Uncle Hayato’s Story Book

A Japanese Fable

Tokugawa Hayato An Exceprt from


Copyright 2009 by Hayato Tokugawa and Shisei-Do Publications All rights reserved.


Lord Bag of Rice

Illustration 1: The Dragon Princess, by Utagawa Kuniyoshi,1845


Uncle Hayato’s Story Book

My Lord Bag of Rice

A very long time ago there lived a brave warrior who was known throughout the countryside as Tawara Toda (俵藤太), or “My Lord Bag of Rice,” which you must admit is a rather strange name for a bushi. Indeed, so much time has passed that I rather doubt that anyone remembers his real name; so I will tell you it was Fujiwara no Hidesato and there is a very interesting story of how and why he came to acquire this name. One day Hidesato decided to leave his home in search of adventure, for the reason that he was a bushi, and by nature a warrior could not bear to sit around in idleness. After all, that is what warriors did: adventures. So he tucked his two swords into his obi, picked up his huge yumi, a bow much taller than himself, and slinging his quiver over his shoulder he started out. He had not gone far at all when he came to the bridge of Seta-no Karashi, which spans one end of beautiful Lake Biwa. No sooner had he set foot on the bridge than he saw a large dragon lying on the road blocking his path. Its body was so enormous that it looked like the trunk of a large pine tree and its coils took up 4

Lord Bag of Rice the whole width of the bridge. One if its huge claws rested on the parapet at one side of the bridge while its tail lay right up against the other. The creature seemed to be asleep, snoring fire and smoke from its nostrils. At first Hidesato could not but help feeling fearful at the sight of this horrifying reptile blocking his way. The only two choices he seemed to have were to either turn back, or to walk right over its body. Now Hidesato was a brave bushi and so he set aside all fear and courageously went forward. He stepped first onto the dragon’s body then between its coils, then up again onto the sleeping, snake-like body. Up and down, up and down he went, carefully avoiding the razor sharp talons that could tear through the mightiest armor, and smellling black stench of the searing hot flames from the creature’s breath. At last, past the end of the bridge, and without even giving one glance backward, he continued on his way. He had only gone a few steps when someone calling his name from behind startled him. As he turned he was surprised to see that the dragon had disappeared and in its place was a rather beautiful young woman, who was bowing most ceremoniously on the ground. He had the shiniest black hair that streamed over her shoulders and wore a crown, in the shape of a dragon’s head. Her clothes were green and patterned with seashells. Instinctively Hidesato knew in an instant that the woman was no ordinary mortal and he wondered what was happening. Where had the dragon gone so quickly, wondered Hidesato? Had it 5

Uncle Hayato’s Story Book transformed itself into this girl? What did it all mean? As these thoughts passed through his mind, he walked over to the woman on the bridge and spoke to her. “Was it you who called me just now?” “Yes it was,” answered the lady. Hidesatodono, I have a grave request to make of you. Do you think that you can grant it to me?” “If it is in my power to do so I will,” answered Hidesato. “But first, tell me who you are.” “I am the Dragon Queen of Lake Biwa, and my home is in the water, just below this bridge.” “And what is it that you have to ask of me?” said Hidesato. “I want you to kill my mortal enemy, Hayakusoka, who lives on that mountain,” answered the Dragon Queen, pointing to a high peak on the opposite side of the lake. “I have lived now many years in this lake and I have a large family of children and grandchildren. For some time now we have lived in terror, for a monster centipede has discovered our home. Night after night it comes and carries off one of my family, even my parents and my husband have fallen to this fiend. I am powerless to save them. If things go on much longer like this, not only will I lose all of my children but I too must fall victim to the monster. I am, for that reason, most frightened and sad and in my predicament, I decided to ask the help of a human being. For days I have waited on the bridge in the shape of the terrible dragon you saw, in the hope that some strong, brave man would come along, but all who came were 6

Lord Bag of Rice terrified when they saw me and ran away as fast as they could. You were the first man I have found who was able to look at me without fear, so I knew at once that you were a man of great courage. I beg you to have pity on me. Will you help me and kill my enemy Hayakusoka?” Upon hearing his story, Hidesato could not but help to feel sorry for the Dragon Queen and gladly promised to do what ever he could to help her. The warrior asked the details of where the centipede lived, so that he could attack the creature at once. The Dagon Queen told him that Hayakusoka’s home was on Mount Mikami, but suggested that, because it came every night at a certain hour to the Dragon Palace of the lake, it might be better to wait there until the monster came. So Hidesato went with the Dragon Queen to the palace, under the bridge. In case you are wondering how he could possibly survive in the water, I should tell you that as he followed his hostess downward, the water parted to let them pass and his clothes were not even damp as he passed through the lake. Hidesato had never seen anything as beautiful as the palace beneath the lake, built of exquisite white marble. He had often heard of the Sea King’s magnificent castle at the bottom of the sea, were all the servants and retainers were saltwater fish, but here was a magnificent building in the very heart of Lake Biwa. The daintiest of goldfish, red carp, and silvery trout waited on the Dragon Queen and her guest. The feast that was laid before him 7

