Enjoying Otogi Zoshi with the Help of Synopsis and Illustrations, Third Story ; Yeboshi Ori Zoshi
** Volume 1 **
It was around the middle of March of the first year of the Angen Period when Ushiwaka, son of Minamoto no Yoshitomo, left Kurama Temple where he had lived for many years. He was aiming to go to Oushu, the northern part of Japan, to wait there for the opportunity to put down the Taira clan. He was joined by gold dealer Kichiji as his guide. Disguising himself as a servant of Kichiji, they headed for Oushu.
One evening they found lodging in Kagami town. Then, a drinking party was started with some hostesses including one named Kissyo, who surrounded Kichiji.
Meanwhile, Ushiwaka was standing by the side door and hiding himself from the eyes of others.
Then, Ushiwaka heard the voices of warriors of the Taira clan were riding horseback and shouting,
"Whoever finds a boy of 16 or 17 years of age and takes him to Kyoto or the Capital will be rewarded irrespective of their status!"
They were certainly looking for Ushiwaka.
Hearing this, Ushiwaka thought to himself,
"How regrettable it is! There is not a single place on earth where I can take up my stand!
No, wait. The warriors of Taira clan said they were looking for a boy. Therefore, I can disguise myself as an adult to escape."
To become an adult man through genpuku, the coming-of-age ritual, it is necessary to get a yeboshi or black cap, which indicates that the holder is grown-up. Hearing from a maid of the inn that there was a hatter of yeboshi caps named Gorodayu across the street, Ushiwaka wasted no time to visit him.
"I am a servant of Kichiji, following him to the north. I am visiting you in order to get a yeboshi cap."
"Young man, what kind of yeboshi cap do you want?"
Ushiwaka was at a loss. He had no idea what kind of yeboshi cap he should ask for, although he had just found out that there are various kinds of yeboshi caps -- he had thought that yeboshi caps were always black.
"Well, I have heard that the forefathers of my family wore left-bent yeboshi caps. Therefore, I will also put on a left-bent yeboshi cap. Sir, what I want is a left-bent yeboshi cap."
However, upon hearing this, the hatter flew into a temper.
"Young man, you should not be so arrogant. Left-bent yeboshi caps are permitted to be worn only by the sons of Minamoto no Yoshitomo. You are the mere a servant of a dealer. How dare you ask for a left-bent yeboshi cap!"
Ushiwaka was secretly grinning as he said,
"You are right, but if I am questioned about wearing my yeboshi cap at the barrier stations during my trip to the north, I will answer that there was an old yeboshi cap where I was staying in Kyoto, and I took it and I have been wearing it without knowing about left-bent or right-bent. However, if this yeboshi cap is so troublesome that I am going to be questioned by others, I will give it up and leave it at this barrier station. Like that, no one can blame the cap on you."
Hearing this answer made Gorodayu think there was something unusual with this young man.
"There must be some reason for him to ask for a left-bent yeboshi cap."
Then, the hatter made a yeboshi cap just as Ushiwaka had asked him to.
When the yeboshi cap was ready, Ushiwaka said,
"That is a marvelous yeboshi cap, but there is a problem."
"And what might that be?"
"There is nothing wrong with the cap itself. But I do not have any money to pay you for it."
"Young man, you are being much too serious. Kichiji takes a trip to Kyoto every year, and comes by this town twice a year. You are his servant, so you need not worry about anything. You can have the yeboshi cap with my best wishes for your trip."
Ushiwaka felt irritated and thought,
"It is very snobbish to be speaking in such a way. If I go out into the world and people say that Ushiwaka accepted a yeboshi cap for free, it will bring disgrace on the Minamoto clan. So I shall put one of my swords to cover the cost of the yeboshi cap."
He took out one of the swords, ancestral treasures of the Minamoto clan, and said,
"Well sir, I will leave this sword with you this time, but this is not to pay for the yeboshi cap. I will bring you a good horse from Oushu."
He turned the sword over to the hatter, and he returned to the inn.
Later, the hatter showed the sword to his wife.
"I have lived on producing yeboshi caps for years, so it must be a mercy from gods and Buddha that I was given a sword like this. Look, this is made of pure gold! If we sell it in Kyoto, we can get enough money to live happily ever after."
However, on her first glance at the sword, his wife quietly started to weep.
The hatter said angrily,
"Why do you cry, even as your husband just found treasure?"
