courtier," thought the knight, "I may not presume
to lift my eyes to a lady _above the clouds_.[3] Nor can I be sure which
is Ayame. Were I to make a mistake and choose the wrong lady, it would
be a lifelong disgrace and disappointment to me!"

The perplexity in his mind at once rose to his lips in the form of a
short poem, which he repeated:--

"In the rainy season when the waters overflow the banks of the lake, who
can gather the Iris?"

Such is the meaning of the verse.

By the rainy season Yorimasa meant his three years of hopeless courting,
during which his eyes had become dim with the tears of disappointment he
had shed, so that he could no longer see clearly enough to discover
which was the lady of his choice. In this way he excused himself for his
seeming stupidity, and showed a modest reserve which pleased all

The aptness and quickness of Yorimasa's verse won the Emperor's
admiration. The tears stood in the august eyes, for he thought of the
great love wherewith Yorimasa had loved the Lady Iris, and of the sorrow
and patience of his long wooing and waiting. His Majesty rose from his
throne, descended the steps of the dais, and going up to Ayame took her
by the hand and led her forth to Yorimasa.

"This is the Lady Ayame, I give her to you!" were the golden words of
the Emperor.

To Yorimasa it must have seemed too wonderful almost to be true. The
great desire of his life was given him by the Emperor himself!

Then Yorimasa led his beautiful lady-love away and married her, and we
are told that they lived as happily as fish in water; and it seemed as
if they had but one heart between them, so harmonious was their union.
In the Palace there was great rejoicing over the auspicious event, and
all the courtiers praised the merit of the verse which had finally given
Ayame to Yorimasa and won the Emperor's special commendation. The happy
couple received the congratulations of the Emperor and Empress, of the
courtiers and many noble people, and wedding-presents innumerable.
Surely at this time there was no one happier than Yorimasa in all the

There are many stories told of Yorimasa which show us that he was not
only a brave soldier and a man of learning and a poet, but also a man
of wit and tact who knew how to use men as he willed.

Now one day a band of discontented turbulent priests came to the Palace
Gate where Yorimasa was on guard, and demanded entrance. It must be
explained that in those days the Buddhist priests of Kyoto were a set of
wild and lawless men who often brought shame to their religion by their
wicked lives. They lived outside the city on Mount Hiei, which they made
their stronghold, and, forgetting the dignity of their religion, they
took sides in war and in politics. They gave trouble to those in
authority, especially to those who did not favour them. They used the
smallest event as an occasion for carrying swords and bows and arrows,
and it was their habit to go out equipped like soldiers going forth to

Yorimasa saw that the priests were all well armed, and only too anxious
to find a pretext for drawing their swords. They carried with them in
great state the sacred palanquin of their temple. In this palanquin
their patron god was supposed to dwell, and it was borne aloft on the
shoulders of fifty men. With loud shoutings and a wild display of
strength the priests rushed the car along, now lifting it high above
their heads, now staggering under its weight, as it seemed about to
crush them to the ground.

Now Yorimasa was in no mood for fighting that day, and it seemed to him
not worth his while to set his men--the best fighters and archers in the
realm--against a handful of priests whom he could disperse in a few
minutes; besides, these priests from Mount Hiei were troublesome fellows
and he did not wish to earn their enmity. So laughing quietly to himself
he said that he would have some fun at their expense.

When the procession stopped opposite the gate, Yorimasa with his
captains of the guard sallied forth to meet the noisy crowd, and coming
in front of the palanquin bowed in reverence before it with slow

The priests, who had expected and were prepared for a very difficult
reception, were surprised and somewhat taken aback. After some parley
amongst themselves, their spokesman advanced and asked leave to enter
the gate, saying they had a petition to present to the Emperor.

Yorimasa sent his captain forward.

"My lord bids you welcome," he said, "and wishes me to say that he
worships the same god as yourselves, and he is therefore averse to
shooting against the _Mikoshi_ [sacred palanquin] with his bows and
arrows. Besides this, we are very few in number, so that your names will
be dishonoured and you will be called cowards for having chosen the
weakest post to fight. Now the next gate is guarded by the Heike
soldiers, who are much stronger in numbers than we are. How would it do
for you to go round and fight there? You would surely gain glory in an
encounter with them."

The priests were so pleased by the flattery of this speech that they did
not see that it was a ruse on the part of Yorimasa to get rid of them
easily, and that he was sending them round to bother his rivals. He had
also appealed to their best feelings, for Japanese chivalry teaches that
in the event of choosing between two enemies the weaker must always be

Some polite answer was made to Yorimasa, and then the priests shouldered
the _Mikoshi_ and departed in the same spirited and vociferous manner
that they had come. They went to the next gate, guarded by the Heike.
Battle was given at once, for they were refused admittance. The priests
were beaten and fled for their lives to the hills.

All these stories show us that Yorimasa was a clever man in every way,
but in the end he was unfortunate, and for this there was no help.

When we read the story of his ill-fated death our hearts are filled with
sorrow for him. It is not always as one wishes in this world, and
Yorimasa did not meet with the fate his meritorious deeds and character

The Heike or Taira clan were now in the ascendant (Yorimasa, it will be
remembered, belonged to the Genji or Minamoto), and Kiyomori, their
despotic and unprincipled leader, was Prime Minister. All the important
posts in the Government he gave to his sons, grandsons, and relations,
who under these circumstances, seeing that they owed everything to him,
did just as the tyrant ordered. All _samurai_ who did not belong to the
Heike clan he treated unjustly, even throwing those he did not like into
prison, whether they were innocent or guilty of the crimes or behaviour
deserving such punishment.

As a general of the rival Genji clan, Yorimasa suffered much from this
unfair treatment. As he watched the arrogant conduct of Kiyomori and his
son Munemori, he longed to be able to punish them and to bring
retribution on the whole clan, and to this end he thought and worked and

At last the Heike became so overbearing and so powerful that their
actions passed the bounds of all reason, and Kiyomori, on a question of
succession to the throne, confined the reigning Emperor in his Palace.

This last step was too much for Yorimasa; he could endure this state of
things no longer, and he resolved to make a bold strike for the right.
He placed Prince Takakura, the son of the late Emperor, at the head of
his army and set out to do battle with the Heike.

But the Genji were far inferior in numbers to the Heike, and, sad to
relate, Yorimasa was defeated in his good and just cause. With the
remainder of his army he fled before the enemy and took refuge in the
Temple of Byodoin, situated on the river Uji.

The Byodoin Temple, a large edifice near Kyoto, remains to this day.
Here Yorimasa made a last stand to afford time for Prince Takakura to
escape. He divided his men into two parties--one division he stationed
as a reserve force in the grounds of the temple, while the other he drew
up in battle array along the banks of the river. In case of pursuit, to
prevent the enemy from crossing the river, they tore up the planks which
formed the flooring of the bridge, so that only a skeleton of posts and
cross-beams remained. Then they rested and waited to see what would

The Heike soon came in sight following hard after them. First came the
generals, then the soldiers, twenty-eight thousand strong. They
approached the bridge, but stopped short when they saw what the Genji
had cleverly done. In a few minutes they ranged themselves along the
bank facing the enemy.

Both armies now stood confronting each other on either side of the Uji.
Simultaneously the order was given to fight by both the Genji and the
Heike generals and a fierce discharge of arrows from both sides ensued.

Then there rushed forth from the ranks of the Genji a huge priest,
Tajima Bo by name (in those days the Buddhist priests often took part in
battles); brandishing an enormous halberd he dashed out alone on the
skeleton bridge. The Heike, thinking that he made an excellent target,
shot a shower of arrows at him, but he was not in the least daunted.
When the arrows were aimed at his head, he stooped and they passed over
him; when they were aimed at his legs, he jumped high in the air and
they flew under him; when they were aimed at his body, he swept them
aside with his halberd; and in this way he escaped free from hurt. So
quick was he in his movements, and so marvellous was the way in which he
balanced himself in his progress across the bridge, that he seemed to be
endowed with power more than human; and not only his own comrades but
the enemy also looked at him in breathless admiration.

Then another of Yorimasa's men, also a priest, Jomyo by name, inspired
by this example, came forth and stood up at the end of the bridge, and
fitting his arrows to the bow, in rapid succession shot about a dozen of
the foe, in the twinkling of an eye.

Crying out, "Oh, this is too much trouble!" he threw away his bow and
arrow, and walked over the bridge on another beam, sweeping aside with
his sword the arrows aimed at him.

Yet another priest, famous for his great strength, dashed out and
followed after his friends across the bridge. He soon came up with
Jomyo, but as the beams of the bridge were narrow he could not pass him.
Stopping for a moment to think what he should do, he stretched out his
hands and touched the helmet of the man just in front of him, then
lightly and quickly jumped leap-frog over his head. The bridge was now
soon swarming with the Genji, who with fierce battle-cries began to
attack the Heike, whose advance was entirely checked. For some minutes
the Heike were greatly put out, not knowing what to do.

Then one brave youth, seeing how matters stood, and that it required
some one to take a dauntless lead, sprang forth in front of the Heike
and called out: "Now that it comes to this, there is no other way!" and
with these words he dashed his horse into the river. It was the rainy
season, and the waters were higher and the current stronger than usual.
Black with mud the river ran swirling and whirling on its course.

Never was there a braver sight than when the young soldier drove his
horse into the swollen river and made for the other side. His comrades
could not stand still and watch him; fired by his courage, numbers of
the Heike, shouting "I also! I also!" dashed in after him. In a few
minutes, while the Genji looked on in surprise, three hundred men had
followed the gallant young captain, stemmed and crossed the torrent, and
landed on the other side; and with the same dashing spirit, carrying
everything before them, they broke through the last lines of the Genji
and entered the Byodoin Temple, where their last stand was made. The
Genji, with Yorimasa at their head, were now in a desperate condition.
Seeing his father hard-pressed, Kanetsuna, Yorimasa's second son, an
intrepid young knight, rushed into the thickest of the fight and tried
to defend his father. A Heike captain coming up with fifteen of his men
seized Kanetsuna, overpowered him, and cut off his head.

Not one of Yorimasa's little band turned to flee. Although they knew
there was no hope, they fought on face to face with the foe, for
_samurai_ traditions held it a disgrace to be even wounded in the back.
One famous general in ancient history issued an order to the effect that
prizes would be awarded to those who were shot in the forehead, but
those who were wounded in the back should be slain.

One by one, the Genji fell, slain either by sword or arrow. Yorimasa
received several wounds. Then he saw that there was no use in fighting
more; all was lost. Those of the Genji who were still left made a brave
stand round their chief; while they kept the enemy at bay Yorimasa
slipped away and hastened to Prince Takakura, in the temple, and begged
him to flee in safety while there was yet time.

Having seen his Imperial master safe, Yorimasa then retired to an inner
part of the garden, and sitting under a large tree drew out his sword
and prepared himself to commit _harakiri_, for _samurai_ honour would
not let him survive defeat. Calling his retainer Watanabe, who had
escaped unhurt and who never left his master's side, Yorimasa bade him
act as second in the rite. Then quietly taking off his armour, he
composed a poem. He likened himself to a fossil tree that never knows
the joy of blossoming, for he had never attained his ambition (the
destruction of his enemies), "and sad indeed is the end of my life," the
last line of the verse, were the last words he uttered.

He took out his short sword, and thrusting it into his side died like a
brave and gallant _samurai_, without a moan. Then from behind, as was
his duty as second, Watanabe cut off his master's head, and so that it
should not be discovered by the enemy and carried away as a trophy of
war, he tied a large stone to it, and with sorrowful reverence dropped
it into the river and watched it sink beneath the water out of sight.

In this way died Yorimasa; those of his followers who were not killed by
the enemy died by their own hand, and Prince Takakura, fleeing to Nara,
was overtaken by the Heike and put to death on the way.

Yorimasa was seventy-five years of age when he died. Though, as he
lamented in his last poem, he had not achieved his ambition in punishing
the Heike, yet years later his work was carried on, and the Heike were
completely exterminated by Yoritomo, the great chief and mighty avenger
of the Genji; and the name of Gen Sanmi Yorimasa lives forever in the
history of his country.

[1] All Japanese poetry is regulated and counted by syllables, not by
lines and feet, as with us. Many words have several meanings and the
witty use of these punning facilities is greatly sought after.

[2] The cuckoo in Japanese literature and fancy takes the same place as
the nightingale in England.

[3] "Above the clouds"--a complimentary expression used for the exalted
Court circle.


In old Japan more than seven hundred years ago a fierce war was raging
between the two great clans, the Taira and the Minamoto, also called the
Heike and the Genji. These two famous clans were always contesting
together for political power and military supremacy, and the country was
torn in two with the many bitter battles that were fought. Indeed it may
be said that the history of Japan for many years was the history of
these two mighty martial families; sometimes the Minamoto and sometimes
the Taira gaining the victory, or being beaten, as the case might be;
but their swords knew no rest for a period of many years. At last a
strong and valiant general arose in the House of Minamoto. His name was
Yoshitomo. At this time there were two aspirants for the Imperial throne
and civil war was raging in the capital. One Imperial candidate was
supported by the Taira, the other by the Minamoto. Yoshitomo, though a
Minamoto, sided at first with the Taira against the reigning Emperor;
but when he saw how cruel and relentless their chief, Kiyomori, was, he
turned against him and called all his followers to rally round the
Minamoto standard and fight to put down the Taira.

But fate was against the gallant and doughty warrior Yoshitomo, and he
suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the Taira. He and his men,
while fleeing from the vigilance of their enemies, were overtaken within
the city gates, and ruthlessly slaughtered by Kiyomori and his soldiers.

Yoshitomo left behind him his beautiful young wife, Tokiwa Gozen, and
eight children, to mourn his untimely death. Five of the elder children
were by a first wife. The third of these became Yoritomo, the great
first Shogun of Japan, while the eighth and youngest child was Ushiwaka,
about whom this story is written. Ushiwaka and the hero Yoshitsune were
one and the same person. Ushiwaka (Young Ox--he was so called because of
his wonderful strength) was his name as a boy, and Yoshitsune was the
name he took when he became of age.

At the time of his father's death, Ushiwaka was a babe in the arms of
his mother, Tokiwa Gozen, but his tender age would not have saved his
life had he been found by his father's enemies.

After the defeat they had inflicted on the rival clan, the Taira were
all-powerful for a time. The Minamoto clan were in dire straits and in
danger of being exterminated now, for so fierce was Kiyomori's hatred
against his enemies that when a Minamoto fell into his cruel hands he
immediately put the captive to death.

Realizing the great peril of the situation, Tokiwa Gozen, the widow of
Yoshitomo, full of fear and anxiety for the safety of her little ones,
quietly hid herself in the country, taking with her Ushiwaka and her two
other children. So successful was Tokiwa Gozen in concealing her
hiding-place that, though the Taira clan either killed or banished to a
far-away island all the elder sons, relations, and partisans of the
Minamoto chief, they could not discover the whereabouts of the mother
and her children, notwithstanding the strict search Kiyomori had made.

Determined to have his will, and angry at being thwarted by a woman,
Kiyomori at last hit on a plan which he felt sure would not fail to draw
the wife of Yoshitomo from her hiding-place. He gave orders that Sekiya,
the mother of the fair Tokiwa, should be seized and brought before him.
He told her sternly that if she would reveal her daughter's hiding-place
she should be well treated, but if she refused to do as she was told she
would be tortured and put to death. When the old lady declared that she
did not know where Tokiwa was, as in truth she did not, Kiyomori thrust
her into prison and had her treated cruelly day after day.

Now the reason why Kiyomori was so set on finding Tokiwa and her sons
was that while Yoshitomo's heirs lived he and his family could know no
safety, for the strongest moral law in every Japanese heart was the old
command, "A man may not live under the same heaven with the murderer of
his father," and the Japanese warrior recked nothing of life or death,
of home or love in obeying this--as he deemed--supreme commandment.
Women too burned with the same zeal in avenging the wrongs of their
fathers and husbands.

Tokiwa Gozen, though hiding in the country, heard of what had befallen
her mother, and great was her sorrow and distress. She sat down on the
mats and moaned aloud: "It is wrong of me to let my poor innocent mother
suffer to save myself and my children, but if I give myself up, Kiyomori
will surely take my lord's sons and kill them.--What shall I do? Oh!
what shall I do?"

Poor Tokiwa! Her heart was torn between her love for her mother and her
love for her children. Her anxiety and distraction were pitiful to see.
Finally she decided that it was impossible for her to remain still and
silent under the circumstances; she could not endure the thought that
her mother was suffering persecution while she had the power of
preventing it, so holding the infant Ushiwaka in her bosom under her
kimono, she took his two elder brothers (one seven and the other five
years of age) by the hand and started for the capital.

There were no trains in those days and all travelling by ordinary people
had to be done on foot. _Daimios_ and great and important personages
were carried in palanquins, and they only could travel in comfort and in
state. Tokiwa could not hope to meet with kindness or hospitality on the
way, for she was a Minamoto, and the Taira being all-powerful it was
death to any one to harbour a Minamoto fugitive. So the obstacles that
beset Tokiwa were great; but she was a _samurai_ woman, and she quailed
not at duty, however hard or stern that duty was. The greater the
difficulties, the higher her courage rose to meet them. At last she set
out on her momentous and celebrated journey.

It was winter-time and snow lay on the ground, and the wind blew
piercingly cold and the roads were bad. What Tokiwa, a delicately
nurtured woman, suffered from cold and fatigue, from loneliness and
fear, from anxiety for her little children, from dread lest she should
reach the capital too late to save her old mother, who might die under
the cruel treatment to which she was being subjected, or be put to death
by Kiyomori, in his wrath, or finally lest she herself should be seized
by the Taira, and her filial plan be frustrated before she could reach
the capital--all this must have been greater than any words can tell.

Sometimes poor distressed Tokiwa sat down by the wayside to hush the
wailing babe she carried in her bosom, or to rest the two little boys,
who, tired and faint and famished, clung to her robes, crying for their
usual rice. On and on she went, soothing and consoling them as best she
could, till at last she reached Kyoto, weary, footsore, and almost
heartbroken. But though she was well-nigh overcome with physical
exhaustion, yet her purpose never flagged. She went at once to the
enemy's camp and asked to be admitted to the presence of General

When she was shown into the dread man's presence, she prostrated herself
at his feet and said that she had come to give herself up and to release
her mother.

"I am Tokiwa--the widow of Yoshitomo. I have come with my three children
to beseech you to spare my mother's life and to set her free. My poor
old mother has done nothing wrong. I am guilty of hiding myself and the
little ones, yet I pray humbly for your august forgiveness."

She pleaded in such an agonizing way that Kiyomori, the Taira chieftain,
was struck with admiration for her filial piety, a virtue more highly
esteemed than any other in Japan. He felt sincerely sorry for Tokiwa in
her woe, and her beauty and her tears melted his hard heart, and he
promised her that if she would become his wife he would spare not only
her mother's life, but her three children also.

For the sake of saving her children's lives the sad-hearted woman
consented to Kiyomori's proposal. It must have been terrible to her to
wed with her lord's enemy, the very man who had caused his death; but
the thought that by so doing she saved the lives of his sons, who would
one day surely arise to avenge their father's cruel death, must have
been her consolation and her recompense for the sacrifice.

Kiyomori showed himself kinder to Tokiwa than he had ever shown himself
to any one, for he allowed her to keep the babe Ushiwaka by her side.
The two elder boys he sent to a temple to be trained as acolytes under
the tutelage of priests.

By placing them out of the world in the seclusion of priesthood,
Kiyomori felt that he would have little to fear from them when they
attained manhood. How terribly and bitterly he was mistaken we learn
from history, for two of Yoshitomo's sons, banished though they had been
for years and years, arose like a rushing, mighty whirlwind from the
obscurity of the monastery to avenge their father, and they wiped the
Taira from off the face of the earth.

Time passed by, and when the little babe Ushiwaka at last reached the
age of seven, Kiyomori likewise took him from his mother and sent him to
the priests. The sorrow of Tokiwa, bereft of the last child of her
beloved lord Yoshitomo, can better be imagined than described. But in
her golden captivity even Kiyomori had not been able to deprive her of
one iota of the incomparable power of motherhood, that of influencing
the life of her child to the end of his days. As the little fellow had
lain in her arms night and day, as she crooned him to sleep and taught
him to walk, she forever whispered the name of Minamoto Yoshitomo in his

At last one day her patience was rewarded and Ushiwaka lisped his
father's name correctly. Then Tokiwa clasped him proudly to her breast,
and wept tears of thankfulness and joy and of sorrowing remembrance, for
she could never even for a day banish Yoshitomo from her mind. As
Ushiwaka grew older and could understand better what she said, Tokiwa
would daily whisper, "Remember thy father, Minamoto Yoshitomo! Grow
strong and avenge his death, for he died at the hands of the Taira!" And
day by day she told him stories of his great and good father--of his
martial prowess in battle, and of his great strength and wonderful
wielding of the sword, and she bade her little son remember and be like
his father. And the mother's words and tears, sown in long years of
patience and bitter endurance, bore fruit beyond all she had ever hoped
or dreamed.

So Ushiwaka was taken from his mother at the age of seven, and was sent
to the Tokobo Monastery, at Kuramayama, to be trained as a monk.

Even at that early age he showed great intelligence, read the Sacred
Books with avidity, and surprised the priests by his diligence and
quickness of memory. He was naturally a very high-spirited youth, and
could brook no control and hated to yield to others in anything
whatsoever. As the years passed by and he grew older, he came to hear
from his teachers and school friends of how his father Yoshitomo and his
clan the Minamoto had been overthrown by the Taira, and this filled him
with such intense sorrow and bitterness that sleeping or waking he could
never banish the subject from his mind. As he listened daily to these
things the words of his mother, which she had whispered in his ear as a
child, now came throbbing back to his mind, and he understood their full
meaning for the first time. In the lonely nights he felt again her hot
tears falling on his face, and heard her repeat as clearly as a bell in
the silence of the darkness: "Remember thy father, Minamoto Yoshitomo!
Avenge his death, for he died at the hands of the Taira!"

At last one night the lad dreamed that his mother, beautiful and sad as
he remembered her in the days of his childhood, came to his bedside and
said to him, while the tears streamed down her face: "Avenge thy father,
Yoshitomo! Unless thou remember my last words, I cannot rest in my
grave. I am dying, Ushiwaka, remember!"

And Ushiwaka awoke as he cried aloud in his agony: "I will! Honourable
mother, I will!" From that night his heart burned within him and the
fire and love of clan-race stirred his soul. Continual brooding over the
wrongs of his clan generated in his heart a fierce desire for revenge,
and he finally resolved to abandon the priesthood, become a great
general like his father, and punish the Taira. And as his ambition was
fired and exalted and his mind thrilled back to the days when his poor
unhappy mother Tokiwa prayed and wept over him, daily whispering in his
ear the name of his father, his will grew to purpose strong. Tokiwa had
not suffered in vain. From this time on, Ushiwaka bided his time every
night till all in the temple were fast asleep. When he heard the priests
snoring, and knew himself safe from observation, he would steal out from
the temple, and, making his way down the hillside into the valley, he
would draw his wooden sword and practise fencing by himself, and,
striking the trees and the stones imagine that they were his Taira foes.
As he worked in this way night after night, he felt his muscles grow
strong, and this practice taught him how to wield his sword with skill.

