No Luck and No Chance (縁のないもの是非もない)*

from the cell phone novel Tsugaru Min’yō (津軽民謡, “Folk Songs of Tsugaru”)
By CHAWAN Emiko (茶碗 恵美子)
Translated by MYŌGADANI Mōra (茗荷谷 望裸)

Note: This story is a “parallel” story to an earlier story from the Tsugaru Min’yo collection, “Shin Setsu”, whose English translation appeared in SS*BB #24

Translator’s notes included at the end.

(mirrors http://s2b2.livejournal.com/156326.html)

The gate to the house is open, as Seikichi has always remembered it. In any other family he would read it as friendliness; from the Maeda it is because they have been poor for long enough that the door has broken and they have no money to fix it.

The better for them to hear him, anyway, and for their youngest son to make his way out to the street, to meet Seikichi again. It has been many months since they have spoken, and Seikichi misses the sound of his voice.

He tightens the strings on his shamisen, then fine-tunes them in the opening to “Yasaburo Bushi” – only to hear not the curious off-beat rhythm of Shinsuke hurrying towards him, but the even paces of a man with two sound ankles and a young, strong body. Shinsuke’s brother, most likely.

The footsteps stop when he is just starting out the melody proper, and the man says, “He’s not here.” Seikichi recognizes the voice – Keisuke, the family’s oldest son.

Seikichi ignores him and keeps playing. He will finish the song and then go somewhere else in the town to play. He can wait. Shinsuke will be home by nightfall, at the latest. He slides his hand up the neck of the shamisen and continues the piece, adding his own elaborations to the melody.

“He don’t live here anymore,” Keisuke clarifies, and Seikichi’s fingers stumble over the strings, the whole piece falling out of his thoughts. He can’t remember where in the tune he was; he was playing it from instinct instead of memory.

He hadn’t thought Shinsuke would give up, let alone be satisfied to marry. But it has been almost two years, and men have been known to change their lives in that time. Especially if the bride offered him a place as the only son and heir.

He had thought Shinsuke too much of a dreamer for that, with his essays on constitutions and parliaments, and votes for the educated. But maybe he has stopped dreaming.

Seikichi should leave. He can’t leave because he’s in the middle of a song, even if his hands froze with shock. He wants to leave, because soon enough he will be angry, something in him stirring and winding itself up in frustrated rage. Shinsuke confessed to him, not to some fifteen-year-old daughter of an ex-samurai, a girl with a high, sweet voice and smooth hands.

“I would like to wish him well in his marriage, then,” Seikichi says. He wonders why he hasn’t been chased off yet. Without Shinsuke there to press his case, he never would have walked through their gate all those years ago, let alone been given their table scraps or slept on their floor. And he can’t imagine they’re any fonder of the idea that he might come crawling into their son’s bed.

“He ain’t married,” Keisuke says shortly. “He wouldn’t marry, even after the family found him a bride. Moved out of the house, to the other side of town.”

Shinsuke lets himself breathe, slowly. His hands are shaking, and there’s something hot and wild in his belly, not sexual arousal and not happiness. He wonders if it’s what victory feels like.

“I see,” he murmurs, bowing in acknowledgement. “Thank you.”

Keisuke scoffs. “Put your shamisen away and go find him. If Father hears you, he’ll try to have you run out of town, and nobody wants that. You play too well.”

Seikichi bows again, lower, his palms sticking to the wood frame of the shamisen in the heat, and puts his instrument away while Keisuke walks back inside the house.

He finds the new house by asking Chiyo at the dango shop, or rather, he shows up at her door, gathers some lunchtime custom for her by playing, and listens to her gossip – she likes giving out updates, especially to those, like him, who haven’t passed by her shop in a long time.

“And of course she says to her father, ‘But Okame married that merchant’s son,’ but they weren’t having none of it, since of course a poor peasant girl won’t be accepted by a family that wants to marry up, so she was married off and that was the end of it.” Chiyo’s clothes rustle and the dishes clatter against each other.

“Okame?” The name is not unfamiliar, but he can’t quite place it.