"I am going to tell you something I have never told you before. The young man you just made a yeboshi cap for is from Minamoto clan, and my own family served them for three generations. This sword is a treasure inherited in the Minamoto clan. Actually, I am a sister of Kamata, who served Minamoto Yoshitomo. When Yoshitomo was killed, our family disintegrated, and then I met you. It is nine years since I came to be your wife. Please give me the sword for mercy of the nine years I served you as wife. I do wish I could give the sword back to the young Prince for my best wishes for his trip, who is going north to Oushu."
The hatter shed tears when he heard this, and handed the sword to his wife.
Carrying the sword, the hatter's wife happily visited the inn where Kichiji's party was staying.
She entered the inn saying,
"I would like to see the young man who has just made the yeboshi cap," and was greeted by Ushiwaka himself.
"Young prince Ushiwaka, I am a sister of Kamata, a samurai who worked for Yoshitomo and died in Utsumi during a battle. I am ashamed to say that I have survived the collapse of my family, having lived now for nine years as a hatter's wife. My husband gave me this sword for the mercy of the nine years that I served, and I would like to give this back to you, wishing you luck for your trip. Please give me the yeboshi cap, I will be honored if I could tie the lace for you."
The hatter's wife placed and settled the cap on Ushiwaka's head.
"Look, you are a magnificent young samurai. Please go north to Oushu with this yeboshi cap, join Hidehira, command thousands of samurais to destroy the Taira clan and re-establish the Minamoto era,"
the hatter's wife told him, and she went back to the house.
"It must be a good omen, seeing a member of our former supporting families on the first day of the trip.
Now I must come of age on my own. But people say you need two yeboshi fathers to go through genpuku. Who should I ask to be my yeboshi fathers?
How about gods? Our family has worshipped the gods Hachiman, Kamo, and Shinra Myojin. That is family tradition. I shall ask the god Hachiman, our family god, and Bishamonten, who protected Kurama Temple where I lived for a long time, to be my yeboshi fathers."
Ushiwaka put up two swords against the wall. The longer sword, he imagined as Tamonten or Bishamon, and the shorter one was Hachiman. Then he went through the ritual of genpuku himself.
"I will name myself Minamoto no Kuro Yoshitsune, the ninth son of Minamoto, from now on."
If things had been better, samurai all over Japan would have come to the ritual of a Minamoto prince. Coming-of-age is to be celebrated, but this one was sad, as he went through the ritual all on his own.
When Ushiwaka sat himself upright in front of Kichiji with the yeboshi cap on his head, Kichiji was surprised.
"Young man, you have a yeboshi cap now. Who acted as your yeboshi fathers?"
I put on a yeboshi cap just because I was envious of the people wearing it. No one is yet to act as my yeboshi father, and I do not have an adult name yet. All I have now to rely on is you, Mr. Kichiji. You are my father and mother, my heaven and earth. I would like you to name me as an adult, because I am your servant.
"Then I will name this young man Kyotoda. You will carry my sword during the trip to the north."
Ushiwaka continued the trip to the north holding the sword of Kichiji. He imagined himself protecting his father Yoshitomo's sword.
When the party arrived in Hitachi, in the middle part of Japan, they stayed at a prosperous yakata, an entertainment inn, at Aohaka. The wealthy madam owner had offered Yoshitomo, Ushiwaka's father, ten horses and fifty ryo of gold.
As hostesses working for the madam entertained Kichiji, he proudly called for Ushiwaka and ordered him to pour sake into the cups of the hostesses.
Ushiwaka had never in his life poured sake into someone else's cup, so he failed and sake spilled. Seeing how he was wasting the sake, Kichiji got angry and told Ushiwaka to leave the room. Ushiwaka went out of the room in disappointment.
A hostess called Hamachidori approached the madam of the yakata and told him,
"The young man Kyotoda has a flute on his waist."
"Then he must play the flute. Why don't you ask him?"
So Hamachidori did:
"Our chief wants to listen to music. Can you play that flute for her?"
Ushiwaka said he did not deserve to be listened to, but after a little hesitation, he began to play. The music was beautiful beyond words. The wealthy madam of Aohaka was impressed and gave Ushiwaka a cup of sake.
After the banquet, hostesses talked about the flute and laughed.
"The young man Kyotoda is handsome, and his music is magnificent. But what did he call the flute? Kusakari-fue, a grass-reaping flute? What a funny name! We have never heard of that."
The madam of the inn heard this and said,
"You are not learned enough. That is why you laugh. I will tell you the tale of the grass-reaping flute."
And she began the story.
"Once upon a time, there was an Emperor called Yomei. At the age of sixteen, His Majesty was not married yet. On one occasion, noble men serving him in court became so worried, they had artists paint a beautiful girl on sixty-six fans. Then they dispatched sixty-six messengers all over Japan. If there was a girl who as beautiful as the painted one, she would be the first wife of the Emperor, namely the Empress, no matter what kind of social class she belonged to. But there was no girl as beautiful.