Uncle Hayato’s Story Book astonished Hidesato. The dishes were crystallized lotus leaves and flowers, the hashi were of matchless ebony. As soon as they sat down, the sliding doors opened and ten lovely goldfish dancers came out and behind them followed ten red carp musicians with koto and shamisen. And so the hours flew by until midnight, the beautiful music and dancing banishing all thoughts of the centipede. The Dragon Queen was just about to toast the bushi with a fresh cup of sake when the palace was suddenly shaken by a sound of tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp; as if a mighty army was marching close by. Hidesato and the Queen jumped to their feet and rushed to the balcony; where the warrior saw two great glowing orbs, like balls of fire, moving towards them from Mount Mikami: coming nearer and nearer. The Dragon Queen stood by the warrior’s side, trembling in fear. “Hayakusoka! Hayakusoka!” she screamed. “The centipede! The centipede! Those two balls of fire are its eyes. It’s coming for its prey! Now…now is the time to kill it!” Hidesato looked where the Queen pointed, and, in the dim light of the starlit evening, behind the two balls of fire, he saw the long body of an enormous centipede, winding around the mountain and downward toward the lake. What a horrible sight, with burning eyes of fire and hundreds of distant moving lanterns of golden light, Hayakusoka’s


Lord Bag of Rice

Illustration 2: Hayakusoka, Shin Hanga by Tokugawa Hayato


Uncle Hayato’s Story Book countless feet, moving slowly towards the shore of Lake Biwa. Hidesato showed not the least sign of fear as he tried to calm the Dragon Queen. “Don’t be afraid. I will surely kill the centipede. Just bring me my bow and arrows.” The Dragon Queen did as she was asked but in her haste she dropped some of them as she ran. The warrior noticed that he had only three arrows left in his quiver but was not the least bit worried. He took the bow, fitted an arrow to the notch, took aim, and let fly. The arrow hit the centipede right in the middle of its head; but instead of penetrating, it bounded off harmlessly and fell to the ground. Undaunted, Hidesato took another arrow, fitted it to the notch of the bow and fired. Again the arrow hit the mark, striking Hayakusoka squarely in the forehead; again only to bounce off and fall to the ground. “Oh my! The centipede seemed to be invulnerable to weapons!” exclaimed the warrior. “This does present a problem.” When the Dragon Queen saw that even this brave bushi’s arrows had not power to kill the centipede and heard his words, she lost heart and began to tremble with fear. Hidesato saw that he had but one arrow left in his quiver. If this one failed, he would not be able to kill the centipede. He looked out across the water and saw that the gruesome monster had wound it’s way around the mountain several more times and was now almost at the edge of the lake. Nearer and nearer gleamed the fireball eyes and the light of its innumerable 10

Lord Bag of Rice feet began to throw reflections on the stillness of Like Biwa. Then the warrior remembered something he had heard when he was a child: a story that told that human saliva was deadly to centipedes. Many creatures of darkness fear the Water of Life. For them, it is a poison that they cannot abide. The saliva of a mortal being can slay the most terrible demon, if that being is brave and has faith in himself. But, he thought, this was no ordinary centipede. This one was so monstrous that even to think of such a creature could make one cringe in terror. Hidesato knew the moment of calamity was at hand and gathering up all is courage and skill as a bowman, he took his last arrow, put its point into his mouth, and then fitted the arrow’s notch to his bow. He pulled the bowstring back, took careful aim, waited for just the right instant – and fired. The arrow whistled through the air as it flew straight and true, again striking Hayakusoka in the middle of his forehead. This time, instead of glancing off harmlessly as the other two arrows had done, it struck home in the creature’s brain. Then with a convulsive shudder, the giant body stopped moving. The red, fiery light of its great eyes flared and then 11

Uncle Hayato’s Story Book grew dim, and the light from its hundreds of feet gradually darkened to a dull glare, like the sunset of a stormy day, and then all the lights went out completely, into blackness.

