Enjoying Otogi Zoshi with the Help of Synopsis and Illustrations, Seventh Story ; Gio
** Volume 1 **
Long ago, there was a Grand Minister of State, Kiyomori of the Taira clan who had been called Jokai, "Pure Ocean," after entering the priesthood. Having amassed power over the entire country, he indulged in one insolent caprice after the other. At that time, there lived in the capital, Kyoto, two sisters, Gio and Ginyo, who were famous shirabyoshi (shirabyoshi were female performers who sang popular imayo songs and performed dances). Kiyomori took a particular fancy to Gio.
Therefore, Kiyomori treated her sister Ginyo and mother Toji with great deference, building for them a splendid house and honoring them with a generous allowance every month. They lived freely and wanted for nothing. Gio was the envy of every shirabyoshi performer in Kyoto.
About three years later, however, a 16 year-old shirabyoshi dancer called Hotoke Gozen came to the capital, causing a sensation as the best dancer ever the city had ever seen.
"What if I performed before the incomparable ruler, Kiyomori...?" wondered Hotoke Gozen, and so she went to Kiyomori's residence in Nishi-Hachijo. Kiyomori, infatuated with Gio, angrily ordered her away:
"How rude to suddenly come here without an invitation!" But Gio, perhaps out of empathy for Hotoke Gozen, still very young, interceded on her behalf:
"At the very least, could you just meet her?" Kiyomori relented and summoned Hotoke Gozen, who was about to leave for home.
At the command of Kiyomori, Hotoke Gozen performed imayo songs and dances. In addition to her beauty, she had a sweet voice and sang beautifully, and of course she held her own in dance too. Kiyomori, dazzled by her dance performance, fell head over heels for Hotoke Gozen and asked her to stay in the residence.
Hotoke Gozen felt deeply indebted to Gio. Out of consideration for Gio, she pleaded with Kiyomori to be excused, but Kiyomori would have none of it, and instead ordered,
"Throw Gio out of my house!"
One messenger after the other brought the command from Kiyomori, and finally Gio decided there was no hope and that she would leave. As might be expected, she was very sad to leave after three years living in the house. This is the poem she scribbled on the sliding door before climbing aboard her carriage:
Moeizurumo Karurumoonaji Nobenokusa Izurekaakini Ahadehatsubeki
"Whether the grass has just budded, or whether it is about to dry up and die, all the grass in a field eventually dies in the autumn. For people too, all lovers become tiresome someday."
After returning home, Gio threw herself to the floor, sobbing wildly despite the inquiries of her mother and sister. By the by, their monthly allowance stopped coming and their life became difficult, and instead, the relatives of Hotoke Gotoku began to prosper. When men heard about Gio being thrown out by Kiyomori, they sent letters and messengers, but Gio did not want any of it after all that time, and simply wept the days away.
The following spring, a messenger came from Kiyomori. The order was:
"Hotoke Gozen seems bored; come and amuse her with some imayo and dances."
Gio, in tears, could not give a reply. Seeing her state, her mother tearfully gave her advice:
"The fleeting nature of relations between a man and a woman is one of life's lessons. For as long as you live, you cannot go against the will of Kiyomori. Think of your filial piety to this feeble old mother of yours; obey his order and go to see him."
She could scarcely disobey her mother, and she went to the mansion in Nishi-Hachijo with Ginyo. It was not to her old place but to a much inferior seat that she was directed, reminding her once again of her misfortune. Paying no heed to the intercession of Hotoke Gozen, Kiyomori impelled Gio to sing an imayo. Those seated in the room could not help being moved to tears by Gio's mournful song, while Kiyomori was diverted. Humiliated again, Gio returned home weeping.
** Volume 2 **
Facing her mother, Gio pleaded,
"If I go on living, the same kind of bitter experience will just visit me again. I want to throw myself to the water."
Ginyo said, "If you say you will die, I will die with you."
In tears, her mother admonished them:
"You might blame me for this, but how can I go on living if my two daughters die? Please do not commit the sin of filial impiety."
After hearing her mother's plea, Gio stopped thinking of suicide, but believing that if she kept living in the capital, she would suffer again, she built a thatched hut deep in the Sagano hills and retreated to seclusion as a nun. She was joined by her sister and mother, and they devoted themselves to invocations to Buddha in hope of being reborn in paradise. At that time, Gio was 21, Gijyo was 19 and their mother, 45. By the by, the season changed, and autumn came. Looking at the setting sun disappearing over the western mountains, the nuns thought of the western paradise of Amida Buddha.
That night, as mother and daughters intoned Buddha invocations, there was the sound of someone knocking on the bamboo door. They were surprised and frightened.
"Who would visit such a mountain hermitage, so late at night what's more? It must be the devil coming to block our invocations to Buddha."
"But not opening the door would be unkind. Buddha will surely protect us," they reassured each other. Chanting the name of Buddha as they opened the door, who should they see? Not the devil, but Hotoke Gozen. With tears glistening in her eyes, Gio exclaimed,
"If it isn't Hotoke Gozen! Am I dreaming?"
"Being so beholden to you, I was deeply sorry to see you cast out from Kiyomori's mansion. When I thought that I could suffer the same fate, I was not happy at all to be the favorite of Kiyomori. I was envious when I discovered you were going together to become nuns, and I felt that I would rather pray to Buddha than indulge in the fleeting pleasures of the world. Kiyomori did not permit it, but this morning I secretly left and came here," said Hotoke Gozen.
When she removed the shawl that covered her head, they saw her head was shaven in the manner of a nun.
"Now that I have come in this new guise, please forgive me for all the wrongs I have done," pleaded Hotoke Gozen ardently,
"If you can forgive me, I wish to recite the name of Buddha and find rebirth together with you." Upon hearing this, Gio replied tearfully,
"I never dreamed you felt that way, and I felt bitterness about you. My grudge has now completely cleared away. We renounced the world out of spite, but you have left a life of plenty and shaved your head at the young age of 17. That is truly a blessed and noble sacrifice. It is you who will lead us to paradise. Let us seek salvation together."
As one, the four nuns lived in devotion, seeking salvation and invoking the sacred name of Buddha. It is said that the four women were rewarded for their good conduct and went to paradise together. Namu Amida Buddha.
** The End **
Copyright 2001. Kyoto University Library