The Kiso Wayfarer

You know, Karuizawa at the time was a veritable ghost town. It was autumn of Meiji 24 (1891), and the area appeared to be at the height of decline. At any rate, the once thriving post town on the Nakasendo was now utterly desolate. The land was unsuited to farming, and it was hardly possible even to make a living any more—indeed, many people had moved elsewhere. Father and I alighted from the train at Yokogawa, and took the stagecoach along the old road over the Usui Pass, rattling and shaking along. Arriving at the deserted inn in Karuizawa, we found it to be so lonely it was depressing. How different it is these days! The world has changed, and that area has become quite civilized. At the time, the inn where we stayed cost a mere twenty-five sen a night, so you can imagine what it must have been like. Now that very same inn is a splendid large building calling itself a hotel. As for what on earth we were doing in such a place, well, my father had the poetic turn of mind to view the autumn colors in the area around Myogi and Usui. Having exhausted ourselves in Myogi we caught the Usui-bound stagecoach, but we came dangerously close to overturning several times on the mountain road. It really shook us up, I can tell you! I was not in the slightest amused by our large, gloomy room in Karuizawa, but since Father found it to be nice and quiet, we were to stay there for four days or so. He really does have quite unusual tastes. And then, on the second day it poured with rain from morning. It was late October, a time when temperatures could suddenly drop here in old Shinshu province. Father and I sat before the large hearth at the center of the inn‟s common room, and listened to the landlord tell stories about the local area until finally, around sunset, a large man about fifty years of age strode confidently in. This man was a woodcutter by trade, and he had apparently spent around five years in Kiso, but had so missed his hometown, as desolate as it was, that he had returned at the start of the summer. Bored as we were, we called this woodcutter over to join us around the fire telling stories, and before long he started telling his own tales of when he had lived deep in the Kiso mountains. “Living in such remote mountains, scary things must happen sometimes,” I prompted him. Being young, my curiosity had been somewhat aroused. “Well, the mountains aren‟t all that different from anywhere else, you know,” he answered, surprisingly calm. “Big storms are as scary as it gets, really. Although hunters are sometimes taken in by them things.”

“What do you mean, them things?” “I don‟t rightly know. Some say they‟re age-old monkey spirits up to their tricks, but then again nobody has ever seen their true form. Well, to cut a long story short, say there‟s a duck waddling along. How very unusual, thinks the hunter, and he goes after it, but then the damned thing suddenly makes off as if to tease him. And so he goes tearing after it again. But anybody else watching sees nothing but the hunter chasing after thin air. When that happens, the other person shouts loudly, „Watch out, it‟s one of them things!‟ and that‟s the first the hunter realizes anything‟s amiss. There hadn‟t been anything there from the start—it had all just been in eyes of the hunter himself. “That‟s why hunters never go alone into the Kiso mountains. They always go in twos or threes. Another story I heard was of a couple of hunters in the mountains who drew some water from a mountain stream to cook rice. When they thought it was about time for it to be properly steamed one of them lifted the lid of the pot, but what should suddenly pop out but a large woman‟s head! The hunter hastily replaced the lid and, holding it firmly down, shouted, „It‟s one of them things! Quick, drive it away!‟ Upon which his fellow hunter immediately grabbed his rifle and fired off two or three shots into the air. When they lifted the lid of the pot again, the woman‟s head was nowhere to be seen. Well, this sort of thing is the work of them things, so they say, but the only ones ever to come across them are hunters and their ilk, and I never once saw anything of the sort in my woodcutter‟s cottage, you know.” He puffed away nonchalantly at his thick pipe as if that were the end of the matter. I was disappointed. In this desolate, decaying old post station, on a cold and rainy late autumn evening, I had been ready to listen to an uncanny tale from this man who had lived a good while in remote mountains, but my hopes had been dashed. Nevertheless, I pressed him further. “But living deep in the mountains for five years or so, there must have been one or two occasions when you came across something strange. Something that even if you yourself, being used to such things, thought nothing of, someone else hearing about it might think it uncommon or mysterious…” “Well now.” He furrowed his brow as if smoke from the firehad got into his eyes. “Come to think of it, in that long time there were indeed one or two strange happenings. But there was one occasion in particular that was somehow kind of creepy. Why, at the time I didn‟t think anything much of it, although later it struck me as downright weird. But why that should be, I couldn‟t say.” He was called Jubei, and lived together with his son Takichi, then six years old, in a remote woodcutter‟s cottage deep in the mountains of Kiso. It was set back a couple of miles off the Kurosawa road leading to the sacred peak of Mount Ontake, so apparently they rarely even saw either climbers or mountain porters. Well then, please consider the story proper to start here.

“Father, I‟m scared!”

and I‟ll beat you all black and blue!” In order to hearten his lily-livered son. and quickly crawled into a corner where he curled himself up into a ball. He thought of the monkeys and the wild boars as his friends. with a menacing look as if to say he would fell any foe with one blow. Do you want to grow up to be a weakling?” Takichi flinched at this scolding. he found his own child‟s timidity terribly galling.” “What an annoying little brat you‟re being.” “You crybaby you. and the faint image of a crescent moon floated like a silver boat in the lake of pale blue sky filtering through the trees. Charging headlong out of the . I am scared. It‟s really scary.” “But Father. What are you scared of? Just show me what there is to be frightened of. “What a hopeless idiot you are. Jubei was by nature a doting father. but suddenly he paled and clung to his father‟s knees. he took a thick log from the hearth and boldly brandished it. His father gently reasoned with him. it isn‟t. “Come now. and was rarely frightened even by the violent storms that buffeted their cottage or the thunder that sounded like crumbling mountains. so Takichi was accustomed to solitude. but did not see any good reason to beat him.” “No! No. and also to relieve his own feelings of unaccountable exasperation. stroking his head. We have no need to be scared of anyone who comes here. his terror clearly undiminished. and merely tut-tutted in vexation. “Listen! That voice…” Takichi pointed toward the forest. Stand tall and be a man!” Takichi said nothing and stayed curled up small in the corner. His father became all the more irritated. Nothing in the world is as frightening as all that! C‟mon all you goblins. Before today he had never made such a fuss. still blazing. his voice a little rougher. From the midst of the dense foliage of the great evergreens came snatches of a sad singsong voice. The late September evening sun had already dipped behind a distant peak. mountain spirits. A wimp like you can‟t live in a place like this. “Why are you scared? I‟m here.Takichi had been playing quietly. Father and son lived alone together year round in the mountains.” said his father. what do you mean by making yourself small like that? This is our house. so nothing can happen to you. “How silly!” laughed his father. them things or whatever you are! Come on over. pale and trembling. “Why are you scared of that? It‟s just a woodcutter or hunter singing as they return to the village in the evening. but given how tough he himself was.

