“The Two-Leaf Chestnut Tree” The Old Story From Takayama

A long time ago, there lived a man called Genji in the Kiyomi village.  He was arrogant and acted as if he could take anything from anyone anytime.  People in the village ostracized him and kept away from him.  “I don’t care!”  He became crankier and did whatever he felt like whithout regard for others.

One day, he stole some wood from Yoheiji, his neighbor.  This is because he knew Yoheiji had been gone to a pilgrimage to the Tateyama Mountains and wouldn’t come back for two or three days.  “Now, this should do for a while.”  He carried the wood on his back and went down the mountain.  On the way home, a gust of wind blew away Genji’s hood off.  He chased after his hood but soon it was out of his sight; as if it had vanished into the air.  He looked everywhere but it wasn’t anywhere.  “Damn it!  How strange!  It can’t be blown off that far away.”

A few days after, Yoheiji and other villagers came back from the Tateyama Mountains.  The next day, Yoheiji and Magozo visited Genji.  This was quite unexpected because Genji was so disliked by villagers and they had never visited Genji.  Yoheiji said, “We came to tell this, Genji.  When we visited Jigokudani―the Hell Valley―in the Tateyama Mountains, a strange thing happened.  When we came to the valley called the Burning Hell, we saw the man carrying some wood on his back.  We were sure it was you.”  Then Magozo said, “We cried ‘Watch out, Genji!’ and ran to try to catch you.  But you fell down to the burning hell.  You left nothing but this hood.”  Yoheiji handed the hood to Genji and said, “This is yours, isn’t it?”

Genji’s face turned pale.  It was the hood he lost on the way home after he stole the wood from Yoheiji.  “I would fall into the burning hell…..”  Until then, he had never regretted what he had done, but suddenly, this put him in fear of the gods and Buddha.  After that he became a devout believer of Shinshu―a kind of Buddhism― and led a new life.  He was sorry for his evildoing, and spent lest of his life repairing roads and bridges for villagers and praying to the Buddhist gods.

When he was almost 70, he became ill and took to his death bed.  He realized he was going to die soon and said to his family, “It depends on Buddha if I will go to the heaven or not.  After I die, if you find the two-leaf growing on the chestnut tree in front of my house, you will know that Buddha has forgiven me and accepted me.”  After saying this, he passed away peacefully.

The next year, the two-leaf grew upon the tree as he said, and you can see the leaves still today.


“Don’t Spit the Pits into the Hearth” The Old Story in Takayama


A long time ago, deep in the mountains, there lived a family, a little girl and her parents, who made a living by burning charcoal.

At the foot of the mountain, the autumn colors were at their best, but the peaks of the mountain were already covered by the first snow of the season.  It was getting colder and colder in the morning and evening, and fruits on the mountain were getting ripe and good to eat.  However, for the charcoal burners, it was the busiest season of the year.  They had to cut woods to burn all through the winter before everything would be covered by snow.  The couple worked hard every day, but the girl was too young to help her parents, so she stayed at home doing house chores.  Every morning, when her mother left the hut she said to the girl, “Be good!  I will bring good ripe berries for you.”  And after work, she brought fruits, such as baby kiwi, fruit of the dogwood tree, toringo crabapple, chocolate vine, crimson glory vine, and so on.  She put fruits in the pots; some were to eat and some were to store.  The girl was happy to see this and said with a smile, “How bountiful!”  Every day, her parents left her at the hut, but the girl didn’t worry because she had a lot to eat.

One day, her parents went down the mountain to town on urgent business.  Snow was falling, mingled with rain.  The night fell as she waited for her parents to come back, putting a pot over the open hearth.  “I hope they will come back soon,” she said to herself.  The girl gave a small yawn and brought the pot full of fruits over and began to eat them by the fireside.  She ate this fruit and that one, one after another, and spat out the pits into the hearth, so they became a pile at the end.  “I ate a lot.  I’m sleepy,” she said.

The girl fell into a doze off by the fireside.  Suddenly, she heard the sound of voices from the hearth and opened her sleepy eyes.  “What?”  She looked at the hearth and saw people who were one inch tall marching in procession on the square frame of the hearth. They were dressed in festival costumes and pulled a portable shrine along.  They yelled and talked to each other.  The frame of the hearth got full of the little people, but still, others came out one after another from the ash.  At first, the girl was fascinated by the sight, but as more and more small people kept coming out, she got frightened.  So she took the metal chopsticks, brushed them off into the ash, and stirred up the ash thoroughly.  Then, suddenly, from the ash, a black hand came out and grabbed the girl’s leg.  “Eek!”  She screamed and fainted.

Just then, her parents came back.  “What happened?” they asked.  They shook the girl and splashed water on her face.  Finally, she woke up and told her parents what had happened.  Upon hearing this, her mother said, “I told you again and again not to throw things away into the hearth.  ‘If you spit the pits into the hearth, they will change their shape and frighten you,’ I said, but you wouldn’t listen to me.”  Her mother cleaned the hearth quickly.  She found a pile of pits and a wooden ladle half burned from the ash.


In old time, parents told this story to children because the hearth was a sacred place for them.  They kept the hearth clean not to upset the god.

‘Not yet? Not yet?’ The Old Story in Takayama


A long time ago, there lived a poor charcoal burner named Chokichi in Soure in the village of Nyukawa.