However, in a southern part of Japan called Bungo, there lived a wealthy gentlemen called Ma no Choja. He had not yet fathered a baby, so he and his wife prayed to the goddess Kannon for a heir, and produced a beautiful baby girl at the age of forty. He named her Tamayo no Hime and cherished her more than anything else.
When Tamayo no Hime was fourteen, a fan of the painted beautiful girl arrived in Bungo. Tamayo Hime was much more beautiful than the girl on the fan, and the message was delivered to the court in Kyoto.
The Emperor called for Tamayo Hime, saying he would make her Empress, but Ma no Choja refused the overture. He was much honored of course, but Tamayo Hime was his only daughter.
The Emperor became infuriated and sent a message to Ma no Choja.
"If you dare to refuse my proposal, send ten-thousand koku of poppy seeds this very day. If you cannot meet my demand, send your daughter."
Ma no Choja was at a loss and was on the verge of deciding that he had no choice but to lose his daughter to the court, when his wife said,
"Do not worry, my lord, I had anticipated this and saved poppy seeds in our southeastern warehouse. There must be more than ten-thousands koku. Maybe even a hundred thousand koku."
Ma no Choja was overjoyed to hear this. He loaded the cart with poppy seeds and sent it to the court within the day.
However, the Emperor set another difficult task.
"Send me the Heaven-Earth mandala." It was impossible, as the Heaven-Earth mandala could not be produced by human beings. Only gods in heaven can make it with lotus yarn. Ma no Choja and his wife were at a loss and desperate.
Then, Kannon the goddess appeared in their dream at dawn and said,
"It was I that gave you that daughter of yours. I will ask gods to come to your house and produce Heaven-Earth Mandala. You will not see them, only hear them."
Ma no Choja and his wife heard the sound gods producing Mandala, and the couple felt as if they were hearing a sutra. Before they knew it, the job was done. Ma no Choja happily carried it to the court.
The Emperor was stunned.
Was Ma no Choja the embodiment of Buddha?
However, he simply could not hold his love to the Tamayo Hime any longer. The Emperor thought that,
"I loved Buddha's daughter. Why should I bother to be an Emperor?"
" At last, he decided to give up the throne, and secretly left Kyoto for Bungo province. It took him eighteen days to reach Bungo.
** Volume 2 **
Arriving in Bungo, the Emperor knocked on the door of a little house, asking if he could stay the night there. The owner of the house saw the young man in front and exclaimed,
"What a handsome young man. Where do you come from?"
"I am a pilgrim, with no way of knowing where to go."
"Young man, you are not a pilgrim. Please tell me the truth."
"Actually, I was born and bred in Kyoto, the capital city."
"Why did you come all the way from Kyoto?"
"I would like to serve around here, to some lord."
"Then perhaps I can speak to Ma no Choja about it."
The owner of the house went to the Ma no Choja's and told him about the young man from Kyoto. Ma no Choja said he would meet that young man soon. When they met, Ma no Choja was impressed.
"What a fine young man you are. Where on the earth do you come from?"
"I come from Kyoto, the capital city."
"And what is your name?"
"My name is Sanro, 'road in the mountain'."
"Sounds a little unusual. Anyway, young man, I have thousand cows. And among them there is only one brown cow. This one is so wild that none of my servants can handle it. I will trust this one to you, so please feed it properly."
How pitiful the Emperor felt to comply, but he took the brown cow to the field every morning. Other servants were reaping grass while cows grazed, but the Emperor did not know how to reap grass. He leaned against the cow and played the flute beside the cow.
The cow seemed to enjoy the music. Even though it was a brute, it might have a heart. Servants were unfamiliar with the music, but they were impressed.
"Sanro, what is that you are playing?"
"It is called a flute."
"How interesting. Sanro, you can leave the grass reaping to us. Please just play the flute."
The Emperor never reaped the grass, but played the flute every day. The flute, which Emperor Yomei played for love, was thus called Kusakari-fue, the grass-reaping flute.
In the meantime, the Capital was plunged in turmoil. The Emperor had vanished! The noble men of the court consulted a fortune teller. The fortune teller told them,
"Please arrange a Shinto ritual called Hojo-e at Usa Hachiman shrine. Ma no Choja of Bungo province in Chikugo should take care of the event, then the Emperor will come back to the Capital.