and there was nothing strange about it. “Where have you come from?” “From Fukushima. and had come visiting out of his yearning for the hearth. the questions the host asked the traveler generally followed the age-old convention. Jubei too burst out laughing. and yet with his round eyes. that was Jubei‟s first guess.” It had been this wayfarer whose mysterious song had so frightened the boy. Both glared at the other in silence for a moment. the wayfarer‟s pointed—floated indistinctly amid the swirling smoke *** .” “And where will you go from here? “I plan to cross Mount Ontake headed for Hida.” “No. he must have seen the welcome sight of smoke rising from this fire and come to rest his tired feet.cottage door he ran right into a man standing there outside. The fact is that I‟ve been walking in these mountains since morning.” As they talked thus. and straw sandals. He had been singing in order to banish his exhaustion. with a brown cloth satchel like that of a schoolboy hanging from his shoulder. an itinerant medicine peddler from the provinces—at least. renowned for being cold even in summer. not at all. bowing. This was the custom of wayfarers. Travelers who had lost their way had on occasion come to ask for hot water. the two faces—Jubei‟s square. In such a situation. and in the dim red glow from the burning fire. At first sight. seating him before the fire where freshly cut wood smoldered. The wayfarer was a young man of twenty-four or -five with a rather pale complexion and thin. On his head he wore a light brown fedora with a wide brim. and he was dressed lightly in a highcollared jacket in a not-unpleasing striped fabric. Woodcutters and hunters would also come to smoke and rest here. he looked like a local government official come to inspect the imperial forest. angular cheeks. Such occurrences were not particularly rare. he seemed a gentle person. and I‟m worn out. and Jubei too was startled. sending sparks showering down upon his face. it being the only cottage in these parts. full of charm. so kindly Jubei readily welcomed this wayfarer too. until eventually the stranger gave a high-pitched laugh. short trousers with gaiters. “Please excuse my rudeness for having come flying out like that.” the man said. “I‟m sorry for barging in on you like this. The man was surely taken aback. Having been overtaken by night while in the Kiso-Ontake mountains. The cottage was unlit. the sun went down. or less flatteringly.

” the wayfarer said. “Hey. and Jubei couldn‟t stop himself from scolding him. motionless. adding another log to the fire. Takichi! Our guest brought us some really tasty things. there have been cases of people freezing to death on Mount Komagatake even in August. “Hey. This seemed to send a chill through the wayfarer. what are you sniveling about? Quickly now. All this time young Takichi had remained curled up in the corner. I see you have a son! It‟s so dark in here I hadn‟t noticed him before. far more than I need… And look here! How about this?” Inside another bamboo sheath were what appeared to be some leftover rice balls and shredded dried squid.” In such a remote location all year round. so I stocked up on plenty of food.“Thanks to you. Well. as though in the grasp of a fearsome invisible hand. and took out a roll of newspaper containing a bamboo sheath. here‟s something he‟ll like. “Oh. The boy had remained like this for some time now. I feel quite warm now. even in the presence of their guest. doesn‟t it?” “It does get very cold at night. “No ahh about it. You won‟t come?” Irritably.” roared his father. Yet he could not remain hidden forever. “Please do give some to your son. and Jubei accepted the gift in delight. He cowered. and eventually the gaze of the person he so feared did indeed fall upon him. . “I didn‟t want to go hungry on my trip over the mountains. for he huddled into his collar and nodded. Come here!” “Ahh. Come on. but it gets really cold in these parts. the father grabbed the nearest log and struck his son on the back. Come here quick and thank him.” replied Jûbei. “Don‟t be rude to our guest. rigid.” responded Takichi faintly. sushi rolls were a rare treat. Inside were heaps of sushi rolls wrapped in seaweed. but tonight for some reason he did not even turn to look. “It‟s only the end of September. It must have been around half an hour since the wayfarer had arrived. Come right now.” Normally Takichi would have bounded over grinning.” The wayfarer opened the bag hanging from his shoulder. like a shore crab trying to evade capture by a child. Indeed.

then I‟m going to eat it all up. but ordinarily Takichi was not such a coward. but knowing what he was usually like. Come here.” the wayfarer also exhorted him with a smile. growing up far from any village he greatly yearned for people. keeping his body as small as he could. and eat up quickly.” Takichi remained hidden behind his father. so why won‟t you take them? You silly boy. In a twinkling he gobbled up five or six. Come now. Since he was just a child. can‟t he?” said the wayfarer placatingly with a chuckle. “Sake? Indeed I do! I love a drink. Then he poured some hot water from the kettle. look what I have here. be they woodcutters or hunters. offered some to his guest. Jubei placed the package on a stump of wood beside him and opened it up to reveal rolls of sushi wrapped in dark laver.” “Well then. I suppose you like a drink now and then?” asked the wayfarer with a smile. “Look at that! It looks scrumptious. “If you don‟t want it. resembling rusty iron bars.” But his sullenness tonight was out of the ordinary. like a snake coming out of its hole. The boy nodded almost imperceptibly.” the wayfarer hastily intervened.” Seeing there was no way to avoid it. and said nothing. but living out here like this I don‟t often get the chance.“No. and he truly seemed upset and fearful of this man. “Why won‟t you eat? He was kind enough to give us these treats. All right?” asked Jubei. “Bye the bye. Anyone would have thought he was being attacked by the way he clung tightly to his father‟s back. Jubei opened the bamboo parcel and thrust it under the child‟s nose. you brat. Takichi crawled reluctantly up behind his father. “Do eat. All visitors. stop! Please don‟t hurt him. doesn‟t it? Say thank you. On the contrary. were friends of little Takichi the moment they set foot in the cottage. and gulped some down himself. the wayfarer seemed not to pay any particular attention to him. looking back over his shoulder at Takichi. his father could not help feeling his behavior was somewhat strange. or even unknown wayfarers. he can eat it later. He would address them all familiarly as “Uncle. don‟t scold him! Children can often be difficult if the mood takes them. “What? But I always thrash him when he doesn‟t do what he‟s told. Why was he so frightened of this wayfarer? It might just have been a fear of strangers as is common in children.” “Oh.” . not daring even to breathe. and the red pickled ginger bright against the blueblack laver indeed looked truly delicious. Takichi shuddered again at the sound of that voice.