One night as usual Ushiwaka had gone out to the valley and was
diligently brandishing about his wooden sword. His mind fully bent upon
his self-taught lesson, he was marching up and down, chanting snatches
of war-songs and striking the trees and the rocks, when suddenly a great
cloud spread over the heavens, the rain fell, the thunder roared, and
the lightning flashed, and a great noise went through the valley, as if
all the trees were being torn up by the roots and their trunks were

While Ushiwaka wondered what this could mean, a great giant over ten
feet in height stood before him. He had large round glaring eyes that
glinted like metal mirrors; his nose was bright red, and it must have
been about a foot long; his hands were like the claws of a bird, and to
each there were only two fingers. The feathers of long wings at each
side peeped from under the creature's robes, and he looked like a
gigantic goblin. Fearful indeed was this apparition. But Ushiwaka was a
brave and spirited youth and the son of a soldier, and he was not to be
daunted by anything. Without moving a muscle of his face he gripped his
sword more tightly and simply asked: "Who are you, sirrah?"

The goblin laughed aloud and said: "I am the King of the Tengu,[1] the
elves of the mountains, and I have made this valley my home for many a
long year. I have admired your perseverance in coming to this place
night after night for the purpose of practising fencing all by
yourself, and I have come to meet you, with the intention of teaching
you all I know of the art of the sword."

Ushiwaka was delighted when he heard this, for the Tengu have
supernatural powers, and fortunate indeed are those whom they favour. He
thanked the giant elf and expressed his readiness to begin at once. He
then whirled up his sword and began to attack the Tengu, but the elf
shifted his position with the quickness of lightning, and taking from
his belt a fan made of seven feathers parried the showering blows right
and left so cleverly that the young knight's interest became thoroughly
aroused. Every night he came out for the lesson. He never missed once,
summer or winter, and in this way he learned all the secrets of the art
which the Tengu could teach him.

The Tengu was a great master and Ushiwaka an apt pupil. He became so
proficient in fencing that he could overcome ten or twenty small Tengu
in the twinkling of an eye, and he acquired extraordinary skill and
dexterity in the use of the sword; and the Tengu also imparted to him
the wonderful adroitness and agility which made him so famous in

Now Ushiwaka was about fifteen years old, a comely youth, and tall for
his age. At this time there lived on Mount Hiei, just outside the
capital, a wild bonze named Musashi Bo Benkei, who was such a lawless
and turbulent fellow that he had become notorious for his deeds of
violence. The city rang with the stories of his misdeeds, and so well
known had he become that people could not hear his name without fear and


Benkei suddenly made up his mind that it would be good sport to steal a
thousand swords from various knights.

No sooner did the wild idea enter his head than he began to put it into
practice. Every night he sauntered forth to the Gojo Bridge of Kyoto,
and when a knight or any man carrying a sword passed by, Benkei would
snatch the weapon from his girdle. If the owners yielded up their blades
quietly, Benkei allowed them to pass unhurt, but if not, he would strike
them dead with a single blow of the huge halberd he carried. So great
was Benkei's strength that he always overcame his victim,--resistance
was useless,--and night by night one and sometimes two men met death at
his hands on the Gojo Bridge. In this way Benkei gained such a terrible
reputation that everybody far and near feared to meet him, and after
dark no one dared to pass near the bridge he was known to haunt, so
fearful were the tales told of the dreaded robber of swords.

At last this story reached the ears of Ushiwaka, and he said to himself:
"What an interesting man this must be! If it is true that he is a bonze,
he must be a strange one indeed; but as he only robs people of their
swords, he cannot be a common highwayman. If I could make such a strong
man a retainer of mine, he would be of great assistance to me when I
punish my enemies, the Taira clan. Good! To-night I will go to the Gojo
Bridge and try the mettle of this Benkei!"

Ushiwaka, being a youth of great courage, had no sooner made up his mind
to meet Benkei than he proceeded to put his plan into execution. He
started out that same evening. It was a beautiful moonlight night, and
taking with him his favourite flute he strolled forth through the
streets of the sleeping city till he came to the Gojo Bridge. Then from
the opposite direction came a tall figure which appeared to touch the
clouds, so gigantic was its stature. The stranger was clad in a suit of
coal-black armour and carried an immense halberd.

"This must be the sword-robber! He is indeed strong!" said Ushiwaka to
himself, but he was not in the least daunted, and went on playing his
flute quite calmly.

Presently the armed giant halted and gazed at Ushiwaka, but evidently
thought him a mere youth, and decided to let him go unmolested, for he
was about to pass him by without lifting a hand. This indifference on
the part of Benkei not only disappointed but angered Ushiwaka. Having
waited in vain for the stranger to offer violence, our hero approached
Benkei, and, with the intention of picking a quarrel, suddenly kicked
the latter's halberd out of his hand.

Benkei, who had first thought to spare Ushiwaka on account of his youth,
became very angry when he found himself insulted by a lad to whom he had
been intentionally kind. In a fury he exclaimed, "Miserable stripling!"
and raising his halberd struck sideways at Ushiwaka, thinking to slice
him in two at the waist and to see his body fall asunder. But the young
knight nimbly avoided the blow which would have killed him, and
springing back a few paces he flung his fan[2] at Benkei's head and
uttered a loud cry of defiance. The fan struck Benkei on the forehead
right between the eyes, making him mad with pain. In a transport of rage
Benkei aimed a fearful blow at Ushiwaka, as if he were splitting a log
of wood with an axe. This time Ushiwaka sprang up to the parapet of the
bridge, clapped his hands, and laughed in derision, saying:

"Here I am! Don't you see? Here I am!" and Benkei was again thwarted

Benkei, who had never known his strokes miss before, had now failed
twice in catching this nimble opponent. Frantic with chagrin and baffled
rage, he now rushed furiously to the attack, whirling his great halberd
round in all directions till it looked like a water-wheel in motion,
striking wildly and blindly at Ushiwaka. But the young knight had been
taught tricks innumerable by the giant Tengu of Kuramayama, and he had
profited so well by his lessons that the King Tengu had at last said
that even he could teach him nothing more, and now, as it may well be
imagined, he was too quick for the heavy Benkei. When Benkei struck in
front, Ushiwaka was behind, and when Benkei aimed a blow behind,
Ushiwaka darted in front. Nimble as a monkey and swift as a swallow,
Ushiwaka avoided all the blows aimed at him, and, finding himself
outmatched, even the redoubtable Benkei grew tired.

Ushiwaka saw that Benkei was played out. He kept up the game a little
longer and then changed his tactics. Seizing his opportunity, he knocked
Benkei's halberd out of his hand. When the giant stooped to pick his
weapon up, Ushiwaka ran behind him and with a quick movement tripped him
up. There lay the big man on all fours, while Ushiwaka nimbly strode
across his back and pressing him down asked him how he liked this kind
of play.

All this time Benkei had wondered at the courage of the youth in
attacking and challenging a man so much larger than himself, but now he
was filled with amazement at Ushiwaka's wonderful strength and

"I am indeed astonished at what you have done," said Benkei. "Who in the
world can you be? I have fought with many men on this bridge, but you
are the first of my antagonists who has displayed such strength. Are you
a god or a _tengu_? You certainly cannot be an ordinary human being!"

Ushiwaka laughed and said: "Are you afraid for the first time, then?"

"I am," answered Benkei.

"Will you from henceforth be my retainer?" demanded Ushiwaka.

"I will in very truth be your retainer, but may I know who you are?"
asked Benkei meekly.

Ushiwaka now felt sure that Benkei was in earnest. He therefore allowed
him to get up from the ground, and then said: "I have nothing to hide
from you. I am the youngest son of Minamoto Yoshitomo and my name is

Benkei started with surprise when he heard these words and said: "What
is this I hear? Are you in truth a son of the Lord Yoshitomo of the
Minamoto clan? That is the reason I felt from the first moment of our
encounter that your deeds were not those of a common person. No wonder
that I thought this! I am only too happy to become the retainer of such
a distinguished and spirited young knight. I will follow you as my lord
and master from this very moment, if you will allow me. I can wish for
no greater honour."

So there and then, on the Gojo Bridge in the silver moonlight, the bonze
Benkei vowed to be the true and faithful vassal of the young knight
Ushiwaka and to serve him loyally till death, and thus was the compact
between lord and vassal made. From that time on, Benkei gave up his wild
and lawless ways and devoted his life to the service of Ushiwaka, who
was highly pleased at having won such a strong liegeman to his side.

Although Ushiwaka had now secured Benkei, it was impossible for only two
men, however strong, to think of fighting the Taira clan, so they both
decided that the cherished plan must wait till the Minamoto were
stronger. While thus waiting they heard a report to the effect that a
descendant of Tawara Toda Hidesato[3] named Hidehira was now a famous
general in Kaiwai of the Ashu Province, and that he was so powerful that
no one dared oppose him. Hearing this, Ushiwaka thought that it would be
a good plan to pay the general a visit and try to interest him, if
possible, in the fortunes of the House of Minamoto. He consulted with
Benkei, who encouraged the young knight in his scheme of enlisting the
General Hidehira as a partisan, and the two therefore left Kyoto
secretly and journeyed as quickly as possible to Oshu on this errand.

On the way there, Ushiwaka and Benkei came to the Temple of Atsuta, and
as they considered it important that the young knight should look older
now, Ushiwaka performed the ceremony of Gembuku at the shrine. This was
a rite performed in olden times when youths reached the age of manhood,
They then had to shave off the front part of their hair and to change
their names as a sign that they had left childhood behind. Ushiwaka now
took the name of Yoshitsune. As he was the eighth son, it would have
been more correct for him to have assumed the name of Hachiro, but as
his uncle Tametomo the Archer, of whom you have already read, was named
Hachiro, he purposely did not take this name. From this time forth our
hero is known as Yoshitsune, and this name he has glorified forever by
his wonderful bravery and many heroic exploits. In Japanese history he
is the knight without fear and without reproach, the darling of the
people, to them almost an incarnation of Hachiman, the popular God of
War. And as for Benkei, never can you find in all history a vassal who
was more true or loyal to his master than Benkei. He was Yoshitsune's
right hand in everything, and his strength and wisdom carried them
successfully through many a dire emergency.

From Kyoto to Oshu is a long journey of about three hundred miles, but
at length Yoshitsune (as we must now call him) and Benkei reached their
destination and craved the General Hidehira's assistance. They found
that Hidehira was a warm adherent of the Minamoto cause, and under the
late Lord Yoshitomo he and his family had enjoyed great favour. When the
general learned, therefore, that Yoshitsune was the son of the
illustrious Minamoto chief, his joy knew no bounds, and he made
Yoshitsune and Benkei heartily welcome and treated them both as guests
of honour and importance.

Just at this time Yoshitsune's eldest brother, Yoritomo, who had been
banished to an island in Idzu, collected a great army and raised his
standard against the Taira. When the news about Yoritomo reached
Yoshitsune, he rejoiced, for he felt that the hour had at last come when
the Minamoto would be revenged on the Taira for all the wrongs they had
suffered at the hands of the latter.

With the help of Hidehira and the faithful Benkei, he collected a small
army of warriors and at once marched over to his brother's camp in Idzu.
He sent a messenger ahead to inform Yoritomo that his youngest brother,
now named Yoshitsune, was coming to aid him in his fight against the

Yoritomo was exceedingly glad at this unexpected good news, for all that
helped to swell his forces now brought nearer the day when he would be
able to strike his long-planned blow at the power of the hated Taira.
As soon as Yoshitsune reached Idzu, Yoritomo arranged for an immediate
meeting. Although the two men were brothers, it must be remembered that
their father had been killed, and the family utterly scattered, when
they were mere children, Yoshitsune being at that time but an infant in
his mother's arms. As this was therefore the first time they had met
Yoritomo knew nothing of his young brother's character.

One of Yoshitsune's elder brothers had come with him, and Yoritomo being
a shrewd general wished to test them both to see of what mettle they
were made. He ordered his retainers to bring a brass basin full of
boiling water. When it was brought, Yoritomo ordered Noriyori, the elder
of the two, to carry it to him first. Now brass being a good conductor
of heat, the basin was very hot and Noriyori stupidly let it fall.
Yoritomo ordered it to be filled again and bade Yoshitsune bring it to
him. Without moving a muscle of his handsome face Yoshitsune took hold
of the almost unbearably hot vessel and carried it with due ceremony
slowly across the room. This exhibition of nerve and endurance filled
Yoritomo with admiration and he was favourably struck with Yoshitsune's
character. As for Noriyori, who had been unable to hold a hot basin for
a few moments, he had no use for him at all, except as a common soldier.

Yoritomo begged Yoshitsune to become his right-hand man and zealously
to espouse his cause. Yoshitsune declared that this had been his
lifelong ambition ever since he could remember,--as they both were sons
of the same father, so was their cause and destiny one. Yoritomo made
Yoshitsune a general of part of his army and ordered him in the name of
his father Yoshitomo to chastise the Taira.

Delighted beyond all words at the wonderfully auspicious turn events
were taking, Yoshitsune hastened his preparations for the march. The
longed-for hour had come to which through his whole childhood and youth
he had looked forward, and for which his whole being had thirsted for
many years. He could now fulfil the last words of his unhappy mother,
and punish the Taira for all the evil they had wrought against the
Minamoto. All the wild restlessness of his youth, which had driven him
forth to wield his wooden sword against the rocks in the Kuramayama
Valley and to try his strength against Benkei on the Gojo Bridge, now
found vent in action most dear to a born warrior's heart. With several
thousands of troops under him, Yoshitsune marched up to Kyoto and waged
war against the Taira, and defeated them in a series of brilliant

The stricken Taira multitudes fled before the avenger like autumn leaves
before the blast, and Yoshitsune pursued them to the sea. At Dan-no-Ura
the Taira made a last stand, but all in vain. Their lion leader,
Kiyomori, was dead, and there was no great chieftain to rally them in
the disordered retreat that now ensued. Yoshitsune came sweeping down
upon them, and they and their fleet and their infant Emperor likewise,
with their women and children, sank beneath the waves. Only a scattered
few lived to tell the tale of the terrible destruction that overtook
them on the sea.

Thus did Yoshitsune become a great warrior and general. Thus did he
fulfil the ambitions of his youth and avenge his father Yoshitomo's
death. He was without a rival in the whole country for his marvellous
bravery and successive victories. He was adored by the people as their
most popular hero and darling, and throughout the length and breadth of
the land his praise was sung by every one.

Even to this day there is no one in Japan who has not heard the name of
Yoshitsune. The next story, "The Story of Benkei," will tell you more of
Yoshitsune, for the two lives are linked together in the fame and glory
of noble deeds done, of dangers passed, of troubles and reverses borne,
and of honours earned and joy and victory shared together--to be told
and remembered forever.

[1] The Tengu are strange creatures with very long noses; sometimes they
have the head of a hawk and the body of a man.

[2] The fighter's fan was always made of metal and was often used as a

[3] See in the story of "My Lord Bag of Rice," _The Japanese Fairy Book_
(Constable, London).



Those who have read the story of the great warrior Yoshitsune will
certainly remember that his retainer Benkei was a gigantic bonze as
remarkable for his physical strength as he was for his original
character. In the story of Yoshitsune very little was said about Benkei;
you may therefore like to hear something more about the famous man who
is so favourite a hero with Japanese children and so greatly respected
in Japan for his faithfulness to his master.

Benkei was the son of a Buddhist priest named Bensho, High Steward of
the Temple of Gongen at Kumano, a famous shrine from ancient times, and
his mother was the daughter of a high Court official of the second rank.

Benkei was no ordinary mortal. Most children come into the world within
ten months, but Benkei kept his mother waiting one year and six months
for him; and when he was born he already had teeth and a luxuriant
growth of hair, and was so strong and big that he could walk from the
first as well as most children of two or three years of age.

Seeing how extraordinarily big and strong he was, the family were lost
in amazement; but their wonder quickly changed to dismay, for the mother
died soon after giving birth to her son. The father, Bensho, was very
angry at this, and took an aversion to the child who had brought, he
said, so great a misfortune upon him. He even wished to abandon the boy
altogether, believing that, as Benkei's birth had cost his mother's
life, he would in after years only prove a curse to the family.

Now the boy's aunt (who was married to a man named Yama-no-i), hearing
this, pitied her little nephew Benkei, and going to her brother said:
"If you are going to treat the child so cruelly as to cast him away,
please give him to me. I have no children and will bring him up as my
own child. He is not responsible for his mother's death. It is fate, and
there is no help for it!"

Bensho consented to her taking the child, saying that he did not care
what happened to him so long as he was kept out of his sight, for he
could no longer bear to see him. So Benkei was adopted by his aunt, who
took him away to the capital of Kyoto.

The child rewarded her care and grew to be a fine boy beyond all
expectation. He was exceedingly strong and healthy; at five or six
years of age he was equal in size and strength to boys of ten or twelve,
and gave promise of unusual intelligence and cleverness.

Unfortunately his face was as fierce as that of a demon and he looked so
truly savage and ugly that he gradually earned for himself the nickname
of Oni-Waka, or Demon Youth.

In a few years his uncle thought that it was time to send the boy to
school, and he accordingly sent Benkei to the monastery of Eizan and
placed him under the tutorship of the famous priest Kwankei. In Japan as
in England in those times all learning was in the hands of the priests,
and the temples were the only schools.

When Benkei arrived at Kwankei's temple he was taught the reading and
writing of Chinese characters, and as he was at first docile and
diligent, and obedient to all set over him, he made rapid progress, and
not only satisfied but pleased his teacher, who commended his industry;
but after a time he chafed at the restraint of his new surroundings and
began to give trouble. Not content with being unruly himself, he would
lead the other novices away from their studies into the mountains and
play all kinds of rough games with them, and, of course, being by nature
much stronger and bigger than any of them, none of his companions could
stand against him. It therefore happened that in every contest he
invariably gained the victory, and this elated him so much that he
thought of nothing but his sports and his triumphs, and, neglecting his
lessons entirely, practised athletic games day after day, quite
forgetting everything else.

Oni-Waka's teacher, Kwankei, hearing about the youth's wild doings, and
considering them as unseemly, sent for him and told him that such
behaviour not only grieved his guardians but brought disgrace upon the
holy temple; but his rebuke fell upon deaf ears and did no good at all.
While he was being scolded, Benkei listened respectfully enough; but as
soon as the reverend teacher turned his back he would forthwith be as
wild, if not wilder, than ever. His conduct grew worse and worse, till
at last, losing all patience, the master priest forbade him to go out of
the house, and then enforced his order by shutting him up in a

This punishment Oni-Waka deeply resented, and one night, eluding the
vigilance of his gaolers, he stole out quietly, and picking up a great
log of wood began to destroy everything he could. First he smashed the
gateway; then the fences all round the temple; then he broke the
shutters and the sliding screens inside; indeed everything he could
reach, he wrecked. The bonzes, roused from their slumbers by the
unexpected noise, which sounded as if a troop of robbers were at work,
were all so frightened that they could do nothing to stop the whirlwind
of destruction. When Oni-Waka had done all the mischief he could he felt
that, after this last mad prank, the Temple of Eizan was no place for
him, so he fled from the spot forever. He was now just seventeen years
of age, and he called himself Musashi Bo Benkei.

Oni-Waka showed a sense of humour when he called himself Musashi Bo
Benkei. In olden times there lived in Eizan a man named Musashi, who was
turbulent and wild in his youth, and yet became a famous bonze and lived
until the ripe age of sixty-one. Oni-Waka, having heard about this
famous man, made up his mind to be like him, and therefore called
himself Musashi Bo, or Musashi the Bonze. The first syllable--"Ben"--of
_Ben_kei was taken from the first character of his father's name
(Bensho), and the second--"kei"--was the last syllable of his teacher's
name (Kwankei). The name Benkei was therefore a combination of the names
of his father and teacher.

Ashamed to return home to his uncle and aunt after his behaviour at the
monastery, Benkei made up his mind to travel. This he did much after the
fashion of German apprentices at about the same period in Europe.
Leaving Kyoto, he came to Osaka; from Osaka he went to the province of
Awa in the island of Shikoku; he then travelled all through that
island, and thence wandered back to the mainland, where in the province
of Harima he came at last to a monastery called Shosa. This monastery
was as large as that of Eizan, and Benkei thought that he would like to
stay there for a time as a student. With the consent of the abbot,
Benkei was enrolled as an acolyte of this temple.

Among the numerous novices in the temple there was one named Kaien, who
was nearly as fond of mischief as Benkei himself, and he was known in
the neighbourhood for a troublesome fellow, no one young or old being
safe from his foolish pranks. One day soon after Benkei's arrival, Kaien
found the newcomer taking a nap, so for fun he wrote on Benkei's cheek
the Chinese character for _geta_, or "clog."

When Benkei woke up and went into the courtyard he noticed that
everybody he came near seemed to be laughing at him, though nobody would
say why.

Thinking that there must be something strange in his appearance he
glanced into a bowl of water and at once discovered the cause of the
merriment. Angry at the trick played on him, he seized a thick stick and
rushing into the midst of his fellow novices shouted: "You rogues! I
suppose you thought that you were doing something clever when you
scribbled on my face. Now just come here, one by one, and kneel down and
beg my pardon. If you do not you will soon be sorry for yourselves."

Benkei looked so angry and spoke so fiercely that most of the acolytes
were frightened. Four or five of the boldest, however, answered him
back, saying: "What do you mean, you lazy fellow, by complaining about a
trick played upon you while you were asleep in the middle of the day? If
we hear any more of your grumbling, we will throw you out of the

In this way they tried to frighten Benkei, but he did not budge an inch,
and his only reply was to lift his stick and knock down the four or five
who had spoken.

Seeing this, Kaien, the author of all this trouble, rushed up, saying:
"You are a coward to attack fellows half your size. Suppose for a change
you fight with me!"

Then looking round for a weapon, and seeing a large log of wood on a
fire close by, he picked it up and faced the enraged Benkei, adding: "It
was I who scribbled on your face. If you are angry, come on and let us
fight it out!"

The two closed at once and fought for some time; then Benkei grew
impatient, and seizing Kaien by his collar and belt lifted him off his
feet. The other novices, seeing this, cried out in alarm: "Kaien has
been lifted off his feet. He can't fight now. He is helpless!"

Then they shouted to Kaien to apologize and save himself.

"Pardon! Pardon! Benkei! Mercy!" screamed the youth, now bitterly
repenting his folly.

Benkei, however, did not hear Kaien's cry for mercy, for he was like a
madman now. He hardly knew what he did or said, for his blood was fired
by the taunts of the young men and by the fight.

"You shall die," screamed Benkei, "mannerless coward that you are; you
shall die, I say, and your carcass shall be eaten by crows!" With these
words he shook Kaien as mercilessly as a dog does a rat, and then flung
him upon the tiled roof of the chapel, a height of some fourteen or
fifteen feet. Kaien fell on the roof, rolled down the tiles, and at
last, striking a rock in the garden, was killed on the spot. When the
foolish and unfortunate lad was flung up on the roof by Benkei, he still
held the smoking brand which he had all to no purpose used against his
antagonist and this, falling on the building, flared up and set fire to
the temple. Just then a breeze sprang up and fanned the flames into a
fierce blaze; sparks from the roof dropped upon the curving tiers of the
five-storied pagoda, and the main gateway, and the school and the houses
of the bonzes, till the whole of the monastery was in a blaze. Seeing
the conflagration, all the inmates were lost in consternation. Shouting
"Fire! Fire!" some of them ran to draw water from the well, while
others threw sand on the flames, and in the excitement and general
confusion which followed, Benkei, the cause of the calamity, was

In the midst of the tremendous tumult and disturbance Benkei laughed
quietly to himself.

"Ha! ha!" he laughed; "look at the fire and the stir I have made! I have
never seen the lazy bonzes know what it is to hurry before. It will do
them good for once in a way!"

Then he slipped away from the temple and made his way back to Kyoto.

