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Jitsuroku Ku: Ooka Seidan

3 Tales of Ooka Tadasuke

Afterword & Commentary by Justin Hagen


Original Story from Don C. Seit's Monogatari Tales from Old & New Japan

A fancy goods dealer named Jinshiro lived at Gorobei-cho, in the Kyobashi district of Edo. He was not well off, but thrifty, and he and his wife having no children, were able to make ends meet; further, they were liked by all who knew them.

With the object of laying in a new stock of goods, Jinshiro started on a long journey to Kamigata, as the Osaka and Kyoto district is called even today by Tokyo people. On his way along the Tokaido, he reached the Hakone mountains, where he met a man stark naked, shivering with cold, his strength quite exhausted. He explained that he had come from Edo to enjoy the hot springs of Hakone, and was taking a walk when some highwaymen appeared and stripped him of his clothes and money . His name (he told Jinshiro) was Shirobei; he was a fancy goods dealer, and lived in Bizen-cho, of the Sakurada district in Edo

A proverb says that two men of a trade can never be on good terms, and that even a beggar is envied by another beggar. Shirobei and Jinshiro were of the same trade, but under the circumstances all rivalries were forgotten. Jinshiro took some warm clothing from the pack that he was carrying on his back, and opening his purse gave the unfortunate wayfarer three bu, which is a small amount today, but at that time was a considerable sum and quite sufficient to meet Shirobei's pressing needs.

Shirobei felt as though his life had been saved, and promised to meet his benefactor in Edo and return his favor Then Shirobei asked for Jinshiro's address, and the latter taking out a writing brush from his yatate, or pen and ink case, wrote it out. Seeing that Jinshiro had a very large money bag and that his own, which the robbers had left behind on the highway was in better condition than that of his new found friend, Shirobei offered it as a slight token of his thanks. Jinshiro gladly accepted the gift, and handed over his old purse, in which he had written his address, which read: “Jinshiro, Gorobei-cho, Kyobashi, Edo, the landlord being Kichibei.”

So Jinshiro went on his way, and Shirobei returned to his inn. A few days after his encounter with the highwaymen he fell ill, probably from the exposure, and died suddenly. The innkeeper was at a loss how to identify his departed guest since he had not registered upon his arrival. But on examination of his clothing the supposed address was found in his purse.

A messenger was sent to Edo, and Jinshiro's wife received a great shock when told that her husband was dead. She went at once to Kichibei, their land lord, and asked him what to do. Kichibei decided that he and one Hompachi should go to Hakone. When they arrived at the place, the man had been dead for some time, and it was difficult to identify him, although they both thought the body was larger than Jinshiro's ought to be. They were also surprised to find that his money bag contained only three bu, for they knew he was going to Osaka and Kyoto on business, and should have had a larger amount on his person. But Jinshiro's purse was considered a certain clue. The body was therefore cremated and the ashes carried back to Edo Funeral services were held, and a tablet to the dead was placed in the butsudan of Jinshiro's household.

The work of carrying on her late husband's business was too much for the widow. Kichibei advised her to marry again, and picked out Jinshiro's cousin, Tsunekichi. He was well trained in the fancy goods business. The widow hesitated to accept this advice since she was afraid of the gossips of the neighborhood. She was also afraid that a hasty marriage would not please the spirit of the late Jinshiro, and asked them to wait until the customary hundred days had passed; until the period of mourning was at an end.

But Kichibei persisted. He told her that the best way to please the soul of the departed was to keep the business running smoothly. She admitted that Tsunekichi would make an ideal husband, and had a strong affection for him, but she still hesitated. The more she demurred the more they urged Tsunekichi's suit, until their advice grew into a kind of persecution.

The widow was at last obliged to yield; the marriage ceremony was duly performed, and the household went on as before. The days passed rapidly, and the hundredth day anniversary came around. The wife of Tsunekichi observed the customary service for the dead with all due respect. After the ceremony Tsunekichi left home on business, and at the close of the day she waited for the return of her new husband.

Footsteps were heard and a happy voice exclaimed,“Here I am at last! How do you do, my dear!” The door opened, and there stood Jinshiro. With a shriek the terrified woman dashed out of the house by the back door. To Jinshiro this was indeed a strange welcome after his long absence from home. Taking off his straw sandals, he entered his house and found many changes.

The wife, now possessed of two husbands, ran to Kichibei's house. Almost fainting from the fright and barefooted, she ran screaming to Kichibei, “A ghost! A ghost!” Kichibei was not alarmed at a little thing like a ghost, and reproved her, saying that as it was a hundred days since her first husband's death she must have been thinking of him, and the ghost was nothing but her own imagination at work.

She entreated him to return with her, saying that Jinshiro had a pack on his shoulder and straw sandals on his feet. At last he was persuaded to go.