Prologue: The Origin – The Prince, the Princess, and the Dog 8-1

 

Volume IV, Episode VII

 

In En no Gyohja’s cave an old man assesses Fuse-hime’s fate

In a village near Takita a tanuki[1] feeds a puppy

 

After the Satomi force had conquered Takita Castle of Heguri County,  Kanamari Hachiro Takayoshi committed suicide in order to avoid benefiting from his deceased master. Hachiro’s love child he had with Kohagi, Issaku’s daughter, was named ‘Kanamari Daisuke Takanori’ and was raised by Yoshizane. Years passed.

 

Some of those who didn’t know Hachiro Takayoshi’s intention behind his own death talked about it disapprovingly.

“Such a waste of a precious life when he didn’t have to die, turning down the rewards for the exploits he’d achieved! He must have been ashamed of Tamazusa’s insults.”

In contrast, an ancient wise man said ‘men of few words avoid evils and harms; women who envies not turns all flaws into charms”. Let alone those of compassion and justice. Hence, Yoshizane was not a singular man of virtue and samurais in the neighbouring countries admired him to the extent that many would ask through acquaintances for his hand in marriage.

Amongst them there was one Mariya no Nyudou Johren, Lord Shiizu in the County of Kadzusa, whose daughter called Isarago was not only intelligent but also good-looking. Hearing of this faint rumour, Yoshizane directly took her to wife, who had a girl and a boy with him.

Their first baby girl was born in Kakitsu 2, in the last month of the summer. To represent the three days of Fuku (伏)[2], she was named Fuse-hime (伏姫), Princess Fuse. Jiro (二郎, Second Son) came to them at the end of the year after it. He was called Jiro-Taro. Later he succeeded his father to become Lord Yoshinari of the Awa County. The new lord resided in Inamura Castle and his forces were ever more thriving.

Back to the present, Fuse-hime was unequalled even swaddled in baby clothes. You would imagine that maiden who was born in the hollow of a bamboo stalk must have been thus, with her skin translucent like a gem and her downy hair long on her nape. Not one of the Buddha’s 32 lakshana features was missing, which fact made her parents dote on her even more than normally would, and so they provided her with many court ladies to serve her.

Despite all this Fuse-hime was fretful night and day. Even at the age of three she would not speak nor smile but would only cry. For the past three years, her anguished parents had tried every medical treatment and sought out every high priest or ascetic for prayers and incantations to see no sign of blessing.

 

Courtesy of National Diet Library Digital Collections

 

Incidentally, in the County of Awa was an ancient home of a God called Suzaki Myoujin.  At the foot of the mountain of this shrine was a spacious cave and inside it was a stone statue, modelled after En no Gyoja, or En the Ascetic[3]. The spring water from here was called Tokko-sui[4], or Vajra water and never ran dry even in droughts.

“In the olden time of Emperor Monmu, he banished En no Shohkaku (Gyoja) to Island in Izu. This place is only 18 Li[5] by sea to that Izu Oshima. Oft times En no Shohkaku would walk on waves to visit Suzaki and showed his powers, so subsequently folk built the statue and installed it in that cave. His powers of omniscience remains marked even now; once you make a wish nothing will be left unfulfilled.”

It was passed from mouth to mouth and sounded so remarkable that the princess’s lamenting mother Isarago suggested to the lord.

“It’s been three years since we made a wish for Fuse-hime and started sending a representative to that cave monthly. Even though we haven’t seen any wonders, the fact that the princess has grown in good health regardless may very well be a sign. If she visited the place herself, you never know what blessings she might receive?”

Not that Yoshizane would not agree with her,

“Suzaki doesn’t belong to the Satomi. Although Anzai wouldn’t harbour any ambition now of all times, sending a little one all the way there for such a thing – I’m not sure what my people would say. Milady, please would you desist?”

He wouldn’t permit it easily. After the plea had been repeated however, he must have felt it too difficult to dismiss; he picked elderly men and women to accompany the princess on the incognito journey to Suzaki.

