Mother Earth

Volume 1: The Poems of Youth

Chapter 6: Ankambo Kiraku

      In the spring of Meiji 24 (1891), 21-year-old Kisaburo had a medical checkup for military conscription. It was, so to speak, a coming-of-age ritual.

      Kisaburo was found to be 5 shaku 2 sun (1.56 meters) tall and enlisted in the second-rate reserve. He was not drafted into the army. But he apparently grew taller even after turning twenty, and at twenty-five he was measured 5 shaku 3 sun (1.59 meters) in height when he had a physical examination to become a prison guard.

      Kisaburo and three other youths in Anao had reached the eligible age for conscription. Takichi, the son of Ogame, was 4 shaku 9 sun (1.47 meters) and classified into the third-rate category. All of them, falling short of the honourable first-rate designation, were so ashamed that they could not walk with their heads held high. While the four were on their way home together down the country road, Takichi, the only third-rater, rolled up his sleeves and cried sour grapes, "Oaks are thin but strong. Japanese sansho peppers are tiny grains but hot and spicy."

      People are labelled superior or inferior simply by the size of their external vessels, large or small. Can this make the Japanese military work? Kisaburo also had these doubts.

      It's not only hulking louts that can do good for their country. What counts is on the inside. To enrich your country and enhance its power, first you need excellent brains and mental strength.

      Kisaburo was not at all mortified for not being chosen as a first-rater. There were lots of other things for him to learn.

      An autumn flavour was sneaking into the garden viewed from the study of Anaoji Temple. A koi carp plopped on the pond, ripping through the silence.

      "Well then, I'll send Ben to the autumn memorial service for help," said Seinosuke Yagi, about to rise to his feet.

      "Hey, wait a minute," the Priest Gyonin held back his older brother. "I'd like you to meet someone."

      "Oh, who?"

      "A young man called Kisaburo Ueda. I can't tell if he's crazy or smart, but he's one of a kind."

      "What business does he have with me?"

      "I told him you're a master of the Kanku [1] known as Dohenkutsu Uho, and he said he really wants to meet you. I sent someone for him a while ago. He should be here soon. Well, I'll get you some hot tea."

      The iron kettle was boiling on the hibachi brazier.

      Seinosuke Yagi, aged 45, was born in the Village of Haida, about a ri (2.4 miles) north of Anao in Koka 4 (1847).

      In March of Man-en 1 (1860), Naosuke Ii, the Tairo ("Chief Minister") of the Tokugawa Shogunate, was assassinated by some former retainers of the Mito domain at the Sakurada Gate of the Edo Castle. Then 14 years old, Seinosuke went up to central Kyoto to live in a princely house as an apprenticed servant. His impressionable adolescence was embroiled in the dizzy whirlpool of history. On the early morning of October 12, Bunkyu 1 (1861), he accompanied Princess Kazunomiya, who was tearfully forced to marry into the Shogun's family in the Kanto area as part of the reconciliation between the Imperial Court and the Shogunate, down to Edo as an attendant and stayed at the Mito domain's mansion in Koishikawa.

      Starting in July of Bunkyu 2 (1862) with the assassination of Sakon Shimada, the sonno-joi ("Revere the Emperor and Expel the Barbarians") extremists resorted to a desperate act, staking everything they had in an attempt to subvert the regime. They proclaimed that they would deliver justice on heaven's behalf to one wrongdoer after another in a fierce raging storm of terrorism that ensued. The 16-year-old Seinosuke minutely recorded as he witnessed this sequence of retribution incidents that terrified the whole town of Kyoto.

      On the morning of August 19 of Bunkyu 3 (1863), the day after the Coup D'etat of August 18 [2], the 17-year-old Seinosuke followed the seven ousted court nobles to the Choshu domain in a drizzling rain.

      On July 19 of Ganji 1 (1864), the Kinmon Incident [3] occurred in the wake of the Ikedaya Incident [4]. Returning from the Choshu domain, Seinosuke contacted Kogoro Katsura (later known as Takayoshi Kido). Katsura snuck his way out of central Kyoto, relying on the 18-year-old Seinosuke for help, and holed up in the boy's house in Haida. Seinosuke harboured Katsura in the thatched hut before letting him go through Yagi and Sonobe up north to Izushi in the Tajima province.

      Seinosuke missed his eventful youth during the last turbulent days of the Shogunate. Those were also the days when he studied the Kanku poetry.

      His father's delicate health caused Seinosuke to return home to the village of Haida after the Meiji Restoration. He married Mitsu, the same age as him, in Meiji 3 (1870) and inherited the estate of the Yagi family at age 25 in the following year. Since then, Seinosuke had earned a living by peddling ink brushes while farming the land. Mitsu died at 42, three years previous to this point in the narrative. They had one son and two daughters, and he had just married off his oldest daughter, Sato, to the Nakagawa family in Umaji in the spring. With no one to keep house, Seinosuke summoned his 17-year-old second daughter, Ben, back from her apprenticeship in central Kyoto.

      Now the family of four, the rest of whom were his old mother and 14-year-old first son Ushinosuke, lived in obscurity. It was one of Seinosuke's few pastimes to occasionally gather young people in the village and teach them the basics of Kanku.

      Seinosuke's younger brother, Shintaro, was adopted by Saburobe Murakami in Anao, while his youngest brother belonged to Anaoji Temple, inheriting the family name of Anaho to become the Priest Gyonin. Seinosuke often stopped in Anao on his way to and from peddling as his two brothers were bound to the area by a curious turn of fate.

      Seinosuke was sipping some hot green tea during his small talk with Gyonin, when Kisaburo Ueda showed up in kimono covered with patches. His friendly, innocent smile charmed Seinosuke.

      As the priest had the two meet, Kisaburo pushed himself forward with an obvious interest and started a lengthy monologue.

      "Even if our Great Empire of Japan could rise to become a first-rate nation in the world with its armaments and economic power, that would lead the country to a wrong course, I think. Japan should aim to be a cultured nation, and that's exactly what they say: 'Light comes from the East.' To do this, we need to take our culture back from the monopoly of cities and spread it to every corner of farming villages. By 'culture,' of course I don't mean an imitation of Western culture as embodied by the Rokumeikan [5], but a uniquely Japanese one.

      I believe it is a profound design of the Kami in the first place that Emperor Kaika is the deity enshrined at Obata, our tutelary shrine in Anao and also one of those mentioned in the Engi Shiki Jimmyo-Cho [6]. To put it another way, it is a divine revelation dictating that flowers of a true culture must be opened from this Anao, Sogabe, as the name Kaika ("opening of a culture") implies. And here I am at last, all ready, willing and able to do what little I can to launch a true cultural revolution of the Great Empire of Japan — hahaha, my apologies. By the way, what's your take on this, Master Dohenkutsu Uho......?"

      The boy looked at Seinosuke with vacant eyes. His big talk left the kanku master speechless. Giving a wry smile, Priest Gyonin put in a word.

      "Well, anyway, tell us your business first."

      "Then, allow me to say what's on my mind. I have pondered how we should go about making Anao a cultural village, but as I see it, most of the folks here have nothing to do with culture. Priest Gyonin is not more than educated to read Chinese classics...oh, oops! I learned from him. Also Yoshiro, adopted son of Genji Saito, graduated from junior high — that's the best we can hope for. Poetry, waka, haiku and other highbrow stuff are out of character for the villagers. But hearing Mr. Yagi is a master of kanku, I got an idea and thought this was it. Kanku, yeah, kanku can be composed by anyone. So I took it into my head to organise a kanku circle in Anao for starters."

      Seinosuke's intrigued expectation following Kisaburo's high-flown talk of a Japanese cultural revolution deflated into an anticlimax when he found out about the boy's apparent desire to form a kanku club in Anao.

      The author will briefly deal with Kanku [1] here as it is little known today and there are currently no reference books or primers on the subject available.

      Kanku is a kind of Zappai ("Miscellaneous Haikai"; a poetic genre derived from Haikai) and is also known as Kasa-zuke ("Hat-capping"), Eboshi-zuke ("Eboshi hat-capping"), Kamuri-zuke ("Crown-capping") or Kashira-zuke ("Head-capping"). Many of those familiar with Tonchi Kyoshitsu ("A Classroom for Quick Wits"), a postwar NHK program focusing on Kamuri-zuke, may relate to what Kanku is about. In its early stages, Kanku had been widely used since around the Genroku period (1688-1703) as an introductory method to Haikai, second only to Maeku-zuke [7]. With no seasonal reference, season words or verbal caesura as required in Haiku, Kanku allows more freedom of subject matter, thereby winning mass appeal.

      Around the reigns of the fifth and sixth Shoguns, Kanku winners were awarded with prize money, and some went so far as to make it their living by hopping from one competition to another. The Shogunate was often forced to issue a ban on the practice. The following is a generally known Kanku poem composed by Gengo Otaka, one of the 47 Ako warriors:

Na n no so no                  Against all odds
I wa o mo to o su             Penetrating even a rock
Sa chi no yu mi                The bow of fortune

      However, Kanku gradually fell out of favor without achieving literary maturity. It made a regional comeback in the Meiji and Taisho eras but has almost died out these days, leaving slight vestiges of its poetic tradition in the religious organization, Omoto.

      Like Haiku and Senryu, Kanku is composed of 17 syllables with three lines in a 5-7-5 pattern. A major differece between them is that for the given subject of hatsuyuki (first snow of the season), Haiku and Senryu poets have only to compose three metrical phrases on the subject, while in Kanku, with the first 5-syllable line predetermined, the composer needs to complete the poem by adding the second and third lines they will originally create. Kanku is so called because linking the predetermined first phrase with two new ones seems like placing a crown or cap on the head. When the third phrase is predetermined and the first and second phrases are to be added, this type of poetry is named Kutsuku ("Shoe Poem"). Generally, Kanku verses are ranked from the top three as Ten-i ("Rank of Heaven"), Chi-i ("Rank of Earth"), and Jin-i ("Rank of Humans"). These ranks are collectively called the "Three Lights of Heaven, Earth, and Humans." They are then followed by the fourth rank, Jiku ("Axis"). The remaining verses are selected in the order of Shu-cho ("Superior Tunes"), Ka-cho ("Good Tunes"), and Hei-cho ("Mediocre Tunes"). Those falling short of the criteria are treated as Botsu-ku ("Unacceptable Poems"). Announcement of the selection is referred to as Maki-biraki ("Opening the Scroll"), while winning the Rank of Heaven is expressed as Maki o toru ("Taking the Scroll").