“Yashichi. and partook heartily of the feast. but here in the mountains the night was hushed. Outside the . you‟re in the way. but perhaps this can serve as a snack to go with it. “Kuro. “Oh my. what‟s up with you? This is our friend Jubei‟s home! Ha ha ha ha!” Yashichi scolded his dog. you silly dog! What‟s all that noise about? Quiet now!” Jubei also scolded from inside. but there was no calming the animal. with a large black dog in tow. Look what my guest here has brought. drooling at the sight of it. The sake was not of the highest quality. indeed. like a baby monkey abandoned by its trainer. are you home?” someone called from outside. but he just shook his head and smiled. Jubei and Yashichi were both fond of sake. Unslinging the rifle from his shoulder. Having been shaken off by his father.” he added. “You‟ve come at just the right moment. and now and again they offered a cup to the wayfarer. some sake—what a treat! A bit of luck. no need to thank me.” said Yashichi. Let‟s put some on to warm right away. but for this pair accustomed to the local brew it was the very sweetest nectar. it stood firm with its ears perked and eyes blazing. but catching sight of the wayfarer‟s face through the smoke. It was still early. “Come now. but please have some to warm yourself against the cold. It was a hunter.The wayfarer opened up his bag and produced a large bottle. too. he began to step into the cottage. “How about a glass to ward off the cold?” “By all means. Oh. laughing. I‟m afraid there isn‟t much. Takichi lingered indecisively. Thank you heartily. the same age as Jubei. who was huddled up against his back. Digging the claws of all four paws into the ground. and lay face down on the straw matting refusing to raise his head again. can‟t you?” Jubei shoved aside his son. They naturally felt rather sheepish at being the only ones drinking. and hurriedly took down a ceramic flask from the shelf beside him. It‟s rude to offer leftover food. the only sound coming from the wind that now and then came surging over the peaks in great waves.” “Oh. There were still several sushi rolls left. Then he added a log to the fire. Get off me. snarling ferociously.” The wayfarer held out the package of rice balls and shredded dried squid. “Good evening! Jubei. some sake!” exclaimed Jubei. whereupon his dog suddenly began growling. is that you? Come on in!” responded Jubei as he heated the pot of sake. he once again began trembling. and poured some of the sake into the flask. proudly waving the flask of sake. “I see you have a guest. “Oh. sir.

cottage the dog was yelping impatiently. come on. “You know. Given that his own child was also terrified of the wayfarer. beginning to cry.” Jubei knew very well that Yashichi‟s bearlike black dog was extraordinarily sharp.” he whispered. There was probably a good reason why Kuro was barking so fiercely at his guest tonight. “What a noisy beast!” muttered Yashichi. but the .” Giving his thanks to the wayfarer over and over again. Just this spring. “It can‟t be helped. But then he popped his head back round the door and beckoned to Jubei. Shall we fire a shot by way of a test?” He took up his rifle and fired a shot into the sky. I‟m afraid I‟ve overstayed my welcome. “But surely he can‟t be one of them things. sending the birds roosting in the forest flying up in surprise. Even complacent Jubei began to feel sorry for his guest and pulled a wry face. but it landed on the earthen floor just inside the door.” Jubei and Yashichi both scolded and tried to chase him off. now. The retort reverberated all around. but Kuro here certainly seems to—and he‟s a lot smarter than us humans. “Are you sure he‟s not one of them things?” “What nonsense! If he was. but as soon as he saw the wayfarer‟s face he started barking crazily. but…” said Yashichi doubtfully. and even managed to kill it. but the demented dog lunged toward the fire as if possessed. he wouldn‟t be handing out sake and sushi. “Maybe he‟s hungry. It‟s really out of the ordinary. now. Jubei sneaked a look back inside.” “I don‟t think so either. “But you have to admit it‟s really strange for Kuro to bark at a guest for no reason.” Yashichi did not look entirely convinced.” He picked up a rice ball and tossed it over. “I suppose not. Seeing the food there. there‟s something a bit strange about your guest.” “Well. What with the boy crying and the dog barking. I think you‟d better take your dog and leave. The wayfarer glared at it in silence. “Shhh! Quiet now. “We might not see anything odd about him. “I‟m scared!” whimpered Takichi. the dog stuck his head in. Yashichi quickly drove out his dog and left. would he?” mocked Jûbei. the little cottage was in uproar. Let‟s share one of these rice balls with him. he had immediately sensed its presence and chased it off. Yashichi. Kuro had been lying by the fire when a large monkey had come to the hut. The dog became even more crazed. baring his fangs and making as if to pounce on him. Jubei began to feel a little uneasy.

If in danger he could split open his opponent‟s head with that hatchet. Even so. “I‟m terribly sorry. I‟ll be off home. “Of sorts. He had just thought to himself that the man was just an ordinary wayfarer after all. he could no longer feel so friendly toward the wayfarer as he had until now. but Yashichi had given him a scare and he was beginning to feel spooked. looking searchingly at the wayfarer‟s face. it‟ll never be a match for a human. you know. . “That‟s odd.” “A warning shot?” “It‟s because we sometimes we get one of them things around here. “Continuing my on way through the mountains at this time of night will be terribly difficult. “No reaction?” whispered Yashichi. Yashichi set off down the mountain. Jubei had been entirely unconcerned. but stood his ground. Jubei shuddered. but he did have some kind of dark shadow about him. Of course it wasn‟t one of them things.wayfarer had not even batted an eyelid and was still sitting quietly before the smoke rising from the fire. But however tricky it might be. He did not for one moment believe the wayfarer was one of them things.” said Jubei. surreptitiously readying himself. when the wayfarer said. the wayfarer asked him. We can‟t have a mere beast making fun of humans. the man did not seem to sense anything amiss and Jubei too felt his determination wane as his suspicion that the wayfarer was one of them things faded. he told himself. his eyes alighted on a large hatchet lying there. they suddenly looked fierce as a wild beast‟s. I guess there‟s nothing to do about it. When he went back inside in silence. he would of course have readily assented. and Jubei just was not disposed to let him stay in his cottage until morning. “What‟s one of them things? You mean a monkey?” asked the wayfarer. but now he hesitated. Just one hour earlier.” As Jubei said this. would you? Jubei was hard put for a reply. “It isn‟t possible?” Was he imagining that sharp glint in the wayfarer‟s eyes? Normally so charming. “What was that rifle shot I heard just now?” “It was a warning shot from a hunter. then. he thought. won‟t you?” Shooing off his still growling dog. unperturbed. Well. so how about it? I don‟t suppose you‟d let me stay here tonight. you know. You be careful now. Nevertheless. *** Up to now. but …” he said regretfully.