One day, he dreamed a strange dream.  In that dream he heard someone saying, “Go to Takayama and stand on the Ikadabashi bridge.  Surely, good luck will come to you.”  So, Chokichi prepared a lot of rice balls and grilled river fish and went to Takayama.  The next day, in the morning, he stood on the bridge waiting for the luck to come, saying, “Not yet?  Not yet?”  A tofu vender came to cross the bridge, but no luck came.

On the second day, again starting from the morning, he stood on the bridge, saying, “Not yet?  Not yet? I wish it could come soon.”  The tofu vender came and seemed surprised to see Chokichi again.  The vender stopped to watch him for a while, but no luck came.

On the third day again, he stood on the bridge, chanting, “Not yet?  Not yet?”  The tofu vender again, crossed the bridge, watching Chokich chanting.  Children jeered at Chokichi, “Not yet? Not yet? He does not stop yet?”

On the fourth day, it was rainy, but Chokichi kept standing on the bridge.

On the fifth day, all the rice balls and grilled river fish were gone.  Chokichi thought this is going to be the last day and stood on the bridge, chanting, “Not yet?  Not yet?”  In the evening, the tofu vender came and talked to Chokichi.  He said, “I saw you on this bridge standing for five days.  What are you expecting?”  Then Chokichi told him about the dream.  The tofu vender replied, “What a carefree person you are!  You believed your dream!  Ha-ha-ha-ha!”  The vender laughed and laughed and said, “Well, I also dreamed a strange dream the other day.  I heard that Chokichi who lives in Soure has a cedar tree in his garden and if you dig under the tree you will find gold and silver in plenty.  That’s what it said.  But it’s just a dream.  Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.”  Chokichi was not able to wait any longer, he ran and ran through the night until he came back to his house in the morning, and immediately, dug under the cedar tree.  And behold!  As he dug, gold and silver came out in plenty.  It didn’t seem to stop.  Chokichi said, “Wow!  How plentiful!  Not yet?  Not yet?  It does not stop yet?”

After all, Chokichi did became the richest man in the village.

The Old Story of the Great Gingko Tree in Takayama


In Takayama, there is a huge ginkgo tree over 1,200 years old, and a ‘Triple Pagoda’ in the Kokubunji Temple.  This pagoda was seven stories tall  and was said to be built by Takumi who was the most skillful master in the area at that time.  He was very proud to be working on the emperor’s orders, and he put his everything he had into this building.

One day, he became anxious about the work of his apprentices and made an inspection.  When he observed his apprentices, they were finishing the pillars for the pagoda.  Suddenly, he felt something was wrong.  He took a framing square and measured the pillars.  To his surprise, all the pillars were shorter than he had planned.  His face turned deadly pale, because the pillars were made from flawless precious wood from the local area.  It had taken many years to prepare them, so there was nothing else they could do.  After a while, the master said, “This is my fault.”  He didn’t blame his apprentices at all.  He was the master, and he was to be blamed.

When he came home, his daughter Yaegiku saw his pale face and said, “You look so pale.  What’s wrong with you?”  Usually, he never spoke about his work at home, but on that day, he told his wife and daughter about the pillars.  His wife did nothing but cry.  However, his daughter Yaegiku thought about the problem for a while and spoke up with no difficulty.   “Father, why don’t you make square frames and put them on top of the pillars to make up for the shortages?”  On hearing this, the master said, “Yaegiku, you’ve got a good idea!” and he shook her hands heartily with joy.

The next morning, the master went to the workshop earlier than usual and told his apprentices to make square frames and put them on top of the pillars.  The apprentices, who were deeply worried, were relieved and started their work in high spirits.  After that, everything went well, and the seven story pagoda was completed perfectly.  Then, the regional administrator came to see it and was impressed with the beautifully built pagoda and its square frames.  He said, “This is spectacular!  Takumi is the best master in the area!”  He praised the master and gave him rewards.

Day by day, the reputation of the pagoda spread throughout the area.  Takumi had been getting worried that his daughter might tell someone that the square frame was her idea, so in the end he killed his beloved daughter and buried her next to the pagoda.  He planted a young ginkgo tree on her grave.  Even now, you can see it rises up high by the side of the pagoda.

Ivanhoe-Sir Walter Scott

As a English learner, I’ve been wondering why English has many words from French and Latin.  I know a little about the history of the English language from an introductory book.  This entertaining chivalric tale helps me to understand it better.

I think chivalry has something in common with Bushido; the samurai code but it is different in the way they treat women.  Their courtly love can be judged as weakness by samurai.  In Bushido, women are also supposed to be brave.  They were given a dagger and taught how to use it and sometimes it was used to commit suicide to protect honor.



Picture Books For My English Class


I’ve been teaching English at an elementary school for 6 years and these are the books I used in my class.  My class doesn’t have exams or any assessments, so I have it easy.  My class goes like this….  First, I read a picture book to kids.  Then, we enjoy games using words, phrases or sentences from the book.  One of my favorite game is “What’s the Time, Mr.Wolf?”  Kids soon learn how to ask and answer and enjoy the game.  I don’t know this can help kids to get good marks in the future, but I want them to know learning English can be fun!

Thank you, Naomi Novik!

I happened to meet this Naomi Novic’s famous series at “just has been returned books” shelf in local library.  I don’t know you have this kind of shelf in your place, though.  I often check this shelf to find something interesting.  In the middle of January, I developed sciatica and desperately wanted “painkiller” books.  Thank you, Naomi Novic!  I don’t have the terrible pain any more and still desperately want to read the next one!