      Reading Kisaburo's intention, Seinosuke Yagi spoke gently.

      "I understand your point quite well. So you're saying you want me to help you organize a Kanku circle, right?"

      "No, I'll do it all myself," replied Kisaburo. "I'd like to ask Master Dohenkutsu Uho to do selection."

      "But as I guess you know, I can barely make a living by peddling ink brushes while farming the land. Besides, I teach Kanku in the Village of Haida. So I'm not sure if I can even promise to attend a monthly meeting responsibly."

      "Oh, it's no big deal. I need your presence to boost the circle's value. Just doing selection once or twice a year for a major Kanku competition will be fine. For ordinary contests, Master Asanebo Kanraku ("leisurely idle late riser") will do selection..."

      "Hey, who's that master with the sloppy name...? I wonder if we have a master like that in Anao," Priest Gyonin raised his voice in surprise.

      "We do, we do, right here...," said Kisaburo, pointing to the tip of his nose. "I don't blame the good priest for not knowing of the master. I hit on this name just now."

      Seinosuke and the priest were dumbfounded, gazing at Kisaburo with a confident expression on his face.

      After a short pause, Seinosuke asked "So, from what I heard, Mr. Ueda, have you done a lot of Kanku till now?"

      "Not a bit. That's why I'll be an apprentice to Master Dohenkutsu Uho for the first time."

      " apprentice quickly becoming a master...?"

      "No problem. There's no legitimate house of the Kanku school. In short, ability as a master is what counts."

      "Even so, that might be going a bit too far..." the priest demurred, unable to let it pass.

      "The more masters we have, the livelier our circle will be."

      Gyonin slightly lost his head in anger and shifted to a defiant attitude.

      "Okay, I'm going to test you. I'll give you a phrase, and you make a poem immediately. Is that clear?"

      "Whoa, I haven't even taken up Kanku. You're being impatient, Priest."

      "Knock it off. Ahem, how about 'nyo u bo u ni ' (my wife) to begin with?"

      "Nyo u bo u ni                      My wife
       Shi te ka ra ki ryo u            Since I made her
       Wa ru ku mi e                     Has looked ugly"

      "I see. This is 'omoshiroi' (funny)."

      "O mo shi ro i                       Fun
       Ma tsu sa i chu u ni             In the middle of it
       Tsu ma a ra shi                   My wife storms angrily"

      "Well...then how about 'a sa yu u ni' (in the morning and evening)?"

      "A sa yu u ni                         In the morning and evening
       Hi ru ni sa n do no               And at lunch three times
       Me shi o ku i                        I eat

      ...this is too banal. I'll do it again.

       A sa yu u ni                          In the morning and evening
       Ku so te mo be n jo o           The bathroom, though smelly
       Ho u mo n shi                       I visit

       A sa yu u ni                          In the morning and evening
       Mo ku gyo no wa re me de  The slit of the mokugyo [8]
       O mo i da shi                        Reminds the priest...

       A sa yu u ni                          In the morning and evening
       Ne do ko de mo ku gyo        In bed, the mokugyo
       ta ta ku so u                         The priest pounds

      These lines are hopelessly vulgar. But they're not implying you, Priest. They're just generalities."

      Seinosuke marvelled at Kisaburo's gushing composition of Kanku poems, regardless of their quality.

      "All right. I think Mr. Ueda has enough skill to teach beginners. Now I'd like to ask about your teaching policy as Master Asanebo Kanraku."

      "Kanku is among the best form of popular literature. It is neither restricted like Haiku, nor is it as verbose as 31-syllable poems. Besides, it is so ordinary that everyone, men and women, young and old, educated and uneducated alike, can compose the poetry. That's the beauty of it. It covers a lot of ground, so there's still plenty of room for its development and advancement. Now, regarding the ambitions of the first-generation Master Asanebo Kanraku..."

      "Wait a minute," the priest butted in. "Does it mean that the 'first-generation master' is Kisa-yan?"

      "I'm the first to use 'Asanebo Kanraku,' so obviously I'm the first generation."

      "Hmm.... Well, go on," said the priest, sipping his tea quietly as his enthusiasm to put Kisaburo down was dampened.

      "Kanku tends to take delight in purposefully using vulgar expressions like kaka or kakamuraya (both meaning 'my old woman') instead of saying okusan or nyobo (both meaning 'my wife'). By delving deeper into it, Asanebo Kanraku hopes to elevate the poetry to the realm of art. For instance, verse subjects should deal with the Kami, human life, truth..."

      Seinosuke hurriedly interrupted Kisaburo, who seemed poised to rattle on indefinitely.

      "It would be nice if we could make it another time to share your theory on art. That aside, don't you think we need a manager when it comes to actually forming a Kanku club? "

      "It's already been decided. Me as Ankambo Kiraku will take the managerial job."

      "Ankambo?... Isn't your pseudonym 'Asanebo', Mr. Ueda?"

      "Oh, Asanebo is the one I assume when doing selection. The one for contributing poems is Ankambo Kiraku. From now on call me 'Kiraku-han'."

      "But Ueda-han..."

      "Could you call me 'Kiraku-han'?"

      "Well then, Kiraku-han," Seinosuke said with a forced smile.


      "So you mean you will contribute poems as Ankambo Kiraku and select them as Asanebo Kanraku, don't you?"

      "Well, that's about right. No matter how much you put yourself out to collect Kanku, it will be a laughingstock if the scroll-taking winner is nothing to write home about. I want Ankanbo Kiraku's great verses mixed in just to be sure."

      "But wouldn't that be considered unfair?" said the priest.

      "As Asanebo Kanraku, I will never play favorites, even if it involves Kiraku's verses. I will do selection strictly and most honestly, so no need to worry."

      This was met with dumbstruck silence.

      "And the Kanku club is named 'Kaiko-sha.' Almost all members would be alumni of Kaiko Elementary School. I believe no one will complain about the name. What do you say to calling the club's montly anthology 'Ahora-shi'? [9] The adviser is the Priest Gyonin. Well, the adviser doesn't have to work as long as he provides funds. You live on villagers' offerings, so you should at least give some back to society. Oh, yeah, the venue for the regular meeting is this Anaoji Temple."

      "Hey, wait a minute," said Gyonin. "These things about the adviser and the venue are a first for me!"

      "Also a first for me to say. It might be in your best interests to make this much contribution to the future of the cultural village Anao."

      "Well, yeah..."

      The priest was talked into consent.

      "Then everything's finally decided. Now I need to go get some members! Master Dohenkutsu Uho, I ask for your continued support. I'll be seeing you."

      Kisaburo bobbed his head down and left the study of the temple at once, but hurried back again to face Seinosuke, saying,

      "I almost forgot to tell you something important. Could you pretend I've been your apprentice for quite some time? Otherwise, fellow members wouldn't accept a total amateur like me as Master Asanebo Kanraku after all. I'm a master, and you're a grand master. Yeah, let's make it this way. Instead, the name 'Master Uho' will go down to posterity as the teacher of Ankambo Kiraku. Oh, I was so absorbed in the conversation I forgot to have the tea."

      Kisaburo downed the stone cold tea in one gulp and rushed out of the room, leaving the two men open-mouthed. After a brief interval, Seinosuke muttered.

      "I really can't tell if he's crazy or smart. At any rate, he's got more than his share of nerve."

      Thus was born the Kanku circle "Kaiko-sha" in the autumn of Meiji 24 (1891). The selectors were Master Dohenkutsu Uho (Seinosuke Yagi) and Master Asanebo Kanraku (Kisaburo Ueda). The 40-something literary enthusiast, Shintaro Murakami (Seinosuke's younger brother), was set up as president of the circle, while Ankambo Kiraku (Kisaburo Ueda) assumed a managerial post. At the first Kanku competition, Kisaburo won the highest Ten-i rank. He had since then been so immersed in the poetry that he gradually became known as "Kiraku-han" in the village.

      Kichimatsu was discontent with his son's second-rate designation for military draft, his complacency about being called "Kiraku-han" and acting like a man of culture, his preference to read books whenever he had spare time, and everything else.

      "Commit yourself to farm work instead when you have ample time to read. What's the use if you pursue learning and work against your parents?"

      This was Kichimatsu's favorite line. Every time she heard it, Yone dropped her eyes in fear and timidly begged her son as she was painfully moved to tears.

      "Kisa, you're a son of a farmer, a son of Kichimatsu Ueda. No matter how hard you may try, like father, like son. Be happy with what you've got and don't try to grow wings and fly."

      Only Uno was different. She was awfully hard of hearing with age but attentive to the needs of her grandson without being noticed by anyone in the family. For example, she added some lamp oil to the unglazed earthenware while Kisaburo was reading in the advancing night. She kept some waste paper, if any, in a safe place for him. Kisaburo furtively drew pictures on the reverse side of the paper. He whittled and excitedly chiselled the pieces of wood she had found in the building sites. But even this small action was unacceptable to Kichimatsu. He tore apart his son's painstaking works and threw his unfinished carvings into the blazing furnace.

      "What's the big idea drawing trashy pictures? That's beyond the means of a poor family like us. You profligate!"

      Kisaburo wanted to cry out to his father:

      Dad, rub your eyes and take at least a little look at the trends of the times. The Constitution of the Empire of Japan was promulgated. The Imperial Diet was also convened. The time has come when the general populace across the country will have to stand up for their country. How can it be filial piety just to be dutiful to parents? Do you want me to pull carts, fly frogs, and cut worms [10] in this critical day and age?

      You crawl about in the mud like a loach, and you get worn out body and soul from weeding a rice field, providing manure and water, or killing pests. And to top it all off, most of your rice crop will go to your landowner. The remaining rice fragments you keep aren't enough to get by on until the New Year. Rice growers need to buy rice. But landowners can easily amass an awful lot of rice without doing anything. Dad, are you really happy with the status quo? This is all because farmers have neglected to pursue higher education and bowed down to their masters.

      But in reality, Kisaburo's logical argument had only been greeted with his father's fists.

      It was the first summer since Kisaburo came of age—the long-awaited season for festive Bon dances. The large drum on the high stage set up for the Bon festival was resounding through the village, arousing the passion of the youth. They wore new pairs of geta (wooden clogs) reserved for this particular day, and dressed in yukata (light cotton kimono) with their sleeves tucked up with a red tasuki cord and their hemlines stylishly raised. They began flocking to the venue with a calm straight face, albeit their hearts pounding with excitement.