Benkei, wild and unruly as he was, cannot be judged by the standard of
conduct of to-day. Those times were very different from these days of
peace and order. Young men were encouraged to do rough violent deeds to
show their strength and courage, and if they killed their antagonists in
the fight, so much the more did this redound to their credit. It was the
custom for a young _samurai_ on obtaining a sword to go out into the
highways to try the mettle of his blade. Woe to those who passed by;
their blood must baptize the knight's sword. This training bred a
martial spirit in the youth of Japan, and produced brave men of
dauntless courage and resolution like Benkei, who became such a hero in

Benkei was, however, by this time tired of study and of living the dull
life of a bonze, and he now made up his mind to rove about in search of
adventures, determining that, should he find a stronger man than
himself, he would become that man's vassal, turn from his wild ways and
lead the life of a good _samurai_, faithful to his lord and a good
patriot to his country. But first of all he must find the man stronger
than he to whom he would bow his proud strong neck. He longed now to
find a master worthy of respect, whom he could reverence as his
superior. How was this to be done? At last an idea struck him. He had
determined to be a soldier and enter the service of a _samurai_; he must
therefore get a good sword. Violent and impetuous as ever, to this end
he now vowed to take a thousand swords from the citizens of Kyoto. To
carry out his wild scheme he went nightly to the Gojo Bridge, and when
men passed along bearing swords in their girdles he would rush suddenly
out, attack them furiously, and snatch away their swords. He never
pursued those who ran away, for he deemed them cowards and would not
waste his time or strength on such creatures; but those who opposed him
he would mow down with a single sweep of his great halberd. In this way
he had attacked nine hundred and ninety-nine men and taken away nine
hundred and ninety-nine swords; each time he had hoped to meet his match
in the numerous contests, but not one among the whole number proved a
serious foe.

Accordingly the swords Benkei had thus collected were all poor weapons,
for weak men have like swords; they were blunt and badly tempered and of
not the slightest use to him. He was heartily disappointed, and began to
think that perhaps he had better abandon the enterprise as a vain one.
In desperation, however, he determined to get one more sword and thus
complete the total of one thousand blades, the number he had first of
all set his mind upon. In spite of discouragement, he told himself that
it would be stupid to give up at this point.

As soon as he had decided to do this, his spirits revived, and for some
unaccountable reason he felt that this time he would be lucky, and able
to secure once for all a good weapon. He waited impatiently for the
evening, and as soon as the twilight fell he made his preparations and
went as usual to the Gojo Bridge. It happened to be the night of the
fifteenth day of August, and the beautiful harvest moon sailed up into
the serene heaven, above the hills and the tall dark velvety pines and
cryptomerias, and the sleeping world was bathed in her soft silvery
brilliance. For a long time Benkei stood leaning against the parapet of
the bridge, entranced by the fair scene spread out before him in the
moonlight and apparently quite forgetful for the time being of his
purpose. Suddenly the stillness of the beautiful night was broken by
the sound of a flute. Benkei started from his reverie. The music drew
nearer and nearer, and then he saw a slight figure approaching from the
other end of the bridge. The newcomer wore a kind of white veil and high
black-lacquered clogs, and was playing on his flute as he strolled
along. Benkei watched the approaching stranger and saw at once that this
was no ordinary passer-by.

At first he thought that this must be a woman, for the moonlight
revealed a slender grace in walking and then on nearer view a face of
extreme youth and aristocratic beauty. He could not find the heart to
attack the mysterious and gentle unknown, and decided to let him or her
pass unmolested; but while he was wondering who the person, so unlike
all the others he had met on the bridge, could be, the supposed lady all
of a sudden stepped up to Benkei and kicked the latter's halberd out of
his hand.

"What are you doing?" shouted Benkei, in a rage when he had recovered
from his astonishment; and recovering his halberd he pulled off what he
supposed to be the lady's veil. To his surprise he found that the
adventurous stranger was a handsome youth who might easily be mistaken
for a girl, and then Benkei's eyes fell upon a splendid gold-mounted
sword which the lad carried in his girdle. He said to himself that he
had not waited so long in vain, that he was verily in luck this night
to have such a bird come into net. While these thoughts flashed through
his mind, Benkei clutched at the sword, but the youth was far stronger
than he looked, and the instant Benkei put forth his hand the young
fellow flung a heavy fan in his face, saying: "How brave you think
yourself, don't you?" and darted out of his reach.

This made Benkei more angry than ever, and with threatening exclamations
he lifted his halberd to deal a smashing blow on the young knight. But
the lad was far too quick for Benkei and sprang about with the
nimbleness of a monkey, and no matter how Benkei aimed his blows, they
never reached the mark. Never had Benkei seen such agility and
adroitness. Sometimes the youth appeared in front and sometimes behind,
now on one side and again on the other, and as often as Benkei turned he
would find that his opponent had shifted his position like lightning. At
length Benkei grew tired and a sense of awe began to take hold of his
mind, for he now felt that the youth must be a supernatural being, or a
tengu, and no common mortal, and this feeling grew upon him so strongly
that he began to lose heart. He knew now that he was no longer
invincible as he had hitherto been. Then the lad, who had hitherto acted
on the defensive, began to push his advantage, and, attacking Benkei in
good earnest, beat down the latter's guard and disarmed him.

When the redoubtable Benkei, who had never yet been beaten by any one in
his whole life, found himself thus ignominiously defeated, he was
astonished beyond words, and there and then, kneeling down on the
bridge, bowed low before the young man and humbly said: "Will you
condescend to tell me whose son you are, and your name? Something tells
me that you are no common man!"

The handsome youth laughed and replied: "I am the eighth and youngest
son of Minamoto Yoshitomo, and my name is Minamoto Ushiwaka," and with
these words he allowed Benkei to rise.

"What do I hear?" exclaimed Benkei; "are you indeed the young knight
Minamoto Ushiwaka of whom I have heard so much? I felt from the first
that you were a person of distinction. As for myself, I am simply
Musashi Bo Benkei. For a long time I have been looking for a man
stronger than myself, to whom I could look up as my master. I have led a
wild life for a long time, but if you will take me into your service I
will be a good and faithful vassal."

Ushiwaka, who had heard of Benkei's remarkable strength, and who had
come out that night to the Gojo Bridge for the purpose of meeting the
notorious man with the hope of winning him to his side, was delighted
at the turn events had taken and promised to take Benkei into his
service, and in this way the brave youth and the giant priest became
associated as lord and vassal.

From this hour Benkei was a completely changed character. He gave up his
wild ways and became obedient to his young master, who was the only one
he had found a match for his imposing strength and will. He served his
new lord with the utmost devotion, and fought bravely in every battle
which Yoshitsune (Ushiwaka's name when he came of age) waged against the
Taira clan at the famous battles of Ichi-no-tani and Dan-no-Ura, of
which you will have read in the story of Yoshitsune.

Yoshitsune won victory after victory, driving his Taira enemies to the
sea, where they miserably perished at Dan-no-Ura, and it seemed to the
wondering people that he must be the impersonation of Hachiman, the God
of War.

So handsome and brave was he that they had never seen or heard of his
like before, and throughout Japan every one praised and loved him. Now
Yoritomo, when he saw his brother's popularity, became jealous, and
Kajiwara, one of his generals, who hated Yoshitsune because the young
knight had once openly reproved him for cowardice, seized the
opportunity to poison Yoritomo's mind against his younger brother; he
suggested that Yoshitsune's aim was to supplant Yoritomo in supreme
authority. Sad to say, Yoritomo believed this wicked slander. Therefore,
when Yoshitsune, covered with glory and honour, returned from the wars,
bringing with him, as prisoners of war, Munemori, the Taira chieftain,
and his son (Kiyomori was now dead), he found that Yoritomo had erected
a barrier near Koshigoe, just outside Kamakura. Here he sent a guard to
receive the prisoners, but on the ground that Yoshitsune was guilty of
treachery, Yoritomo refused him admittance into Kamakura. In vain did
Yoshitsune protest against the unjust accusation; in vain did he write a
touching letter avowing his unaltered love and devotion to Yoritomo; in
vain did he recount all the hardships endured on the campaigns which the
young and chivalrous general had undertaken at the command of his
brother. He was not believed, and ingratitude was the only reward he
received for devotion to his brother's cause. At this crisis Yoshitsune
found himself banished and every part of Japan rendered unsafe for his
residence, for Yoritomo ordered him to be arrested. When this time of
trouble came, Benkei was indefatigable in his efforts to guard
Yoshitsune's person from danger. He followed him in his flight and exile
and never left his master's side.

Yoshitsune now returned to Kyoto for a time. Soon after he arrived there
Yoritomo sent a man named Tosabo to compass his death. This man, like
Benkei, had formerly been a bonze, and he gave out that he had come to
visit the temples of the capital.

Tosabo knew very well what a shrewd and clever warrior Yoshitsune was,
and he doubted his own ability to cope with the task he had undertaken.
He therefore decided that he would wait until Yoshitsune was completely
off his guard, and then make a sudden attack upon the house where he was
staying. He told his followers of his plan and secretly prepared for the

Yoshitsune soon learned of Tosabo's coming, for the people of Kyoto and
its neighbourhood, where he had lived as a boy, were devoted to him. The
young general, knowing that Tosabo was in Yoritomo's service, regarded
him with suspicion. He told Benkei of his fears, and Benkei at once
volunteered to go and summon Tosabo to the house and question him.

Yoshitsune agreed to the plan, and Benkei immediately set off for
Tosabo's house.

"Now, Tosabo," said he, "my Lord Yoshitsune desires to see you, so you
are to come back with me at once!"

Benkei's manner was so fierce and determined that Tosabo felt alarmed
and he therefore pretended to be ill; but Benkei was not to be balked in
that stupid way, and shouting: "If you are not quick, I'll seize you
and take you whether you will or not!" he grabbed Tosabo by his girdle
and lifted him up as if he had been a child, tucked him under one arm,
and, mounting his horse, carried him off.

There were several of Tosabo's retainers present at the interview, but
they were all trembling with fear and did not dare to put forth a hand
to help their master.

Benkei thus conducted Tosabo into the presence of Yoshitsune by force,
and both master and vassal began to examine him strictly; but Tosabo was
such an audacious rascal that, notwithstanding the fact that he had
actually come from Yoritomo, hired as an assassin, he refused to confess
anything. With great humility he feigned surprise at being suspected
of entertaining designs against Yoshitsune's life, saying that he was
but a poor bonze in Yoritomo's service, and as Yoshitsune was his
master's brother, he (Tosabo) regarded him as his lord also. Nothing
else but a religious fast and retreat had called him to Kyoto!

Now Yoshitsune and Benkei had no actual proof of his guilt, so they
allowed Tosabo to go free, first making him sign a document declaring
that he was not a hired assassin. In truth neither of them believed the
crafty man, but thought him too despicable an enemy to fear, and made up
their minds that, if he and his gang planned a night assault, the party
could be easily repulsed and put to flight. Tosabo on his part
congratulated himself on his cleverness, returned home, armed his men,
and made an attack on Yoshitsune's residence.

Yoshitsune that night, thinking that at any rate for some time he was
quite safe from attack, made merry with all his men. Drinking
amber-coloured wine they sat up late, and when at last the young general
retired to rest, having drunk much he slept a deep sleep. His beautiful
young wife Shizuka, who accompanied him in all his wanderings, fearing
she knew not what, that night alone kept watch beside her lord's couch.
She was the first to hear the approach of Tosabo and his soldiers.
Vainly she tried to rouse Yoshitsune; she called him, she shook him, but
all in vain,--he slept on. Shizuka was frantic. She heard the enemy at
the gate trying to batter it down. Suddenly the thought struck her, as
if by inspiration, that the most thrilling call to arms to a warrior
must be the sound of his armour. She rushed to the box in the hall, and
heavy as it was for her slender strength, she lifted out the armour. She
dragged it quickly into the room. Then over Yoshitsune's head she waved
it to and fro. "Clang-clang," sounded the armour, "clang--clang." Up
sprang the warrior, seized the suit of armour, and with Shizuka's help
dressed himself for battle. All this took place without a single word.
Benkei and the rest of his soldiers soon joined him and the enemy were
put to flight. Tosabo managed to escape and hide himself in the
mountains of Kurama, near Kyoto, but he was caught and put to death at

To have been able to thwart and punish the assassins from Kamakura was a
source of great satisfaction to Yoshitsune and his men; but when the
story reached Yoritomo he was very wroth, and issued another decree
entirely disowning Yoshitsune and declaring him an enemy to the state.

Yoshitsune felt that Yoritomo was acting most unjustly towards him, for
he knew himself to be entirely blameless of plotting against Yoritomo's
supremacy; but as it was useless to contend against his elder brother,
who as Shogun was the military ruler of Japan, he decided to leave Kyoto
and escape to some other place. He therefore planned to cross from the
province of Settsu to Saikoku in a ship; but when they reached
Dan-no-Ura, where Yoshitsune had finally conquered and all but
terminated the Taira clan, the fine weather they had hitherto
experienced suddenly changed, the sky became overcast with black clouds,
rain began to fall in torrents, the wind began to blow, and gradually
the waves rose higher and higher, and shipwreck became imminent. As the
darkness deepened about them, though they could see nothing, over the
water there came weird sounds of the din of battle, the rushing of ships
through the sea, the shouting and trampling of men, the whizzing of
arrows in the air; all around them as the ship sped on, the tumult of
the fight grew louder, till Yoshitsune felt that he was living again
through that awful and never-to-be-forgotten battle.


Then from amid the rolling waves, which every moment threatened to
engulf the boat, arose pale, ghastly forms whose wan faces were terrible
to see. Clad in blood-stained, battle-torn armour and ravaged with
gaping wounds, these warrior ghosts raised threatening hands, as if to
stop the progress of the boat, while meanings of despair and hollow sobs
and shrieks burst from the spectre army. Among the foremost figures was
one who brandished a huge halberd, and as he approached, he addressed
Yoshitsune, saying: "Aha! Revenge! Revenge! Behold in me the ghost of
Taira-no-Tomomori, general of the Taira clan, ruthlessly destroyed by
you! Long have I waited here for you and now I will slay you all, for
not until then will the slaughtered Taira rest in their watery graves."

Through the tossing, whirling waters, with the wind shrieking round
them, and a weird blue phosphoric light making everything visible, the
phantom host drew nearer and nearer to the boat. But Yoshitsune did not
seem to be in the least alarmed. As dauntless as ever, he stood up in
the prow and faced the ghosts of the men whom he had slain in that
terrible battle, and flashing forth his keen blade, said: "So you are
the spirits of the Taira clan, are you? And you have risen from the
ocean-bed to haunt us, and to impede our progress, and to inflict evil
upon us? Have you forgotten how I drove you before me as dust before the
wind when you were alive? It is a pity you have not profited by past
experiences! I should have thought that you would have had no wish to
see me again!"

With these words he was about to brandish his sword and attack the
spectres, but Benkei, the wise and faithful Benkei, stepped up to his
young master and stayed his hand, saying: "Not so, my lord. Swords are
useless against ghosts. It is not wise to anger these poor earth-bound
phantoms. The best way of dealing with them is to pacify them, so that
they may find peace and go to their own place."

Yoshitsune yielded to Benkei and allowed himself to be put aside. Then
Benkei, who, you will remember, had formerly been a Buddhist priest,
drew out a small rosary which he always carried with him, and telling
his beads, and rubbing his hands together, palm to palm, began to recite
prayers earnestly and reverently in a loud voice. The sacred words
appointed by the Buddhist Church fell like a benediction upon the angry
spirits, the wailing and the howling and the tumult of the phantom
conflict ceased, and the wraiths gradually vanished into the sea from
whence they had arisen; the storm ceased, and the weather cleared and
became as fine and peaceful as it was before, and the travellers soon
reached the land in safety.

Across the mountains Yoshitsune now fled, and after endless adventures
and hairbreadth escapes, he determined to seek the help of his old
friend and partisan, the General Hidehira, in the province of Oshu. On
the way thither they came to a guard-house at Ataka, in Kaga Province.
This guard-house was one of the principal frontier stations at which in
those feudal times all travellers had to give an account of themselves.
Yoritomo had by this time issued a proclamation ordering the arrest of
Yoshitsune, so the young general and Benkei and the handful of faithful
men still left to him disguised themselves as wandering priests, wearing
loose caps on their heads, carrying wallets on their backs, and grasping
pilgrim staves in their hands. Yoshitsune himself was disguised as a
_goriki_, or coolie, attendant on the priests. They travelled slowly
until they came to the barrier, consulting together as to how they
should pass it, for they heard that the sentries suspected every one and
were examining passers-by very strictly. Only the previous day three
mendicants had been killed, owing to the suspicion of the guards having
been excited.

All Yoshitsune's followers, among whom were many brave, loyal, though
headstrong young fellows, wanted to storm the guard-house and cut their
way through the soldiers, but Benkei was strongly opposed to this and
said: "No, no, that will never do! A quarrel would cost some of our
lives, and we have few enough as it is. Leave the matter to me to manage
and I'll get you through."

No one ever gainsaid Benkei, when he spoke with authority like that, for
they all knew what a mountain of strength and resource he was in time of
need. So Benkei, as ever, had his way. He disguised Yoshitsune in
the dress of a servant (_goriki_), and gave him a deep broad-brimmed hat
of bamboo to wear, and made him tuck up his robe into his belt; then,
advancing in front of the others, he leisurely approached the
guard-house, and with an air of the utmost unconcern and nonchalance
said: "We are mendicant priests who are travelling throughout the
various provinces for the purpose of soliciting subscriptions for the
rebuilding of the shrine of the Great Buddha at the Todaiji Temple, in
Nara. We ask permission to pass the barrier."

Now the captain of the guard was a very clever man and a strict observer
of rules, and he would not let Benkei pass without questioning him

"Well, as you say you are visiting the various provinces soliciting
subscriptions for the purpose of rebuilding the Shrine of the Great
Buddha, it is possible that I may allow you to pass, but you must show
me positive proof of the truth of your story," said the captain of the

Benkei was staggered for a moment when he heard these words. What should
he do? But he was a quick-witted man, and without betraying any sign of
being taken by surprise, he answered with composure: "Very good, then, I
will read you my commission written by the High Priest himself in the
first pages of the subscription-book."

With these words, speculating upon the ignorance of the guard, with
great dignity he drew out a scroll, and pressing it with reverence to
his forehead, began to improvise and read out an imaginary letter from
the High Priest of the Todaiji Temple for the rebuilding of a shrine for
the Daibutsu, at Nara. At the first mention of the name of the priest,
so famous and so highly revered throughout the country, the captain of
the guard, it is said, fell respectfully upon his knees and listened,
face bent to the earth in humble awe, to the contents of the letter. So
well did Benkei play his part that the sentry was convinced of the
genuine character of the commission and said: "I am satisfied. There is
no reason to detain you. You may pass!"

Benkei was overjoyed, and thought that at length all difficulties had
been overcome. At the head of the fugitive band, with Yoshitsune
disguised as an attendant in the rear, he was moving forward to pass
through the barrier when the captain suddenly darted forward and stopped
Yoshitsune, saying in a loud voice: "Wait a moment, you coolie! Wait a

"We are discovered," thought Benkei; and even he, dauntless and cool in
the face of all danger hitherto, felt his heart beating violently in the
intense excitement of this momentous crisis.

But it was no time for hesitation, and recognizing that the whole
situation hung upon that very moment, Benkei, with his usual pluck and
daring, pulled himself together and coolly asked: "Have you anything to
say to this coolie whom you have stopped?"

"Of course I have, and that is why I have stopped him," replied the

"And may I ask what your business with him is?" inquired Benkei.

"This coolie," answered the captain, "is said by my soldiers to resemble
Lord Yoshitsune, and I stopped him so that I might examine him."

"What!" shouted Benkei, pretending to be overcome with laughter at the
idea, "this coolie resembles Lord Yoshitsune? Ha! ha! ha! Oh, this is
indeed too comical for anything! I wondered why you arrested him, but
never thought of his being stopped for such an absurd reason. But as a
matter of fact he has been mistaken for Lord Yoshitsune over and over
again by several people, and you are by no means the only one who has
had his suspicions aroused. You see the fellow is handsome and has a
very white skin like an aristocrat, and that's all the good there is
about him, but on that account I have had an immense amount of trouble
with him."

Then Benkei turned to Yoshitsune, saying: "Wretched creature! it is all
your fault that we come under suspicion all the time. You shuffle along
in such a cowardly manner and put on such strange airs that people
naturally suspect you. In future be more careful, and walk along like a
man and not in such a mincing way, you fool!"

Thus Benkei feigned to lose his temper, and after scolding Yoshitsune
roughly, finally lifted his staff and gave him several blows across the
back, telling him to fall upon his knees and not presume to remain
standing in the presence of the guard.

The captain of the guard had been watching this scene for some moments,
and when he saw Benkei start in and thrash Yoshitsune, his doubts were
completely allayed; for he thought that if the apparent servant were
really Yoshitsune and the mendicant priest the latter's retainer, the
vassal would never dare to assault his master in this fashion.

"Ah! it was my fault and carelessness. Evidently it was an entire
mistake on our part to think this coolie was Lord Yoshitsune, and it is
not the poor fellow's fault, so pray do not beat him any more! Continue
your journey at once and take him with you."

Benkei's trick thus succeeded completely. The captain reentered the
guard-house and the young lord and his vassals passed at last unhindered
through the strictly guarded gate, saved as ever by the quick-wittedness
of Benkei.

Now some say that the captain of the guard was not deceived; that he
knew that the disguised priests and attendant were Yoshitsune and his
party, but his whole sympathy was with the hunted hero and his brave few
and he allowed them to pass. For a _samurai_ must ever show mercy and
sympathy, especially to his fellows and to those in distress. The strict
examination he insisted upon was a farce he played to satisfy the
authorities at Kamakura.

Yoshitsune and his followers were filled with admiration at the wisdom
of Benkei, and great were the praise and thanks they rendered him on
this occasion; but Benkei, full of reverence and devotion to his master,
never ceased to deplore the necessity which drove him to beat his own
lord and apologized with great humility. Whenever the story was told, he
would shed tears of sorrow and declare that he would rather have been
beaten to death himself than have been obliged by circumstances to
strike Yoshitsune.

Thus once by force of arms he put to flight the would-be assassins of
Yoshitsune at Kyoto; by reciting Buddhist prayers he laid the ghosts of
the Taira warriors in the sea at Dan-no-Ura; and by sheer wit and
sagacity he brought his party across the dangerous frontier; and at
length he managed to arrive safely with his beloved master at the Oshu
residence of the famous General Hidehira.

He now thought that all troubles were over; but unfortunately this story
soon reached Kamakura City, and Yoritomo, furious at Yoshitsune's
daring, despatched a large army to chastise him.

At this time Yoshitsune's camp was pitched beside the river Koromo, and
the army from Kamakura, swarming up in countless thousands on the
opposite bank, discharged volley after volley of arrows at the brave but
ill-fated band. Yoshitsune's handful of men were entirely unable to face
the overwhelming numbers, and fled in confusion, seeking shelter in the
neighbouring woods and valleys or hiding themselves in the mountains.
But Benkei, despising flight, refused to budge, and stood without moving
while showers of arrows fell like rain around him. At length the enemy
saw that Benkei stood immovable with his seven weapons on his back,
grasping his great halberd in both hands. Wondering at the sight, they
drew near for the purpose of solving the mystery. As they approached,
the giant still remained standing; not an eyelid flinched, as his eyes,
wide open, glared fiercely at the soldiers. No wonder that the giant did
not stir, for arrows were sticking all over his body like quills on a
porcupine, and it was evident that he had died standing with his face to
the enemy.