half regretfully and half with loathing. scrambling up to him as if restored to life. the more advanced the night will become. “At any rate. and a monkey could be heard calling in the distance.” “How do you know?” Takichi was unable to explain just what he meant. You‟d better be making up your mind whether to go back to Fukushima. Jubei himself was still of two minds. I‟ll need all my strength for tomorrow‟s climb. that would be the safest way.” “Not at all.” “Thank you for having me. he watched the departing figure of the wayfarer being enveloped in the dark expanse of night. but Jubei made no move to add more logs. Jubei too was now seized with an unspeakable terror. but he insisted. thinking it was probably his own cowardice that made the wayfarer seem so weird. Again there was something uncanny about his face. then he was truly pitiful.” “Is that so?” the wayfarer smiled again. trembling. and again began to have suspicions about this creepy wayfarer. If he was a true wayfarer. . the later you hang around here. Uneasy at not knowing which was the truth. “Father. “Well. he was a hateful fellow.” “Why were you so frightened of him?” Jubei asked his son. but if he was one of them things out to fool humans. for he rose abruptly to his feet. He definitely isn‟t human.” “Yes. “He‟s a ghost. the police give me trouble if I let strangers stay overnight. “He‟s scary. that he was certain the wayfarer was a ghost.” replied Jubei politely. The wind blowing down from the dark peaks rattled the door of the cottage. Thank you for sharing such treats with us.” “Is that so?” The wayfarer smiled sardonically and nodded. as he saw him to the door. but then the wayfarer seemed to make up his mind. where did that man go?” said Takichi. The fire was gradually burning down. He did his best to summon up the courage to drive him away. his pale face utterly unearthly in the dim light of the dying embers. He hesitated to take up the hatchet. I‟m glad he‟s gone. or whether to go along the Kurosawa road and climb overnight. Jubei‟s impatience grew.“You see. Takichi was still cowering in the corner with a straw mat over his head. I guess I‟ll head back to Fukushima.

Nevertheless. lined kimono and straw sandals appeared. he shot himself in the throat and died. standing there uneasily. the shooting had already stopped. *** “So that wayfarer. There‟s an injured man. and found the wayfarer lying in the forest. from a couple of hundred yards into the forest Jubei heard several shots in quick succession. he thought. let‟s get some sleep. . “A week or so earlier. Given the woman‟s apparent reluctance. the maid thought the man must have forced her to accompany him there. a pistol clutched in one hand. that very woman was found dumped by the wayside by a passerby with her face and breast cruelly slashed to shreds. there had been a young man and woman staying at a hot spring inn in Suwa. There must have been a struggle between that man and the wayfarer.” Father and I looked at each other in silence. Apparently thinking the game was up.” “So that man wearing the narrow sleeved kimono was the detective. By the time he rushed out to see what had happened. and the police detective had pursued him all the way along the road to Kiso. when another man in a narrow-sleeved. the woman had looked pale and wept daily.” “Which way did he go?” The man hurried off in the direction pointed out to him. “Come and give me a hand. I suppose?” “That‟s right. A moment later. And the man in Western attire was the woman‟s murderer. somehow or other. After they left. “Was a man of about twenty-four or -five dressed in Western attire here just now?” “He was. who was he?” I asked. After a while.” He was just about to close the front door.“Anyway. during their stay nothing particularly untoward happened. he fired two shots at the detective but missed. the landlord of the inn spoke up. Of course the suspicion fell on the man who had been her companion. the man in the kimono came rushing back. though. somewhere. and for some reason the man scolded and threatened her about it. According to a maid. “It appears he was from Kofu.” explained Jubei. When cornered.” They hurried off together. Almost immediately.

Either way. I had the sensation I was being watched from behind. Tojaku. Just like little Takichi had clung to his father… “Even now. “It sent a shiver down my back too. Because Shinsha had a habit of reading He later recalled that it had been a strange. an antique screen painted in monochrome colors by Chobunsai Eishi stood between the two beds. I‟ll have you know. he'd felt that the courtesan understood the emotions he couldn't possibly express to his wife. it seemed to him.” Jubei gulped meaningfully. The landlord added some more logs to the fire. and planning roles late into the night. and the dog was barking like crazy. the beautiful courtesan had been helping him to perfect his art. tedious complaints of an old woman. Children can perceive some things that adults can‟t. Shinsha and his wife. and Shinsha had felt intimately connected to it since his childhood. I suppose. while the soft murmur of Chisa's breathing as she slept made him think of the peaceful sleep of a young girl. The incessant monsoon rain sounded to him like the gloomy. I feel a bit queasy. when he was having an affair. Outside in the dark.“Well. Sanogawa Shinsha had fallen asleep in bed with a script propped on his chest when word arrived that his younger brother. when I think back to that time. There must have been something strange. the rain came steadily down.” said Father. Chisa. Read more: http://wordswithoutborders. you know. though. “That‟s true. sleepless night. and I edged closer to Father. I really could not say whether the shadow that had so frightened them had been cast by the burden of the man‟s crime. the ghost of the woman must have tagged behind the man. Given how much fuss your son and the dog kicked up…” “That must have been it. And animals can probably perceive things that humans can‟t.” Jubei again spoke up. he'd begun to gaze vacantly at the screen's standing figure of the courtesan. The scene of that night is even now vividly etched in my mind. had just died in a car accident. And neither did Yashichi. The screen had been in the Sanogawa family for generations. tucking up the hem of her robe. or by the terrible figure of the murdered woman. slept side by side on low matching beds placed in a bedroom decorated in a mixture of Japanese and foreign styles. But my son was shaking with fear. memorizing parts. deflecting the lamplight. After reading the second act. Shinsha had been glancing through the script of a new drama in which he was to play the lead. apparently. sometimes. . However. I didn‟t see anything at all. For many years. I thought so too.