      The Bon festival stage was set up as usual in the centre of the Saitos' extensive yard. It was where singers would lead the chanting and young men would beat the drum. Beside the drum was a one-sho (1.8-litre) bottle of sake to wet the singers' whistles. They all got themselves drunk with cold sake to sing at the top of their voices—except Kisaburo, who stuffed his mouth with manju sweet bean jam buns and gulped down some water. He could not hold his liquor. But he felt more intoxicated with the festive mood than any of the other singers.

      The circle of dancers turned into a swirl of heat as it became threefold, nay fourfold. The youth who could not get enough of dancing moved on to other villages near and far. They would probably hop from one place to another, simply lured by the scent of the opposite sex above all. An anecdote has it that they went wild dancing the night away, and by the time they came home the next morning, their brand-new wooden clogs had worn down flat.

      Those were the real good old days, free from things like noise control regulations.

      It was the late summer evening of August 23, the final day of the Bon dances. Kisaburo was dancing in a circle despite being fatigued from the Bon festivals he had joined night after night.

      Leaving the circle, Kisaburo went down the stone steps to the place in front of the Saitos' annex as he knew his way around it. It was a small pool of spring water fenced in by a stone wall of about half-ken (0.91 meter) square. When he soaked his hands in the water, they turned numb cold. He quenched his thirst and rested under the shade of a camphor tree with its branches hanging low over the pool.

      Here he felt as if he had abruptly stepped into a static world from the dynamic one. A monotonous rhythm flowed into his ears with the indistinct sound of "myo, myo, myo, myo." It was a voice low and faint but clear and completely different from the fracas of young people. It came from the retired Naoko Saito in the annex, who attuned her mind to recite "myo, myo" 10 thousand times every evening.

      "Hey, let's go over to the riverbed to chill," Kisaburo's friends decided.

      Then they called out his name, saying, "Where are you, Kiraku-han?"

      "Here. I'll be with you in a while," replied Kisaburo. But he kept listening intently to the chant and would not budge an inch. With his friends' footsteps retreating out of the gate, a young woman in a white yukata approached and peered into the camphor tree shade.

      "Cinnamon...why don't we go get some cinnamon, Kisa-yan?" she whispered.

      Looking up in surprise, he found Ran Saito standing in front of him. She was faintly glowing against the red paper lanterns of the festival stage.

      "I'll be there waiting for you..."

      The moment she whispered that, she left without getting his response. However, Kisaburo would not readily rise to his feet.

      It was probably the intent of Genjiro Saito and his wife that their marriageable daughter was always with her younger sister, Sakae, and her fiance, Yoshiro. Besides, with the evening advancing, she disappeared even from the dance site in her backyard. Kisaburo did not have a single chance to talk to her.

      Oh, yes, there was a cinnamon tree. Kisaburo was a servant at the Saitos' when he was 15, and the 12-year-old Ran would often press him to dig out the roots of the cinnamon tree in the back of the courtyard. He was moved to tears, recalling the acrid scent and sharp flavor of the cinnamon he had chewed with her.

      He weaved his way through the dancing crowd and pressed the west gate gently. It squeaked open. He shut it behind him and observed the moonlit veranda and rooms. There was no sign of anyone's presence. The giant cinnamon tree was casting a deep shadow over half of the yard. Circular plantings of azalea stretched out. Ran was crouching at the foot of the stone lantern behind the thick growth of the Senryo herb (Sarcandra glabra). She threw herself against him in silence. They surreptitiously embraced each other, with tremors of passion, in the place where no rays of moonlight reached them. Her warm flesh and fragrant hair made him feel as if his soul were about to fly away.

      "Every night I'm in bed holding the tobacco tray you gave me, the one with engravings of a pine tree and a hawk," said Ran.

      The sweet scent of her breath was tickling Kisaburo's ear.

      "Do you smoke, Ran-han?" he asked.

      "No, but you worked hard to make that tobacco tray..."

      "I see. You're making me feel good about it. But it's square and hard. I imagine you'd be in pain sleeping with stuff like that..."

      "A little pain is fine, as long as I think of it as a substitute for Kisa-yan..."

      "But it's engraved with my name in rugged letters. What if someone notices it...?"

      Just then, the west gate banged open, and someone was scurrying in. It was Yoshiro. The two held their breath. Their heartbeats were resounding like thunder. Unaware of their presence, Yoshiro went round the yard along the stepping stones and disappeared in the direction of the Akechi-gura rice granary.

      "It's okay if he finds us," Ran whispered desperately, clinging on to Kisaburo's arms. "Stay with me, Kisa-yan."

      But Kisaburo suddenly grew too ashamed of his sweaty odour from his menial work to stay there any longer. He was also shocked to recall the stark reality that Ran was a daughter of his former master and a pupil of the apprenticee. Just before Yoshiro's footsteps were approaching them, Kisaburo pushed her away and jumped back.

      "Tonight isn't the time. I'm sorry."

      He frantically went round towards the rice granary and ran away, stepping on the plantings, cursing himself as a coward.

      Kisaburo spent one sleepless night after another in agony. Since that night Ran had shut herself in her house and never appeared in public.

      You must be holding a bitter grudge against me. I feel like I heard you cry when I pushed you away and ran. I want to at least see you again and beg your forgiveness. I'm the one who's in love. I'll speak what's in my heart about why I stopped embracing you and retreated, despite my passionate and mad yearning for you.

      He wandered around the outside of Ran's house in the dead of night. Stealing into the yard from behind the rice granary, he embraced the cinnamon tree by the trunk and gritted his teeth. He hadn't the guts to see her openly. The fact that she was a daughter of his former master was binding his mind. At one time or another he proudly declared to his friends that love is blind. But how could he turn a blind eye to everything around him and just take Ran away? She was so dear to him that he did not want to risk everything at the mercy of his passion. Were he to take her away, how could he make her happy? Would he have any means available to feed her on his own? The 21-year-old son of the tenant farmer was shaking in tears.

      I will definitely succeed in life. When I do, I will boldly come and take you as my wife. Be sure to wait for me till then.

      Kisaburo was writing the letter. But, he tore it up before the ink had dried.

      Succeed in life? When or in what way? However long can I ask Ran to wait for me? No matter how many times I write, it's the same thing—a pipe dream. I deserve her contempt. I'm a wimp. I'm a coward. And I'm the scum of men.

      Hachi-mon Kisa was gazing at the clouds drifting in the sky as if he were missing far more screws. The ears of rice were drooping heavily, heralding the approach of the harvest season when he would not have a single moment to dwell on her.

      One day, Kisaburo took out the two-pronged arrow that had been handed down from his ancestors, and stabbed a black carp in Kyubei Pond. The carp was one of those his father had dearly kept for the day of the tutelary deity's festival. He brought the hunted fish to Waichiro's house, where they cooked it in miso soup and ate it together.

      Just the day before the festival, Kichimatsu started grumbling that one of his carp was missing, when Toku-yan, the younger brother of Waichiro, showed up and blurted out everything.

      "You know what? The truth is Kisa-yan brought the fish to my house the other day and polished it off with my brother."

      The instant he heard it, Kisaburo jumped sideways and ran away to hide in Waichiro's house. At night he sent Waichiro to his house as a conciliator, while he was standing under the eaves to detect any sign of what was going on in there. He heard Waichiro stammering out an apology. Fortunately, Kichimatsu's anger cooled vaguely thanks to the visit of Aunt Fusa Iwasaki from Kameoka and Uncle Seiroku Sano from Funaoka for the festival.

      At the autumn festival on the next day, Kisaburo stuffed himself with so much shiruko sweet red bean paste soup with rice cakes, and mackerel sushi that he had loose bowels for three to four days.

      After binding his bowels, he gathered firewood. To exercise his abdomen now back in good shape, he let out a loud fart. Unfortunately, an old man gathering firewood behind him got angry at him, raised his sickle, and cut his kimono sash. He joined the ends of the cut sash pieces, and when he came home, Kichimatsu noticed it and threw his tobacco pipe at him before he was given a chance to explain.

      "Yet another stupid sumo match," Kichimatsu chided.

      Kisaburo did not justify himself. If he had tried clearing his father's misunderstanding, he would have had only another tobacco pipe thrown at him. Wetting the bump on his forehead with saliva, Kisaburo muttered in his mind.

      Didn't you also do a lot of sumo when you were younger, Dad, and from what I've heard even went by the ring name of 'Miyakodori'? My ancestors have liked sumo for generations, and I'm no exception.

      The author would like to add a few words for Kisaburo. At this point, Kisaburo had far greater physical strength than his father. Suppose he had resisted, he could have easily handled his father's fists or tobacco pipes. But he did not even think about it. He was only a punching bag or else ran away out of fear or guilt.

      No matter how much he was scolded, Kisaburo never learned to behave. Three or four sooty sumo referee's fans remained strewn over the attic. The Uedas had acted as a referee for miya zumo, or sumo wrestling performed in the precincts of a Shinto shrine, for three or four generations until his grandfather's. Kisaburo secretly took a fan and used it for amateur sumo bouts in the sandlot. When he tried washing the soot off the fan with river water, the dingy paper stretched on the wooden frame tore easily. He pasted new paper on the frame, smeared the paper with India ink, and returned the fan to the attic. For a while afterwards, whenever he saw the attic, he was afraid lest his father discover it.

      In the autumn of this year, Kisaburo saw a bone-setter again. He had gone to gather pine needles, walked in search of the darling image of Ran, and missed his footing on the rock. He had fallen into the valley, hurting his leg sinews. Fed up with the skilled doctor in Koshihata, he saw a bone-setter named Heisuke in his village. The over 70-year-old Heisuke used his brute strength for his age to wrench Kisaburo's injured legs, complicating the sprain further. Unable to stand, Kisaburo had been confined to bed at home for more than two months in late autumn. His imagination ran wild, holding Ran to his heart's content without worrying about falling into the valley.

      It was already six years ago. In the servants' room of the Saitos' at midnight, Kisaburo had been carving the design of a hawk perching on a pine tree on the tobacco tray he had produced, when Ran came in furtively to add fuel to the meagre flame. He promised to give the tray to her once it was completed. The tobacco tray would be of no use to the 12-year-old girl, yet she embraced the finished tray in her bosom and cherished it by stroking and caressing it. She was now 18 years old. Was she still holding that thing in bed tonight or had it been discovered and taken away from her?

      The simmering of his resentful blood gave way to a light mist of tears. The frustration with the status quo was biting Kisaburo intensely all over.

      "Hey there, have you heard?" said Yoshimatsu with a grin, sitting cross-legged at his brother's bedside.