This story is known far and wide throughout Japan, and you can imagine
what a brave sturdy warrior he must have been to have died in this way,
fighting to the last.

Another story tells how the enemy came up to the wonderful figure of
Benkei and found it to be but a straw dummy, and that by this device
Benkei gained time for his beloved lord, with whom he escaped into the
North, leaving their enemies far behind. Such is the story of Benkei,
and the story does not end here; for tradition relates with much
circumstance, as traditions always do, that Benkei's master became the
conqueror of Northern Asia, known to after ages as the famous Genghis



Long, long ago in Old Japan, in the reign of the Emperor Ichijo, the
sixty-sixth Emperor, there lived a very brave general called
Minamoto-no-Raiko. Minamoto was the name of the powerful clan to which
he belonged, and in England it would be called his surname, and Raiko,
or Yorimitsu,[1] was his own name.

In those times it was the custom for generals to keep as a body-guard
four picked knights renowned for their daring spirit, their great
strength, and their skill in wielding the sword. These four braves were
called Shitenno, or Four Kings of Heaven, and they participated in all
the exploits and martial expeditions of their chief, and vied with one
another in excelling in bravery and dexterity.

Minamoto-no-Raiko was no exception to the general rule of those ancient
leaders of Japan, and he had under him Usui-Sadamitsu, Sakata Kintoki,
Urabe Suetake, and Watanabe Tsuna (the clan or surname comes first in
Japan). Search the wide world from north to south and from east to west,
and no braver warriors than the Shitenno of Minamoto-no-Raiko could you
find. Each one of the four was said to be a match single-handed for a
thousand men. They lived for adventure, and their delight was in war.

Now it happened about this time that Kyoto, the capital, was ringing
with the stories of the doings of a frightful demon that lived in the
fastnesses of a high mountain called Mount Oye, in the province of
Tamba. This goblin or demon's name was Shutendoji. To look upon the
creature was a horrible thing, and those who once caught sight of him
never forgot the sight to their dying day. He sometimes took upon him
the form of a human being, and leaving his den would steal into the
capital and haunt the streets and carry off precious sons and beloved
daughters of the Kyoto homes. Having seized these treasures and flowers
of the people, he would drag them to his castle in the wilds of Mount
Oye, and there he would make them work and wait upon him till he was
ready to devour them, then he would tear them limb from limb.

For a long time the flower of the youth of the capital had been
kidnapped in this way; many homes had been made desolate. For a long,
long time no one had the least idea of what happened to the sons and
daughters thus stolen, but at the period when this story begins, the
dread news of the cannibal Shutendoji and his mountain den began to be
noised abroad.

Now at the Court there was an official, Knight Kimitaka by name, who was
thrice happy in the possession of a beautiful daughter. She was his only
child, and upon her he and his wife doted. One day the darling of the
family disappeared, and no trace whatsoever of the beautiful girl could
be found. The household was plunged into the deepest grief and misery.
The mother at last determined to consult a soothsayer, and, bidding an
attendant follow her, she repaired to the house of a famous
fortune-teller and diviner, who revealed to her that her daughter had
been stolen away by the goblin of Mount Oye. The mother hastened home
terror-stricken, and the father, when he was told the dire news, was
dumb with grief. He gave up going on duty at the Palace, for he was so
broken-hearted that he could do nothing but weep night and day over the
loss of his only daughter. To lose her was bad enough, but the thought
of the horrible hands into which she had fallen was unendurable, and all
who loved the poor child, even her own father, were powerless to save
her. Oh! the bitter, bitter grief!

At last the Emperor heard of the sorrow that had overtaken Kimitaka,
and his wrath was great to think that the hateful goblin had dared to
enter the precincts of the sacred capital without permission, and had
dared to steal away his subjects in this manner. And in his royal
indignation he sprang to his feet and threw down his tasselled fan and
cried aloud: "Is there no one in my domains who will punish this goblin
and destroy him utterly, and avenge the wrongs he has done my people and
this city, and so set my heart at ease?"

Then the Emperor called his Council together, and put the matter before
them and asked them what it were best to do, for the city must at all
costs be rid of this terrible scourge.

"How dare he haunt my dominions and lay hands on my people in the very
precincts of my Palace?" cried the distressed Emperor.

Then the Ministers respectfully answered the Emperor and said: "There
are numbers of brave warriors in Your Majesty's realm, but there are
none so able to do your bidding as Minamoto-no-Raiko. We would humbly
advise our August Emperor, the Son of Heaven, to send for the knight and
command him to slay the demon. Our poor counsel may not find favour in
the Son of Heaven's sight, but at the present moment we can think of
nothing else to suggest!"

This advice pleased the Emperor Ichijo, and he answered that he had
often heard of Raiko as a valiant knight and true, who knew not what
fear was, and he had no doubt that, as his Ministers said, he was just
the man for the adventure. And so the Emperor summoned Raiko to the
Palace at once.

The warrior, on receiving the royal and unexpected summons, hastened to
the Palace, wondering what it could mean. When he was told what was
wanted of him, he prostrated himself before the throne in humble
acquiescence to the royal command. Indeed Raiko was right glad at the
thought of the adventure in store for him, for it had been quiet for
some time in Kyoto, and he and his braves had chafed at the enforced

The more he realized the awful difficulty of his task, the higher his
courage and his spirits rose to face it and the more he determined to do
it or die in the attempt.

He went home and thought out a plan of action.

As the enemy was no human being, but a formidable goblin, he thought
that the wisest course would be to resort to stratagem instead of an
open encounter, so he decided to take with him a few of his most trusted
men rather than a great number of soldiers. He then called together his
four braves, Kintoki, Sadamitsu, Suetake, and Tsuna, and besides these
another knight, by name Hirai Yasumasa, nicknamed Hitori, which meant,
as applied to him, "the only warrior."

Raiko told them of the expedition, and explained that, as the demon was
no common foe, he thought it wise that they should go to his mountain in
disguise; in this way they would the more likely and the more easily
overcome the goblin. They all agreed to what their chief said and set
about making their preparations with great joy. They polished up their
armour and sharpened their long swords and tried on their helmets,
rejoicing in the prospect of the action confronting them. Before
starting on this dangerous enterprise, they thought it wise to seek the
protection and blessing of the gods, so Raiko and Yasumasa went to pray
for help at the Temple of Hachiman, the God of War, at Mount Otoko,
while Tsuna and Kintoki went to the Sumiyoshi Shrine of the Goddess of
Mercy, and Sadamitsu and Suetake to the Temple of Gongen at Kumano. At
each shrine the six knights offered up the same prayer for divine help
and strength, and on bended knees and with hands laid palm to palm they
besought the gods to grant them success in their expedition and a safe
return to the capital.

Then the brave band disguised themselves as mountain priests. They wore
priests' caps and sacerdotal garments and stoles; they hid their armour
and their helmets and their weapons in the knapsacks they carried on
their backs; in their right hands they carried a pilgrim's staff, and
in their left a rosary, and they wore rough straw sandals on their
feet. No one meeting these dignified, solemn-looking priests would have
thought that they were on the way to attack the goblin of Mount Oye, and
no one would have dreamt that the leader of the band was the warrior
Raiko, who for courage and strength had not his peer in the whole of the
Island Empire.

In this way Raiko and his men travelled across the country till at last
they reached the province of Tamba and came to the foot of the mountain
of Oye. Now as the goblin had chosen Mount Oye as his place of abode,
you can imagine how difficult of access it was! Raiko and his men had
often travelled in mountainous districts, but they had never experienced
anything like the steepness of Mount Oye. It was indescribable. Great
rocks obstructed the way, and the branches of the trees were so thickly
interlaced overhead that the light of day could not penetrate through
the foliage even at midday, and the shadows were so black that the
warriors would have been glad of lanterns. Sometimes the path led them
over precipices where they could hear the water rushing along the deep
ravines beneath. So deep were these chasms that as Raiko and his men
passed them they were overcome with giddiness. For the first time they
realized now the dangers and difficulties of the task they had
undertaken, and they were somewhat disheartened. At times they rested
themselves on the roots of trees to gain breath, sometimes they stopped
to quench their thirst at some trickling spring, catching the water up
in their hands. They did not, however, allow themselves to be
discouraged long, but pushed their way deeper and deeper into the
mountain, encouraging each other with brave words of cheer when they
felt their spirits flagging. But the thought sometimes crossed their
minds, though they one and all kept it to themselves, "What if
Shutendoji, or some of his demons, should be lurking behind any of the
rocks or cliffs?"

Suddenly from behind a rock three old men appeared. Now Raiko, who was
as wise as he was brave, and who at that very moment had been thinking
of what he should do were they to encounter the goblin unexpectedly,
thought that sure enough here were some of the goblins, who had heard of
his approach. They had simply disguised themselves as these venerable
old men so as to deceive him and his men! But he was not to be outwitted
by any such prank. He made signs with his eyes to the men behind him to
be on their guard, and they in obedience to his gesture put themselves
in attitudes of defence.

The three old men saw at once the mistake Raiko had made, for they
smiled at him and then drawing nearer, they bowed before him, and the
foremost one said: "Do not be afraid of us; we are not the goblins of
this mountain. I am from the province of Settsu. My friend is from Kii,
and the third lives near the capital. We have all been bereft of our
beloved wives and daughters by Shutendoji the goblin. Because of our
great age we can do nothing to help them, though our sorrow for their
loss, instead of growing less, grows greater day by day. We have heard
of your coming, and we have awaited you here, so that we might ask you
to help us in our distress. It is a great favour we ask, but we entreat
you if you encounter Shutendoji to show him no mercy, but to slay him
and so avenge the wrongs of our wives and children and many others who
have been torn away from their homes in the Flower Capital."

Raiko listened attentively to all the old man said, and then answered:
"Now that you have told me so much, I need not reserve the truth from
you"; and he went on to tell them of the order he had received from the
Emperor to destroy Shutendoji and his den, and the warrior did his best
to comfort the old men and to assure them that he would do all in his
power to restore their kidnapped wives and daughters.

Then the old men expressed great joy; their faces beamed like the sun as
they thanked Raiko warmly for his kind sympathy, and they presented him
with ajar of _saké_, saying as they bowed low: "As a token of our
gratitude we wish to present you with this magic wine. It is called
Shimben-Kidoku-Shu.' The name means, 'a cordial for men but a poison to
goblins.' Therefore if a demon drinks of this wine, all his strength
will go from him, and he will be as one paralyzed. Before you attack
Shutendoji, give him to drink of this wine, and for the rest you will
find no difficulty."

And with these words the venerable spokesman handed the warrior a small
white stone jar containing the wine. As soon as Raiko had taken the jar
into his hands, a radiance like that of sunlight suddenly shone round
the old men, and they vanished upwards from sight till their shining
figures were lost in the clouds.

The warriors were struck with astonishment. They gazed upwards as if
stupefied. But Raiko was the first to recover from his surprise. He
clapped his hands and laughed as he said: "Be not afraid at what you
have seen! Be sure that the three who thus appeared to us are none other
than the gods of the shrines we visited before starting on this perilous
enterprise. The old man who said he was from Settsu must have been the
deity of Sumiyoshi, the one from the province of Kii was the divinity of
Kumano, and the one from the capital the god Hachiman of Mount Otoko.
This is a most propitious sign. The three deities have taken us under
their special protection. This _saké_ is their gift, and it will surely
be of magic power in helping us to overcome the demons. We must,
therefore, render thanks to Heaven for the protection vouchsafed to us."

Then Raiko and his five knights knelt down on the mountain pass and
bowed themselves to the ground and prayed for some minutes in silence,
overcome with awe at the thought that the three gods whose aid they had
invoked had visited them. Raiko sprang to his feet and lifted the jar of
_saké_ reverently above his head, then he placed it with his armour and
weapons in the box he carried on his back. Having done this, they all
proceeded on their way, but oh! how safe and confident they now felt.
Raiko with his magic wine felt more than a match for any demon now.
There is a proverb which says, "A giant with an iron rod," which means
strength added to strength, and this was fully illustrated in the case
of Raiko. The goblin Shutendoji was now to be pitied; it would surely go
hard with him!

As they sped on their way they came to a mountain stream, and here they
found a damsel washing a blood-stained garment, and as she washed and
beat the garment against the current, they saw that she often had to
stop and wipe the tears away with her sleeve, for she was weeping
bitterly. Raiko's heart was stirred with pity at her distress, and he
went up to her and said: "This is a goblin-haunted mountain; how is it
that I find a damsel such as you here?"

The Princess (for such she was) looked up in his face wonderingly and
said: "It is indeed true that this is a goblin-haunted mountain, and
hitherto inaccessible to mortals. How is it that you have managed to get
here?" and she looked from Raiko to his men.

Then Raiko said: "I will tell you the truth quite frankly. The Emperor
has commanded us to slay the demon; that is why we are here!"

Without waiting to hear any more, the Princess ran up to Raiko in her
joy and clung to him, crying out in broken sentences: "Are you indeed
the great Raiko of whom I have so often heard? How thankful I am that
you have come. I will be your guide to the goblin's den. Hasten, Knight
Raiko, and kill the demons! I already feel that I am saved!"

When they heard these words the warriors knew that she was one of the
goblin's victims. The Princess turned and led the way up the hill.
Presently they saw a large iron gate guarded by two demons. The demon on
the right was red and the demon on the left was black, and each was
armed with a great iron stick or club. The Princess whispered to Raiko:
"Behold the home of the demon. Enter the gates, and you will find a
beautiful palace, built of black iron from the foundations to the roof.
It is therefore called the Palace of Black Iron or Kurogane. It is
large, and the inside is as beautiful as a great Daimio's palace. Within
the walls of the Palace of Black Iron, Shutendoji holds a feast night
and day. He is waited upon by maidens such as I, whom he has carried off
from the capital and from the provinces to be his slaves. The wine he
drinks, poured out in crimson lacquer cups, is the blood of human
beings, and the food of those feasts is the flesh of his victims who are
slain in turn. What numbers have I seen disappear, alas! all murdered to
supply the awful food and wine of those cannibal feasts. How I have
prayed to Heaven to punish this monster! But when I saw the fate of my
friends, how could I hope to live? I knew not when my turn would come.
But since I have met you I feel that we shall all be saved and great is
my joy and gratitude!"

By this time they had reached the gate, and the Princess went forward
and said to the red and black demon sentinels: "These poor travellers
have lost their way on this mountain. I took compassion on them and
brought them here, so that they may rest for a while before going on
their journey. I hope you will be kind to them."

When the Princess first began to speak the demons looked and saw Raiko
and his fellow priests. Little dreaming who these men were, and that in
admitting them they were letting in the bravest knights in the whole of
Japan, and still less suspecting their purpose, the demons laughed in
their hearts. Good prey had indeed fallen into their hands; they would
surely be allowed a share in the feast that these fresh victims would

They grinned from ear to ear at the Princess and told her that she had
done well, and bade her take the six travellers into the Palace and
inform Shutendoji of their arrival. Thus the six warriors entered into
the very stronghold of the demons as if they were invited guests.
Triumphant glee at the success of their plan made them exchange
lightning glances with each other. They passed through the great iron
gate, up to the porch, and then the Princess led them through large
spacious rooms and along great corridors till at last they reached the
inner part of the Palace. Here they were shown into a large hall. At the
upper end in the seat of honour sat the demon king Shutendoji. Never had
the knights in their wildest dreams dreamt of such a hideous monster. He
was ten feet in height, his skin was bright red and his wild shock of
hair was like a broom. He wore a crimson _hakama_,[2] and he rested his
huge arms on a stand. As the knights entered, he glared at them fiercely
with eyes as big as a dish. The sight of this dread monster was enough
to make any one tremble with fear, and had Raiko and his knights been
weak they must have fainted away with horror.

Raiko could hardly restrain himself from flying at the monster then and
there, but he controlled himself and bowed humbly so as not to awaken
the enemy's suspicion in any way.

Shutendoji, glaring at him, said haughtily: "I do not know who you are
in the least, or how you have found your way into this mountain, but
make yourself at home!"

Then Raiko answered meekly: "We are only humble mountain priests from
Mount Haguro of Dewa. We were on our way to the capital, having been on
a pilgrimage to the shrine of Omine. In travelling across these
mountains we have lost our way. While wandering about and wondering
which was the right path to take, we were met by one of the inmates of
your palace and kindly brought here. Please pardon us for trespassing on
your domains and for all the trouble we are giving you!"

"Don't mention it," said Shutendoji; "I am sorry to hear of your plight.
Do not stand on ceremony while you are here, and let us feast together."
Then turning to the attendant demons he shouted orders for the dinner to
be served, and clapped his red hands together.

At this the partitions between the rooms slid apart and beautiful
damsels magnificently robed came gliding in, bearing aloft in their
hands large wine-cups, jars of _saké_ and dishes of fish of all kinds,
which they placed before the ugly goblin and the guests. Raiko knew that
all these lovely princesses had been snatched from the Flower Capital by
Shutendoji, who, heedless of their tears and misery, kept them here to
be his handmaidens. He said to himself fiercely that they should soon be

Now that the wine-cups were brought in, the warrior seized his
opportunity. From his satchel he took out the jar containing the
enchanted wine, Shimben-Kidoku-Shu, which he had received from the gods
of the three shrines, and said to Shutendoji: "Here is some wine which
we have brought from Mount Haguro. It is a poor wine and unworthy of
your acceptance, but we have always found it of great benefit in
refreshing us when we were weary from fatigue and in cheering our
drooping spirits. It will give us much pleasure if you will try a little
of our humble wine, though it may not please your taste!"

Shutendoji seemed pleased at this courtesy. He handed out a huge cup to
be filled, saying: "Give me some of your wine. I should like to try it."
The goblin drained it at one swallow and smacked his lips over it.

"I have never tasted such excellent wine," he said and held out his cup
to be filled again.

You can imagine how delighted Raiko was, for he knew full well that the
demon was given into his hand. But he dissembled cleverly and said as he
filled the goblin's wine-cup: "I am delighted that the Honourable Host
should deign to like our poor country wine. While you drink, I and my
companions will venture to amuse you by our dancing."

Then Raiko made a sign to his men and they began to chant an
accompaniment, while he himself danced.

Shutendoji was highly amused as well as his attendants. They had never
seen men dance before, and they thought that the strangers were very

The goblins now began to pass the magic wine round and to grow merry.
Others meanwhile whispered among themselves, pitying the six travellers
who, all unconscious of the horrible fate which was about to overtake
them, were spending their last hours of liberty and probably of life in
giving wine to their slayers and in dancing and singing for their

Already, however, the power of the enchanted wine had begun to work and
Shutendoji grew drowsy. The wine in the jar never seemed to grow less,
however much was taken from it, and by this time all the demons had
helped themselves liberally. At last they all fell into a deep sleep,
and stretching themselves out on the floor and on one another, some in
one corner and some in another, they were soon snoring so loudly that
the room shook, and were as insensible to all that was going on as logs
of wood.

"The time has come!" said Raiko, springing to his feet, and motioning to
his men to get to work. One and all hastily opened their knapsacks.
Taking out their helmets, their armour, and their long swords, they
armed themselves. When they were all ready they all knelt down, and,
placing their hands palm to palm, they prayed fervently to their patron
gods to help them now in their hour of greatest need and peril.

As they prayed, a shining light filled the room, and in a radiant cloud
the three deities appeared again. "Fear not, Warrior Raiko," they said.
"We have tied the hands and feet of the demon fast, so you have nothing
to fear. While your knights cut off his limbs, do you cut off his head;
then kill the rest of the _oni_ and your work will be done." The three
old men then disappeared as mysteriously as they had come.

Raiko rejoiced at the vision and worshipped with his heart full of
gratitude the vanishing deities. The knights then rose from their knees,
took their swords and wet the rivets with water, so as to fix the blade
firmly in the hilt. Then they all stole stealthily and cautiously
towards Shutendoji. No longer the timid mountain priests; clad in full
armour, they were transformed into avenging warriors. With flashing eyes
and dauntless mien they moved across the room.

The captive princesses standing round realized that these men were
deliverers, from their beloved capital. Their joy and wonder cannot be
put into words. Some cried aloud with joy; others covered their faces
with their sleeves and burst into soft weeping; others raised their
hands to Heaven and exclaimed, "A Buddha come to Hell! Surely these
brave men will kill the demons and set us free"; and with clasped hands
they entreated the knights to slay their captors and take them back to
their homes.

Now Raiko stood over the sleeping Shutendoji with drawn sword, and
raising it on high with a mighty sweep he aimed at the demon's neck,
which was as big round as a barrel.

The head was severed from the body at one blow, but, horrible to relate,
instead of falling to the ground, it flew up into the air in a great
rage. It hung over Raiko for a moment snorting flames of fire, and then
swooped down as if it would bite off the warrior's head, but it was
daunted by the glittering star on his helmet, and drew back and gazed in
surprise at the transformed man. Raiko was scorched by the demon's
flaming breath. Once more he raised his long sword and striking the
terrible head brought it to the ground at last.

The noise of the combat and the triumphant shouts of the warriors awoke
the other demons, who roused themselves as quickly as their stupefied
senses allowed them. They were in a great fright, and without waiting to
get their iron clubs, they made a rush upon Raiko. But they were too
late. His five braves dashed in and attacked them right and left, until
in a few minutes there was not one left to tell the tale of the
destruction which had come down upon them like the autumn whirlwind upon
the leaves of the forest glades.

The captive princesses, when they saw that their captors were all slain,
jumped about with gladness, waving their long sleeves to and fro, as the
tears of joy streamed down their pale faces. They ran to Raiko and
caught hold of his sleeves and praised him, saying: "Oh! Raiko Sama,
what a brave and noble knight you are! We are indeed grateful to you for
having saved our lives. Never have we seen such a wonderful warrior."
And with many such expressions of joy they gathered round the knight,
and their merry voices were now heard, instead of the groans of the
dying cannibals.

Now that Shutendoji was vanquished with all his horde, the way was quite
open for Raiko and his men to take the fair captives away from the
castle of horror and make their way back to the capital as soon as


First of all Raiko tied up the head of Shutendoji with a strong rope and
told the five brave knights to carry it. Then, followed by the
princesses, the little band left Mount Oye forever and set out on the
homeward journey. When they reached Kyoto the news of Raiko's return
spread like fire, and the people came out in crowds to welcome the

When the parents of the long-lost damsels saw their daughters again,
they felt as if they must be dreaming. It seemed too good to be true
that the dear and cherished ones should be restored to them safe and
well, and they overwhelmed Raiko with praise and with precious gifts.

Raiko took the head of Shutendoji to the Emperor and told him of all
that had happened to him. You may be sure that when His Majesty heard of
the success which had crowned Raiko and his expedition, he awarded him
great praise and merit and bestowed upon him higher Court rank than

In all the country, far and near, Raiko's name was in every one's mouth,
and he was acknowledged to be the greatest warrior in the land. Even in
the lonely country places there was not one poor farmer who did not know
of the brave deeds of the great general.

Ever since then his portrait is familiar to the boys of Japan, for it is
often painted on their kites.

[1] Raiko, or Yorimitsu. Both names are written with the same
ideographs. Raiko is the Chinese pronunciation, and Yorimitsu the
Japanese rendering.

[2] Hakama, a divided skirt, part of the Japanese costume.


You have just read of the brave knight Raiko's exploits at Oyeyama and
how he rid the country of the demons who haunted the city of Kyoto and
terrified the inhabitants of the Flower Capital (as that city was
sometimes called) by their terrible deeds.

There are other interesting stories about him and his fearless
warrior-retainers which you may like to hear.

It was not long after Raiko's exploits at Oyeyama that the country rang
with the name of Kidomaru, a robber and highwayman, who, by his
notorious deeds of cruelty and robbery, had caused his name to be feared
and hated by all, both young and old.