“The Maeda family’s oldest girl, a strange one. She and the merchant’s second son were close since they were little. It was a relief when the families caught them sneaking into the fields together since it gave them an excuse to get them married off, finally. Speaking of that family, would you believe that the youngest boy, Shinsuke, moved out rather than marry the girl they found for him? She didn’t have any brothers, neither, and him being third son and with a club foot, there’s no other girl coming to him.”

“Reckon not. Where’s he living now?”

“Oh, off in the old tenant house by the south side of town, next to the group of pines. You’ll know it because all the rest have children playing out front and his never will.” She laughs softly at her own joke, and Seikichi exhales, wondering. If he’d been a girl, would things have been different – no, of course not. Shinsuke is the son of a samurai, and would never marry a peasant’s blind daughter who was half whore and half shamisen player. Sleep with her and pay for the favor, but never give her a home and a name, and let her children by him inherit –

Chiyo touches his shoulder. “I bet you’re hungry, and I should give you something for the music,” she says, and presses a plate into his empty hands.

He eats. It’s the first food he’s had since – before yesterday, anyway. He’s grateful to her.

After he’s eaten, she takes the plate from him and asks, “So, where you going to now?”

“Shinsuke’s,” he says softly, then, more loudly, “I’ll be around for a few days.”

“Come back soon,”she says. He nods, finishes gathering his things, and makes his way to the south end of town.

Shinsuke welcomes him, less eagerly than Seikichi remembers him doing before, and there is a strange note in his voice, nervousness maybe. Seikichi wonders if it’s because Shinsuke is afraid of not yet being forgiven for the confession, or if it’s something else.

They are sitting on the floor before Shinsuke’s hearth, still warm from the noon meal, and Seikichi feels the worn tatami mats of the floor, fresh-swept from Shinsuke moving in. Shinsuke, all but disowned, is too poor to buy new, and from what Keisuke said, there is no real possibility that he will ever have it. Seikichi’s belly is tight with guilt – if he had been something other than what he is, or Shinsuke had not become so fond of him, then they would not be sitting here now, and Shinsuke would not be poor on his account.

He breathes, and declines an offer of tea, and they sit in uncomfortable, tense silence for some minutes before Shinsuke breaks out with, “I’m sorry I wasn’t here last summer; I’d’ve told you if you’d come in the spring, but you didn’t – I won an award to go to Sendai, for a debate, and I was gone for a while. So if you came then, and were surprised that I wasn’t here, well, that’s why.”

Seikichi lets his hands fall from resting on his thighs to the floor. “I didn’t come, so I didn’t know you weren’t here. I’m sorry if that made you worry.”

Shinsuke’s shoulders slump in relief. “Good; I didn’t want you thinking I’d left without -” he cuts himself off.

Seikichi rubs his thumb against the calluses on his fingertips, and thinks that Shinsuke’s honor is a kind of idiocy. To refuse marriage just because he wants someone who’s already rejected him – only a fool would do that. He breathes. “I woulda asked where you’d gone,” he says.

Shinsuke will be poor beyond what he has ever known before, this year. If he does not give in, return home to find a bride and a warm hearth, and give up on his desire, Seikichi will be surprised.

He leaves after a few days. The winter is lonely but not harsh, and he passes the season almost without hunger. The snow is cold on his fingers, ears, toes, and while walking, he daydreams of smoky, warm rooms and hot tea to drink, and while he’s at it, a lover as well, skin warm under his hands.

He likes to alternate between a young man whose wife is away and a young widow, imagining a body pressed warm against his, tight around him as he slides in, and legs clasped warm around his thighs as he takes his pleasure. He breathes in cold air and imagines it thick with smoke, and feels his lover’s hands calloused-rough holding his shoulders, keeping him close.

The widow of his imagination breathes lightly, little cat-gasps of pleasure, when he conjures her up, but today that image slips from his mind, and the body that rests against his changes, breasts flattening away and shoulders growing broad. The youth says his name in shaking desperation as they undress, and his skin is smooth where Seikichi touches him, fingers tracing his sides, his hips. Sekichi bows his head and rests it against the youth’s collarbone, listens to his heart for a few moments before they shift and wrap their hands around each other. The breath he can hear comes ever quicker, ever shallower, with pleasure, until finally Seikichi stops, unwraps the hand from around himself, and slips his fingers back to find the tight ring of muscle, already slippery with oil and welcoming him in.