      "I'm not interested," Kisaburo replied as he turned his back on him, thinking that he was just harassing him again.

      Assuming a half-crouching posture to leave the place, Yoshimatsu added, "It's about Ran. You really don't want to hear it?"

      "Say what? Hey...," said Kisaburo, turning around toward his younger brother.

      "Oh, you went pale. But, you don't care whatever Ran does, do you? Or... have you got something going on with her?"

      "Ran is not that kind of girl," Kisaburo asserted in defiance of Yoshimatsu's faint mocking smile.

      "Good grief. I hear you, I hear you...," said Yoshimatsu, his eyes flashing.

      "Yoshimatsu, spit it out pronto," Kisaburo fretted, sitting up in bed with his painful legs sprawling out.

      "Any girl looks pretty when she is eighteen. Even coarse tea tastes good when fresh. Oops, she's far from coarse tea. She's like refined tea in the village. Every man for tea picking and the devil take the hindmost."


      "Yoshiro picked her. I hear they're tying the knot soon. Why so fast, I wondered, and - hee-hee! - she got knocked up. Hey, does that ring a bell?"

      Yoshimatsu peered into his brother's face.

      "But as a son of a peasant family and a former servant of the Saitos, Kisa-koh will not stand a chance."

      "Get out of here. I'm sleepy," said Kisaburo, pulling the bed quilt over his head.

      Is this for real? Could it ever be true of Ran...?

      Yoshimatsu's eyes had been unusually serious. The expression on his face told that he was not lying. Bitter tears of regret gushed up in Kisaburo's eyes.

      He had wished to propose to Ran if he succeeded in life, but she had already grown mature. When he closed his eyes, he saw the final night of the bon festival. I was the one who pushed Ran to Yoshiro. The one who let her have a baby, Yoshiro's baby. It was meant to be, sooner or later. Since they were engaged, why not congratulate them instead? Who can blame them? Be happy, happy for them. While he was telling himself to do it, the world around him rapidly lost light. He wailed, thinking that he was plunged into the darkness of total loss.

      The festive excitement of the wedding at the Saitos' reached Kisaburo while he was sleeping. He tossed and turned in bed. He was agonised by the spectre of Ran in her beautiful wedding attire and with child.

      "Brother, hey, my brother...," Yoshimatsu provoked Kisaburo again. "My wimpy brother, aren't you going to take Ran back?"

      "Shut your mouth."

      "Broken-hearted guys are getting together at the riverbed. I hear they're holding a competition of drowning their sorrows in soy sauce, not sake. Gosuke, a son of a soy sauce shopkeeper, is going to bring one sho [11] of soy sauce. The winner will get the prize of one yen."

      Kisaburo was at a loss for words.

      "Go wreck the wedding or else go to the riverbed," goaded Yoshimatsu.

      "My legs are too painful to move. Rather, you're the one who should..."

      Kisaburo bit back the words that sprang to his lips. He suddenly noticed the pain running down Yoshimatsu's face. Ran and Yoshimatsu were same-age peers and studied side by side in school, but she hated him for being mean to her all the time. Aha! He also liked her.

      Kisaburo jumped out of bed and, limping on crutches, went out into the street. The full moon was dividing light and shadow under its bluish white rays. Elbowing his way through the white ears of Japanese pampas grass, he finally came down to the riverbed. There were five or six shadows of young men sitting in a circle, and they welcomed Kisaburo with cheers. Yoshimatsu was not there. He was probably drowning his sorrows in gambling somewhere.

      "I'm surprised you came, with those legs of yours...," Waichiro said.

      "Guys who just can't get Ran out of their minds are all here," Shigetaro added joyfully.

      "Heck, Kisa-ko, you're good at making wisecracks like 'Ran is the wife of my heart'," Takichi ridiculed Kisaburo in a vexed tone. "Ran's naginata halberd went crazy when Yoshiro thrust his flesh sword into her."

      It made the other guys laugh out loud.

      "Come on, let's get started. I'm going to beat you all."

      Kisaburo prepared himself for the worst. I'm going to have to drink Yoshimatsu's share. I can die. One yen, which everyone chipped in, was placed in the centre of the circle they were sitting in. Each of them tried in turn to gulp down the soy sauce filled to the brim of the rice bowel. They forced themselves to wash the liquid down their throats, but it was only Kisaburo and Takichi who barely emptied the bowel. The second bowel of soy sauce was even tougher. He went through death throes and lost all sense of what was going on with the others. Nevertheless, he guzzled soy sauce like crazy. Waichiro wrenched the bowel out of Kisaburo's hand and pushed one yen into it. Kisaburo had downed five go (about 0.9 litres) of the sauce.

      Throwing the money away, Kisaburo ran to the river with a limp. Takichi and the others were already going on a vomiting spree. He put his head into the stream of the river and gulped down the water. No matter how much water he drank, he was overcome with the burning pain and thirst. His belly, swollen from drinking so much water, swung heavily. It was hard for him to drink the water, but even harder not to drink it. At the pace he was going, he thought he might end up turning into a huge serpent and sinking into the depths of the river.

      His friends held Kisaburo under both arms and led him to the wooden backdoor of his house as he had frequent bouts of vomiting along the way. He barely went through the door and reached his bed quilt in a grovelling posture. All through the night he made incessant visits to the restroom. Tonight's wedding of the girl he had carried a torch for was far from his mind. The physical pain was overriding his suffering from the heartbreak.

      For yet another half month, Kisaburo had groaned in bed. On the day ending the half month, Kichimatsu got wind of the rumour about his son's soy drinking, and the cause of the illness infuriated him. Driven out of bed, Kisaburo had to sow wheat seeds. Side by side with Yoshimatsu, he held the hoe with his frail physical strength. The third brother, Kokichi, had already left Anao for apprenticeship in the village of Saeki.

      Beginning to have discretion to seek pleasure at night
                  I went out slinging a red blanket on my shoulder

      Fine gravel and leaves attached to the reverse side of the blanket
                  Made me blush when I saw them in the following morning

      The guy carrying a blanket for nightlife
                  Is what my friends laughingly called an otoko-soka (male prostitute)

      The above are poems composed by Kisaburo. Soka of otoko-soka refers to the lowest prostitute who provides sex for money by the roadside.

      "This place is it. Here nobody would stop us from talking about love, and we can get a terrific view of the lake."

      Kisaburo took the red blanket off his shoulder and laid it on the ground. He sat on it first and called for the woman.

      "I can't stand a place like this. I wonder if I may be getting any insect stings," said the woman, her tone hesitant yet nestling her full voluptuous body against him. Behind them was the thick grove of trees, and in front of them, the lotus lake. The sky was bespangled with stardust.

      "Hey, you really like me?"

      "I do, I do. That's why I'm here with you."

      "Oh, yeah? That better be true. Lying will get you nowhere."

      The passionate cheeks the woman was pressing to him were bumpy, probably because of her youthful pimples.

      Waichiro, Jutaro and other friends lost their virginity long ago. They walked all the way to Kameoka or downtown Kyoto to get into a brothel when they had money or else sneaked into a girl's room at night to make love to her. Only Kisaburo resisted their allurement and kept his chastity with a lingering affection for Ran despite being sneered at as a coward.

      It remains unknown who stole Kisaburo's virginity. The naive young man, speechless in the presence of his love, metamorphosed into a Don Juan after the deep scar of his heartbreak. It was one of his character traits that in whatever he did, he oscillated passionately like a pendulum swinging from right to left.

      In farming villages in those days, especially Anao, marriage was bound by rigid conventions such as birth, ancestry or wealth. Be that as it may, sex life between men and women was truly open and liberal. In fact, genitalia were frequent household words even in normal everyday speech.

      "Anao is such a good place that a woman steals into a man's bedroom at night to make love. The man who waits for her in his bed will have it easy later." It seemed that local variations of this ditty replacing Anao with another place were popular all over the country. Anao was a perfect embodiment of the lyrics. But it was a generous, easygoing outlet for the bloom of youth in the village with no amusement, rather than something so immoral for the villagers as to shift a defiant attitude toward what Taoist scholars claimed as sexual chaos. Any secluded place far from the village offered shades of trees or grasses for a man and woman to hide and lie down. When they clicked, they made love even on the ridge between rice fields at lunch break, an old villager reminisced.

      Held at Hiedano Shrine in Saeki, Hiedano Village next to Anao, the Saeki Lantern Festival was a strange celebration under the sun with a long history. As one of its distinctive features, it was held in the middle of the night. There was apparently an old custom associated with the festival that allowed men to snatch women at this night. When August came around, this festival was all the gossip of the Tambaji region. Young lads in Anao also flocked to the venue, and on the following day, let their exploits run riot, adding tall tales and blowing their own horns.

      The character of the locality had fermented the trend for youth to take pride in the number of women they conquered. Kisaburo would not mind risking his life even in the soy sauce drinking contest. He got off to a belated start in the skirt-chasing game once he lost his cherry, but he made a mad dash for any woman, fair or homely, as long as it was a competition.

      "Any type of woman is okay with me - someone's wife, a widow or an old woman," Kisaburo said indiscreetly. "I'm going to shag them all except men in Anao."

      He was really gung-ho about acting out his unscrupulous remark. In fact, he often stole into a woman's bedroom at night and made love to her.

      "I pissed on the threshold of the sliding door so it wouldn't squeak when I opened it," recalled Old Kisaburo, telling painstaking stories of the time even in his later years.

      Conquering women seemed easy for the self-avowed Ariwara no Narihira [12] of the day because he made an indiscriminate pass at the opposite sex with his intelligence and wit. Months later when he slept in his personal shed called Kirakutei, a woman would steal into his bedroom just as the ditty went.

      One night, two women separately sneaking into the shed ran into each other and started fighting near Kisaburo's bed. He ran away with his head in his hands and spent the night in the open air. His vigorous actions and outstanding achievements amazed the villagers so much that they gave him the truly direct nickname "Bobo Kisa" (Pussy Kisa). He was rather pleased to accept the epithet as a laurel crown of the conquest of women.

      To be tactful I habitually
                  Put on a tactless act.

      Sleeping in a mountain or lying on grass, I spent my youth
                  Indulging in "love grotesque" away from the public eye.

      Although I advocated "Love is best" in my youth,
                  No women in this countryside measured up to my satisfaction.

      Lamenting the lack of a beauty for me to tie the knot with,
                  I idled my youthful days away in vain.

      With the love of my life stolen away,
                  I was forced to pick up nothing but trash.