One evening Raiko with his attendants was returning home from a day's
hunting, when he happened to pass the house of his younger brother
Yorinobu. The warrior had had a long day out; and having still a good
distance to ride before he would reach his own house the thought of a
good meal and friendly company, just then, when he was tired and very
hungry, was pleasant to contemplate in the lonely hour of twilight. So
he called a halt outside the house and sent in word to his brother that
he, Raiko, was passing by, and that if Yorinobu had any refreshment to
offer his brother, he would call in and stay the night there, as he was
tired out on his way back from a day's hunt.

Now in Japan an elder brother or sister commands respect from the
younger members of the family, and so Yorinobu was very pleased that
Raiko, his elder brother, had condescended to call upon him.

The servant soon returned with the message that Yorinobu was only too
pleased to receive Raiko; that he had ordered a feast to be prepared
that evening in honour of an unusual event, and as he was alone, nothing
could be more opportune or give him greater joy than that his elder
brother should have chanced to come by. He humbly begged Raiko that he
would deign to share the feast, such as it was, and to pardon the
poorness of his hospitality.

Raiko was very pleased with his brother's gracious reception. He quickly
flung the reins to his groom, dismounted from his horse, and entered the
house, wondering what could be the occasion of Yorinobu's ordering a
banquet for himself. When the warrior was shown into the room he found
Yorinobu seated on the mats drinking _saké_, as the servants were
bringing in the first dishes of the dinner. When the salutations were
over, Yorinobu handed Raiko his wine-cup. Raiko took it, and having
drained it, asked what his brother meant by the feast he had promised
him and what was the occasion of it. Yorinobu laughed as if with
triumph, and wheeling round on his cushion pointed out into the garden.

Raiko then looked in the direction indicated by his brother's hand, and
saw, tied up to a large pine tree, a young man who could not be much
over thirty and of extraordinary strength. The face of the captive
expressed hate and ferocity, his body was of an enormous build, while
his arms and legs were like trunks of pine trees, so large and brown and
muscular were they. His hair was a rough and matted shock, and the eyes
glared as if they would start from their sockets. Indeed to Raiko the
wild creature looked more like a demon than a human being.

"Well, Yorinobu!" said Raiko, "the occasion of your feast is to say the
least unusual; it must certainly have given you some sport to catch that
wild creature; but tell me who he is that you have got tied up out

"Have you not heard of Kidomaru, the notorious robber?" answered
Yorinobu. "There he is! One of my men captured him out on the hills; he
found him asleep. The town has long been clamouring for him. He has a
big score to settle at last. For to-night I intend to keep him tied up
like that, and to-morrow I shall hand him over to the law! Come, let us
be merry, for the dinner is served!"

Raiko clapped his hands when he heard of the great feat Yorinobu and his
men had accomplished in catching the fearful robber, the terror of whose
lawless deeds had long held the people of Kyoto trembling with fear and
dread. The outlaw Kidomaru was caught at last and by his own brother
Yorinobu! This was an event of rejoicing and congratulation for the

"You have certainly done a meritorious service to your country," said
he, "but it is ridiculous to tie such a creature up with a rope only.
You might just as well think of tying up a wild cow with a fine
kite-string. It would be less dangerous. Take my advice, Yorinobu, put a
strong iron chain round him, or the murderer will soon be at large

Yorinobu thought his brother's advice wise, so he clapped his hands.
When the servant came to answer the summons, he ordered him to bring an
iron chain. When this was brought, he went into the garden, followed by
Raiko and his men, and wound it round Kidomaru's body several times,
securing it at last to a post with a padlock.

Kidomaru up to this time had rejoiced at his light bonds. He was so
strong that he knew he could easily break a rope, and he had waited but
for the nightfall to make good his escape under cover of the darkness.
You can imagine how great was his anger at Raiko's interference, which
was the cause of his being treated with so much severity that his
projected escape would now be difficult.

"Hateful man!" muttered Kidomaru to himself. "I will surely punish you
for what you have done to me! Remember!" and he threw evil glances at

But the brave warrior cared little for the wild robber's malignant
glances; he only laughed when he noticed them, and, as the chain was
drawn tighter round the robber, he said: "That's right! That chain will
hold him sure enough! You must run no risk of his escaping this time!"

Then he and Yorinobu returned to the house, and dinner was served and
the two brothers made merry the whole evening, talking over old times,
and it was late before they retired to rest.

Now Kidomaru knew that Raiko slept in Yorinobu's house, and he made up
his mind to try to slay him that night, for he was mad with wrath at
what Raiko had done to him.

"He shall see what I can do!" growled Kidomaru to himself, shaking his
rough and shaggy head like a big long-haired terrier. He waited quietly
till every one in the house had gone to rest and all was silent. Then
Kidomaru arose, cramped and stiff from sitting tied up so long. With a
mighty effort he flung out his great arms, laughing defiance at the
chain that bound him. So great was his strength that no second effort
was needed; the chain broke and fell clanking to the ground at once, and
Kidomaru, like a large hound, shook himself free from his bonds. Softly
as a mouse he approached the house and climbed on to the roof, and with
one tremendous blow from his huge fist, he broke through the tiles and
the boards to the ceiling. His plan was to jump down upon Raiko while he
lay sleeping, and taking him unawares suddenly to cut off his head. But
the warrior had lain down to rest expecting such an attack, and he had
slept but lightly. As soon as he heard the noise above him, he was wide
awake in an instant, and to warn his enemy he coughed and cleared his
throat. Kidomaru was a man of fierce and dauntless character, and he was
not in the least thrown back in his purpose by finding that Raiko was
awake. He went on with his work of making a hole large enough in the
ceiling to let himself through to the room beneath.

Raiko now sat up and clapped his hands loudly to summon his men, who
slept in an adjoining room. Watanabe, the chief man-at-arms, came out to
see what his master wanted.

"Watanabe," said Raiko, "my sleep has been disturbed by something moving
in the ceiling. It may be a weasel, for weasels are noisy creatures. It
cannot be a rat, for a rat is not large enough to make so much noise. At
any rate, it seems impossible to sleep to-night, so saddle the horses
and get all the men ready to start. I will get up and ride out to the
Temple of Mount Kurama. I want all the men to accompany me."

Perched between the roof and the ceiling, the robber heard all this, and
said to himself: "What ho! Raiko goes to Kurama! That is good news!
Instead of wasting my time here like a rat in a trap, I will set out for
Kurama immediately and get there before those stupid men can, and I will
waylay them and kill them all." So Kidomaru crawled out on the roof
again, let himself down to the ground, and hurried with all the speed he
could make to Kurama.

A large plain had to be crossed in going from the city to Kurama, and
here a number of wild cattle had their home. When Kidomaru, on his way
to Kurama, came to this spot, a plan flashed across his mind by which he
could steal a march on Raiko. He soon caught one of the big oxen a blow
on the head. Three blows one after the other, and the ox fell dead at
the robber's feet. Kidomaru then proceeded to strip off its skin. It was
very hard work, but he managed to do it quickly, so strong was he, and
then throwing the hide over himself he lay down completely disguised, a
man in a bull's hide, and waited for Raiko and his men to come.

He had not long to wait. Raiko, followed by his four braves, soon came
in sight. The warrior reined in his horse when he came to the plain and
saw the cattle. He turned to his men and said: "Here is a place where we
may find some sport. Instead of going on to Kurama, let us stay here and
have some hunting! Look at the wild cattle!"

The four retainers with one accord all gladly agreed to their chief's
proposal, for they loved sport and adventure just as much as Raiko and
were glad of an excuse to show their skill as huntsmen. The sun was just
rising, and the prospect of a fine morning added zest to the pastime.
Each man prepared his bow and arrows in readiness to begin the chase.

But the cattle, thus disturbed, did not enjoy the sport. Man's play was
their death indeed. One of their number had been killed by Kidomaru, and
now they were attacked by Raiko and his men, who came riding furiously
into their midst, shooting at them with bows and arrows. With angry
snorts, whisking their tails on high and butting with their horns, they
ran to right and left. In the general stampede that followed their
attack, the hunters noticed that one animal lay still in the tall
grass. At first they thought it must be either lame or ill, so they took
no notice of it, and left it alone till Raiko came riding up. He went up
and looked at it carefully, and then ordered one of his men to shoot it.

The man obeyed, and taking his bow, shot an arrow at the recumbent
animal. The arrow did not hit the mark; for, to the astonishment of the
four hunters, the hide was flung aside and out stepped the robber

"You, Raiko! It is you, is it?" exclaimed he. "Do you know that I have a
spite against you?" and with these words he darted forward and attacked
Raiko with a dagger. But Raiko did not even move in his saddle. He drew
his sword and, adroitly guarding himself, exchanged two or three strokes
with the robber, and then slashed off his head. But wonderful to relate,
so strong was the will that animated Kidomaru that though his head was
cut off, his body stood up straight and firm till his right arm, still
holding the dagger, struck at Raiko's saddle. Then, and not till then,
it collapsed. It is said that the warriors were all greatly impressed by
the malevolent spirit of the robber, which was strong enough to stir the
body to action even after the head had been severed from the shoulders.

Such was the death of the notorious robber Kidomaru, at the hands of the
brave warrior Raiko who was awarded much praise for the clever way in
which he drew Kidomaru out as far as Kurama to kill him. He had
understood from Kidomaru's evil glances that the robber planned to kill
him, and he thus avoided causing trouble in his brother's house. In this
instance, as always, Raiko displayed wisdom and bravery.

No sooner, however, was Kidomaru killed, than news was brought to the
capital that another man had arisen who imitated Kidomaru in his daily
deeds of robbery and other wicked acts. This robber's name was

One bright moonlight night, Kakamadare was waiting on the plain between
Kyoto and Kurama for travellers to come that way, hoping that luck would
bring some rich man into his clutches. Presently he heard some one
coming towards him playing on a flute. Thinking this somewhat strange,
he hid himself in the grass and waited to see who would appear. The
sweet music drew nearer and nearer, and then the player came in view.
The light of the moon made everything as clear as day, and the robber
saw a handsome _samurai_ of soldierly aspect, dressed in beautiful
silken robes and wearing a long sword at his side.

"Now's my opportunity; I'm in luck to-night," thought the robber, as he
rose from his hiding-place and stealthily followed the flute-player. As
he kept step by step behind him, Kakamadare drew his sword in readiness
several times to cut down his prey, and waited for the chance to strike.

All at once the _samurai_ turned and looked steadily at the robber, who
began to tremble. Then the knight calmly and coolly resumed his playing,
as if utterly indifferent to the danger which threatened him. Once more
the robber followed, with the intention of cutting the man down, but the
opportunity for which he waited never came; each time his hand went up
with his sword, it as quickly fell to his side. A spirit of high and
noble purpose seemed to emanate from the knight, which cowed the man
behind and made him weak. For so great is the virtue of the sword that
in Japan it is an acknowledged fact that all noble swordsmen had this
power of subduing lesser natures by the spiritual grace which went forth
from them. Indeed the belief in the occult power of the sword was great,
and it was said that no bad man could keep the possession of a fine

Kakamadare could not strike. He could not tell the cause of his
weakness. He thought that it might be the influence of the music. He
found himself listening to the gentle strains of the flute, and admiring
the skill with which the man played. He noticed the firm and fearless
air of the knight as he walked and his great nerve. The man knew himself
to be followed by a robber, yet he showed not the least concern.
Kakamadare tried to turn back now, but he found that he could do
nothing but follow the man in front of him. In this way the strange pair
reached the town. Kakamadare now made a great effort to break the spell,
and was on the point of turning back and trying to escape from the
strange, compelling presence, when to his astonishment the _samurai_
suddenly wheeled round upon him and said: "Kakamadare, I thank you for
your trouble! You have given me a safe escort!"

At this the robber became so terrified that he fell down on his knees
and was unable to move or speak for some moments. At last, so soon as
his tongue found utterance, he said: "I know not who you are, but I beg
you to forgive me! I would have killed you!"

He then confessed everything to the knight. He told him of his many
deeds of robbery and violence which had made him feared and hated by the
people, who thought that he must be a demon, for so cruel and relentless
was he that he never showed mercy even to the poorest peasant. "I have
never met any one like you," Kakamadare went on to say. "I promise to
give up my life as a robber, and I beg you to take me into your service
as one of the humblest of your retainers."

The knight led the man home, and gave him some good clothes, telling him
that when he again got into straits and wanted money or clothes, he
might come a second time to the house, but that it was unwise to show
such contempt for others as to enter into an encounter where he himself
might be the injured party.

This kindness and mercy touched the man's heart, and from that day he
became a reformed man and a law-abiding citizen.

The knight was none other than Hirai, one of the warriors who
accompanied Raiko in his successful expedition against the demons of
Oyeyama. There is a saying that "Brave generals make brave soldiers,"
and it is quite true. Raiko was a man of great sagacity and courage, and
his band of braves and the knight Hirai, of whom we have just read, were
like their master. There were no men in the whole of Japan braver than
they. This proves the truth of the old adage.

There is another story about the General Raiko which you may like to
hear. The sword with which Raiko slew Kidomaru was called the Kumokiri,
or Spider-cutting Sword, and about the naming of this blade there is an
interesting story.

It happened at one time that Raiko was unwell and was obliged to keep
his room. Every night at about twelve a little acolyte would come to his
bedside, and in a kind and gentle way pour out and give him some
medicine to take. Raiko noticed that he did not know the boy, but as
there were many underlings in the servants' quarters whom he never saw,
this did not strike him as strange. But Raiko, instead of recovering,
found himself growing weaker and weaker, and especially after taking the
medicine he always felt worse.

At last one day he spoke to his head servant and asked him who it was
that brought him medicine every night, but the attendant answered that
he knew nothing about the medicine and that there was no acolyte in the

Raiko now suspected some supernatural snare. "Some malevolent being is
taking advantage of my illness and trying to bewitch me or to cause my
death. When the boy comes again to-night I will find out his real form.
He may be a fox or goblin in disguise!" said Raiko.

So he waited for the appearance of the acolyte, wondering what the
strange incident could mean.

When midnight came, the boy, as usual, appeared, bringing with him the
usual cup of medicine. The knight calmly took the cup from the boy and
said, "Thank you for your trouble!" but instead of swallowing the false
medicine, he threw it, cup and all, at the boy's head. Then jumping up
he seized the sword that lay beside his bed and cut at the impostor. As
the blade fell, the acolyte screamed with rage and pain, then, with a
movement as quick as lightning, before he turned to escape from the
room, he threw something at the knight, which, marvellous to relate, as
he threw, spread outwards pyramidically into a large white sticky web
which fell over Raiko and clung to him so that he could hardly move.
Raiko whirled his sword round and cut the clinging meshes and freed
himself; again the goblin threw a web over him, and again Raiko cut the
enmeshing threads away; once more the huge spider's web--for such it
was--was thrown over him, and then the goblin fled. Raiko called for his
men and then sank exhausted on his bed.

His chief retainer, answering the summons, met the acolyte in the
corridor, and thinking it strange that an unknown priest, however young,
should come from his master's room at that hour of the night, stopped
him with drawn sword.

The goblin answered not a word, but threw his entangling web over the
man and mysteriously disappeared.

Now thoroughly alarmed, the retainer hastened to Raiko. Great was his
consternation when he saw his master, with the meshes of the goblin's
web still clinging to him.

"See!" exclaimed Raiko, pointing to the threads still clinging to his
man and himself, "a goblin spider has been here!"

He then gave orders to hunt down the goblin, but the thing could nowhere
be found. On the white mats and along the corridors they found as they
searched red drops of blood, which showed that the creature had been

Raiko's men followed the red trail, out into the garden, across the city
to the hills, till they came to a cave, and here the blood-drops ceased.
Groans and cries of pain issued from the cave, so the warriors felt sure
that they had come to the end of their hunt.

"The goblin is surely hiding in that cave!" they all said. Drawing their
swords, they entered the cave and found a monster spider writhing with
pain and bleeding from a deep sword-cut on the head. They at once killed
the creature and carried it to Raiko.

The knight had often heard stories of these dreadful spiders, but had
never seen one before.

"It was this goblin spider then that wanted to prey upon me! The net
that was thrown over me was a spider's web! Of all my adventures this is
the strangest!" said Raiko.

That night Raiko ordered a banquet to be prepared for all his retainers
in honour of the event, and he drank to the health of his five brave

From that time the acolyte never appeared and Raiko recovered his health
and strength at once.

Such is the story of the _Kumokiri_ Sword. _Kumo_ means "spider," and
_kiri_ means "cutting," and it was so named because it cut to death the
goblin spider who haunted the brave knight Raiko.



Long, long ago, in the reign of the Emperor Go-Fukakusa, there lived a
famous Regent of the name of Saimyoji Tokiyori. Of all the Hojo Regents
he was the wisest and justest, and was known far and wide among the
people for his deeds of mercy. At the age of thirty, Tokiyori resigned
the regency in favour of his son Tokimune, who was only six years old.
He then retired to a monastery for several years. Sometimes stories
reached his ears of the miscarriage of justice, of the cruelty of the
officials under him, and of the suffering of the peasants, and he
determined to find out for himself if all these things were true. It was
the desire of his life to see the people governed wisely and justly and
impartially, to deal reward and punishment fairly alike to the rich and
the poor, to the great and the lowly. After much thought he decided that
the best way to achieve his end would be to find out for himself the
condition of the people, so he determined that he would disguise himself
and travel about amongst them unknown. He had it given out that he was
dead, and had a mock funeral performed with all the pomp and ceremony
due to his exalted rank. He then left Kamakura disguised as a travelling
priest unknown to any one.

After journeying from place to place, he came one day to Sano, in the
province of Kozuki. It was in the depth of winter, and on this day he
found himself overtaken by a heavy snowstorm. There were no houses near.
Tokiyori then ascended a hill, but even from that height, search as he
might, he could see no sign of any dwelling, near or far. Confused and
lost, he wandered about for hours. The darkness began to fall when he
found himself in a hilly district. Tired and hungry, he resigned himself
to passing the night under the shelter of a tree, when suddenly he
espied in the distance the brown line of a thatch-roofed cottage
breaking the white slope at the foot of the nearest hill. He made his
way quickly towards it and knocked at the closed storm-doors.

Tokiyori heard some one move within and then come to the porch. The
storm-shutter was pushed aside and a beautiful woman looked out.

"I have lost my way in the storm, and know not what to do! Will you be
so kind as to give me the shelter of your roof this night?" said

The woman scanned the traveller from head to foot. Then she said: "I am
very sorry for you. I would willingly give you shelter, but my husband
being absent I must not let you in. You had better go on to the next
village of Yamamoto, which is very near, and there you will find a good
inn and accommodation for travellers!"

"You are right," answered Tokiyori; "but alas! I am so tired that I can
walk no more. For pity's sake, let me sleep on the verandah or in your
storehouse; for so much shelter I shall be grateful."

"I am indeed sorry to refuse you," answered the woman; "but in the
absence of my husband I must not give shelter to a strange traveller.
Were he at home, he would with pleasure take you in and give you lodging
for the night. Try to make your way to the next village."

Tokiyori, greatly impressed by her virtuous and modest behaviour, bowed
and said as he took his leave: "There is no help for it! I must try to
reach Yamamoto, since you cannot shelter me to-night."

So the ex-Regent of Kamakura, spent and cold and hungry, turned once
more to meet the inclement weather. He took the direction pointed out to
him and plodded on through the snow. But alas! the storm had increased
in violence, and the snow fell faster and faster, and the wind howled
across the white drifts, whirling clouds of snow in his face till at
last he found it impossible to go on. He stood still in the storm, not
knowing what to do. Exerting all his strength, he found it difficult to
put one foot before the other. Just as he began to give himself up for
lost, he heard a voice calling him from behind.

"Stop! stop!" at first faintly, then gradually the cries grew nearer and
more distinct.

Wondering who else could be out in such merciless weather, Tokiyori
turned in the direction whence the cries came and saw a man beckoning to
him to turn back.

"Are you calling me?" asked Tokiyori.

"Yes indeed," replied the man; "I am the husband of the woman who turned
you away from that cottage just now. I regret that I was not at home to
offer you the poor hospitality that is all I have to give. Please turn
back with me. I can at least give you shelter for the night, though my
house is only a small hut. You will be frozen to death if you go on in
this storm."

The priest rejoiced when he heard these kind words, and as he turned
back with his host he uttered many words of thanks. When they entered
the porch, the woman whom he had already seen came forward and welcomed
the stranger cordially, apologizing for her former behaviour.

"I pray you pardon me," she said, bowing to the ground, "for my rude
words a short time ago; but now that my husband has returned I hope you
will pass the night under our humble roof. I beg you not to be angry
with me, knowing the custom of these times."

"Don't mention it, my good woman," replied the priest in disguise. "It
was quite right of you to refuse me admittance in your husband's
absence. I admire your prudent conduct."

While the priest and the hostess were thus exchanging civilities, her
husband had entered the little sitting-room and arranged some cotton
cushions on the mat. Having done this, he came out to usher in the

"Thank you," answered the priest, taking off his snow-covered hat and
rain-coat; and, slipping his feet out of the sandals, he entered the

The host turned again to his guest and said: "Now, as you see, I am a
very poor man and I cannot give you a good dinner such as the rich can
offer, but to our coarse, simple fare, such as it is, you are very

The priest bowed to the ground and said that he would be grateful for
any food that would stay his hunger; he had walked all day in the cold
and had eaten nothing since breaking his fast in the early morning.

Meanwhile the wife busied herself in the kitchen, and as it was now the
hour of sunset, the meal was soon ready to be served. The priest noticed
that millet instead of rice filled the bowls, and that there was not a
sign of fish in the soup, which was made of vegetables only. The
disguised ex-Regent had never eaten such coarse food in his life before,
for millet is the poorest peasant's fare; but "Hunger needs no sauce,"
says the proverb, and so Tokiyori was surprised to find with how great a
relish he could eat what was set before him, for he was ravenously
hungry. Never had food tasted so sweet to him before. He long remembered
the sensation of pleasant surprise as he partook of the first mouthful.
The good wife waited on them during the meal, according to Japanese

When supper was over, they all sat round the hearth, talking of the good
old times and telling each other amusing stories to while away the time.
The hours flew quickly by and it was midnight before the host and his
guest knew it. The fire had burned very low without their noticing it,
and they began to shiver with cold. The host turned to the fuel-box, but
all the charcoal and wood had been burned up. Then the host arose, and,
regardless of the falling snow and the bitter cold, went into the garden
and brought thence three pots of dwarfed trees, for the training of
which Japanese gardeners are famous all the world over.

"On such a winter's night a good fire is necessary for the entertainment
of a traveller, but, alas! all the charcoal has been used up and I have
no more in the house. To warm you before you retire I will therefore
bum these trees!"

"What!" said the astonished guest, for he saw that the trees were of no
common kind, but were of some value, for they were old, and their
training showed the skill of an experienced gardener; "these pine, plum,
and cherry trees are too good to be used as fuel--they are finely
trained. No! no! you mustn't burn them for me--they are far too

"Don't trouble yourself," said the host. "I loved them once when I was
rich and had many more such valuable trees in my possession. But now
that I am ruined and living in this miserable condition, of what use are
such trees to me, pray tell me?" and with these words he began to break
up the trees and to put the pieces on the fire. "If they could speak, I
am sure they would say how pleased they were to be used for such a good
purpose as your comfort!"

The disguised ex-Regent smiled as he watched the kind man break up his
pet trees, and make up the fire. Since Tokiyori had first entered the
house, small and poverty-stricken though it was, he had felt that his
host was no common farmer as he pretended to be; that he must be a man
in reduced circumstances.