He has already imagined this a thousand times, and the grooves of the fantasy are worn deep in his thoughts: the quickness of his lover’s breathing, the slide of their bodies, the wet sound of oil where they join. As always, the youth says Seikichi’s name before he comes, and moans when Seikichi continues to move inside him. He sets his fingertips, rough and warm, across Seikichi’s cheekbones, and they are trembling, ever so slightly. He says Seikichi’s name again after that, and his voice is filled with wonder.

Seikichi breathes in the cold air, his lungs rasping, and lets the youth of his daydreams keep him warm.

He is already unwell when he returns to Shinsuke’s little house with its too-small, just-planted fields. But this sickness, rattling in his chest and thick in his throat, feels worse than the times he’s been sick before, and if he must die, he doesn’t want to die on the road, in the home of some stranger. He hasn’t gone home to the house where he was born for nearly five years – they couldn’t afford to feed him, and the contrast between his eternally-pregnant mother and the fact that he is the second-youngest of only five surviving children was enough to make him sick, now that he’s old enough to realize what it means. He hasn’t felt a need to go back since then.

He has no place to go where he is certain of his welcome, other than Shinsuke’s house. And he trusts that if he does die there, Shinsuke will at least see that he is buried, even without the proper rites, or a cremation.

He heard a story once about a priest who loved his page so much that, when the boy died of an illness, the priest, mad with grief, sucked the flesh from his bones and became a demon. Shinsuke would grieve, he knows, but not so much as that. **

He thinks, passing the gate of the Maeda family house, that he would not mind being buried in Shinsuke’s fields, his blood drunk by the soil and the roots of bean plants sinking through his skin. At the edge of their property he tries to breathe deeply, but it catches in his throat and he coughs, hard enough that it hurts.

Shinsuke has not returned to his family’s house, and greets his I apologize for intruding at the door with Welcome home. Seikichi tries to swallow over the tightness of his throat at hearing that – if only this were his house – and it comes out as coughing.

Shinsuke takes care of him while he is sick. Seikichi spends his days breathing with difficulty, shivering and hard-pressed to do more than sleep, and when even that fails, he lies with a headache pounding at his temples, his eyes closed as he tries not to hear music in the crackling of the hearth fire and fails.

The worst of it passes in two weeks, so that he can stand and move around, and he spends the rest of the summer trying to do little things to help around the house while he finishes recovering – wash millet, or air out drying clothes. Shinsuke thanks him every time, and Seikichi finds it irritating without really understanding why until he listens to Chiyo’s new gossip in lulls between customers. She tells him about a girl who recently returned to the town, unhappy after the death of her husband and sick of her mother-in-law.

“And she weren’t grateful, neither, the girl says. Like a woman’s gonna thank the girl for doing what she shoulda been doing from the beginning. Now, not lettin’ her eat, that’s no good, that’s a reason to leave, but not being thanked ain’t.”

“But it’d be nice,” he points out, and thinks, She wanted thanks because she knew the woman wasn’t grateful; if she’d known, she wouldn’t have needed it. He breathes out, and adds: He thanks me because he thinks I am acting out of duty, and I don’t want thanks because I know it’s more than that.

He twists the bachi of the shamisen in his hand, readjusting his grip on it to make striking the strings easier. The shamisen feels light where it rests on his thigh, but only because he is accustomed to its weight. He presses his lips together and tries not to think of the smell of Shinsuke’s clothes and bed, and fails.

“Don’t matter if it’s nice. Girl won’t find another, and her folks’re right mad at her. ‘Scuse me.” She bustles off to wait on whomever has just walked up to the shop; he can hear the rhythm of heavy footsteps.

He leaves at the end of summer because he is finally well, and because Shinsuke cannot afford to feed him. There is no friendship in starvation.

As he is about to walk out the door, pack on his back and his feet settled in his shoes, he thinks again of the story of the bereaved priest, and of woman-ghosts whose spirits kill out of jealousy. He can feel Shinsuke’s gaze on the back of his neck. “Your generosity is too much and I want very badly to accept it. But it is – it would be selfish of me to accept.”