      Kisaburo and one of the women whom he described as trash were necking passionately on the red blanket. They heard sudden steps in the rustling bush behind them. The startled two let go of each other and took to their heels towards the village.

      After parting reluctantly from the woman, Kisaburo could not help wondering about the red blanket he had left behind. He retraced his steps ploddingly and found that the red blanket was already gone. Only the owl was hooting as if it were ridiculing him.

      "Shit! Even the owl is making fun of me."

      Kisaburo got sulky and kicked a stone into the pond. Someone patted him on the back so abruptly that he jumped out of his skin.

      "Kisa-yan, don't you need this blanket any more?"

      "Oh, O-Sen."

      Her presence made him feel small and ashamed. She had in her hand the red blanket he had left behind. It was a gift from Sen.

      "I need this back. Seems like it's getting in your way."

      "Come on! I cherish it very much. Otherwise, I wouldn't have bothered coming back just for the red blanket."

      "I hate you. I've never met such a dedicated womaniser as you. No matter how many women you make love to, I won't say anything because that's what being a man is all about. But how could you do it on this blanket...? I gave it to you with my whole heart..."

      Sen began to weep. Kisaburo apologised profusely.

      "I'll take this blanket until you stop playing around," said Sen with convulsive sobs, acting flirtatiously yet casting a side glare at him.

      I wouldn't do stuff like this with you chicks if it wasn't a fling.

      Kisaburo was about to blurt it out but hastily swallowed his words.

      The next day, Kisaburo was chewing the fat with his friends in the priest's living quarters of Anaoji Temple, when Kiwa Hatta came in to see Gyonin. Kiwa was a good-looking woman who had shocked the youth with her sudden marriage. She gave birth to a girl and got divorced in less than four years. The 26-year-old single woman had become ever sexier. There was no telling when Kisaburo contacted Kiwa, but rumours about them had already become widespread.

      "Hey, Kisa-yan. Look who's coming. Get a load of her."

      Kisaburo glanced back and said, "I can't tell who she is unless she comes closer to my kiwa (side)." This story is told among the elderly in Anao even today as an example of Kisaburo's quick-wittedness.

      As the autumn advanced, villagers took turns keeping watch on the rice fields every night from a shed that stored rice straw at a crossroads. They were manned to stop any wild boar descending to the village from devouring potatoes, or any unscrupulous person from stealing rice plants hung on rice-drying racks. It was the night when Kisaburo got his turn. Just to kill his boredom, he pulled out green soybean plants in the furrow, made a fire at the mound, and threw the plants in. When the plants were burnt out, the soybeans were left popped and roasted. He picked out the roasted beans from the ash and tossed them into his mouth. Chewing the ash-covered beans, he often spat out black saliva and looked out over the nondescript rice paddies.

      Kisaburo was biting cold in the middle of the frosty night. He snuggled into the rice straw in the shed with only his head sticking out and began dozing off to sleep, when the door of the watchman's box rattled. He opened the door, rubbing his sleepy eyes.

      "Oh, Sen. What's the matter?"

      "Forgive me, Kisa-yan," said Sen, her head drooping and the red blanket pressed to her chest.

      "Wh, wh, why?"

      "Kisa-yan, I was worried to death that you might be freezing watching over the rice plants alone. Forgive me for taking up the blanket out of spite."

      "I'm not cold at all. I was thinking only about you for a while and getting so passionate I even felt like stripping naked."

      Though saying whatever came to his mind, Kisaburo was touched by Sen's tender-heartedness and thought dearly of her. He led her in the shed and spread the red blanket on the floor.

      As the morning sun filtered in dazzlingly through the chinks of the shed, Sen reluctantly got up, brushing the straw pieces off her clothes. Her face was slightly smudged with the straw ashes left by Kisaburo's roving lips. The two intimately washed their faces at the brook and laughed together.

      "Kisa-yan, I'm begging you," Sen pleaded. "Please don't change your heart and fall for other women once and for all. Promise me by linking your pinky with mine."

      "Alrighty," said Kisaburo. "Starting today, you're my only love. I just composed a poem: 'Now that things have come to this pass, I will take the pepper as a flower.' How's that?"

      "Thanks a bunch! So, I will be your wife."

      Sen firmly hooked her little finger with Kisaburo's. Even though they were just kidding around, when it came that close to taking nuptial vows, he stammered. Am I ready to take this woman, the one who asked me to think of the red blanket as a token of her true heart, as my wife and settle down in Anao for the rest of my life? Even if it means I have to sacrifice my great ambitions from childhood?

      Kisaburo suddenly got unnerved, knelt down, and said as if praying to Sen, "I'm joking, just joking. It's a fib. I'm not ready to get a wife yet. And I'm not going to until I can stand on my own. So please, can you forget about the pinky promise?"

      At a time like this, the Don Juan of Anao was left with egg on his face. He was totally miserable. A dead serious expression came over his face.

      "I know. You're just playing games," Sen retorted. "But, for some reason, I can't hate you. If you remember me - I don't care it's a game or not - could you make love to me once in a while?"

      Blushing, Sen scratched his head before her and pressed it to her chest.

      In recollection of the dissipated life he had led, Kisaburo had the nerve to compose the next poem:

      The Kami has blessed me since I was young
                  Never have I gotten into trouble with women

      His suffocating passion for indulging in women had cooled down by the coming of winter. Just as if he reached the bottom of a muddy swamp, he suddenly kicked the bottom and floated upwards, developing a strong craving for something pure, which was the antithesis of his hedonistic lifestyle.

      For good or bad, Kisaburo's quickness to adapt to changing circumstances nurtured the formation of his core values in his youth.

      In the winter of that year, Kisaburo visited the tutelary deity night after night amid villagers' ridicule of him as "superstitious."

      Oh Kami, help me rise in the world
                  And I swear I will repay you a hundred fold

      The poem reflected Kisaburo's true feelings. He bargained with the Kami for material rewards.

      His faith was still immature, but so passionate as to feel compelled to knock on the door of the divine world for a reply from the Kami.

      One midnight Kisaburo was making a long prayer. When he looked up, he sensed something moving away from the roots of a big tree.

      He strained his eyes and saw the silhouette of a woman in the starlight - she was sidling up to him.

      "Kiraku-han, Kiraku-han...," she called his kanku name and gave a joyful chuckle. Her hair was dishevelled and strewn down to the middle of her back.

      "I know what you were praying for," she said. "You want a woman, don't you? Is that it, Kiraku-han...?"

      He stiffened all over and drew back. Her hot breath was nestling up to him.

      "No one's here. It's okay to like me."

      Abruptly, she hugged him. She was the insane woman, the one who was rumoured to have gone crazy from unrequited love. He felt rushed to struggle for freedom from her clinging arms.

      "Ku-ku-ku-ku...," the woman chuckled.

      The sound of the wind rustling through the treetops and the muffled laugh of the loony were both chillingly repulsive.

      "I need no women. I've grown out of them. I'm sick of them! Get off me, get off!"

      Almost knocking her to the ground, Kisaburo rushed down the stone steps of the shrine, dashed through the precincts, and clung to the shadow of the haunted lantern. No flame was lit in the lantern to save lamp oil.

      "Kiraku-han, Kiraku-han...," the lunatic cried out, chasing up the stone steps by the lantern, and then running back down the steps.

      "The smell of a human," she snuffled around. "Why are you running away from me?"

      Her pale arms were lunging at Kisaburo from the other side of the lantern. He narrowly dodged them and fled, sliding down the bank of the Inukai River and diving for his life into the water covered with thin ice. He finally managed to drag himself onto the opposite bank of the river, and when he looked back, he found the crazy woman beckoning aloud. Soaked to the skin with his teeth chattering, he took a detour to get home.

      The following night, Kisaburo glanced around nervously as he approached Obata Shrine. To the side of the worship hall, lo and behold, he spotted the black shadow of the insane woman he had encountered the night before. He threw himself down in the grass, hastily offered a silent prayer to the tutelary deity, and crept back the way he came. For days that followed, Kisaburo made do only with prayers to the kami from a distance until she gave up and disappeared from the grounds of the shrine at midnight.

      One frosty night, Kisaburo had a mysterious vision while prostrating himself before the altar of the shrine. The clear sound of horse hooves was approaching. He rose with a start, when out of darkness appeared a bizarre ghostly being straddling a white horse. The spectral being and the white horse vanished without a trace as if they were sucked into the shrine. He grovelled in the dirt with awe.

      Kisaburo would often go three and a half ri (about 9 miles) north to Funaoka, passing by Yagi and Shinjo, ferrying across the bridgeless Oi River (upper stream of the Hozu River), and walking a path through rice fields. Funaoka was the home village of his father. His uncle, Seiroku Sano, was a very serious and devout missionary of the Myorei Kyokai. When his nephew came, Seiroku would take him to the Funaoka branch church located in the same row as Seiroku's house. The church, which was newly built that year, emitted the fresh scent of the wood in the immediate proximity of the low hill range, rice fields, and cultivated lands. Kisaburo asked Jinnosuke Yamada, who had built the church with Seiroku, about the teachings of the religion.

      Jinnosuke belonged to the Myorei Kyokai when he was younger under the guidance of Yusuke Kishimoto. When his mother, Kane, was suffering from asthma, Jinnosuke asked Kishimoto, who happened to be staying at the Sanos' house in his missionary work, to pray for his mother's healing. Kishimoto stared into Kane's face and had this to say.

      "Even my prayers won't work for your asthma. But it will be cured right away - if your son joins our faith."

      Hearing Kishimoto's words from Kane, Jinnosuke as a boy thought it was a cock and bull story. He asked Kishimoto to meet with him in a bid to unmask the imposter. And yet, he was actually impressed by the missionary's personality. He also observed his mother's persistent illness being cured as Kishimoto chanted "Myo myo myo" to the Kami with all his heart. Since that time, Jinnosuke had become a devout believer. As an adult, he worked hand in hand with Seiroku Sano and achieved outstanding performance during his missionary work in the Kuchi-Tamba region.

      Jinnosuke was so charmed by Kisaburo's talent that he, together with Seiroku, repeatedly urged Kisaburo to follow their faith.

      "My mentor Mr. Kishimoto always says, 'you're such a rare genius that you'll have no choice but to serve the Kami.' So, you must become a missionary for this church - absolutely."

      Kisaburo took a boat down the Oi River on his way back to his village. The boatman plied his pole and rode out the swift current with finesse, the thrill of which he was most anxious to experience. Once the boat landed on the beach in Utsune, he nipped home to Anao.