Noble men in court hurriedly sent a messenger to Chikushi, and he set Sakaki tree in front of Ma no Choja's mansion. This shows that the owner of the mansion is supposed to take care of a Shinto ritual. Ma no Choja was surprised.
"What is it? What should I do?"
"You are to hold a Shinto ritual called Hojo-e at Usa Hachiman shrine on August 15."
"What kind of Shinto ritual is that?"
"You need a Shikisho, an officer, a Kokusho or serviceman, a Shinto priest, a court servant, eight virgins and five musicians, and you must have them tap hand drums with their finger tips and ring bells. After a horse race, horse riding, kamiko-no-mura, lion-dancing and dengaku, yabusame or horseback archery will be performed."
Ma no Choja left his own soil and visited many places to collect what he needed for the ritual. However, he was not sure what to do about the ritual called yabusame. He called his thousand servants to his mansion and asked,
"Does any of you know about this thing called yabusame?"
"How would a servant knows if his master did not?"
"You are right. But how about you, Sanro? You are from Kyoto. Any one who knows how to perform yabusame will be permitted to wed my daughter and have treasure from our family storehouse."
Sanro smiled and said,
"I could perform yabusame for you, my lord. We will set up a long riding ground in front of the shrine, and put three tiny wooden plates along the ground. A rider will shoot these three plates while riding a very fast horse."
"I see. If you do that well, I will permit you to wed my daughter and have the treasure of our family storehouse."
Ma no Choja promised Sanro.
When August 15 came, there was a huge audience at Usa Hachiman shrine. Ma no Choja and his wife sat at the royal seat.
Ritual proceeded without incident and at last yabusame started. The Emperor, wearing beautiful clothes, rode a fawn horse tactfully through the riding ground.
He came back to the starting point, and this time he holding a bow and arrows, and shot the first plate, then the second plate.
Just as he was about to shoot the third plate, the shrine shook, and someone in white clothes and a yeboshi cap appeared. He was holding a golden ladle. It was Hachiman the god. The God placed himself in front of the Emperor with profound respect and said,
"I do not understand. Why is His Majesty himself is performing this ritual? We as gods do not feel comfortable with it. Please go back to Kyoto."
Hearing this, Ma no Choja and his wife fell from the royal seat.
"Oh my goodness! We had the Emperor as our servant for three years!"
They felt regret and shed tears. Then the Emperor said,
"Do not worry. I have served you for three years as I loved your daughter. Now I will wed her."
"Certainly, your Majesty."
Soon the wedding ceremony started. Hachiman the God gave his blessings. The Emperor and Tamayo no Hime were made man and wife at Usa Hachiman shrine. It was the year that Emperor Yomei was eighteen and Tamayo no Hime was sixteen, and they went together back to Kyoto. They became united at the Imperial palace.
The Emperor and the Empress later had a baby boy named Shotoku Taishi, Prince Taishi. This Prince is the one who enlightened Japanese people with the lessons of Buddha.
The Empress was the incarnation of goddess Kannon, the Emperor Amida-Nyorai, and the Prince was Kuze-Kannon.
Thus, the madam of the mansion ended the tale, and said, "This is why they named the flute grass-reaping. It was a flute the Emperor Yomei played for love. I know you did not know the story, but you are not supposed to laugh."
Then she told Hamachidori,
"By the way, Kyotoda who played the flute seemed a promising young man. Can you take him to me?"
Hamachidori took Ushiwaka to the madam.
Upon seeing Ushiwaka, madam of the inn exclaimed,
"Young man, you look like Minamoto no Yoshitomo himself. You have same eyes as Akugenta, and your voice is almost like that of Tomonaga. I wonder if you are from Minamoto clan? Please make yourself known."
"I am not a person of such high birth. I am a mere servant living in downtown Sanjyo Yonemachi, Kyoto."
"Please do not hide the truth. I am, to tell the truth, Yoshitomo's wife. This lady called Manju no Hime is daughter of Yoshitomo. Now she lives in Irataka Temple, serving Buddha.
"We have set up three images of Amitabha Buddha in our temple, imitating the images of Yoshitomo, Akugenta and Tomonaga. If you are related to a Minamoto clan, please go to look at the images and offer incense."
Hearing this, Yoshitsune gave up telling lies any longer.
"Actually, I am Ushiwaka of Temple Kurama, Yoshitomo's eighth son, Tokiwa's third son."
"Oh, you are Ushiwaka! I feel like I am seeing Yoshitomo himself."
"I had not seen my own father since the age of two. But now I feel like I am back at home together with my father. So nostalgic!"
The madam and Ushiwaka embraced each other and shed tears.
