Page images

began to cut the tree, Higo sat up and informed her husband that she was the Spirit of the willow tree which he loved so dearly, that she could not stay with him any longer, and that she would return to die with the tree, for she was part of it. Saying this, she vanished. When the tree was felled, the workmen were unable to move the log. But when Chiyodo came and pushed it, it was moved easily, his father singing an

“ Uta' (poetical song) in the meantime. There is a well-known song or ballad in the “Uta”

” style which is said to have originated from this event ; it is sung to the present day by men drawing heavy weights or doing hard labour :

Is it not sad to see the little fellow,
Who sprang from the dew of the Kumano Willow,
And is thus far budding well ?
Heave ho, heave ho, pull hard, my lads."

In another story, a high official at the Emperor's Court eagerly coveted an extraordinarily fine plum tree which was in the possession of a gardener. This tree was of the furyo kind (which means “ lying dragon ") and was, therefore, highly prized. When the official's steward came to remove this tree, the Spirit of the Plum Tree, assuming the appearance of a beautiful girl, appeared and told him to kill her first. Taking her at her word, the steward made a cut at her with his sword, whereupon she disappeared and a branch of the tree with the flowers on it fell down. The tree, soon after, withered and died. †

In a third story, the Spirit of a holy Cherry tree assumes the form of a handsome young man and loves a maiden named Hanano. When she came to know that

* Smith's Ancient Tales and Folklore of Japan, pp. 12-18. † Op. cit, pp. 319-325.

the youth she loved was no other than the Spirit of the Cherry tree, she renounced the world, assumed the garb of a priestess and became one of the caretakers of the temple in the grounds of which the holy Cherry tree stood. *

In the story entitled: “The Princess Peony," while the Princess Aya was one night walking in the peonybed of her father's garden, her foot slipped ; and she would have fallen into the water, had not a young man appeared, as if by magic, caught her and disappeared. She at once fell in love with him. Thereafter she fell ill at not being able to find him ; and the doctors were unable to cure her.

Her father told off a person of great strength to capture the young man whenever he would appear on the next occasion. The next time the mysterious youth appeared, he was caught by the officer told off for this purpose.

But the latter soon found to his surprise that what he held in his was nothing but a large peony.

The flower was taken to the Princess' room and put into a vase of water near her pillow. Thereafter she gradually recovered ; and the peony continued to remain in perfect bloom. But the Princess was subsequently married to another

young man; and thereafter the peony was found dead and withered. †

In another story, an old man loved chrysanthemums and was therefore called Kikuo. When he fell ill, the Spirits of the Chrysanthemums, assuming the guise of beautiful children, appeared to him and said that they would not survive his death. Strange to say, when the old man grew worse, the chrysanthemums began to fade; and when he died, the flowers also withered at that time. I


[ocr errors]

Op. cit., pp. 202-207. † Op. cii., pp. 291-296.

Op. cit., pp. 287.290.


The Lotus flower plays an important part in the folklore of the Japanese. It is also supposed to have its indwelling Spirits and to drive away impure and evil beings of the same kind. This belief is strikingly illustrated in another folk-tale entitled: “The Spirit of the Lotus Lily.” In this story, it is stated that an epidemic having broken out in Idzumi, thousands of people died of it. The feudal Lord of Koriyama, who lived in Idzumi, was attacked with the prevailing disease. His wife and child

also stricken. Doctors from all parts were summoned, but could not afford them any relief. At this time, a vamabushi (mountain-reclusel arrived at the Lord Koriyama's castle, informed Tada Samon, the next highest official in the castle, that the Lord's illness had been brought about by an evil Spirit, who had entered the castle because no defence against impure and evil spirits had been put up.

He further added : “ The saints (Rakkan) of old have always told us to plant the lotus lily, not only in the one inner ditch surrounding a castle, but also in all the ditches and to plant them all around the same.

The lotus, being the most emblematic flower in our religion, is the most pure and sacred; for this reason it drives away uncleanness which cannot cross it.

If your lord had kept the northern ditches of his castle filled with water, clean, and had planted the sacred lotus, no such evil Spirit would have come, as the present one sent by Heaven to warn him. If I am allowed to do so, I shall enter the castle to-day, pray that the evil Spirit of Sickness should leave and plant lotuses in the northern moats. Thus only can the Lord of Koriyama and his family be saved.” Both Sam.on and the Lord having agreed to this proposal, the yamabushi washed his body and prayed that the evil Spirit of

[ocr errors]

Sickness should leave the castle and then had the northern moats cleansed, repaired, filled with water and planted with lotuses. Then he disappeared mysteriously. As was to be expected, the Lord Koriyama, his wife and son became rapidly better and completely recovered in a fortnight. The castle was thenceforth called the Lotus Castle.

One day, a samurai, passing along one of the castlemoats, saw that two beautiful boys, about six or seven years of age and emitting a powerful but sweet scent resembling that of the lotus lily, were playing on the edge of the moat. Mistaking them for kappas, he slashed at them with his sword right and left. In the morning, he found nothing but the stalks of lotus lilies sticking out of the water in the vicinity.

vicinity. Thereupon he was convinced that the two boys were the Spirits of the lotus who had saved the Lord of Koriyama and his family from death. Ashamed of having drawn sword on his master's most faithful friends, he disembowelled himself to appease the Spirits.*

Spirits of Deceased Persons passing into Birds and Inanimate Objects.—Spirits of deceased persons are some times believed to pass into birds and inanimate objects, In the story entitled : “ The Diving Woman of Oiso Bay. "† the Spirit of a deceased samurai named Takadai is mentioned as having passed into the seagulls, which began to swarm over the exact spot where he had drowned himself in a fit of despair for having had his overtures of marriage refused by a beautiful fisher-girl named 0. Kinu whom he loved to distraction.


* Op. cit., pp. 267-373. + Op. cit., pp. 136-143.

In another


entitled : “Great Fire caused by a Lady's Dress,

"* the daughter of a rich pawnbroker of Tokio died of a broken heart brought about by unrequitted love.

After her death, her father presented to the Temple of Hommyoji a superb dress which cost nearly 4,000 yen and which he had given her in order to comfort her distressed mind. Such dresses are carefully preserved in the temples in order that the priests might be reminded to say prayers for their late owners. The head-priest of the temple, who was a dishonest man, stole the dress and sold it secretly to a secondhand dealer in such things. A year later, the dress was again donated to the same temple by another father whose daughter had died of a love-affair and had been buried on the same day of the same month as the first girl, he having bought the robe at the secondhand-clothes shop. The head-priest sold it again. In the following year in the same month and on exactly the same day as that on which the first and the second girls had died, another girl of exactly the same age was buried in the temple cemetery, having also died of a love affair, and having also worn the magnificent dress that the first and second girls had worn. The said dress was duly presented to the temple for the third time. Being stricken by his conscience, the head-priest assembled all the priests of the temple, made a hasty confession, and asked for advice. The assembled priests came to the conclusion that the Spirit of the first girl had taken up its abode in the dress and that it must be burnt with some ceremony in order to appease the said Spirit. Accordingly on a

, fixed day, a great ceremony was held and the robe was set fire to. As it took fire, a sudden gust of wind rose which fanned the whole into a flame and, having blown

Op. cit., pp.


« PreviousContinue »