      Yone was getting dressed for an outing, with a pale look on her face. The word just came that Karu, her oldest sister, was ill. She continued to visit Karu in Imazu, Chiyokawa Village, a little over one ri (about 2.5 miles) from her home, not minding about her pregnancy. Kisaburo also took turns with his mother in visiting his aunt every three days. He found the emaciated invalid confined to bed all by herself. Her husband was out working the fields.

      "Kisa, I missed you so much I was dreaming about you. Fancy you came!"

      Karu was nostalgically reaching out her skinny hands. Tears gathered in the crow's feet by her eyes. But, she had lost all her strength to rise from her sickbed.

      "Aunt Karu, what's wrong with you?" Kisaburo asked, his hands gripping her lank wrist.

      "In here. A fox spirit came into my belly and is acting up...," said Karu, pressing the swollen part of her abdomen painfully.

      "Excuse me," an old woman said in a deep voice as she entered the house.

      She swung her purification wand quickly and started chanting an incantation to an over-dramatic excess. With the fox spirit being exorcised, Karu let out a groan and rolled about on the tatami floor with a fierce look on her face. It made Kisaburo feel gloomy to find on the shelf a large household shrine for the Inari Deity and Its fox messengers. He did not have the slightest clue what to do with his aunt as she was going mad in writhing agony. With nervous sweat on his forehead, he could do nothing but pray that her pain would be eased.

      Whenever he went to Imazu, Kisaburo saw this old woman who acted as a medium of the Inari Deity. Her confident attitude made even Kisaburo believe to an extent that the fox spirit would be driven away from her aunt. As it turned out, however, she died in the hot summer. She was 58.

      The old medium insisted that Karu breathed her last the moment the fox spirit left her body. She pointed to Karu's flattened abdomen and said that she exorcised the evil fox, after which Karu's soul did not return to her body. Convinced by what was being said, Karu's husband thanked the old woman for all she had done for his wife. Yone burst into tears. Never did Kisaburo witness his mother showing such intense emotions before.

      "Forgive me," Yone kept on crying. "I made you like this. I'm to blame."

      It was not until her husband Kichimatsu, who was anxious about her pregnancy, took her in his arms that she barely left the wake.

      Aunt Karu was so considerate of Kisaburo as to invite him to go away with her after he had been scolded by his father and fled to Mt. Tonoyama. She got married at over 40 years of age, feeling lonely, and without most people noticing it. She was not blessed with any child after marriage, nor did she look like she had led a happy life. Thinking of his aunt's adverse and difficult life, Kisaburo suffered a pain as if he were responsible for it - a pain greater than even his mother was going through as she had felt guilty for taking a husband before her oldest sister. He resented his own inadequacy. How dare a mere scum like the damned fox take my aunt's life!

      Kisaburo was outraged by foxes, raccoon dogs and other vulgar spirits that infested innocent farming villages for deceiving people and using vehement power to do them harm or antagonise them by taking advantage of their weaknesses.

      Reflecting on his aunt's death, Kisaburo became sceptical even of divinities and spirits and had a sense of emptiness. In this world, there's eventually no other way but to believe in yourself and rely on your own ability, is there? He even felt his burning faith in the tutelary deity wavering in a transient motion despite his frequent visits to the shrine for divine aid night after night.

      Kisaburo had come to have serious discussions about life with his friends more frequently than getting hooked on sumo wrestling or sharing obscene stories with them.

      Taking a break with his friends after having gathered firewood, Sadakichi, a son of a tenant farmer, grumbled with vexation.

      "My mom is having a baby again. My siblings are multiplying one after another, and all the hassle is weighing on me as the oldest brother - for my parents' temporary consolation. Can you believe it? Besides, when those damned siblings grow up, they'll take away what little property we have for their bride or groom."

      "Yeah, I hear you," Shigezo chimed in. "It's disgusting to see a smug look on an old parent who gets pregnant at her age."

       "Why do women want to have so many babies?" Sadakichi wondered. "What weird creatures!"

      Kisaburo said, "I'd feel reassured to have even one new addition to my family."

      "Hey, now that you mention it," Waichiro recalled. "Kiraku-han's mother is also pregnant."

      "That's why every night I pray to the tutelary deity for Mom's easy delivery," said Kisaburo.

      Yone, aged 45, was expecting her sixth baby. Kisaburo prayed not just for his mother's safe childbirth; in fact, when Ran gave birth this past May, he had also secretly frequented Obata Shrine to seek a blessing for her delivery.

      "Having kids in a row is like piling poverty on top of poverty," Sadakichi lashed out at Kisaburo. "What makes you like that dumb idea so much, Kiraku-han?"

      "I don't care about piling poverty on top of poverty. Rather, I'm happy about my parents with all the vigour to have a new baby," Kisaburo replied, leaving everyone speechless for a time.

      "I know how you feel, Kiraku-han," Sadakichi retorted. "Still, fields don't multiply when people do. Big landowners benefit from it, but what about us tenant farmers? We'll go down and out and starve to death."

      "The more people multiply, the more efforts they will make," said Kisaburo. "We won't starve to death for nothing. Agricultural technologies will improve by leaps and bounds. Being a farmer isn't the only job. A labour-intensive industry will prosper. Living side by side with neighbours on land isn't everything. The sky is available. We should explore a three-dimensional expansion of our world. Food that makes us full with just three pills will be invented one of these days."

      "You're going really far with this," Sadakichi got bewildered. "Hmm... but can it really come true?"

      "It will," Kisaburo asserted. "Japan is indeed a small country, but it's not a poor one. A barren land is not a wasteland like the one you find around here but a land that has no plants growing on it. You can't make hair grow on a bald head, right? So it's a land where no plants will ever grow no matter how much you plough the soil or plant seeds. It's called a desert because it rains there only two or three times a year. There's no soil in a desert - all dry sand. In fact, there're lots of deserts in the world that engulf the whole of Japan. The same goes for the tundra in Siberia. It's so cold all year round no plants can grow there. Only something like moss does. Highlands in Central Asia, Europe, the Americas and the like don't produce good crops, either. Countries like that can't be called 'rich' just because they have vast lands. But look at Japan. It has adequate rainfall. It produces various crops all year round. And it has terrific seasonal changes. Plants and trees are luxuriant wherever you go. Coastlines are long, too. In other words, they're so rugged and convoluted they're blessed with abundant marine products. The same is true of Japan's bountiful products from mountains. Mountainous countries can also be called 'vast and rich countries'. Convert Japan's mountains into plane areas, and you'll know it would be much larger than it is now. And it would be more productive accordingly. Japan, the land of greenery with its fertile sea and broad mountains, appears tiny, but it's actually quite a large country with its underlying real strength.

      "Hmm, " Sadakichi said. "You were a school teacher all right, but you've never seen areas outside Anao and its vicinity just like we haven't. How can you know a lot about Japan and the rest of the world?"

      Kisaburo replied, "Well, anyone will know stuff like this if they read books and look over the world."

      "Then why are we so poor?"

      "Maldistribution of wealth is the primary cause. Look at Anao Village. There are 123 households, and 36 of them are poor peasants who can't even live from hand to mouth. As a huge landowner, the Saito family alone amasses a third of Anao's total property. We're no different than those 36 households in abject poverty. We're so young and energetic we can somehow eke out a living with a day's wage. Wealth is monopolised by the select few not just in Anao, but all over Japan as well.

      "How true!" Sadakichi made a handclap, convinced.

      "And yet, we still haven't fully utilised Japan's geography."

      "What do you want us to do then?"

      "Complaining about your parents' reproduction will get us nowhere. We need to bear and multiply excellent descendants and let them learn one thing after another. Things mankind dreams of are all feasible."

      Sadakichi was at a loss for words.

      "I often have dreams. For example, I had a dream about digging up undersea ore deposits.

      "You're actually an adventurer, are you not?" Sadakichi interrupted Kisaburo, aghast. "Dreams are dreams. Reality is reality. Anao hasn't changed even a bit since we were children. We're simply tenant farmers who do nothing but crawl in muddy rice fields just like our dads and granddads did."

      Kisaburo said, his tone decisive. "Can't you just wait a little longer? I will change agriculture in Anao, or better yet, agriculture in Japan."

      In September, Yone delivered her sixth baby and also her second daughter named Kimi. The moment he heard the powerful first cry of the new-born, Kisaburo rushed to the tutelary deity and joyfully offered a Shinto prayer.

      He had passed through his teens as an obsessed prankster, worn himself out with womanising since his first love broke his heart, and got hooked on religious faith. Now he abruptly changed into an agricultural reformer. On each occasion he became enthusiastic about whatever he chose to do. He felt that farmers' slave-like labour had to be reduced not only because he made a grandiose promise to his friends but for himself as well. He thus believed that it was of the utmost urgency to first improve or invent farm implements. He racked his brain trying to figure out a solution between intervals of his labour.

      Isn't the width of the hoe too narrow? If it were double the current width, it could plough double the amount of soil at one swing. The hoe would be somewhat heavier, but with work efficiency improving twice as much, only half the usual labour would be enough - easy arithmetic even grade school kids can figure out. Farmers are so stuck in their habits they won't even think up an idea this simple.

      No sooner had Kisaburo got the inspiration than he acted it out. He knocked on the door of Nishida the blacksmith in Kakihana, Hiedano Village. It was a neighbouring village where his father's younger sister, Koishi, had lived since her marriage. Although Nishida was tilting his head in doubt, Kisaburo placed an order payable in arrears for some 20 hoes based on his new design. The finished farm utensils were ill proportionately wide. He hawked his wares dubbed the "Ueda-style efficiency hoes" throughout his village. The outcome was a disaster, though. The hoes were too heavy to be raised and took too much time for the blades deep in the soil to be pulled out. When forced out of the earth, they were broken at the handle. His proud invention soon proved to be useless.

      Not learning any lesson from the hoe, Kisaburo devised yet another invention: the Ueda-style rice polisher. Since his childhood he had been given a hard time stepping on the pestle to polish rice in the mortar embedded in the dirt floor of the house. It would wear out his legs. His rice polisher was based on the logic that it would pound twice as much rice at one step if one used two sets of mortar and pestle, one each in front and back. He gathered villagers and showcased the Ueda-style rice polisher. The logic behind the machine was all right, but it actually required twice as much physical strength to step on the two already heavy pestles. He ended up making them burst into laughter and quickly bestow upon him the newly added nickname: Kome Kisa ("Rice Kisa").

      "If you have a quixotic idea about farm work," Kichimatsu fumed. "You'll never make it as a farmer. You big disgrace!"