The wealthy madam then had Hamachidori guide Ushiwaka to the Temple, where he found the three images of Amitabha Buddha imitating the images of Yoshitomo, Akugenta and Tomonaga. He worshipped the images and offered incense. He prayed,
"Fate told me to hold Kichiji's sword and go north to Michinoku. Please be my guardian deity during the trip."
Ushiaka was so exhausted due to the unaccustomed travel that he slept with his head on a raiban or prayer stool.
Then his ancestors, Yoshitomo, Akugenta and Tomonaga, all armored, appeared in his dreams. They all wore glittering armor and told Ushiwaka:
"You are right in your decision to go north to Oushu with Kichiji. Do not say a word against either Kichiji or his brothers Kichimon and Kichiroku. If they say south is north, east is west, do not talk back, but take their words as those of the three of us.
Oh, we have something to tell you. A band of robbers is gathering in Aono, and they intend to steal from the Kichiji party. They will come in the evening. Be careful. Three of us will be with you.
We want to stay with you more, but fighting is going to start. Farewell, Ushiwaka."
Ushiwaka wanted to grab his father's sleeve of armor, but he was grasping at shadows. Ushiwaka cried over the brevity of the reunion.
However, Ushiwaka remembered about the robbers of his dream and decided to go back to the inn to wait for them. He wore armor and set swords on his waist. He lay down and put a long sword on his belly. He stretched his left leg out and folded his right leg. While his left eye was asleep, his right eye was watching the ceiling. Like this, he was alert even in his sleep.
In the meantime, the robbers were partying at Aono field. There were more than three-hundred and seventy robbers, all family and relatives, headed by Chohan of Kumasaka. They stretched curtains around them with only one side open, and drank a lot.
"What we are drinking is not sake, but Kichiji's treasure!"
The robbers were having a good time.
Then Chohan started scolding the robbers.
"Are you really determined to rob while you are having a drunken frolic? Have I told how I came to be a robber? Okay, I shall tell you.
My parents lived in Kumasaka, on the border of Echigo and Shinano province. They were honest people, living Buddhas. But I was not. At the age of seven, I stole a horse from my uncle in Okano-go and sold it in the market. It was so easy. Robbing is a good trade, you do not need any capital. I have been robbing since then all over Japan. My five children are also good at robbing. They have never failed.
But I have a strange feeling tonight. Why don't some of you go to Kichiji's inn and see what is happening?"
One of his men, Shoroku Yakeshita, volunteered at once. He disguised himself as a wandering mountain priest and went to the inn of the madam in Aohaka.
"I am a mountain priest from Kumano. Please give me something to eat,"
Shoroku told her, looking carefully around the large establishment.
A tawara or rice container bound with rope was thrown out to him.
"What a bad omen to us robbers, to see something bound with rope," he thought.
He cut the tawara with his sword and took out some rice, and went back to Aono field.
He reported to back to Chohan.
"There are many things we can rob. The inn is filled with treasure. There were more than forty soldiers on guard, but they do not seem to be tough. However, there is a young man, maybe sixteen or seventeen, who distinguished himself among the soldiers. His skin is white, he was wearing ornate armors, and bore a golden sword. He has a presence, and if they were all birds, he would be a phoenix. His glance was so sharp. He could kill all of us if we would not stay on guard."
Chohan felt anxious, but the time had come. He led others to the inn of the madam in Aohaka.
Taro of Kumasaka, Chohan's first son, tried to break in by the gate. Ushiwaka heard this and learned that robbers were at the gate. He rushed outside, found Taro, and cut his head off on the spot.
Jiro, the second son, saw this and reported it to his father, Chohan. Chohan responded,
"What a pity! I'll show them!"
He jumped at Ushiwaka with a long log in his hands, but Ushiwaka cut the log.
Three hundred and seventy robbers surrounded Ushiwaka and leaped at him. But Ushiwaka was far from surprised. He darted to and fro with perfect command and beat the enemies. Before he knew it he had slain eighty three robbers.
Chohan abandoned his log, grabbed a long sword, and jumped at Ushiwaka. Ushiwaka, who was a little bit tired after beating a horde of enemies, could not fight back as before. Chohan saw his chance and assailed him furiously.
It was then that Ushiwaka remembered the lessons from Kurama Tengu, the long-nosed goblin in Sojo Valley. He used the magic of mist, and surrounded the enemy with white cloud. Then he used the magic of hawk, turned into a hawk and leaped for Chohan's forehead.
With his brow open, Chohan died on the spot.
With that, Ushiwaka went to Oushu, northern part of Japan, and would rule all over Japan.
** End **
Copyright 2001. Kyoto University Library