Illustration 3: Fujiwara no Hidesato, by Yoshitoshi, August 1845 An even blacker darkness now spread across the sky, thunder rolled and lightning flashed. The wind roared in fury and it seemed as though the world was coming to an end. The Dragon Queen as well as her children and all her retainers crouched down in different parts of the palace, frightened to death and expecting to die at any moment as the building was shaken to its very foundations. The storm ranged all night but at last it was over. Day dawned beautiful and clear and as Hidesato and the Dragon Queen looked out across Lake 12

Lord Bag of Rice Biwa, the saw that the centipede had disappeared completely from the mountain. Then all the inhabitants of the palace came out of hiding and shouted with glee as Hidesato pointed to the lake. There, floating on the water, which was now dyed crimson with blood, was the body of the dead centipede.

Illustration 4: Passion at the Dragon Palace, by Eisen c. 1840. The gratitude of the Dragon Queen knew no bounds. The entire family came and bowed down before the bushi, calling him their savior and the bravest warrior in all of Nippon. Another feast was prepared, this one far more sumptuous than the first. All kinds of fish, prepared in every imaginable way, raw, stewed, boiled and roasted, served on coral trays and crystal dishes were set before him. The wine 13

Uncle Hayato’s Story Book was the best that Hidesato had ever tasted in his life. To add to the beauty of the occasion, the sun shone brightly, the lake glittered like a liquid diamond, and the palace was a thousand times more beautiful by day than by night. The Queen tried to persuade the warrior to stay a few more days, but Hidesato insisted on going home; saying that now that his mission was finished and that he had done what he had come to do, he must return. The Dragon Queen and her family were all deeply saddened and sorry to have him leave so soon; but since he insisted on going, they begged him to accept a few small presents (“small was their word not mine) as tokens of their gratitude to him for saving them forever from their horrible enemy, Hayakusoka. As the brave warrior stood at the palace door, preparing to take his leave, a procession of fish suddenly transformed into an entourage of men, all wearing ceremonial robes and dragon crowns on their heads, to show that they were all servants of the great Dragon Queen, and each was carrying a gift. Just a few of them were as follows: first, a large bronze bell, second, a sword, third, a new set of armor, fourth, a bag of rice, fifth, a roll of silk and sixth, a cooking pot. Hidesato, being not only man of bravery but also a man of great humility, did not wish to accept all these presents, but because the Dragon Queen insisted, he could hardly refuse. The Queen herself accompanied the warrior as far as the bridge, and then took leave of him with many bows and good wishes, leaving the 14

Lord Bag of Rice procession of servants to accompany Hidesato to his house with the gifts. Hidesato’s household and servants had been very much concerned when they found that he had not returned the night before, but while worried, they nonetheless finally concluded that he must have been delayed by the violent storm and had taken shelter somewhere. When the servants on watch for his return caught sight of him, they called to everyone that he was approaching. The entire household turned out to greet him, wondering what the entourage of men who followed, bearing presents and banners, could possibly mean. As soon as the Dragon Queen’s retainers had put down the gifts, they all suddenly vanished and Hidesato was left to tell all that had happened to him. The presents, which he had received from the grateful Dragon Queen, were found to be of magical power: only the bell was ordinary; well not ordinary really, for it was truly a work of art. But as Hidesato had no use for it, he presented it to Mii-dera temple at the foot of Mount Hiei, where it was hung up, to ring out the hour of the day over the surrounding district. As for the single bag of rice, no matter how much was taken from it day after day for the meals of the warrior and his entire family, the amount never grew less: the supply of rice in the bag was inexhaustible. The roll of silk never grew shorter, although from time to time, long pieces were cut off to make Hidesato a new suit of clothes to wear to court on New Years. The cooking pot was wonderful! No matter what was put into it, it cooked deliciously 15

Uncle Hayato’s Story Book whatever was wanted without heat. A truly economical pan indeed! The sword had a blade as hard as a diamond and so sharp that it could split a single hair from a baby, and the suit of armor, was impenetrable: no weapon could ever harm the warrior who wore it. The fame of Hidesato’s fortune spread far and wide throughout Nippon and since there was no need for him to spend money on rice, silk, wood, or charcoal, he became very rich and prosperous, from then on to be known as My Lord Bag of Rice.

Illustration 5: The Bell At Mii-dera Temple, Shin Hanga by Tokugawa Hayato But that was not the last to be heard from the Dragon Queen. Some years later, the beautiful bell at Mii-dera temple, which Fujiwara no Hidesato had donated, was stolen by a priest from the rival Enryaku-ji temple at 16

Lord Bag of Rice the top of Mount Hiei. He threw it into a valley after it spoke to him (for although appearing to be an ordinary bell, it indeed had its own magic), and cracked. The priests and monks eventually found their now beloved bell and returned it to Mii-dera. It was quite a task to recover the bell and to carry it back to the temple, but when the men returned with the damaged gift, the found a small snake (the Dragon Queen transformed) who used her tail to repair the damage. And to this day, that very same bell still hangs in the temple, sounding out the hours, day in and day out, without fail.