"I feel sure," said the priest, "that you are no farmer by birth; indeed
in you I recognize the a courtesy and breeding of a _samurai_ [a
knight]. Will you add one more favour to the rest you have shown me this
night and tell me your real name?"

"Alas," answered the farmer in disguise, "I cannot do so without shame."

"Do not trifle with me," said the priest, "for I am very much in
earnest. Tell me who you are. I should very much like to know."

Pressed so earnestly to reveal himself, the host could no longer refuse.

"Since you wish so earnestly to know, I will tell who I am, without
reserve," he answered. "I am no farmer, as you rightly guessed. I am in
reality a _samurai_, and my name is Sano Genzaemon Tsuneyo."

"Indeed? Are you Sano Genzaemon Tsuneyo? I have heard of you. You are a
_samurai_ of high rank, I know. But tell me, how is it that you are now
in such reduced circumstances?"

"Oh, that is a long story," replied Sano. "It was through the dishonesty
of an unworthy relation. He seized my property, little by little,
without my knowing it, and one day I found that he had taken everything
and that I was left with nothing except this farmhouse and the land on
which it stands."

"I am sorry for you," said Tokiyori; "but why haven't you brought a
lawsuit against your relation? Were you to do that, I am sure you would
recover your lost property."

"Oh yes, I have thought of that," said the farmer; "but now that
Tokiyori, the just Regent, has died, and as Tokimune his successor is
very young, I felt that it was useless to present my petition, so that I
determined to resign myself to poverty. But though I live and work like
a farmer, in heart and soul I am still a _samurai_. Should war break out
or even a call to arms be sounded, I shall be the first to go to
Kamakura, wearing my armour, dilapidated and torn though it may be,
carrying my halberd, rusty as it is, and riding my old horse, emaciated
and unpresentable though he is, and I will do glorious deeds once more
and die a knight's death. I never for one moment forget my ambition.
This alone buoys me up through all my trouble and poverty," he added
cheerfully, looking up at his listener with a smile.

"Your purpose is a good one, and worthy of a true _samurai_," said the
priest, and he smiled and looked at the knight intently. "I prophesy
that you will rise in life in the near future, and I feel sure that I
shall see you and congratulate you at Kamakura on obtaining your heart's

While they were talking, the night had passed and day began to break.
The snow had ceased to fall, and as Sano and his guest rose to open the
storm-doors, the sun rose bright and shining on a silvered world.

The priest went to put on his rain-coat and hat.

"Thank you," he said, "for all the kindness and hospitality you have
shown me. I will say good-bye. Now that the storm has ceased, I need
trespass no longer on your goodness; I will be getting on my way!"

"Oh," said the knight, "why need you hurry so? At least stay one more
day with us, for you seem to me no longer a stranger but a friend, and I
am loth to see you depart."

"Thank you," replied the priest, "but I must hurry on. I take my leave,
however, with the firm conviction that fate will give us the pleasure of
meeting again ere long. Remember my words. Good-bye!" And thus speaking,
with several bows the priest turned from the porch and wended his way
through the snow.

When he had gone the knight remembered that he had forgotten to ask the
traveller's name, so he and his wife would probably never know who the
sympathetic stranger was.

The next spring the Government at Kamakura issued a proclamation calling
upon all knights to present themselves in battle-array before the
Regent. When Sano Genzaemon heard of this, he thought that some
extraordinary event must have taken place. What it was he could not
imagine. But he was a knight and must answer the summons promptly. Here
might be the chance of proving his knightly prowess, for which he had
been waiting so long, hidden away in obscurity and the poverty of his
circumstances. The only thing that weighed him down was the thought that
he had no money either to buy a new suit of armour or a good horse. No
hesitation, however, showed itself in the despatch with which he
hastened to Kamakura, clothed only in his suit of shabby armour, a rusty
halberd in hand, and riding an old broken-down horse, unattended by any

When Sano reached Kamakura, he found the city crowded with warriors who
were riding in from all parts of the country. There were thousands of
great and eminent _samurai_ clothed from head to foot in beautiful
armour, their suits, their helmets, and their swords glittering with
ornamentation of silver and gold. It was a goodly sight that the sun
shone on that day, framed by the great pine trees against the background
of the glimmering sea beyond. The pride of life and race were there, the
hauteur of birth and rank, the glory and parade of war, the glinting of
helmet and clanking of steel,--every knight's armour was composed of
fine metal scales woven and held together by silken threads of ruby,
emerald, scarlet, sapphire, and gold. Each knight wore his favourite
colour, and as the ranks moved into the sunlight or fell into the shade
the whole formed an army of moving splendour, the brilliant and
variegated colouring of which was like a river of rich and magnificent

As Sano, clothed in his shabby armour and riding his broken-down horse,
rode in amongst the bright phalanx of warriors, how they all jeered and
scoffed at him and his horse! But Sano cared little for their scorn, the
consciousness that he was a _samurai_ as good as most of them bore him
up, and he laughed to himself at their pride and swagger.

"These men wear fine armour, it is true," he said to himself, "but they
have lost the true _samurai_ spirit; their hearts are corrupt or they
would not glory so in appearance; though my armour cannot compare with
theirs, yet in loyalty I can never be outdone, even by them, braggers
though they be."

As these thoughts passed through his mind, Sano saw a herald approaching
the gay concourse of knights. He rode a richly caparisoned horse, and he
held aloft a banner bearing the house-crest of the Regent. The warriors,
their armour and their swords clanging as they moved, parted to the
right and left, leaving a road for him to pass. As he rode up their
lines he called aloud: "The Regent summons to his presence the knight
who wears the shabbiest armour and who rides the most broken-down

When Sano heard these words he thought:

"There is no soldier here but myself clothed in old armour. Alas! the
Governor will reprimand it me for daring to appear in such a state. It
can't be helped; come what will, I obey the summons--such is my duty!"

So with a sinking heart Sano, the dilapidated knight, followed the
herald to the Governor's house. Here the messenger announced that the
knight Sano Genzaemon had come in answer to the proclamation summoning
the poorest-clothed knight to the Regent.

"I am the poorest knight here, so the required man can be none other
than myself," said Sano, as he bowed low to the retainers who came out
to receive him at the porch.

Sano was then ushered along endless corridors and through spacious
rooms. At last the ushering officer knelt on the polished wood outside a
large room, and, pushing back the white paper screen, told him to enter.
The knight found himself in the presence of the handsome young General
Tokimune. On his head he wore a helmet with golden horns and the small
plates of his armour were woven together with silken threads of scarlet.

The young General bowed to the knight in answer to his prostrations and
said: "Are you the knight Sano Genzaemon Tsuneyo?"

"Yes, I am he," answered Sano.

"Then," answered the young man, "I have to present you to some one!"
and he made a sign to an attendant.

Upon this the servant pushed open the screens of an inner room, and the
Regent Saimyoji Tokiyori, who had been reported dead for a year, was
revealed, magnificently dressed in his robes of office. Over his armour
he wore a sacerdotal robe of rich brocade, and on his head a white

Bewildered by all the strange things that were happening to him, and
fearful of he knew not what, the knight had kept his face to the ground.
He heard the rattle of armour and the swish of heavy silk moving towards
him over the mats, and he wondered if it were not all a dream.

Then a voice said: "Oh, Sano Genzaemon--is it you? It is long since I
saw you! Look up! Don't be afraid! Don't you know me?"

The poor knight knew at once that he had heard that voice before, and at
last found courage to raise his head and to look at the resplendent
figure that addressed him.

An exclamation of surprise burst from the lips of Sano, for he
recognized in the personage who addressed him the priest whom he had
sheltered on the night of the great snowstorm a year agone.

"You are surely," said Sano after a pause, "the travelling priest who
passed that night of the great snowstorm under my roof last year, are
you not?"

"Yes, I am that priest, and also I am the Regent Saimyoji Tokiyori."

"Oh!" exclaimed Sano, bowing to the ground, "pardon my rudeness to you
that night, for I did not know who my august visitor was," and his heart
filled with fear at the remembrance of his unceremonious behaviour on
that occasion.

Then the ex-Regent spoke again, and this time solemnly: "Sir Sano, you
have no need to apologize, far from that. Do you remember what you said
to me that night when the snowstorm took me to your house? You told me
that through unfortunate circumstances you were now obliged to work like
a farmer, yet if ever the occasion arose that should sound the call of
knights to arms, you would, regardless of your shabby accoutrements,
answer the summons and come forth in the spirit of a _samurai_ to do
glorious deeds worthy of your sword once more before you died! Herewith
I give you back the thirty villages in the district of Sano, of which
you were robbed by your unworthy kinsman. And do you think I have
forgotten your kind action when you burned your precious trees, the last
relics of your prosperous past, to minister to my comfort during that
terrible storm? The glow of that fire remains in my heart to this day.
By way of expressing my thanks for your hospitality that cold and dreary
night, in return for the _Matsu_ [pine tree], I am going to give you
the village of _Matsu-ida_, in the province of Kodzuke; in the place of
the _Ume_ [plum tree], the village of _Umeda_, in the province of Kaga;
and for the _Sakura_ [cherry tree], you shall have _Sakurai_, a village
in the province of Etchiu."

As the knight listened to these golden words of fortune, which dropped
like jewels from the mouth of the beneficent Regent, it seemed to him as
if he must be dreaming, it was all so unexpected. He could not speak,
for the tears rose to his eyes, and sobs of joy choked his utterance.
When at last he looked up, he was alone. He made his way out of the
mansion as in a trance, oblivious of all around him. The news of his
promotion and of the favour he enjoyed in the estimation of the Regent
had already spread outside, and the men who had laughed and jeered at
him before now smiled graciously and bowed respectfully as he passed
along the ranks.

So Sano Genzaemon returned to Kodzuke, not as a poor farmer, but as a
lord under the special favour of the Regent, having won the esteem of
all his countrymen by his knightly conduct in adversity.

All rejoiced that faithfulness, honesty, and kindness had received their
just reward, and none more than the good Regent Tokiyori.


On the outskirts of a remote village at the foot of Mount Aso, in
Kiushiu, a bell was slowly pealing from a Buddhist temple. It was the
season of autumn and the twilight was falling fast. Over the lonely
place and the gloom of the deepening dusk of night the solemn music,
reverberating across the hills, seemed to toll the transientness of all
things earthly.

Not far from the temple was a small cottage. At the door stood a young
girl anxiously waiting for her father to come home. From time to time
she wiped away the tears which fell from her eyes, and her face and
attitude expressed great sorrow. She was but fifteen years of age, and
as she stood there, a young and slender figure, she looked like a
cherry-blossom of spring in the falling rain.

She was alone, for her father had gone out to hunt some days before and
had never returned, and she had had no tidings whatever of him since.
She and her father were all in all to each other; her mother was dead
and her elder brother was only a name to her; she could not remember
him; he had run away from home when she was a small child, and no one
knew what had become of him since.

As White Chrysanthemum, her heart full of sorrow and foreboding, watched
and waited for her father's return, she started at everything,--at the
leaves falling from the trees, at the sighing of the wind in their
branches, at the dropping of the water from the bamboo pipe which
brought the hill-stream to the house; as these different sounds from
time to time caught her ear expectation made her hope that they might be
the footsteps of her father coming home. But the hours passed by and
still he did not return.

As the mists rose and the clouds began to close over the mountain, the
loneliness of the scene was deepened by the plaint of insects chirruping
in the grass, and by the slow pattering on the broad banana palm leaves
of the rain just beginning to fall.

At last the dreariness and stillness of approaching night oppressed the
girl so much that she could bear it no longer, and she made up her mind
to go in search of her father.

It was a sad sight to see her as she ran out from the bamboo gate and
turned to give a last look at the little home nestling in the shelter of
the pine trees. Then resolutely she turned away and set her face towards
the mountain path. On her head she wore a large mushroom-shaped
rainhat, and with a stick in her hand she began to climb up the rough
thorny pass into the depths of the mountains, as they towered range upon
range one above the other and were lost in the distance and blackness of

The rain fell more and more heavily, and as the girl stumbled up the
steep pass she had often to wring her sleeves, which were now wet with
rain as well as with tears. So absorbed was White Chrysanthemum in the
thought of finding her father, whom she had watched climb this very road
three mornings before, that she hardly noticed that the storm gave signs
of lifting. Suddenly the rain ceased, the clouds cleared, and the moon
shone brightly. The change in the weather at last roused the girl to
look about her, and she saw that the path now led her downward to the
valley. With a sigh of relief she quickened her pace.

She had walked for about two hours when she saw at some distance in
front of her a single yellow ray of light shining through the gloom. Had
she come to a house where she might possibly hear tidings of her father?
As this hope dawned upon her, she eagerly hastened towards the light.

She soon reached an old Buddhist temple standing in the shadow of a
group of pines and cryptomerias. From within came a voice chanting the
Buddhist scriptures. Who could it be studying in so remote a place at
that hour of the night?

Shiragiku entered the gate and in the moonlight which made everything
visible saw that the whole place was in a dilapidated condition; the
fence was falling in many places, weeds grew all over the garden and
between the flagstones, as if no one ever trod the path; even the posts
which supported the gate shook in the wind.

White Chrysanthemum walked up to the porch and knocked on the heavy
wooden door. Not until she had knocked and called several times did she
hear any stir within; then some one answered in a subdued voice, the
storm-shutters were pushed aside, and a young bonze appeared. He started
when his eyes fell upon the girl, and he stared at her silently as if
wondering who she could be or what had brought her there at that hour.

Shiragiku, seeing his scrutiny, drew near and said in a low sweet voice:
"I am looking for my father. He went out hunting some days ago and has
never come back. I am indeed sorry to trouble you, but will you be so
kind as to tell me if any one has come to this temple either for rest or
food within the last two or three days?"

The girl spoke so quietly and looked at him so gently that the young
bonze was reassured in a moment. Her evident distress appealed to him,
and when he looked at her again he saw that she was as beautiful as a
flower; her skin was white as snow, her jet-black hair, disordered by
the storm through which she had passed, fell like the graceful branches
of a willow tree over her shoulders; her large almond eyes were sad and
full of tears, and as he gazed upon her it seemed to him that she could
not belong to the earth, that she must be a _tennin_--an angel from the
Buddhist Heaven. He asked her to enter the temple and said: "Tell me who
you are and whence you come, and what brings you out this stormy night.
I will listen to your story if you will tell it to me."

The wind had risen again and was blowing in gusts round the temple and
whistling through the chinks and crannies of the old building, while
from the garden came the mournful cries of an owl. The desolation and
strangeness of the place touched the girl's sorrow to the quick, and she
burst into tears. As soon as she was able to speak, she wiped her eyes
and said between her sobs: "I am the daughter of a certain _samurai_ of
Kumamoto City. Our house was once rich and prosperous, and our hearts
were full of joy; we lived happily, knowing nothing whatever of care or
sorrow. When the war[1] broke out all was changed; the grass round our
house was stained with blood, and even the wind smelt of blood;
families were scattered far and wide from the homes where they were
born, and the air was rent with the cries of parents seeking their lost
children and of children calling for their parents who could no longer
hear them. Pity is no word to express the feeling which filled the heart
at these sights. My father likewise went to the war, and my mother then
escaped with me as far as Mount Aso. There she found a tiny cottage in
the shadow of the temple, and with the money she had managed to bring
with her we lived as best we could. As we were afterward told, my father
fought with the rebels. When we heard that, we were greatly astonished,
and our sleeves were never dry with wiping away our tears. Day by day,
morning, noon, and night, we waited, hoping that my father would
return--thus the summer passed. Autumn came and the wild geese flew
across the sky in flocks toward the south, but there came no news of my
father. My mother pined away with grief and anxiety, till at last she
died. Thus before we knew whether my father was alive or dead, I was
left alone in life. I felt as if I were dreaming in a dream. Whenever I
think of that time my heart is pierced with sorrow. My days were passed
in weeping at my misfortunes and in bemoaning my unhappy fate. Had it
not been for the kindness of neighbours in the village, I should not
have been able to live.

"Last spring my father came back and found me out. I told him of my
mother's death. Since then he has never ceased to grieve. I tried to
cheer him by telling him that it was the fate of all mortals to die, but
my words brought him little comfort, and in this sad way we passed our
time. The other day he went out hunting, and since then has never
returned. Again, I was left alone with no one to look to for help.
Unable to bear the loneliness any longer, I started out this evening to
look for him and have come thus far. Our family name is Honda, my name
is Shiragiku, my father's name is Akitoshi, my mother's name was Take,
and my elder brother's Akihide. I can hardly remember Akihide, for when
I was a small child he ran away, fearing my father's anger because of
his bad conduct. But though he left us, my mother and I never forgot
him. In the morning when it rained and in the winter evenings when the
wind blew chill we longed for him to come again to the shelter of his
home, but from that day to this we have heard nothing of him and know
not what has become of him. My mother gave me many messages for him,
firmly believing that one day we should meet again, and that he would
yet fulfil his duty as a son and restore our house to its former
prosperity and happiness. In this hope she died."

As Shiragiku proceeded with her story the young bonze listened with
eager attention. At these words his face changed with sudden emotion,
and the tears fell from his eyes. After some moments he said to her:
"Poor, poor girl! Your story is a very sad one, and I feel for you in
your many troubles. You can go no further to-night; rest here in peace
until the dawn!"

As he spoke it seemed to Shiragiku that his voice was familiar to her,
and though she could not remember having seen him before, yet for some
unaccountable reason she felt that he was no stranger. His manner was so
kind and gentle and sympathetic as he went and came bringing food for
her supper and quilts for her to sleep upon, that memories of her early
home and childhood stirred her heart. Her thoughts went out to the
runaway brother; if he would only return he would be about the same age
as the young bonze, and surely as good as he to any one in distress.
Glad was she to have found a place of rest for the night. With many
humble prostrations she thanked her host for his hospitality, and
apologized for all the trouble she had given him.

When he withdrew, bidding her "good-night," she knelt in supplication
before the shrine at the end of the room, where Amida Buddha and
Kwannon, the Goddess of Mercy, reigned in peace above the lotus and the
burning of incense. Only through the mercy of the gods could she hope
to find her father, only through their help would her long-lost brother
ever come back to those who waited for him year after year. For many
minutes she knelt on, praying earnestly, then, worn out with grief and
fatigue, she rose from her knees and lay down to fall fast asleep.

At the hour when the hush of night is deepest, Shiragiku saw her father
enter the room and draw near her pillow. The tears stood in his eyes and
in a sad voice he said: "Shiragiku, I have fallen over a precipice, and
now I am at the bottom of a chasm many hundred feet deep. Here the
brambles and bamboo grass grow so thick that I am unable to find my way
out of the jungle. I may not live till the morrow, so I came to see you
for the last time in this world."

As soon as he had finished speaking, White Chrysanthemum stretched out
her hands and tried to catch hold of his sleeves to detain him, crying:
"Father! father!" But with the sound of her own voice she awoke.

She sprang up expecting to see her father, but there was nothing in the
room except the night-lantern glimmering faintly. While she was
wondering whether the vision were a dream or a reality, the dawn began
to break and the beating of a drum throbbed through the temple. White
Chrysanthemum rose soon after sunrise, ate the simple breakfast of rice
and bean-soup she found slipped into her room, and quickly left the
temple. She did not wait to see the kind priest, though he had asked her
to do so, saying that he would do what he could to help her; for she had
remembered his diffidence the night before, and thought that very likely
he belonged to a sect which forbade its priests to converse with the
world, and she felt sorry that she had disturbed him.

Her dream was so vividly real to her that it seemed as if she heard her
father calling to her for help; so making all possible speed she set but
once more with the faith and simplicity of childhood to find him. Far
off in the woods the bark of a fox could be heard, while along the path
the cloudy tufts of the _obana_[2] rustled as she passed. Shiragiku
shivered as the cold morning wind pierced through her body. As she
pursued her way along the rough mountain pass wild creatures scuttled
away, frightened, from before her into the woods, and overhead the birds
sang to each other in the trees.

At last she reached the top of the pass, to find it covered with clouds,
and it seemed to White Chrysanthemum as if they must carry her away with
them in their onward sweep. She sat down on a stone to recover her
breath, for the climb had been steep. In a few minutes the mists began
to clear away. She stood up and looked about her, hoping that she might
find some trace of her father, but as far as eye could reach nothing but
mountains, range after range, could be seen riding one above the other
in the blue sky.

Suddenly a noise in the bushes behind her made White Chrysanthemum
start, and before she could flee a band of robbers rushed out upon her.
They seized and bound her tightly. She cried out for help, but only the
echoes answered her. Down the mountain they led her till they reached
the valley; for a whole day they hurried her along till they came to a
strange-looking house.

This was in such a neglected condition that moss covered the walls, and
it was so closely shut up that the sunbeams never entered the rooms.

As they approached the place, a man who seemed to be the chief of the
band came out, and as he caught sight of the maiden, said with an evil
smile: "You've brought a good prize this time!"

The robbers now untied Shiragiku's hands and led her into the house and
then into a room where dinner was prepared, with rice and fish and wine
in great quantities. Then they all sat down, and as they began to eat,
it seemed to her that they were a lot of demons. The chief passed some
food to her and pressed her to eat. The long walk in the bracing air of
the autumn day had made Shiragiku so hungry that in spite of her fear
and distress she was glad of the food. At last, when she had finished
her meal, he turned to her and said: "That you We been caught by my men
and brought here must be the work of fate. So now you must look upon me
as your husband and serve me all your life. I have a good _koto_ [the
Japanese harp] which I keep with great care, and to show your gratitude
for this marriage you will have to play before me often and to cheer me
with your songs, for I am fond of music. If you refuse to obey me, I
will make your life as hard as climbing a mountain of swords or walking
through a forest of needles."

Shiragiku felt that she would rather die than marry this man, but she
could not refuse to play the _koto_ for him. The _koto_ was brought by
one of the men at a word of command from the chief and placed before the
girl, who began to strike the chords, her tears falling fast the while.
She played so well that even those hard-hearted robbers were touched by
her music, and one or two of them whispered together that hers was a
hard fate and they wished that they could find some means of saving her.

Outside the house in the shadow of a large tree stood a young man,
watching all that went on and listening to the music. By the voice of
the singer as she sang, he knew that the player was she whom he sought.
No sooner did the music stop than he rushed into the house and attacked
the robbers with great fury. Anger gave strength to his onslaught, and
the bandits were so taken by surprise that they were paralyzed with fear
and offered no resistance. In a few minutes the chief was killed, while
two others lay senseless on the mats, and the rest ran away.

Then the young man, who was dressed in the black vestments of a priest,
took the trembling girl by the hand and led her to a window, through
which the moonlight streamed. As Shiragiku gazed up in gratitude and
wonder at her deliverer, she saw that he was none other than the young
priest of the temple, who had been so kind to her the night before.