So in a short while Fuse-hime travelled in a palanquin held in her nursemaid’s lap, but neither the curiosity for outdoors nor cheerful words from right and left wouldn’t make her happy. Because she would cry all along the way, her attendants felt so sorry they pressed on more than before until they somehow reached Suzaki, where they took rooms at Yohroh-ji (Yohroh Temple), the shrine office of Myohjin. They paid a visit to En no Gyoja’s cave for the next seven days.

Thus it soon came to the day to complete the mission. As the escorts attended to the return journey, the palanquin left the inn and they travelled, it was felt, about 1 Li towards Heguri[6], where the princess fretted badly. Her ladies-in-waiting and nursemaid, unable to soothe her by themselves, took her out of the palanquin and let everyone comfort her and cuddle her to hasten the journey, all but to no avail.

It was at such a time when, an old man of over 80 years of age, with his eyebrows like frost placed along an inverted V shape, his back bent just as an Azusa bow, was resting in the middle of the road, supported by a pigeon cane[7]. Because they were travelling incognito they couldn’t press on. The old man, then without blinking, observed the princess and spoke to the escorts.

 

 

“Isn’t this Princess Satomi, returning from the cave? Allow the old man to offer a prayer.”

Startled, they took a close look at the man.

“He doesn’t appear to be any ordinary being. It may well bring harm not to be honest with him.”

So thought the aged escorts, who turned to the old man to confess the truth without leaving any fact untold. The old man nodded several times.

“Indeed a curse has been laid by a spirit. ‘Tis misfortunate for the child. It is not hard to exorcise it, but life is like a strand of rope intertwined by fortune and misfortune. Say you lose a child but gain a quantity of help later, then the misfortune is not really misfortune. All gains and losses are like thus. Thou shall take no joy nor sorrow. When you return tell these things to Yoshizane and Isarago. Here I provide thee with this for thy protection. You shall know its purposes later.”

Said the old man with a complacent look and took a rosary made of quartz, with the eight characters of ‘compassion’, ‘justice’, ‘beneficent grace’, ‘wisdom’, ‘loyalty’, ‘camaraderie’, ‘filial piety’, and ‘respect’ carved on the beads, out of his breast pocket and threw it around the princess’s collar. The elderly attendants, male or female, all threw themselves on the ground in awe and wonder.

“What curse did this spirit lay? Please explain fully and quell and expel it for good.”

The old man smiled to this.

“Supernatural force can never beat virtuous minds. Even with an evil spirit, the Satomi will prosper ever more. Anything that waxes will wane. What should be expelled? If all these are fully explained, the secret of heavenly fate may leak. Fuse-hime’s name shall help you understand if you are to understand. Be that as it may, the girl shall stop crying. Go now. ‘Tis high time I left.”

The moment he said so the old man appeared to turn around in direction of Suzaki, but his form, as if sped past on wings, disappeared completely.

[1] Tanuki is a Japanese name for the racoon dog.

[2] There are ‘three days of Fuku, Sanpuku in modern days or Sanbuku in the original text (三伏)’, chosen according to an ancient Chinese philosophy Yin-Yan and the Five Element Theory. It falls on July-August period in the Gregorian calendar, when it’s the hottest. The Kanji character for Fuse (伏) borrows from that for Fuku (伏), which means to lie down or hide, because it’s the period when the philosophy recommends you to take things easy, but more importantly it has the word dog (犬) in the character. Remember what curse Tamazusa laid in the last episode?

[3] Gyoja means an ascetic. His given name is usually pronounced Otsuno but Bakin calls him ‘Shohkaku’.

[4] Tokko-sui or dokko-sui often refers to spring water associated with Kukai [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C5%ABkai]. Such springs

[5] 1 Li is 2.44 miles or 3.927 kilometres. 18 Li is approximately 44 miles or 71 kilometres.

[6] Yoshizane and his family live in Takita Castle in Heguri.

[7] A walking stick for the elderly which has a grip carved to look like a pigeon.

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