Shinsha heard the ringing of the telephone as if it were coming from somewhere far away. Kikuo's stage name in the Kabuki theater was Tojaku. desperately trying to hold herself up. The mistress was just on the line. "Dear . but someone from the hospital came to see her. "Hello. . . ." "If only it were a joke . . It's Tsunekichi.Usually when he gazed at the figure on the screen. Tsune? What in the world's happened? I'm in shock. where it had fallen beneath the table. What is it? . Instantly Shinsha saw the emptiness of his words and realized two things: he must accept the fact of Tojaku's death because the horrible event had in fact occurred. Her shoulders shook beneath the collar of her pink-patterned summer robe. so he would turn off the lamp and soon drift off to sleep. . But that night. ." "Of course. . "What? ." "Oh. . The phone?" he asked in a groggy voice. . He hit something this late at night?" . . exhaustion had made his body tense and he fell asleep only after much tossing and turning. dear!" He felt her grab his shoulder. the name of Shinsha's half-brother. Shinsha picked up the receiver from the floor. sir. They're saying Kiichan's dead. . He heard Chisa's shrill voice calling out. "What? . You're kidding. "Who was that on the phone? Is someone still on the line?" "It's Mitsuyo . Kiichan was short for Kikuo." As if the message were all Chisa could manage to say. her hand trembling but strangely stiff and forceful. she suddenly collapsed beside the bed. "Dear. . " Chisa seemed to be clinging to the bed. Mitsuyo. . he would begin to feel drowsy. . but of a male servant. . she said Kiichan's been in a car wreck. it's awful. for some reason. sir. . "Is that you. That's ridiculous." After soothing his wife as well as he could by stroking her shoulders. ." The voice was not that of Tojaku's wife." "She said it was a car accident . and he feared that Chisa's violent agitation might well overwhelm her. it's you.

Perhaps it was the unavoidable result of his being an actor that he felt as if he were playing a role: that of a villain trying to deceive a naive character. a single length of purple and white. "What a mess." Shinsha said. His external wounds were slight. that he would create a scene if he didn't suppress his rising resentment. a popular young actor. He hung up the phone and looked back to where. ."Yes. wearing a long undergarment with pale blue swirling-water designs applied on a white background. his heart pounding." "What? He was driving? Doesn't the studio always have a driver for him?" "Yes. She had apparently fainted while taking a kimono out of the drawer. I see. a light glimmered from the closet of the next room. and from it dangled Chisa's Shiozawa chemise and a small-figured silk crepe kimono. only moments ago. as if to dispel ghostly images lurking in the darkness." "Oh." said Shinsha. Shinsha summoned up the control appropriate to the middle-aged man that he was. Looking for his wife." "I'm sure. She was gone. Chisa was slumped before the chest of drawers. get a hold of yourself. however. He was on his way back from the television studio and driving the car himself when he hit a truck. her plump shoulders swathed in blue and white resembled dead fish floating belly-up in a pond. he thought that he should also rush over to the hospital. but he was reluctant to have anyone around before he was able to calm Chisa. His concern for her was quickly replaced by anger. the television and newspaper reporters were swarming all over. before Ma'am could reach him. As he had expected. but a strong blow to the chest apparently had stopped his heart. he had stopped breathing. Fearing. . An upper drawer of the dresser was open. The accident had occurred near Akasaka-mitsuke. "Come on. To Shinsha. Tojaku had been taken in an ambulance to a nearby hospital. Unraveled across the floor and leading to the doorway lay her narrow Hakata weave sash." As Shinsha listened. He lightly patted his wife's shoulder. guessing that his brother. . must have been heading for some destination other than home. Shinsha entered the corridor that led from the bedroom to the living room and unconsciously flicked on the lights. it's terrible . but for some reason he insisted on driving the car himself tonight." he said in as kind a voice as he could muster. he refused the car they'd prepared for him. not quite stroking her. "In any case. Chisa had lain crumpled in exhaustion. He knew that his apprentice and the maid would wake up to answer his summons if he called out. but by the time the ambulance had arrived at the hospital.

was Chisa so agitated by the death of her younger brother-in-law. Please fix that firmly into your mind. he was already quite handsome. Kikuo soon had fans comparing his beauty to that of cherry blossoms at night. Why. you won't even be able to ride in the car. Shinsha owed Chisa and her family a certain respect. Shinsha smiled grimly at the peculiar way he was talking. But remember no matter how upset you feel. firmly grasping his wife's hand as he looked into the depths of her eyes. Her white. Fourteen or fifteen years of age at the time. had been supportive of Shinsha's career and was confident he could become a leading actor. Kikuo was their offspring. We're sure to be besieged by throngs of newspaper reporters and broadcasters." Chisa pleaded. I'm going too. which is only natural when a popular young actor like Tojaku dies unexpectedly. Chisa was also descended from a renowned Kabuki family. When the young woman married after the death of Kikuo's father. the Hamamuras. then I felt dizzy. and the couple's . On stage he danced well. he asked himself. the senior Hamamura. swollen lips looked like silkworms." Insistent. "But we have to. and. "First there's the car that we must have prepared and-Dear. . Growing up quickly. He was given the stage name of Tojaku-another name that had been used in the Sanogawa family-and had married Mitsuyo just three or four years ago. you won't have to say a word. OK? Do you understand? You were born a daughter of the Hamamura house." "Please don't call anyone. I'll take care of the newsmongers. was adept at women's roles." Shinsha said."The shock made you dizzy." "I suppose this means you're going to the hospital. she drank the glass of wine he brought her from the bar in the next room. "I'm going to call the maid. Chisa's father. you mustn't lose your composure. Thus." Despite himself. was attentive to the details of his craft. Shinsha got Chisa to nod her agreement. . and it'll just create problems for everyone. He recognized the source of the calmness that had overtaken his heart and manifested itself in his wry smile. It won't help Kikuo or his wife or our children. Get a hold of yourself. I don't mind you going to the hospital. to whom she was not related by blood? Shinsha was more than twenty years older than his brother. despite his inexperience. and as my wife you need to conduct yourself with the decorum appropriate to a situation such as this. either in everyday life or onstage. but you mustn't forget that we'll be among strangers. Tojaku. doesn't it? Well. Steadied by his hand. Shall I get you some wine?" Shinsha lifted Chisa's upper body onto his lap and peered into her expressionless face. That's all the more reason for you to have some wine: unless you get a hold of yourself. though he retained some of the melancholy that lingers about orphans. these were not the sort of words he characteristically used. "I tried to put on a kimono . Their father-whose stage name was also Shinsha-had had a mistress late in life who was young enough to be his granddaughter. the boy was taken in by his father's family.