"Don't be afraid!" he said quietly and soothingly; "don't be afraid! I
am no stranger, I am your brother Akihide. Now I will tell you my story,
so listen to me. You cannot remember me, for you were only a little
child of three when my bad conduct roused my father's anger and I ran
away from home and started for the capital. I embarked on a small vessel
and after sailing along for several days I reached Waka-no-ura, passing
the island of Awaji on the way. From Waka-no-ura I proceeded on foot. It
was the close of spring and the cherry-blossoms were falling, and the
ground was covered with the pink snow of their petals; but there was
nothing of the joy of spring in my heart, which was heavy at the
thought of my parents' displeasure and the fearful step I had just
taken. As soon as I reached the capital, I put myself under the charge
of a priest and went through a severe course of study, for I had already
repented of my idle ways and longed to do better. Under my good master's
guidance I learned the way of virtue. My heart was softened by
knowledge, and when I remembered the love of my parents, I regretted my
evil past and never did the sun go down but I wept in secret over it. So
the years went by. At last the pain of homesickness became so great that
I determined to return home and beg my parents' forgiveness. I hoped and
planned to devote myself to them in their old age and to make amends in
the future for the shortcomings of the past. But insurmountable
difficulties beset me in my new-formed purpose. War had broken out, and
the face of the country was entirely changed. Cities were turned into
wildernesses, weeds grew tall and thick all over the roads, and when I
reached our province it was impossible to find either the old home or
any one who could give me the slightest clue as to the whereabouts of
you all. Life became a burden to me. You may imagine something of what I
felt, but my tongue fails to describe my misery. I was desolate with no
one belonging to me, so I resolved to forsake the world and become a
priest, and after wandering about I took up my abode in that old temple
where you found me. But even the religious life could not still my
remorse. I was haunted by the fear of what had become of my father and
mother and sister. Were they alive or were they dead? Should I ever see
them again? These were the questions which tormented me ceaselessly.
Morning and evening I prayed before the shrine in the room where you
slept last night--prayed that I might have news of you all. Great is
the mercy of Buddha! Imagine the mingled joy and sorrow I felt when you
came yesterday and told me of all that had happened since I left home. I
was about to make myself known to you, but I was too ashamed to do so.
It was, however, harder for me to conceal my secret than it would have
been to tell it, for I longed to do so with my whole heart and soul. In
the morning when I came to the room and found you gone, I followed after
you in fear lest you should fall into the hands of the bandits who haunt
these hills and thus it was that I saved you. You can never know how
glad I am to have done this for you, but alas! I am ashamed to meet my
father because of the remembrance of the past! Had I done my duty as a
son, had I never run away wickedly from home, how much suffering I might
have saved my mother and you, poor Shiragiku! Terrible indeed is my
sin!" And with these words the young man drew out a short sword and was
about to take his own life.

When Shiragiku saw what he was going to do, she gave a loud cry, and
springing to his side seized his hands with all her strength, and
stopped him from doing the dread deed. With tender sisterly words she
tried to comfort him, telling him that she knew his father had forgiven
him, and was living in the daily hope of his return--that the happiness
and solace he could now give him in his old age would more than atone
for the past; she begged him to remember his mother's dying prayer that
he would establish their house and keep up the ancestral rites before
the family shrine when his parents were dead. As she spoke, he desisted
from his desperate purpose. The peace of night and the stillness of the
moonlit world around them brought balm to both their troubled hearts,
and as they bade each other good-night the silence was unbroken save for
the cry of the wild geese as they flew across the sky.

In the early morning the brother and sister left the house, hand in
hand. They had not gone far when they heard pursuing footsteps, and
looking back they saw two or three of the men who had escaped the night
before coming after them. Akihide bade his sister run for her life,
while he stayed behind and engaged the robbers in a fight and so gave
her time to escape.

Shiragiku did as she was told and fled through the woods under cover of
the trees. On and on she went, till at last she reached a place of
safety out of sight. But her heart, beating wildly with fear, was behind
with her brother, wondering what had happened to him, whether he had
vanquished the bandits or had been killed by them. Who can describe her
anxiety? She had found her brother only to lose him in this sad and
uncertain way. Afraid to retrace her steps, yet anxious to know what had
become of him, she climbed to the nearest hill-top to try if she could
see anything of him, but around her there was nothing but hills and pine

As she looked about her, she saw near by a little shrine, and, overcome
with the terror of all that had befallen her within the last two days,
she made her way towards it with trembling steps, and kneeling down
offered up a fervent prayer for help and for her brother's and father's

An old man who was cutting down trees in the forest saw her weeping
there, and his heart filled with pity for the young girl. He drew near
and asked her to tell him what was the matter. On hearing her sad story
he led her to his home, saying that he would take care of her.

It was a quiet mountain place in the woods. The ground was covered with
pine needles, the chrysanthemums round the humble cottage were fading,
and the bell-insects were feebly tinkling in the grass, for the last
days of autumn were passing.

Here in this retired spot Shiragiku lived in peace. The old wood-cutter
and his wife, having no children of their own, loved her as a daughter,
for such she seemed to them, so amiable, patient, and helpful in all her
ways was she, and they told her that they hoped she would remain with
them to the end of their days. Shiragiku did her utmost to show her
gratitude to the old couple for their kindness to her, but she never
ceased to think of her father and brother and to look forward to the
time when they would once more be a united family. In spite of all
discouragements she cherished this hope. Now and again she implored the
old man to let her go and look for them; but he would not permit this,
saying that it was not safe for an unprotected girl to roam the hills,
that if she did so she would be sure to fall into the hands of robbers
again, and that it was far wiser for her to wait till her father and
brother found her than for her to seek them, not knowing where they
were. Her reverence for old age made her obey him, and she waited in
patience, hoping each day she rose that her father and brother would
find her before the evening came.

During these quiet years she grew in beauty day by day and passed from
girlhood into the bloom of early womanhood. The poor cotton robe--all
that the wood-cutter could give her-in no wise hid her loveliness. She
was like a fine chrysanthemum shining among the wild flowers of the

She was soon the acknowledged beauty of the place, and one spring the
village chief sought her in marriage. The wood-cutter, out of respect to
the suitor's position, at once gave his consent.

When, however, the old man told Shiragiku of what he planned for her,
her dismay was great. She begged him with tears to make excuses for her;
she told him that she could not think of marriage till she had found her
father. But he would not listen, saying that it was the best thing for
her now to be settled in life.

That night the girl covered her face with her sleeves and wept long and
bitterly when she lay down to rest.

"How can I obey the old man?" she sobbed to herself. "No, never-never! I
remember now more vividly than ever what my mother told me when she was
dying. 'You are not my own child, Shiragiku,' she said; 'one day many
years ago I was returning from a visit to a temple. When passing through
a field, I found a little baby crying in the midst of some white
chrysanthemums. Who can have been so wicked as to forsake such a lovely
child? I said to myself; there must be some reason for this! I carried
the little one home and brought her up as my own child. You are that
child. Praying for blessings on you, I named you _Shira-Giku_, because
I found you in a bed of white chrysanthemums. There is also something
else I must tell you before I die. There is some one in the world to
whom you must look as your brother and husband; he is none other than
our son, who ran away rather than meet the anger of his father. We have
never heard of him since he left, but if he is still living I am sure he
will come back to his family. Your father and I--your adopted
parents--have always destined you for him; it is my last behest that you
should refuse all other men and wait to marry our son, for come back I
am sure he will one day; then live a happy life together in the old
home, praying for our souls when we have left this world.' My mother's
words are still in my ears. I hear them more clearly than ever," she
sobbed to herself. "I owe her my life; how can I disobey her bidding?
And yet how can I refuse to do as the old wood-cutter asks, for he has
been as a parent to me these last three years? What shall I do? Oh! what
shall I do?"

Day by day the old man pressed her to accept the suitor and day by day
in great perplexity she put him off. At last, seeing no way of escape
from being unfilial to the memory of her mother and from fulfilling the
old man's wish, she made up her mind to die and put an end to the

At this time the _nakodo_ (go-between) of the marriage came and
presented her with a roll of brocade for the _obi_ (wide sash) and of
damask silk for the _kimono_, the betrothal gift of the bridegroom. The
old man and his wife rejoiced at what they considered her good fortune
and regarded the matter as settled, and the neighbours came to
congratulate them and to catch a glimpse of the chosen bride of their

Shiragiku, however, had made up her mind. That night during a rainstorm
she stole out from the wood-cutter's cottage. She looked back wistfully
many times at the place which had fed and sheltered her for so long; but
she told herself that there was no other way than this, for she must
hold as sacred law her mother's last behest. In the despair of the last
few weeks, when this unexpected marriage was being forced upon her, she
had lost the hope of finding her father and brother again; but she would
die rather than marry a stranger against her foster mother's dying wish.

The night was dark, for the sky was clouded. Down the empty street of
the village Shiragiku hurried with the tightly closed thatch-roofed
cottages on either side. Out across the silent stretches of rice-fields
she ran till she reached the blackness of a pine wood, seeking for some
spot where she could die.

The roar of water at last reached her ears, and she knew that she had
come to a river. The moaning of the wind in the pine trees sounded to
her like the voices of pursuers. She stopped to look around, but there
was no one to be seen. The path leading down to the river grew rougher
and darker as she entered the shadow of the trees, but Shiragiku never
faltered in her determination to reach its bank. At last the water
glimmered like a wide white ribbon in the gloom of night.

"I will now die," said Shiragiku, weeping; "but alas! how sad my father
and brother will be when they hear of my death. Forgive me," she cried
aloud, "oh, my father, oh, elder brother, that I die first. I will await
your coming beside my mother in Heaven."

Shiragiku now reached the edge of the bank and was about to dash down
into the river with a prayer to Buddha on her lips when she found
herself caught from behind and a familiar voice said to her: "Wait a
moment! Tell me who you are and why you seek to take your life."

It was her brother Akihide. She gazed up at him in the dim light of the
moon just coming forth from the clouds. They both clasped each other by
the arms and burst into tears.

"Little sister!" "Elder brother!" cried the sister and brother both
together in that shock of simultaneous recognition. In the speechless
moments which followed they heard the sound of a flute from the village
near by break the silence of the night--they watched the rain cease and
the stars shine out one by one. Akihide led Shiragiku to a large
stone; here they sat down and told each other all that had happened
since they last parted.


While they were talking the day broke; together they watched the sun
rise in splendour and glisten and glow in thousands of rain-drops on the
trees and grass around them.

"Let us go and tell the kind old wood-cutter and his wife all that has
happened," said White Chrysanthemum, smiling through her tears; "I must
bid him farewell and we must thank him, for indeed I owe him my life."

They walked to the village and went at once to the old man and told him
their story. Shiragiku begged him to forgive her for not doing as he
wished. Then Akihide told him that it had been his mother's dying wish
that he should marry White Chrysanthemum and keep up the family name.
With tears the brother and sister thanked the old couple for their
ever-to-be-remembered kindness to White Chrysanthemum in her distress.
They promised to come and see them whenever they could and to let them
know all that happened to them in the future, a promise which they
faithfully kept. They at last took leave with many gentle words on both

Then Akihide and Shiragiku began a happy journey homewards, walking over
the hills by day, and passing the night at some farmhouse or cottage
they came to on their way.

When the brother and foster sister reached the little house in the
valley at the foot of Mount Aso, it was early in the month of May; the
cuckoos were singing, and the air was fragrant with the scent of
orange-blossoms. In spite of the years of desertion and neglect, the
tiny home still stood safe and firm as when Shiragiku had left it,
though the grass had grown tall and thick in the garden and moss covered
the roof. The sun was shining brightly over all, and the balm and
gladness of the spring morning rested on their young souls.

For a moment White Chrysanthemum paused at the bamboo gate and said:
"This is our home, elder brother!" Then quickly they ran down the
garden, quickly they pushed back the paper screen of the entrance and
entered. Were they waking or were they dreaming? Who should they see
coming forward to meet them but their father, whom they had almost given
up as dead. For a moment they were all silent. It seemed as if their
hearts must burst with inexpressible joy.

"Father! Father!" cried Akihide and Shiragiku together, "is it really
you? Are you safe and well?"

"Children, my children!" cried the astonished father, "have I found you
at last?"

Then Akihide knelt before his father, and with his face bowed to the
ground, confessed everything, and begged his father's forgiveness for
the past. He told him all--how bitterly he had repented his behaviour,
how hard he had tried to make a new life for himself, how long he had
searched for his parents in vain, his one wish being to make amends, how
wonderfully he had met Shiragiku when he had at last despaired of ever
finding any one of his family again, of all that had happened since her
coming to the temple.

The father listened gravely to the long sad story; then with gentle
words he forgave his son; he bade him to cease all self-reproach, and as
he spoke the kind words his eyes grew dark with unshed tears. When
Shiragiku told her story he commended her filial piety, her courage, and
her patience. Now that they had as by a miracle of the gods found each
other again, nothing should ever separate them.

Thus the little family found again the vanished happiness of other

Shiragiku now busied herself preparing the evening meal, and as she
filled her father's and her brother's wine-cup the father told them all
that had happened to him.

"When I went out hunting three years ago, I fell over a precipice, and
found myself at the bottom of a chasm a hundred or more feet deep. I was
quite unable to get out, so I lived on wild fruits and stream water for
many days.

"One morning I chanced to see a band of monkeys climbing the chasm by
means of a large wistaria-vine which formed a bridge from side to side.
I followed their example and soon found myself free on the hillside once
more. I returned here with all haste, only to find that Shiragiku had
disappeared. Imagine my distress. I inquired of every one in the
village, but no one had seen her go away, and there was no one who could
tell me anything about her. There was but one thing left for me to do
and that was to try and find her. So I set out walking through province
after province, looking for her, but all in vain. At last I gave up my
quest as hopeless and returned here only yesterday."

The joy of the little family was great beyond all words. This unexpected
meeting--the utmost desire of their souls--was a happiness which took
away their breath and left them silent with wonder and thankfulness.
Only one thing saddened them--that the good mother, who had died of
grief and anxiety, could not be present to share in this joyous reunion,
and to know that her prayer was answered and that the long-lost son had
returned to his family. But she was not forgotten--they spoke of her and
missed her. Shiragiku rose and opened the little shrine standing in a
closed recess at the end of the room, and taking some sticks of incense
set them burning before the name-tablet set up in memory of her mother;
for though Shiragiku now knew that she was not really her own mother,
yet she always thought of her as such, for she had known no other.
Father and son and adopted daughter then knelt and with hands clasped
and bowed heads prayed before the little altar.

Shiragiku now fetched and tuned her _koto_ (harp) and sang the songs she
knew her father liked to hear. This done, she accompanied her brother,
while he paced through some stately measures of the classic dance. The
father, calling Akihide and Shiragiku to his side, told them that he
wished them to marry, as his wife had always planned.

He was now an old man, he said, and could not expect to live much
longer, and before his death it was his ardent wish to see his house

He then named an early date for the wedding. Akihide, having only
entered upon a religious novitiate, was able to obey his father without
breaking any vows. He bowed his willingness and Shiragiku blushed
happily. She was content in fulfilling her good foster mother's last

Now the sun set, a crane cried on the hill at the back of the house, and
the stars came out one by one in the soft and darkening turquoise of a
May twilight, and peace and joy reigned in the home and the hearts of
the three wanderers.

[1] The war of the Restoration.

[2] An autumn grass (Miscanthus sinensis).


Long, long ago, in old Japan, there lived near Katano, in the Kawachi
Province, a prince named Bitchu-no-Kami Minetaka or Lord Minetaka, as we
should say in English. He was not only a very wealthy man, but it was
reported that his house was full of rare and wonderful treasures. He was
also a learned man and the master of many accomplishments. His life was
passed in the luxurious leisure of the rich, and he knew nothing of care
or want--perhaps he hardly realized what such words meant.

But above all the treasures in his storehouse, beyond the wealth of his
revenue which came pouring in year by year in bushels of rice, he prized
his only child, his daughter. The prince and his wife brought this
daughter up with great love and tenderness as if she were some rare
flower or fragile butterfly. So beautiful indeed was the young girl that
in looking at her their friends and relations wondered whether the Sun
Goddess Amaterasu had not come to earth again in the form of the little

Nothing came to mar the happiness of this united little family till the
daughter was fifteen years of age. Then suddenly the mother, who had
never known a day's illness in her whole life, was taken ill. At first
it seemed to be but a slight cold, but her health, instead of getting
better, only grew worse and worse. She felt that she would never recover
and that her end was very near, so she called her daughter beside her
pillow, and, taking a large lacquer bowl from the bedside, she placed it
on her daughter's head, saying: "My poor little child, I want you always
to wear this bowl. At your innocent age you can understand nothing of
the world in which I must leave you motherless. I pity you with all my
heart; ah! if you were at least seventeen or eighteen years old I could
die with more peace of mind. I am indeed loath to go, leaving you behind
so young. Try to be a good daughter and never forget your mother."

The woman's tears fell fast as she spoke, and her voice was broken with
sobs while she stroked her little girl's hand. But things are not as one
wishes in this life. All the doctor's skill could not save the mother;
she died and left her daughter behind motherless in the world.

Words cannot tell the grief of the bereaved father and child, it was so
great. At last, after some time had passed and the ordinary routine of
life in Prince Minetaka's household was resumed, the father noticed the
bowl which his daughter wore on her head and which fell so low as
completely to hide her face; and calling her to him tried to take off
the unsightly head gear. But his efforts were in vain. All the retainers
and then the servants were summoned to see what they could do, but no
one could remove the bowl; it stuck fast to the child's head. No one
could understand the mystery. The bowl had been put on most simply; why
could it not be as easily taken off? This was the question which the
whole household asked again and again.

And the young Princess, besides sorrowing for the loss of her mother,
was greatly troubled at the knowledge that, though born physically
perfect, she was now quite disfigured for life in having to wear the
ugly bowl which her mother for some unknown reason had placed on her
head. If no one succeeded in taking the bowl off, she might have to wear
it her whole life. That would indeed be a terrible affliction. But in
spite of all she never forgot her mother even for a moment, but carried
in her heart the memory of her love and care through every hour of the
livelong day. Every morning, as soon as she rose from her bed on the
mats, she placed the little cup of tea and the bowl of rice before the
tablet bearing her mother's name in the household shrine, and having set
the incense burning she would kneel and pray for the happiness of her
mother's soul.

The days passed into weeks, the weeks grew into months, yet the dutiful
daughter never failed morning or evening thus to pray for her lost

In the mean time the family relations often came to advise her father,
Prince Minetaka, to marry again.

"It is not good for you to be alone," they said. "Marry a suitable woman
and entrust her with the keeping of your house and the care of your
young daughter, who is now of an age when she most needs a woman's

At first Prince Minetaka would not listen to them, the memory of his
dead wife was too fresh and his sorrow too keen for him to be able to
lend a willing ear to their persuasion. He felt that it was a reproach
to her he had loved even to think of putting another woman in her place.
But as the months went by he found himself much tried with the affairs
of the household, and was often so perplexed that he thought perhaps it
might be better to listen to the advice of his meddling relations. So
without thinking much about the future he decided to take a second wife.

His friends were glad to find that their persuasions were of avail at
last, and with the help of go-betweens they arranged that he should
marry a certain lady of noble family whom they deemed worthy and
suitable in all respects.

So the soothsayers were consulted and a lucky day chosen for the
marriage, and the new wife was then installed in Prince Minetaka's home
amidst the congratulations of both families. The little Princess alone
was sorrowful in her inmost heart at seeing some one take her mother's
place; but it would be unfilial to her father to show that for one
instant she did not approve of his second marriage, so she hid her
unhappiness and smiled.

On seeing the little Princess for the first time, the stepmother was
shocked at the deformity of the bowl, and said to herself that never had
she even dreamed that there could be any one in the world doomed to be
such an ugly cripple. She not only despised but hated her stepchild from
the moment that she saw her. This new wife was indeed a very different
woman from her predecessor, whose heart was so good and kind towards all
who came near her that the idea of disliking, much less hating any one
was impossible to her.

A year passed by and the stepmother gave birth to a child. Jealousy for
her own infant daughter now made her hate her stepchild more and more.
It was her great desire to see her own daughter first in Prince
Minetaka's affection, and in order to attain her utterly selfish end she
knew she must oust her stepchild from the house. To begin with, she
determined to estrange the father from the little Princess by telling
him unfavourable stories of her behaviour and her character. It is
needless to say that she invented these stories.

The Bowl-Wearing Princess soon understood that her stepmother hated her.
Her grief and anxiety seemed to her more than she could bear. There was
no one in the house in whom she could confide, and she knew that to
complain of her stepmother to any one, even to her father, would be
undutiful. What was she to do in her trouble? To whom could she go but
to her own mother? So as often as she could she went to her grave. Here
she would kneel and pour out the woe that filled her heart.

"O mother, why must I live on in the world with this ugly bowl on my
head? My stepmother truly has a reason for hating such a child about the
house. Now that she has a daughter of her own, all the more must she
want to get rid of me! And my father, who used to love me so much, he
too will surely soon give all his love to his new daughter and forget
me! Alas! Alas! the only place that is left to me to come to without
fear of dislike is the side of my own dead mother. O mother, sitting
upon the lotus leaves in Paradise, receive me now upon the same leaf.
Oh! that I might thus escape the sorrow of this world and enter upon the
way of Buddha!"

But the Boundary of Life and Death separated the mother and child, and
though she prayed earnestly and with tears, lifting her whole heart and
soul up in her despair, no answer came to her eagerly listening ear. As
she knelt in the little graveyard only the sound of the wind sighing in
the pine trees answered her. But the thought that she had told her
mother everything comforted her as she returned home.

The stepmother was told of her stepdaughter's frequent visits to the
graveyard, and instead of being touched with pity for the motherless
girl, she made use of the occasion still further to slander the child to
her husband.

"I am told that the Bowl-Wearer, your daughter, goes to her mother's
grave and curses me and my child because of her jealousy! What do you
think of that? Hasn't she a wicked heart?"

Day by day she watched the little girl wend her way from the house to
the graveyard and day by day she repeated in her husband's ear her
pretended fears. In her heart she knew quite well that it was only love
and unhappiness that sent her unfortunate stepchild to the grave of her
mother. At last she said that she was afraid of the evil that might
befall her and her child through the Bowl-Wearer's malice; she had
decided that they could no longer live together in the same house.

The father, who had hitherto never listened much to his wife's tales,
was at last persuaded by her importunity into believing them true. So in
an evil hour he summoned his daughter and said: "What is this I hear,
wicked daughter? Your deformity has long since been a source of
irritation to me, but as long as you behaved well, I put up with it. Now
I am told that you go every day to the grave of your mother to curse my
wife and her innocent little child. It is impossible for me to keep
under my roof any one who is so crippled not only in body but in mind as
you are. Go wherever you will from to-day, but longer in this house you
shall not stay!"

While the father was speaking these terrible words the stepmother sat
behind him, smiling in derision at the poor little Princess and in
triumph at the success of her wicked stratagem.

"Woe to the Bowl-Wearing Princess!"

The servants, at the command of her father, took off her silken robes
and put on her a miserable common cotton gown, such as beggars wear, and
drove her out into the road.

The Princess was altogether bewildered at the suddenness of her

She felt like a wanderer in an unknown land, lost in the darkness of
night. So distracted was she at first that she could only stand still in
the middle of the street, not knowing which way to turn. But people,
passing by, stared at her so that she soon realized that she must not
stand like that all day, so she began to move whither her feet led her.

In this way she came to the bank of a large river. As she stood and
looked at the flowing water, she could not help thinking that it would
be far better for her to become the dust of the river-bed than endure
the hardships of her present lot. Would it not be better to die and so
join her mother than wander about like a beggar from place to place
begging her rice? With this thought she made up her mind to drown
herself. But the roar of the river was so great as it dashed over the
boulders of its rocky bed that the maiden hesitated at first. Then,
summoning up all her courage with a desperate effort, she jumped in.

Strange to say, however, the bowl, which had hitherto been such a curse
to her, was now a blessing. It lifted her head clear above the water and
would not let her sink. As she floated down the stream a fishing-boat
came by. The fisherman, seeing a big bowl rising out of the water,
lifted it up. His surprise was great when underneath the bowl he found a
human being. Thinking it to be some strange monster, he threw it upon
the bank.

The poor girl was at first stunned by her fall. When she came to
herself, she said that it was a pity she could not die as she had
wished. She got up from the ground and, in a miserable plight, for her
clothes were dripping with water, began to walk on, and after some time
she found herself in the streets of a town.

