Book: Ancient Tales and Folk-lore of Japan
Author: Richard Gordon Smith

Ancient Tales and Folk-lore of Japan By Richard Gordon Smith

Format: Global Grey free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook
Pages (PDF): 282
Publication Date: 1918

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With 62 color illustrations. This is a collection of 57 historical legends and folktales from Japan. Nearly all of them are set in a well-defined time and place, instead of 'once upon a time.' Themes include ghosts; unrequited love across social boundaries; Shinto landscape, tree and ocean spirits; and tales driven by Bushido and Buddhist ethics. Chapters include: The Golden Hairpin; The Spirit Of The Willow Tree; Ghost Of The Violet Well; How Yogodayu Won A Battle, and many more.

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UP in the northern city of Sendai, whence come the best of Japanese soldiers, there lived a samurai named Hasunuma.

Hasunuma was rich and hospitable, and consequently much thought of and well liked. Some thirty-five years ago his wife presented him with a beautiful daughter, their first child, whom they called 'Ko,' which means 'Small' when applied to a child, much as we say 'Little Mary or Little Jane.' Her full name was really 'Hasu-ko,' which means 'Little Lily'; but here we will call her 'Ko' for short.

Exactly on the same date, 'Saito,' one of Hasunuma's friends and also a samurai, had the good fortune to have a son. The fathers decided that, being such old friends, they would wed their children to each other when old enough to marry; they were very happy over the idea, and so were their wives. To make the engagement of the babies more binding, Saito handed to Hasunuma a golden hairpin which had long been in his family, and said:

'Here, my old friend, take this pin. It shall be a token of betrothal from my son, whose name shall be Kônojô, to your little daughter Ko, both of whom are now aged two weeks only. May they live long and happy lives together.'

Hasunuma took the pin, and handed it to his wife to keep; then they drank saké to the health of each other, and to the bride and bridegroom of some twenty years thence.

A few months after this Saito, in some way, caused displeasure to his feudal lord, and, being dismissed from service, left Sendai with his family—whither no one knew.

Seventeen years later O Ko San was, with one exception, the most beautiful girl in all Sendai; the exception was her sister, O Kei, just a year younger, and as beautiful as herself.

Many were the suitors for O Ko's hand; but she would have none of them, being faithful to the engagement made for her by her father when she was a baby. True, she had never seen her betrothed, and (which seemed more curious) neither she nor her family had ever once heard of the Saito family since they had left Sendai, over sixteen years before; but that was no reason why she, a Japanese girl, should break the word of her father, and therefore O Ko San remained faithful to her unknown lover, though she sorrowed greatly at his non-appearance; in fact, she secretly suffered so much thereby that she sickened, and three months later died, to the grief of all who knew her and to her family's serious distress.

On the day of O Ko San's funeral her mother was seeing to the last attentions paid to corpses, and smoothing her hair with the golden pin given to Ko San or O Ko by Saito in behalf of his son Kônojô. When the body had been placed in its coffin, the mother thrust the pin into the girl's hair, saying:

'Dearest daughter, this is the pin given as a memento to you by your betrothed, Kônojô. Let it be a pledge to bind your spirits in death, as it would have been in life; and may you enjoy endless happiness, I pray.'

In thus praying, no doubt, O Ko's mother thought that Kônojô also must be dead, and that their spirits would meet; but it was not so, for two months after these events Kônojô himself, now eighteen years of age, turned up at Sendai, calling first on his father's old friend Hasunuma.

'Oh, the bitterness and misfortune of it all!' said the latter. 'Only two months ago my daughter Ko died. Had you but come before then she would have been alive now. But you never even sent a message; we never heard a word of your father or of your mother. Where did you all go when you left here? Tell me the whole story.'