Shinsuke’s breathing jerks, halfway to a sob. “If you want them, you should take the things that are offered to you.” His voice is closer than Seikichi expected, and Seikichi thinks of turning around, reaching for him, hunger and fire. He could learn to live with Shinsuke availing himself of his body whenever the whim came to him. But he can’t bring himself to yield, and so he keeps his back to Shinsuke as he walks out the door, down the road towards autumn.

Tomi frightens him as much as she appeals to him. Her mother-in-law is long gone, her husband dead in some recent feud between local thugs, and her son is too young to understand the blind shamisen player sleeping in her bed, let alone the reasons why.

She is rich, for her father ran a small store, and she sees fit to feed and clothe him. It is not an offer that is easy to decline, so he spends the winter alternately fearing for his life when the thugs come around to consult with her on matters of policy, and in the midst of sexual arousal – she understands what pleases her in bed, and knows how to make sure that he enjoys it as well. He knows that she worked as an unlicensed prostitute before her marriage, and that she has likely has taken it up again now that the man is dead, but she is unashamed of it. He wonders if it’s funny for a prostitute to hire a shamisen player for sex, and decides that if he were not the shamisen player in question, it would be.

He supposes, come spring and his release from Tomi’s village, that it is obvious enough what he spent the winter doing, given the newfound richness of his clothes and the fact that he has gained weight – he can feel it in the heaviness of his arms and the reassuring muscle in his own legs. It will melt away soon enough, but it feels good to not be constantly hungry anymore.

Of course, merely being obvious does not mean he must tell the truth; Shinsuke, when they finally meet again, asks about how he became so well-off with something like despair in his voice. Seikichi wants to explain the joke – she was so terrifying that she was able to have her way with me – but there is no grace, and no honor, in that. And Shinsuke, who Seikichi has no doubt went hungry in the winter from feeding two in the summer, would see it only as a reference to his inability to look after Seikichi as well. That shame Seikichi will spare him from.

That night, he lies sweating in the summer heat, absently pinching his mosquito bites, trying not to imagine slipping into Shinsuke’s bed. It’s too hot to be close to someone else, but Seikichi cast aside the widow of his fantasies in the face of Tomi’s reality, and spent the meandering journey from her village to Shinsuke’s imagining his welcome: Shinsuke on his hands and knees, still sweat-dirty from the field because he’d been too eager to welcome Seikichi home to wait for a bath.

Not that that’s what happened, nor ever will happen. In reality, Shinsuke would greet him by taking the shamisen from his hands and setting it aside, then bending him over the writing-box in the corner and taking him. Shinsuke might not throw him out immediately afterwards, unlike the rest of the men Seikichi’s been with, but the next time Seikichi came to his house it would be nothing but flesh between them.

He overheard Tomi giving advice to a girl about to be married, and he couldn’t forget it: Once you let him fuck you he’s had what he wants – he’s not interested in anything else, and after he’s had you he won’t even pretend about it. He has more faith in Shinsuke than that: Shinsuke thinks he wants more than his body’s pleasure. Even so, he would forget their friendship in the heat of it, and Seikichi would dread returning once their friendship turned into a thing of horror.

And yet – Shinsuke keeps his house as though it is both of theirs, and Seikichi hears the aching slow unevenness of his gait in every song he plays.

Seikichi rolls over and hums to himself, almost inaudible against the thrum of the wind against the walls, If her husband’s eyes don’t heal, she’ll pray for thirty-seven days…***

The summer spent wandering, is warm, and his dreams warmer, filled with the sound of Shinsuke’s breathing, the roughness of his skin. Seikichi gives in just as the leaves are beginning to turn and returns to Shinsuke’s house.

He was humming to himself as he walked, so it takes him a moment to hear the people standing outside Shinsuke’s house, and to fall silent. Shinsuke is speaking with his sister Ofune; she is not entirely pleased with him. She has always been distant, so it surprises Seikichi to hear the kindness in her voice when she calls out to him, “It has been some time, hasn’t it?”