The two of them had avoided detection because they were meticulously discreet. Kikuo was a brother related by blood. Shinsha consulted Chisa in all matters concerning Kikuo's selection of a stage name and his marriage. they had fooled everyone except Kishi. three years had passed. Kishi had been raised in Shitamachi and had spent the worst part of the war years caring for her aged parents. Chisa had found in Kikuo-though a youth of just twenty-the ability to restrain passion and thus avoid awkward displays of emotion. Now past the age of marriageability. Although he and Kikuo had different mothers. living in the same household. Kikuo's behavior became erratic. It had begun when Tojaku was still being called Kikuo. A wigmaker's daughter. which on many occasions kept him from coming home at night. Shinsha had countless affairs. She had not discovered the relationship between Kikuo and Chisa by catching them red-handed. embracing each other on stage. Shinsha rather appreciated the elaborate precautions the two of them had taken to avoid arousing suspicion. He could easily understand Chisa's love for Kikuo. she had made carefully reasoned inferences that could almost be called scientific in their rigor. Moreover.martial relationship was not at all bad. she had an uncommonly sharp feel for affairs of the heart. When Kishi had first told Shinsha about his wife and half-brother. but with that degree of skill he would become an actor of considerable ability. the household manager. had also been obsessively attracted to an older woman. she never did anything to obstruct Kikuo's marriage plans. after which Kikuo left Shinsha's home to live on his own. And. Both events happened within the space of a year. Shinsha had thought. Tojaku's popularity had skyrocketed and Mitsuyo had borne him a son. at Kikuo's age. Because Shinsha himself had been involved in many affairs. Eventually. Shinsha was informed of their relationship by Torisu Kishi. Was Kikuo precocious because his striking good looks had made him the object of desire for so many women? Kikuo might be a scoundrel. But when Chisa was hospitalized for a month or two after gallstone surgery. even he was unaware for a long time that Chisa and Tojaku had developed a relationship beyond that of sister. Something about it reminded Shinsha of how he. Since then. however. Instead. After learning of their affair. Nevertheless. nodding in perverse appreciation of Kikuo's cleverness. . Despite his own pattern of behavior. Shinsha did not change his attitude toward Chisa. Osamu. And he could also understood the complex feelings that led Kikuo to respond to Chisa. She stayed on good terms with people.and brother-in-law. he was not as upset by the revelation of this affair as a typical husband might have been. Shinsha had reprimanded her for slandering the two. And perhaps his feelings for Kikuo were unique because they were Kabuki actors who often played the role of lovers. not relying on the influence of her parents but settling matters cheerfully and promptly. younger than her by fourteen or fifteen years. in keeping with his profession as an actor. for her part.

"It would be disastrous if it were detected by the media. it was up to Chisa to make the final decision. Because the accident had occurred while Tojaku was driving himself home. hordes of mourners reduced Tojaku's household to chaos. Kishi could have kept the secret buried within her heart for years. which left the suddenly widowed Mitsuyo no opportunity to dwell in peace on the loss of her husband. fell on Chisa. From the moment Kishi found out about Tojaku's death-and as the household became draped in mourning colors. she didn't have a gossip's temperament. assisted Kishi in organizing a number of matters. Once she took a notion into her head." 2 It was almost dawn when Tojaku's corpse was taken to his house. Kishi considered Chisa shrewd to remain silent about what she had observed there. thinking that she would put an end to the affair because Tojaku was beyond the age of needing to be coddled by an older woman. it was difficult for Shinsha to gauge their subsequent relationship. During the four-day period leading up to the funeral. almost lively. however. it was impossible to find an explanation for what had happened. and helped with preparations for the funeral. but unlike other women. Mitsuyo and her son. received guests. The fact that he was not involved in a play this month was. She was now animated and responsive. who acted as a type of manager to the Sanogawa family. but when they were of two opinions. for her part. familiar though he was with affairs of the heart. Still. unable to keep things to herself. The preposterous suspicion that it might have been suicide was based on nothing more than the delusions of those shocked by his sudden death. there was no need for Chisa to continue nurturing him. As a result. As the elder brother of the deceased. But knowing of Chisa's affair with Tojaku gave her no advantage over her mistress because Chisa was aware of shady transactions Kishi conducted in the Sanogawa kitchen with certain tradespeople. albeit from behind the scenes. "Is the mistress all right?" she asked him with a stern gaze. A man called Takagi. the task of managing affairs.When Tojaku began living away. insisted that their affair was not over. Shinsha was consulted in all matters. Osamu. He had let Chisa do as she pleased. convenient. relatives and devoted supporters of the Sanogawa family filled the house. Kishi. The unexpected death of a young actor at the peak of his popularity aroused even in those who had no connections to the theater. just sat for long hours with their heads lowered. Sometime after two o'clock the night of the accident-when the entire household was in an uproar seeing Shinsha and Chisa off to the hospital-Kishi discreetly tugged at the sleeve of Shinsha's suit. needing to tell the secrets of others. Kishi. The many visitors and acquaintances from the theater had to be fed. Kishi was stubborn and didn't change her mind. untouched face. The woman who had fainted with shock and sorrow at the news of Tojaku's death had somehow plucked up her courage as soon as she had arrived at the hospital and seen his body and beautiful. During those four days. was a clever person and a meticulous worker. Silenced by Shinsha. . to say the least. and a breach of etiquette could shame the entire family in the eyes of society.