Here the people, as soon as they saw her, began to point the finger of
scorn at her, and to jeer and laugh at the strange-looking bowl on her

"Oh! oh! do you see this queer creature with the bowl coming down from
the mountains? Look! Look!" Then as some of them came nearer they said:
"It is strange that a monster should have such beautiful hands and feet.
What a pity this creature was not born a woman!"

Just then the lord of the district passed by on his way home from the
hunt. Seeing the gathering of people, he stopped and inquired what was
the matter. His retainers pointed out the Bowl-Wearer to him. From the
grace of her slender form, and the modesty of her bearing, Lord Yamakage
judged her to be a young woman, though he could not of course see her
face, which was completely hidden by the bowl. He ordered the
Bowl-Wearer to be brought to him. Two or three of his retainers went to
execute his orders, and came back bringing the poor unhappy Princess
with them.

"Tell me the truth," said Lord Yamakage to the girl; "who or what are

"I am the daughter of one Minetaka by name, and my home is near Katano.
My mother, when dying, placed this bowl on my head, and since her death
it has become so firmly fixed there that no one can take it off, and I
am obliged to wear it always, as you see me now. Because of the
unsightliness of my appearance I have been driven away from my home. No
one takes pity on me, and I am forced to wander from place to place
without knowing where to lay my head at night."

"Well, well!" said the kind man. "Your story is truly a pitiful one. I
will take the bowl off for you!"

When he had said these words, Lord Yamakage ordered his retainers to
pull off the bowl from the girl's head. The men, one and all, tried to
free the Princess from the obnoxious bowl, but it stuck so obstinately
to her head that all their efforts were useless. It even uttered loud
cries and groans of pain as they tugged at it. Every one was dumbfounded
at the inexplicable mystery, and at last they all began to laugh.

When Lord Yamakage saw that there was nothing to be done to help her, he
spoke to the Bowl-Wearer again. "Where are you going to spend to-night?"

"I am quite homeless," answered the Bowl-Wearer, in a heartbroken way,
"and I do not know where I shall lay my head to-night. There is no one
in the wide world to take pity on me, and every one who sees me either
jeers or runs away because of the bowl on my head."

Lord Yamakage felt his heart fill with pity and said: "It may bring luck
to have such a strange creature in my house!" Then he turned to the girl
and said: "How would you like to come home with me for the present,

And with these words he gave her in charge of his attendants, who took
her with them to their lord's house.

It was an easy matter to take her to the house, but not so easy to find
her a place there. His wife objected to her becoming a waiting-maid,
saying that no one could bear the sight of so strange a creature about.
So the servants at last took her to the bath-room, and told her that she
must fetch and carry the water and look after the fire for heating the
bath. This was to be her work!

As the little Princess had never done such rough work in the whole of
her life, she suffered much in obeying these cruel orders; but she
resigned herself to her fate and tried with all humility and patience to
perform her hard task faultlessly.

But her lot was far from being a happy one, even though she had found
the safe shelter of Lord Yamakage's home. The young and uncouth
tradesmen, coming on errands to the house, made fun of her, some even
trying to peep under the bowl to get a glimpse of the beautiful face
beneath. While she was thus persecuted in the daytime, in the evening
the servants gave her no rest with their peremptory orders. "Hot water
here!" "Cold water there!" "Get the bath ready!" and so on.

The poor girl bore all this rude usage patiently; but as she went about
her work she could not help remembering the old times of her happy
childhood, spent under the loving care of her own dear mother, of the
honoured place she had held in her father's household till within the
last few days; and as she carried the hot water or stoked the bath-fire
she pretended that those fast-falling tears of sadness were caused by
the fumes of charcoal and the steam which rose from the hot water. When
she crept weeping to bed at night it seemed to her as if the past day
must be an evil dream.

Lord Yamakage had four sons. The three elder ones were married to
daughters of three of the leading men of the province. The youngest son,
Saisho, was still unmarried. He had been away for some time in the gay
smart capital of Kyoto. But now he returned to his home.

Now every time he went to take his bath or called for hot water, he saw
the Bowl-Wearing maiden, and, as he had a kind and compassionate heart,
he could not but be touched by her unhappy appearance, and her modest
and gentle behaviour and her quickness and diligence at her work.

Whenever he had an opportunity he spoke to the Bowl-Wearer, and to his
surprise he found that she was no servant, that she spoke in the refined
language of his class, and though so young she was well read in the
literature and poetry of her country, and could answer a literary
allusion wittily and to the point. When at last she told him something
of her sad story, he knew, though she did not tell him, that she
belonged to some family of high rank. From this time on he often spoke
to the girl, and he found that the stolen conversations with her grew to
be the chief pleasure of the day.

One day he managed to take a sly peep under the bowl. The face, even
though overshadowed by the huge cover, was of such rare beauty that he
fell madly in love with the Princess, and made up his mind that none
other than the Bowl-Wearer should be his wife.

His mother soon heard of Saisho's friendship for her husband's protege,
and when she learned that he had promised to marry her she forbade him
to think of such a thing. She at first thought that her son could not be
in earnest, but when she sent for Saisho and asked him seriously if what
she had been told was true, he answered: "I really and truly intend to
make the Bowl-Wearer my wife!"

His mother was not a little angry at his determined front. How could
Saisho fall in love with a girl with a bowl on her head? Who ever heard
of such ridiculous nonsense?

Then she sent for her son's nurse, the woman who had nursed him from the
day he was born, and together they tried to deter him from his purpose.

Saisho was obliged to listen to all they had to say, but did not answer
them. He could not say "Yes" to their demand that he should give up all
idea of marrying the Bowl-Wearer, and he knew that if he firmly said
"No" he would raise up such a storm of opposition that no one could tell
how it would end. He knew that the life of the Bowl-Wearer was a truly
pitiable one, and his determination to marry her and help her out of all
her difficulties remained unchanged. His mother soon saw that her son
would by no means listen to her persuasions, and her anger was great
towards the Bowl-Wearer. She almost made up her mind to drive her from
the house before her husband could know what happened.

Saisho, on hearing this, told her that if the girl was driven away he
would go with her. The mother's distraction can be imagined, for she was
thwarted in every way. She at last said that the Bowl-Wearer was a
wicked witch who had thrown her spells over Saisho and would not leave
him till she had compassed his death.

She determined if possible to separate them by fair means or foul. For
a long time she pondered over the matter, and at last hit upon a
stratagem which she trusted would rid the house of the presence of the
obnoxious girl. Her plan she called "The Comparison of the Brides." She
would hold in the house a family council of all the relations, and
assemble the wives of her three elder sons, and before the whole
gathering compare them with the Bowl-Wearer whom Saisho had elected to
marry. If the Bowl-Wearer had any self-respect she would be too
conscious of her deformity and her poverty, and too ashamed to make an
appearance,--would leave the house to escape from the ordeal. What an
excellent plan! Why had she never thought of this before?

So the mother sent messengers post-haste to all the family and
relations, requesting their presence at a "Bride Comparing Ceremony" and
a feast which would close the ceremony.

When Saisho heard of this he was greatly troubled, for he knew what it
meant. His mother meant to drive the girl he loved from the house by
comparing her with his brothers' rich and pretty wives. What was to be
done? How could he help the poor Bowl-Wearer?

The little Princess saw how unhappy he was, and blamed herself, she was
so sorry for him.

"It is all because of me that this trouble has come to you. Instead of
happiness I have only brought you worry. Woe is me! It is better that I
go away at once," said the girl.

Saisho told her at once that he would never let her go alone; that if
she went he would go with her.

At last the day fixed for the ceremony of the "Comparison of the Brides"
came round. Saisho and the unhappy little Bowl-Wearer rose before the
dawn, and taking each other by the hand left the house together.

Notwithstanding his love for the Bowl-Wearer and his resolve to marry
her at whatever cost, Saisho was very sad at the thought of leaving his
parents in this way. He told himself that they would never forgive his
obstinacy and probably would refuse to see him again, so this parting
was probably forever. He felt at each step as if his heart was torn
backwards. With slow steps he and the Bowl-Wearer, hand in hand, wended
their way down the garden. No sooner, however, did they put their feet
outside the gate than the bowl on the girl's head burst with a loud
noise and fell in a thousand pieces upon the ground.

What untold joy for both of them! Saisho, too astonished to speak,
looked for the first time full on the girl's face. The beauty of the
damsel was so dazzling that he could compare it only to the glory of the
full moon as it rides triumphantly above the clouds on the fifteenth
night of September. Her figure, too, now that the dwarfing bowl had
gone, was more graceful than anything he had ever seen. The young
lovers, too happy for words at this unexpected deliverance, could do
nothing but gaze at each other.

The mother's purpose in covering her daughter's head with the hideous
bowl was at last made clear. Fearing that her daughter's beauty would
prove to be a peril to her, with no mother to watch over her, she had
hidden it thus, and the intensity of her wish had assumed supernatural
power, so that all attempts to remove it were useless till the moment
came when it was no longer needed; then it broke off of its own accord.

At last the lovers stooped to pick up the pieces of the bowl, when to
their amazement they found the ground strewn with treasures and all that
a bride could possibly need for her portion. There were many gold
_kanzashi_ (ornamental pins for the hair), silver wine-cups, many
precious stones and gold coins, and a wedding-garment of twelve folded
_kimono_, and a _hakama_ of brilliant scarlet brocade.

"Oh, surely," said the Princess, "these treasures must be what my mother
prepared for my marriage portion. Indeed a mother's tender love is above

She wept with mingled feelings of joy and pain,--pain of the remembrance
of her mother and joy at her present unlooked-for deliverance and the
certainty of future happiness.

Saisho told her that there was now no need for her to leave the house.
She was not only a richly dowered bride, but now that her face was no
longer hidden by the hideous bowl, so beautiful that even a king would
be proud to wed her. She need no longer fear to be present at the coming
ceremony and feast. So they both turned back, and hastened to prepare
for the trial which awaited the Bowl-Wearer, but Bowl-Wearer now no

As soon as day broke, the house was full of movement, servants hurrying
to and fro to usher in and wait upon the relations, who now began to
arrive. The murmur of their chattering was like the sound of breaking
waves on a distant shore, and the object of all this talk was nothing
else than the poor little Princess. The servants told every one that she
was in her room getting ready for the approaching feast, and they all
thought it strange that she had not fled away for shame. Little did they
dream of all that had happened to her!

At last the hour of the "Bride Comparing Ceremony" arrived. The family
and the relations all took their places at the upper end of the big
guest-hall of thirty mats.

First entered the bride of the eldest son. She was only twenty-two years
of age, and as it was the season of autumn, she wore a brightly coloured
kimono and walked into the room in a stately fashion, with her scarlet
hakama trailing over the cream mats behind her. Her costume was indeed
beautiful to behold! To her parents-in-law she brought gifts of ten
rolls of rich silk and two suits of the ceremonial gown called _kosode_
(each _kosode_ consisting of twelve long _kimono_ folded one over the
other), all of which she placed on a fine lacquer tray to present them.

Next came the bride of the second son. She was twenty years of age, and
was of the aristocratic type of beauty, thin and slender, with a long
pale oval face. She wore a heavy silk robe, and over this a flowing gown
of gold brocade. Her _hakama_ was embroidered profusely with crimson
plum-blossoms. She came into the room quietly, with a gentle bearing,
and offered as her gifts of presentation thirty suits of silk robes to
her husband's parents.

Then came the bride of the third son. She was only eighteen years of
age. Quite different from the first two proud beauties, she was very
pretty and dainty, and though small had more sweetness and charm in her
manner than her sisters. Her dress was of rich silk embroidered with
cherry-blossoms. She presented thirty pieces of rare and handsome crape
to her parents-in-law.

The three sat side by side in their conscious pride and prosperity,
their beauty enhanced by the sheen and splendour of their silken gowns.
As the father and mother, uncles and aunts and relations, all gazed
upon them, no one could say who deserved the palm of superiority, for
they were all lovely.

At the lower end of the room, far away from every one else, was placed a
torn mat. It was the seat destined for the Bowl-Wearer.

"We have seen the three elder brides of the house, and they are all so
handsome and so beautifully robed that we are sure there are no women to
compare with them in the whole province," said the relations. "Now it is
the turn of the Bowl-Wearer, who aspires to marry the youngest son of
the house. When she comes in with that ridiculous bowl on her head, let
us greet her with a burst of laughter!"

The roomful of people eagerly waited for the Bowl-Wearer to come, even
as the birds sitting on the eaves of a house long for the morning. The
three brides were also curious to see the cripple girl of whom they had
heard so much. How dared such a creature aspire to become their sister?
they haughtily asked each other.

But the mother felt differently. She in no wise wished to see the girl
appear, for she had arranged this day's ceremony, hoping that the
Bowl-Wearer, knowing herself to be a deformed beggar-maid, would be too
ashamed to appear before such a grand company and would flee away rather
than face the trial. On asking the servants, however, she was told that
she was still in the house, and she wondered what the girl could be
doing, and almost regretted what she had done.

Lord Yamakage and his wife at last grew impatient and sent word to the
Bowl-Wearer that she was to hasten, as every one was waiting for her.

The servants went to the back of the house where the Bowl-Wearer had her
little room of three mats, and gave her the message.

"I am coming now," she answered from within the paper screens.

The Princess now came out and entered the room of the "Bride Comparing
Ceremony," where every one was waiting for her. She was only sixteen
years of age, but so beautiful that she reminded them of the weeping
cherry-blossoms in the dew of a spring morning. Her hair was as black as
the sheen on a raven's wing, and her face was lovelier far than that of
any human being they had ever seen. Her under-robes were of rich white
silk, and her upper kimono was purple, embroidered with white and pink
plum-blossoms. As the stars pale before the fuller glory of the moon, so
the three elder brides shrank into insignificance beside the dazzling
beauty of this maiden.

To all it seemed as if one of the _Amatsu Otome_ (heavenly virgins) who
wait upon the Goddess of Mercy had glided into the room. They had
expected to see a poverty-stricken girl with a large bowl stuck upside
down on the top of her head, and they were lost in astonishment when
they beheld the Princess in all the radiance of her loveliness and the
splendour of her rich clothes.

The Princess was about to sit down in the seat left for her, but Lord
Yamakage made a place for her beside his wife, saying that he could not
allow her to sit in such a lowly spot. She now presented to her
father-in-law a silver wine-cup on a gold pedestal, with one hundred
_rye_ (old _yen_ in gold), and thirty rolls of silk which she brought in
on a beautiful tray. To his wife she presented the rarest and most
delectable fruit of ancient Japan, Konan oranges and Kempo pears, and
one hundred pieces of coloured cloth which she put upon a gold stand.

In her surpassing beauty, in the grace of her carriage, in the richness
of her costume, in the sumptuousness of the gifts to her parents, she
left the other brides far and away behind. Speechless with wonder and
admiration, every one present could not but gaze at her. Before the
Bowl-Wearer had appeared, the three elder brides had seemed beautiful
enough, but now the difference was as marked as when a sparkling jewel
is placed side by side with a crystal; and as the crystal suffers from
the comparison, so did they.

Saisho's elder brothers were looking between the cracks of the sliding
screens, and they were filled with envy at Saisho and his good fortune
in becoming the husband of such a beautiful princess, for such they now
felt she must be. Not even her rivals could deny that she was
bewilderingly fair to look upon; but they whispered among themselves
that unless she were skilled in all womanly accomplishments, for all her
beauty she would be no better than a common man's daughter. She must
play on the _koto_ at once. No one could perform on that instrument
without years of instruction. If they waited till the next day, who
knows, she was so clever that she might get Saisho to teach her. So the
jealous brides proposed aloud that they should all play a quartette; the
eldest would play the _biwa_ (lute), the second the _sho_ (flute), the
third the _tsuzumi_ (a kind of a small drum beaten with the hand), and
they asked the Bowl-Wearer to join them and play the _koto_ (harp).

The Princess, who was very modest, at first refused; but on second
thoughts, she said to herself: "They ask me to do this because they wish
to try me, thinking me to be ignorant of such accomplishments. Well,
then, I will play, for my mother taught me." She pulled the _koto_ near
her, and slipping the ivory tips on her fingers began to stroke chords.
The astonishment of every one was great, for she played with great

Saisho, who had hidden himself in the room behind a lacquer cabinet, and
was watching with the utmost eagerness all that went on, could hardly
keep in his hiding-place, he was so delighted.

The three brides, who were quite put out of countenance, for their
performance could in no wise be compared to that of the little Princess,
now proposed that she should write a poem.

"Write a poem, a _tanka_ [a poem of thirty-one syllables], which shall
describe the character of each season, such as the blooming of the peach
and the cherry-blossom in the spring, the orange and wistaria in summer,
and the beauty of the chrysanthemum in autumn."

"Oh," said the Bowl-Wearer, "this is indeed a task too difficult for me.
Is there nothing else you will give me to do instead of this? I can take
care of the bath-room, and pull up water from the well, and heat the
bath. Since this is my daily occupation, how is it possible that I
should even know how to write a poem, much less compose one?" She
blushed as she spoke.

But her rivals insisted, and so at last she took up a poem card and a
brush and wrote:--

     Haru wa hana,
     Natsu wa tachibana,
     Aki wa kiku,
     Izure to wakete,
     Tsuyu ya okuran.

     The cherry-blossom of spring,
     The orange-flower of summer,
     The autumn chrysanthemum,
     Perplexed between them all,
     Alike on each the dew may fall.

She showed not the least hesitation in writing these lines, and her
handwriting was so beautiful that even the famous Tofu[1] and her brush
could not have surpassed it. The three brides retired from the room,
grumbling and speaking evil of the Bowl-Wearer.

"She must be a witch," they said. "Probably the spirit of the ancient
Tamamono Maye!"

Lord Yamakage, now quite pleased with her, handed her a cup of _saké_.
He gave his full consent to her marrying his son Saisho, and bestowed
upon them as a settlement twenty-three hundred _cho_ of land, together
with twenty-four servants to wait upon them, and for their bridal
chamber he allotted them the Hall of Bamboos.

So Saisho and the Bowl-Wearer were at last married, and all their
troubles ended. Never was there such a merry wedding, such a lovely
bride, or such a happy bridegroom. The days flew into weeks, the weeks
flew into months, for the flight of time is unnoticed when one is happy.

At last one day Saisho said to his wife: "I cannot believe you to be the
daughter of a common man. Will you not tell me who your father is? I
should like to know. Whatever wrong you have suffered, why hide your
parentage any longer?"

The Princess knew that if she told her husband the truth, the name of
her cruel stepmother would have to be mentioned, and it would be most
unfilial to speak of the woman's cruelty, for she was her father's wife,
so she decided not to tell Saisho to what family she belonged. She made
some excuse, saying that he should know all in good time, and begged him
to wait a little longer.


When they had been happily married for a year, she gave birth to a son.
The bliss of the faithful young couple now seemed complete. Yet with her
ever-growing happiness her thoughts turned more and more to her father.
What had happened to him in these past years? How she longed to show him
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

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

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


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

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

"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

"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

"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

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

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

Taro obeyed without any hesitation whatsoever. Looking about him for a
moment for inspiration, he happened to glance into the garden, where he
saw a nightingale alight on a blossoming plum tree, and begin to warble.
So he made the nightingale and the plum tree the subject of his poem:--

     Uguisu no
     Nuretaru koe no
     Kokoyuru wa
     Ume no hanagasa
     Moru ya harusame.

The meaning of this little poem of thirty-one syllables is that the
nightingale's voice sounds tearful or moist because the flower-umbrella
of the plum-blossoms lets through the spring rain, which damps the body
of the bird sitting among the branches.

The Emperor was pleasingly impressed with Taro's talent and facility in
expressing his graceful thoughts, and addressed him again, saying: "I
hear you came from Shinano? How do you call plum-blossoms [ume-no-hana]

Then Taro answered the royal question again, saying in verse:--

     Shinano ni wa
     Baika to iu mo
     Ume no hana
     Miyako no koto wa
     Ikaga aruran.

"In Shinano we call the plum-blossom '_baika_,' but of what they may
call it in the capital I know nothing."

In this way Taro humbly confessed his ignorance of the ways of the

"You are indeed a clever poet," said the Emperor, "and you must be
descended from a good family. Tell me who was your father? Do you know?"

"I have no ancestors that I know of!" said Taro.

"Then I shall command that the Governor of Shinano make inquiries about
you," said the Emperor; and therewith he commanded his courtiers to
despatch a messenger to the far-away province of Shinano, with
instructions to find out all he could about Lazy Taro and his parents.

After some time the Governor of Shinano learned through an old priest
who Monogusa Taro really was, and the discovery was a startling one.

It appeared that many years before, a Prince of the Imperial House had
been banished from Court circles and had come to the Temple of Zenkoji
in Shinano. The Prince was accompanied by his consort. The royal young
couple made this pilgrimage to pray Heaven for a child, for they were
both sorrowful at being childless. Their prayers were answered by the
birth of a son within the year. This son was Taro. When the infant was
but three years old, his parents died and the child was left with no one
but the old priest to take care of him. When Taro was only seven years
old, he strayed away from his guardian and was lost.

The royal couple had kept their secret well, and the old priest had only
discovered who Taro was by finding some letters hidden away behind the
Buddhist altar. Taro was the grandson of the Emperor Kusabuka, the
second son of the Emperor Nimmu, the fifty-third Emperor of Japan.
Taro's father had been banished for some misdemeanour at Court, and had
hidden himself in disgrace in the rustic province of Shinano in the
heart of the country, far from the gay capital and all who knew him.
Thus it was that no one knew where Monogusa Taro had come from, who he
was, or anything about him at all, and he had grown up like a common
peasant, ignorant of his high estate and the exalted circle to which he

You may imagine the surprise of the Emperor when he learned that Taro
was descended from the Royal Family. It was no wonder that he had shown
such noble qualities as faithful service to his lord and love of poetry.
His Majesty now bestowed upon Taro the highest official rank, and made
him Governor of the provinces of Shinano and Kai.

Now Monogusa Taro returned to Shinano, the old province which had
harboured him in his days of poverty--in great state he returned. No
longer as Lazy Taro, the good-for-nothing rascal who lived in a straw
shed, content with living upon the charity of his neighbours and
friends, or whoever chose to take pity upon him, but as the new
Governor, the man who through industry and faithfulness had won the
esteem of Lord Nijo, and who through him was presented at Court. Once at
Court, his talent for writing verses had aroused the interest of the
Emperor, whose inquiries had established his high birth.

And so, greater than all expectations and more wonderful than dreams,
had the transformation of Lazy Taro been. No longer a despised beggar by
the roadside, he was now an honoured man, created new Lord of the
Province by the Emperor. Nor did he now forget in these changed
circumstances the kindness that had been shown to him in former times.
He repaid and rewarded all those who had ministered to his wants in the
days of his vagrancy; he forgot no one--neither those who had given him
rice, nor those who had interested themselves in his going to Kyoto, nor
those who had prepared him for his journey. He paid a visit to his old
friend and benefactor, the ex-Governor, now retired from active
service, and took him many handsome gifts. His visions of a fine house
were now realized, for he lived in just such a palace as he had seen in
his day-dreams by the wayside. The palace had sloping roofs, just as you
see in old Japanese pictures; it stood in the midst of beautiful
gardens, surrounded by high walls and approached by three large gates.
Lord Nijo gave him one of his daughters in marriage, and Monogusa Taro
lived happily to the great age of one hundred and twenty years, and he
left the world beloved, honoured, and lamented by all who knew him. Such
is the wonderful and happy-ending story of Lazy Taro.

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