      Despite a few more farm implements I invented
                  None of them worked out right.

      Kisaburo realised that he might not have good brain faculty about physics or chemistry. He simply decided to leave the issue of improving agricultural affairs to others and switched gear promptly, thinking that it would be more suited for him to think about reforming social systems to create a society that would share mutual heartfelt joy for a multiplying number of siblings or a world where workers would be paid commensurate with their workload.

      Kisaburo was sowing barley seeds in the autumn rice fields, pondering over this world or his country so deeply that he did not look behind him and fell from the 3 jo (3.3 yard) high bank into the mountainous rice paddy below. He should not have engaged in farm work with his back in pain, but having felt ashamed of yet another failure, he just could not restrain himself. Three days later, when Kichimatsu discovered him, he could not move as his back had swollen with a fever. His father went so pale that he forgot to come down hard on him and instead ran for a surgeon in Akakuma (currently Akakuma, Higashi Honme-cho, Kameoka City). The surgeon came to diagnose him.

      "Not a chance. Too late now," the surgeon made a heartless declaration. "Your back won't heal for the rest of your life."

      "How could you be so blunt?" Kisaburo hit back at him. "That's too much. You've got to do something. My butt has a splitting pain."

      "Your butt was split from the beginning."

      "It's no joke. I'm the one who'll some day have to go ahead with major reforms of the state. If you can't make me move, it'll be a great loss for mankind."

      "I'm not sure if it's mankind or ape kind, but there's nothing I can do to heal your back. Well, just embrace the reality and lie in bed for the rest of your life."

      To look back on his life, Kisaburo must have hurt his back time and again by falling off cliffs or tumbling down in sumo wrestling. But at long last, his back had become useless. Imperturbable as he was, Kisaburo cried aloud.

      Uno brought some moxa from the family Buddhist altar, forced her unwilling grandson into submission and burnt the moxa on his skin wholeheartedly. She had carried on with this treatment for three weeks without missing a single day. The moxibustion succeeded in relieving his lower back pain, which was once declared incurable. However, his back got chilled and began to ache again while he was treading barley plants under an early winter cold sky. Shortly afterwards, he developed ascites.

      Yone heard rumours of a skilful moxibustion practitioner in Kusayama Village of the Settsu region of Osaka. She urged Kisaburo to visit the practitioner with her for moxibustion. Aware of moxa's medicinal effect, Kisaburo left his house in the middle of the night for Settsu, carrying some rice balls.

      On the early afternoon of the following day, Kisaburo finally located the whereabouts of the moxibustionist in Kusayama Village. He looked quite decrepit. They said that he would turn eighty this year. As expected, however, he was a seasoned practitioner, and he was kind enough to teach Kisaburo about this and that pressure points while pressing the body for the right points on which to place moxa.

      The door opened suddenly, and a police officer stepped into the room. He woke up Kisaburo lying in bed half naked and started shouting at the moxibustionist while seizing him by the collar.

      "Surely you're prepared to face the consequences for treating your patient without a license. I'm taking you to the police station."

      Judging from the way the police officer talked, the practitioner had apparently been caught in the act several times before. Kisaburo had no idea when this license stuff began and what happened to it afterwards. He guessed that there might have been no such law in olden days when the moxibustionist learned his skill, and that he could hardly adapt to the changing system due to his age. Why did the police have to prohibit this gentle old man from applying moxibustion when he had used his mastery to help patients, some of whom indeed became cured, and when he had earned his living through monetary rewards from his patients?

      The youth's blood boiled with righteous indignation. Unable to leave the old man in the lurch as he was being taken away like a criminal, Kisaburo nonchalantly accompanied him to the police station in Jio.

      "I twisted this doctor's arm for moxibustion," said Kisaburo. "He didn't really want to do it. I'm responsible for the whole thing. Could you please forgive him?"

      Kisaburo emptied his purse to pay a non-penal fine of 25 sen in the place of the moxibustionist.

      It was in the late autumn of Meiji 25 (1892) that Kisaburo met this girl just over 10 years his junior. He was on his way back from Fushimi, where he had delivered some rice flour, pulling his empty cart over the Oi no Saka ridge. As he was approaching the Kuragari no Miya shrine in Oji, the thongs of his second straw sandals were worn out and cut off. Despite the fair weather, the wind was piercingly cold, and he had a hard time tying the thongs of his third sandals with his numbed fingers. He finished tying them and looked up, when he found a girl on all fours trembling in the small gutter beside the road. It sure was a girl, but her hair was awfully discoloured in reddish brown and dishevelled.

      "Hey," Kisaburo talked to her, worried about the way she acted. "Don't you feel cold? Are you collecting freshwater clams?"

      The girl looked back, but then again cast a serious gaze at the water right after pressing her lips into a thin line. Onisaburo almost went past her, but being nosy or something, he left his cart and bothered to come back.

      "Get out of the gutter first. I can't stand looking at you freezing."

      Kisaburo reached out and swept up the girl in his arms. Her lightness gave him a lump in his throat. Perhaps she's an orphan.... She's wearing a battered unlined kimono despite this cold. Her bare legs knee down in the water are bright red and swollen... The girl floundered about with hard kicks.

      "You idiot! Don't get in my way!" She cried out.

      "How come you went in the water?" Kisaburo asked.

      "I dropped my money. I'll get scolded if I don't run an errand right away."

      "How much?"

      "One sen. It rolled into this gutter."

      "Only one sen. No big deal. I'll..."

      Kisaburo flinched at the girl's eyes as she looked up in mid-sentence. Her eyes were limpid and powerful in a pure face that was incongruent with her appearance.

      "I don't want it," she said. "The one sen I dropped matters to me."

      She brushed off his offer and went into the gutter, tightly biting her pale quivering lip.

      "All right. I'll look for it with you," Kisaburo said - with regret for himself pitying her appearance and easily offering to give money as if to treat a beggar. Her flat brisk refusal brought him to shame.

      Kisaburo got down on all fours, feeling that he must seek out the one sen at any cost. He would not be able to stand the biting coldness of the gutter water if he took a half-hearted attitude.

      Soon he found the one sen sunk under a stone in the water and put it onto the girl's frail palm.

      "Thanks a lot. Occhan ("Middle-aged man"), I really thank you."

      She must have been elated, showing a glance of her endearing dimple on one cheek as she was hurrying to carry on with the errand.

      Me, Occhan?...Well, no big deal.

      Kisaburo smiled wryly and began to pull his cart. The girl's arresting eyes and smile warmed the cockles of his heart as he went along the way. But the same heart was also pierced by her skinny physique when he lifted her in his arms and her shabby clothes.

      This small event sank to the bottom of his consciousness as time elapsed. And it lingered inside him many months and years after following a checkered fate. After all, the time would come in the distant future when he would realise that a fateful string to join the two passing each other had already been cast at this very moment.

      Seinosuke Yagi, dubbed "Master Dohenkutsu Uho," was writing in his diary - a habit he had not forgotten a single day since he was a boy - at his quiet retreat in Haida, Chiyokawa Village. He was elaborately writing fine letters with a small brush on long strips of twofold thick Japanese paper.

      ...April 16, Sunday, raining...making things out of straw since this morning due to the rainy weather...

      Seinosuke stopped writing and inadvertently thought of his daughters. His eldest daughter, Sato, got married last year and was already independent of his care. What worried him at the moment was his second daughter, Ben, who delightedly hurried off to Anao despite the rain. She had already reached the marriageable age of 19 since he raised her all by himself after his wife, Mitsu, died five years ago. She suddenly began looking like a maiden since around spring, and these days, she appeared wistfully charming somehow. He wanted to get her hitched with someone before she went past her prime.

      Ben rushed her grandmother, Suma, into accompanying her to Anaoji Temple to give help at its spring Buddhist memorial service, to which Ben had been impatiently looking forward. The ones who stayed at home were Ben's younger sister, Nao, a two-time divorcee, and her eldest brother, Ushinosuke. Ben and Suma would be away from home for 10 days or so as the memorial service was expected to last for a week from April 19. Seinosuke shifted his grip on the brush and wrote only the points of what he did.

      ...Mother and Ben to Anaoji Temple in rain. One pot of six orchids, which I got from Chojiya in Yagi today...

      ...This evening I bathed at Ishiya...

      Anaoji's spring Buddhist memorial service kept Ben busy all day on April 19.

      The memorial service had been held in the Main Hall since the morning. Ben's uncle, Priest Gyonin Gondaisojo ("Deputy archbishop"), was leading the ceremony. He was seated in the centre in a purple robe and a scarlet stole with white crests over the robe, flanked by eight other priests on either side. They were all chanting Buddhist sutras. The Main Hall was packed with pious men and women. Once the chanting was over, Gyonin preached a sermon. This alternate round of chanting and preaching was repeated for the turnover of visitors until the evening.

      Anaoji's memorial service would continue for a week until April 26. But Ben was working so diligently in the priests' living quarters that she had little time to peep into the Main Hall. She needed to entertain influential people of the village and others in the main temple of the Anaoji temple complex, which resembled a manor house in the feudal ages.

      The main temple, as legend has it, was brought all the way from Rinnoji Temple in Nikko as a charity donation by ox carriage and on a makeshift raft through Lake Biwa when Anaoji was burnt down in battles waged by the feudal warlord, Akechi Mitsuhide, in the Empo Era (1673-81). The carvings on the transoms of the temple rooms were influenced by the Nikko style of carving.

      The memorial service was completed, and the guest priests from Tendai-sect temples in Kyoto were offered a bath and Hannya-toh, meaning "sake rice wine" in the jargon of the Buddhist clergy. There was a pile of tableware to be washed and put away even after the tipsy, red-faced priests were gone to bed. Ben's grandmother, who came over here with her from Haida Village, had already stayed at the home of her uncle, Shintaro Murakami, to avoid possible confusion at the temple.

      However restlessly her fingers were moving, Ben's heart was not there. She had been apprenticed in central Kyoto for about three years and came back to her home town on her leave two years ago. Since then, she had visited Anaoji whenever there was an event at the temple to assist her uncle, Priest Gyonin, on his request. In this year's vernal equinoctial week, a Buddhist service was held for segaki (hungry ghosts), when she met a young man. He grabbed her heart instantly despite a casual exchange of just a few words. It was love at first sight. She heard that he was a student of her father's kanku club. For all his shabby clothes, he impressed her as a refined young man who would look great in a full Japanese court dress of traditional fashion.