had recently aroused Tojaku's passion. Yukiko had no intermediary who might introduce her into the house where Tojaku's wife and child lived. and had only been attracted to his youth and beauty." Kishi listened to this judgment with a knowing look on her face. On the night of the accident. mistress Chisa is strong inside. Constantly maneuvering through the chaotic household with its crush of people. Kishi was intensely curious when a young woman named Yukiko discreetly came calling at the back door. the wife of the former Hamamura. For that splendid bloodline to suddenly show itself on this occasion-how could such a metamorphosis have occurred? Perhaps Chisa had felt no genuine affection or romantic love for Tojaku after all. Kishi had accompanied Shinsha to the opening of a newly constructed theater owned by a newspaper company. who worked at a concession stand at S Theater. When she returned home ahead of Shinsha. He had concealed the affair with her. She was the only one who knew that the two of them sometimes used that room for their trysts. Moreover. Takagi. deeply tinged blood of a family that had produced generation after generation of famous Kabuki actors. it followed that it might not be especially difficult for her-though she might have felt some pang of sorrow-to maintain a bearing appropriate to her position as Shinsha's wife. she realized that Tojaku had been there. . Kishi brooded endlessly on such questions. and how these changes would affect Shinsha. But in the three days since coming to Tojaku's house with Shinsha and Chisa to assist the widow." she replied with a meaningful smile. She was curious to see what sorts of changes would visit Chisa.caught between disorder and ceremony-she took an extraordinary interest in how Shinsha and his wife would handle matters. but she felt responsible for his unfortunate death and was spurred by the thought that she could not go on without seeing her lover's face once more. "You're quite right. she seems exactly like her mother. fleshy. "When I see these traits. but the secret nature of it had only fanned the flames of his desire. If that was the case. When Kishi and Takagi went to Chisa for guidance in managing complicated tasks. "Contrary to her outward appearance. 3 Thus preoccupied. he had been on his way to an apartment near Shibuya to visit her. She's not at all the pampered young lady. The two had arranged for the garden gate behind the bedroom to be left unlocked. their rendezvous had taken place in Shinsha's own bedroom. "Our mistress is a more skillful actor than the master!" Coursing through Chisa's white. isn't she?" Takagi remarked with the exaggerated facial cast of someone familiar with Kabuki. even though they were constantly together. In the afternoon of that day. Kishi had been disappointed because Chisa always managed to avoid her. Mr. Yukiko. Kishi alone knew with certainty that Chisa had had a rendezvous with Tojaku a few days before the accident. middle-aged body was the royal. With Tojaku's death. Kishi's curiosity had intensified. Chisa surprised them with her expeditiousness and keen judgment. the answers to which lay hidden in the tangled workings of Chisa's heart.

he had been more impressed with his brother's degree of circumspection than his wife's. And if it is not. tear-stained eyes while receiving various guests and family members. To him. "And if word of this affair got out. in reaction to his own philandering. then Chisa's father -for all his theatrical expertise -had been a truly dull-witted parent not to have trained his daughter as an actress. He felt as though he were watching the brilliant performance of a fellow actor. On the other hand. Chisa behaved in a truly flawless style."There's no way I can speak about this to the widowed mistress of this house. ." Kishi agreed that this was the best approach. it made Shinsha more comfortable with himself to conclude that. Yukiko. Shinsha found himself strangely moved. How. His gaze was directed at Chisa. told them the story. after that extreme agitation. Shinsha thought that he would like to see Chisa's skill tested against the young woman. I can imagine how upset it would make her. so Kishi went in and. Instantly. dressed in a silk haori and matching hakama. Because Shinsha had witnessed how agitated Chisa had been at hearing the news of Tojaku's death. "I had been thinking that something like this might have been going on. And in the present situation. she had decorously shown her reddened. he thought. and displayed even greater dignity and propriety as the wife of the current head of the Sanogawa family. Shinsha and Chisa were resting together in the living room during a recess in the wake. The haori was embroidered with the family crest. befitting the wife of the deceased's elder brother. Chisa had recovered from the shock too suddenly. who wore an informal mourning robe of dull purple and sat beside him drinking green tea. At that moment. If this is an act. From the time Shinsha began to believe Kishi's report of the affair until recently. with that mixture of perversity and calculation that characterizes those in the dramatic arts. He had to swallow the misery of that evidence as if a square object were being forced down his throat. That's why he had talked to Chisa so clumsily. she had comforted the tearful Mitsuyo and shed just the right amount of tears as she stroked the head of the innocent Osamu. in a hushed voice. Chisa had only been toying with the young Kikuo." Sitting bolt upright in the posture of an actor. and he was forced to interpret it as unconcealable evidence of love." Takagi responded when Kishi raised the matter with him. she seemed as if she might be possessed by some spirit. he had been even more surprised than Kishi at her subsequent steadiness and energy. it is quite an accomplishment. After coming to Tojaku's house. with an air of warning that he had never before used with her. Shinsha thought. as if putting on the brave front that was required of her in this sad situation. had Chisa been able to bring her emotions so deftly under control in such a short time? Observing her at close range as she flawlessly received mourners as the wife of the elder brother of the deceased. Shinsha flicked ashes from his cigarette into the ashtray. But Shinsha had seen her complete loss of composure when she first learned of Tojaku's death. "We can't let Mitsuyo get word of this. Then. I think the proper course of action would be to have the young woman meet with the members of the main house. then Chisa is an audacious woman who had used Tojaku as a plaything. " said Shinsha. If this is an act.

Seeing Yukiko's ample breasts almost burst the seams of her thin summer blouse. Shinsha felt only hatred toward her. black skirt. . the media will be keeping a strict watch. . the infatuation that Tojaku had felt during the affair's three or four months' duration. the room was a sanctuary. the young woman was suddenly overcome by emotion and began sobbing. so as not to miss the slightest change in her facial expression as the young woman discussed the circumstances of her love affair with Tojaku. I. "I believe that on that night Kikuo was killed he was on his way to visit you -is that right?" For every ten questions posed in this manner by Shinsha. it occurred to me that I might rely on his elder brother and wife . Tojaku had been extremely fearful that the world would learn of it. then surely. she continued. Yukiko sat with her head bent low. Shinsha felt he understood Tojaku's attraction for this petite young woman." Shinsha folded his arms." Amid her tears. so the guests will probably be moving to the second floor. Rather than watch Yukiko." Returning her husband's gaze. dear. and streams of tears flowed through her fingers. She covered her face with her hands. beneath Yukiko's hesitation." Reluctant to speak. . There are flowers everywhere. that would be fine. I thought. "It's so sad. "Would you do that for me?" he asked. . so if we circle discreetly around the back and open the lid of the casket. We'll have the undertaker tell anyone who asks that we are changing the dry ice. "I'm sorry it's so stuffy in here. . he was always saying that he'd be in more trouble if his elder brother scolded him than if his wife were to find out . no one will be the wiser. "Um . "I'd be grateful to be able to feign ignorance of the entire matter." Chisa said to her husband before turning to the young woman. . Amid the confusion in the rest of the household. Of course we can't discuss this with Mitsuyo or her parents . tight. "Let's allow her to see him. he kept his eyes riveted on Chisa. We must be careful. the priest will be completing the second chanting of the sutras. ." Chisa apologized. but for now." said Chisa. She stared at her knees. Clearly. "but there was nowhere else we could talk. . Yukiko. I might be allowed to view Kikuo's body. Shinsha could sense. for Kikuo's sake. which protruded from a short. "We'll be able to see you again at leisure after the funeral. so you can feign ignorance of the matter. Because he was such a popular actor. . What if we were to say that it was just our own handling of the matter-Kishi's and mine alone? In just a little while. "I wonder what we can do. please do exactly as we ask and don't say anything to anyone. "I know we'd be in a mess if Mitsuyo's father or someone else were to find out about it later and complain." Chisa's words were so smooth and unhalting. today. Yukiko nodded her understanding. . and he often spoke of you. . and if the two of you were to understand. there were only four or five awkward answers. second-floor room where he and Chisa sat side by side.He had Kishi bring Yukiko to a small." "Yes. ." Having said this much.

Then. the eyes of the two challenged each other in a manner that would have sent sparks flying through the air. "Be quiet. "See. "Ahhh. When his wife casually and unexpectedly touched Tojaku's face in the casket while holding Yukiko's hand. but I also wanted to see Kikuo's face one more time. As the backs of the two women merged for a few moments. Shinsha stepped briskly up to the platform as if he were trying to create a space between Chisa and Yukiko. stepped up onto the platform.1 He was unable to determine which face-this one in death or the one on stage-was the illusion. In the next instant. Don't cry. Kishi was startled. Unexpectedly. Kishi and Chisa took Yukiko-under the pretense of helping the undertaker's assistant replenish the dry ice-to the rear of the platform on which the casket was placed. Shinsha returned her glare and. after ascertaining that the number of mourners had decreased. Shinsha had felt as if he were about to enter a bewitching. he looked as if he were about to approach them." Chisa whispered in Yukiko's ear as she held the young woman against her chest. it's this cold. Though he had said that he wanted to feign ignorance of the entire matter. He was lightly made-up and looked like a wax doll. Intently he gazed down at the innocent. staring intently at the two women locked in an embrace. and looked at Tojaku's composed face in the casket packed tightly with bags of dry ice. "Bear up! You must never forget the feel of Kikuo's cold cheek. she took Yukiko's hand and thrust it surreptitiously beneath the glass." Chisa commanded in a voice so cold that it sounded cruel. You must accept his death-is that clear?" Yukiko had surrendered her hands to Chisa as if she were in a trance. The assistant carefully moved aside the square piece of glass from the head of the casket and stepped down from the low platform. In death it was the same unmistakably beautiful face that he remembered from the stage: when he played Kumagae to Tojaku's Atsumori or Jirozaemon to Tojaku's Yatsuhashi. metamorphic world. . Together the two women touched Tojaku's cheek with their fingers. Kishi watched with the same earnest concentration she would have given splendid stage performances. without hesitating. Yukiko. It's even colder than ice. but before she could say anything." he said to Chisa. following Chisa." A moan escaped from Yukiko's lips. When she stepped off the platform. she staggered and fell against her. Making a rustling sound with his silk hakama. she found Shinsha standing near the shoji screen. sleeping face of his younger brother beneath the square-cut glass frame. Chisa became aware of her husband's presence and glared at him. for a moment. his facial expression changed so swiftly that there was no time for a response.About thirty minutes later. "I know what I said a little while ago.

a low-ranking warrior fighting for the Minamoto faction during the Genpei War (1180-85) between the Taira and Minamoto clans. Kagotsurube. a family heirloom. for a high-class courtesan. a wealthy silk merchant from Shim'tsuke. what had occurred between Kikuo and her would have meant nothing. see Helen Craig McCullough's translation of "Death of Atsumori. For a complete translation of the episode. Yatsuhashi reveals that she has a longtime lover and no longer wants to see him. Episode 16. Instead." pp. In both cases. who were watching Shinsha from behind. the illusion of death on stage. "Actors are disgusting. Yukiko and Kishi. only saw a man struggling to hold back tears as he looked at the dead face of his younger brother. Read more: http://wordswithoutborders. The 1888 sewamono Kabuki play "Kagotsurube" by Shinshichi Kawatake describes the tragic love of Sano Jirozaemon. Jirozaemon is humiliated when she refuses his proposal to redeem her contract." she muttered to herself. it's a detestable occupation. Intangible beauty. using this house of mourning as a stage. As Shinsha stepped sorrowfully down from the platform. he who had tried to humiliate her by pitting her against such a woman. Chisa alone saw through him. she bowed her head piously and wiped tears from the inner corner of her eyes. she was now giving a masterful performance in a role quite at odds from her true self. he at once assumed an expression of respectful deference and affection. And yet. how crass this young woman with large breasts seemed! Chisa wanted to laugh out loud at her husband's inept attempt. 315-319. thereby causing Shinsha to question the actuality of death in reality vs. like flowers blooming and scattering in the void . After spending a great sum of money inviting friends to meet Yatsuhashi. seething inside. Yatsuhashi. "Death of Atsumori. After this disgrace."Cut it out!" Shinsha admonished himself. the character played by the older brother Shinsha views the body of the character played by the younger brother Tojaku. Taira no Atsumori was killed by Kumagae no Jiro Naozane. She had vowed to carry it through successfully to the end because she believed that if she failed. . Compared to the splendid deception. . Jirozaemon kills Yatsuhashi with his sword. "You're a fifty-year-old actor! How can you not observe your own performance as objectively as you observe those of others?" Quietly stepping down from the . her eyes filled with hatred. 1 Kumagae and Atsumori are characters who appear in Chapter 9." in The Tale of the Heike.

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