      Thereafter, Ben began lending an attentive ear to the rumours of none other than Kisaburo Ueda. A genius, "Hachi-mon Kisa," a womaniser, a religious devotee - the villagers' evaluations of him were diverse, and conflicting with one another. His enigmatic being made her think that it added all the more depth to his personality. And to top it off, his looks were just right for her.

      You can't find a smart beautiful man like him, not even in central Kyoto.

      "Are you coming back for the spring memorial service?" Kisaburo said coyly when he met Ben for the first time.

      She gave him a hurried yet strong nod.

      Ben thought that she heard Kisaburo murmur "See you then." It was hardly called a promise, but since that particular moment, Ben had been longing for the day when she could see him again. She gave a wistful sigh while taking maidenly pains to make sure that she got the right kimono to the memorial service, the right hairstyle and the right makeup.

      Even in Anao, there're lots of good-looking girls. I'm afraid they won't leave him alone...

      Ben felt resentfully jealous of the one-ri (2.5-mile) distance between Anao and Haida. When she came to the temple for help, she was so tied up that she had no time even to confirm whether Kisaburo was in the main hall. If things were this hectic every day for the coming week, what would be the use in waiting anxiously for the memorial service...? She was wishing for a connection with him at a Buddhist ceremony for deserted ghosts with no connection to the Buddha. No matter how much her inner flame was burning, she did not have the courage to excuse herself from the priests' living quarters out of consideration for some other female helpers.

      "I'll sub for you," someone told Ben. "He's calling you for a second."

      She gave the person a surprised look and found a beautiful woman as many as seven or eight years her senior.

      Ben paused for thought.

      "It's Kiraku-han," the woman whispered to Ben under her breath. "He needs you for something...."

      It was Kiwa Hatta. Ben knew who she was because she often came to the temple. Kiwa, once married and then divorced, stayed single with her children. Ben had heard that Kiwa was one of Kisaburo's women. She was older than him and was so frank and open-hearted that Ben harboured no such rivalry or jealousy against her as she would normally do against women of Kiwa's age.

      "He's waiting beside the landscaped hill in the courtyard," said Kiwa, pushing Ben on the back as she was blushing and unable to respond. "Almost done with clearing away the dishes and everything. I'll take care of the rest, neat and tidy. Have him walk you to Murakami's house."

      Ben hurried to groom herself, unwinding the cord to tuck up the sleeves of her kimono in the innermost drawing room.

      She went down to the courtyard through the connecting corridor and walked on tiptoe along the lotus pond. A waxing moon was out. In the courtyard was a famous landscape garden built in the lingering style of the Momoyama period (1568-1600). The old Japanese white pine standing west of the landscaped hill, and the beautiful protective rocks encircling the pond appeared hazy as if they were sunk to the bottom of the pond. She spotted Kisaburo behind the 1.8-meter (2-yard)-long linear thicket of luxuriant soft stem bulrushes growing upright about in the middle of the pond. He was sitting on a large garden rock in poor clothes, which he did not seem to mind, and was gazing innocently into the water surface.

      Ben fixed her eyes on her love. The temple's old elegant drawing room that could not match the lowly young man exposed to the wind of the field and racing against time in daily farm work or cart-pulling. The extravagant atmosphere of the garden. But the girl in love saw through him with her intuition. She sensed that Kisaburo's fine white skin, clear-cut face, long and slender fingers, and royal dignity blended in perfectly with the garden and floated in the air. She held her breath and stood quietly as if in fear.

      Kisaburo was listening to the spring water welling up. A carp splashed, breaking the shadow of the two-story pagoda sunk on the surface of the pond. Then came the rippling shadow of a woman... He looked up and smiled. His heart was beating fast with joy as he crossed the stone bridge and approached Ben.

      "I'm sorry to call you over here," Kisaburo bobbed his head spontaneously, despite his hasty attempt to grope for romantic words.

      Ben was speechless, nervously lowering her eyes. She had her gentle black hair tied back in a knot with red silk. Kisaburo thought of her simple hairstyle as cute. He also loved her full lips and the maiden slope from her neck through her cheek. He wanted to pull her close and hold her tight. Though overflowed with affection for her, he could not put it in words before the air of apparent anger and wholehearted refusal emanating from her. A Don Juan of Anao, who boldly declared his resolve to conquer all the women in the village and had been at it, woefully lacked courage when it came to his true love. He was no different from a naive boy.

      Kisaburo was perplexed and reached out his hand hesitantly. Its hot palm took Ben's slender hand with no resistance. She was struggling with trembles of her entire body, hiding her flushed face and suppressing her panting breath. Her desire for the embrace of her loved one was mixing with her impulse to push him aside and run away on the double.

      "I like you, Ben," Kisaburo whispered in a squeezing hoarse voice.

      Ben shuddered violently to the point where it became unbearable, and shook herself free of his grip.

      No, you can't run away...

      She cried it out to herself in her mind. Yet her legs were running on their own in fright. Covering her chest with both hands as if to embrace Kisaburo's words of love, she passed through a dark alley and ran on the path along the Inukai River without knowing it.

      Kisaburo was standing under the eaves of the Murakamis' house, which Ben rushed into. He wanted to say to her that he was "seriously" in love with her. I'll give her up if she doesn't like me... But if she does... I want to know how she feels about me...

      "What's the matter? You look pale," said Aunt En.

      Kisaburo was holding his breath in anticipation of a reply from her. After a while, he heard her respond to her aunt in a quivering voice.

      "I was scared on the dark road, and I ran back. So my heart was beating fast..."

      "If you're going to be late, I'd better call for you. A marriageable girl like you needs to watch out for male youth's mischief, or else!"

      "No, Aunty, I'm all right," Ben interrupted Aunt En, flustered. "I'll come back by myself.... It won't scare me any more."

      Hearing it, Kisaburo involuntarily stood on tiptoe to nestle his ear against the lattice window. He could not catch what they were saying, but he felt his body heating up with joy.

      She didn't really hate it. She didn't mind seeing me...

      Soon the lamp in the house went off.

      With the Western indoor light turned off suddenly,
                  I gave up seeing her and left for home.

      It seems that as of the spring of Meiji 26 (1893), Western lamps had gradually replaced the traditional paper-covered wooden lamp stands. Seinosuke Yagi, Ben's father in Haida, wrote the following in his diary on April 17, two days before that day:

      ...I went shopping in Yagi. I bought 30 flatfish at Yaoshin's shop. I paid 10 sen and 5 rin. I bought a lamp at Nakagawa's shop. I paid 4 sen...

       Kisaburo could not get to sleep for a long time as his nerves were high strung. When the night was yielding to dawn, he had finally begun to feel the boundary between reality and dream blurring. Many women were wriggling on the red carpet. Kisaburo was struggling out of the women among whom he was trapped.

      "Flirting. Kisa-yan is just flirting," Sen whispered to Ben. Ben was sobbing. Aunt En was using her large build to pull and take away Ben.

      "Wait! Ben, Ben," Kisaburo cried out.

      He was running and running but still on the red carpet. A myriad hands of women twined around him.

      He shouted at the top of his voice, "Ben!"

      He awoke, surprised by his own voice. Sweat had wetted his whole body. A sense of despair left him overwhelmed even after he found that it was a dream.

      He was washing his face swollen from lack of sleep at the well, when his father Kichimatsu talked to him.

      "Kisa. Whose daughter is Ben?"

      "Say what?"

      "Don't hide it. You were saying 'Ben, Ben' in your sleep. You're also at a marriageable age already. Marry Ben if you like her. I'll go and negotiate as long as there's no difference in social status between her family and us."

      Kisaburo bashfully shook his head. He rushed into the street as if to run away, and he took a deep breath gazing at the pass of Mt. Chozuka (Mt. Takakuma).

      Ben's father, or Master Dohenkutsu Uho, was the same tenant farmer as the Uedas, and earned his living by peddling ink brushes. He was more or less even with the Uedas, who could not live by farming alone and pulled carts to boot.

      ... All right, when I stand on my own feet, I'm going to take Ben as my bride...

      Kisaburo made the secret vow in his heart.

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[1]^Kanku (literally "Crown Line") is poetry to be completed in the set form of 17 syllables with three lines in a 5-7-5 pattern by linking the predetermined first 5 syllables (Kamuri or "Crown") with two originally composed lines. Unlike Haiku, Kanku requires no seasonal indicators.
[2]^An incident where radical pro-imperial forces, chiefly samurai of the Choshu domain, were expelled from Kyoto by the advocates of kobu-gattai ("Reconciliation between the Imperial Court and the Tokugawa Shogunate") including the Satsuma and Aizu domains.
[3]^An incident where pro-imperial extremists of the Choshu domain, attempting to force their way into Kyoto, clashed with samurai from the Satsuma and Aizu domains as the guardians of the Imperial Court near the Hamaguri Gate of the Imperial Palace. Also known as the Hamaguri Gomon Incident.
[4]^An incident where the shogunal Shinsen-gumi police force attacked pro-imperial samurai, mostly from the Choshu domain, at the Ikedaya inn in central Kyoto.
[5]^Literally "Dear Cry Pavilion," it is an official Western-style hall built in the Meiji period for the entertainment of foreign dignitaries, where, for example, Japanese ladies in high society wearing Western dresses danced waltzes.
[6]^Volumes 9 and 10 of the Engi Shiki ("Procedures of the Engi Era"), enumerating officially recognized shrines across the nation. Incidentally, the Engi Shiki is a 50-volume work completed in 927 that includes codes, regulations and laws of Imperial Shinto, governmental administration and criminal justice.
[7]^Maeku-zuke (literally "Previous verse-capping") is poetry to be completed in the set form of 31 syllables with five lines in a 5-7-5-7-7 pattern by capping the predetermined latter 7-7 verses with originally composed 5-7-5 verses. Maeku-zuke laid the foundation for Senryu.
[8]^Mokugyo (literally "wooden fish") is a fish-shaped hollow wooden gong with a slit opening. It is struck with a padded stick while chanting Buddhist sutras.
[9]^Ahora-shi (literally the "Ahora Magazine") is also a homophone for a word that means "nonsense."
[10]^To pull carts, fly frogs, and cut worms is an indirect reference to "working the rice field."
[11]^"one sho" = 1.8 litres
[12]^An aristocrat and poet in the early Heian Period (794 - 1185). He was one of the six prominent waka poets mentioned in the Anthology of Ancient and Modern Japanese Poems. He may be identified with the hero of the Tales of Ise, most of whose love affairs were probably modeled after those of Ariwara no Narihira. His name is a synonym for a handsome young man.


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