“Quite,” he says back, and he stops when his cane hits a blur that shouldn’t be in the way. It looks the right sort of size to be a person, and if it is, then it’s Shinsuke, so he bows in greeting rather than saying anything before remembering the old gossip about Ofune marrying. “My belated felicitations upon your marriage, if you can forgive me for not being more prompt.”

Her clothes rasp as she moves. “You are forgiven.” He can tell from her voice that she doesn’t really mean it.

He ignores the slight and turns to Shinsuke. “I hope I have not come at an inconvenient time.”

“No,” Shinsuke says. He sounds tired and nervous, and his lame foot grates along the dirt as he shifts his weight. Seikichi briefly imagines holding his ankle, learning its shape.

Ofune says, “I think it’s getting late, and my husband is expecting me. Excuse me.” She she begins to walk towards the gate before Seikichi can reply, which confirms his impression that she is angry. He wonders if his presence has made it worse.

He follows the sound of Shinsuke’s footsteps entering the house, but stands just inside the doorway. “Your sister is not as fond of me as she once was,” he points out, wondering if Shinsuke will try to deny it, or offer some other explanation.

“Her husband has been…”

A lie, then. “Ah. The troubles of newlyweds. I don’t think I’ll ever know that difficulty, but somehow I feel sorry for her.” He slips off his shoes and excuses himself into Shinsuke’s home. The tatami is warm where the sunlight was hitting it through the door, and still rough with wear. He sets his shamisen down out of the way of the sun.

“Don’t.” The sound of a knife against wood, the crispness of something being cut. Likely vegetables.

“Why not?”

“It’s a small problem, that’s all.”

“Ah. I see.” Seikichi moves to sit in front of the closet, sets down his pack, and opens it to put away his clothes. Well, he did not expect Shinsuke’s family to welcome him as a son, did he?

Ofune comes by in the middle of the day several days later, while Shinsuke is out and Seikichi is trying to wash food stains out of his own clothes. He knows it’s her by the sound of her feet, and doesn’t turn around when she comes within talking distance of him.

“Is m’brother here?”

“Nope.”

“Good.”

That’s when he turns, surprised.

She folds her arms across her chest. “I been talking to Keisuke, and we decided that just because our baby brother is stupid don’t mean we have to be.”

“Beg pardon?”

“You probably know,” she says, “but he won’t marry ‘long as he’s got you, and he’ll walk rather than lose you, so we figure we better give up on the sister-in-law if we want to keep our brother.”

“Huh,” he says, and turns back to his washing. The soap is slick on his hands. “I didn’t have nothing to do with that.”

“Did too. Don’t matter if you – enjoy yourselves.” There’s a twist in her voice that makes him want to laugh****. “‘Cause he wants to, and everybody knows it, so it don’t make a difference to me or Keisuke if y’do.”

He tilts his neck to peer at the stain and finds it mostly gone, so he gives the cloth a good shake under the water to clean out the last of the soap. “You know he asked me three years ago?”

“And you turned him down, otherwise he wouldn’t a’spent the next year moping into his letters. Why? If you wasn’t interested, you wouldn’t keep coming back, not if you had any kindness.”

He pulls the garment out of the water and wrings it out a little. “You give me too much credit.”

“What, you got a wife somewhere, or a boy prettier ‘n smarter than him?”

“No,” he says. “Just cowardice.” Wrings it out some more, with quick turns of his wrists. “If you’re trying to tell me to let him do it to me, then you’ll be pleased to know I was already thinking ’bout finally giving in.”

She laughs, muffled like she’s covering her mouth. “I don’t think that’s how he wants it, you know.”

He wrings a little more savagely than he needs to. “Don’t matter much.” And it doesn’t. Even if he is half-hard at the insinuation that Shinsuke is eager to have Seikichi fill him, all slick heat and pleading. “Why d’you care? You’re married.”

“I want to see my baby brother married off proper. My marriage don’t have nothing to do with that.”

Except that she went through two fiancés before the third one stuck, the first because of the death of the groom’s oldest brother, the second because the family suddenly had a chance to marry the boy into an inheritance he’d never get with Ofune. The third one was settling, an older man searching for a second wife after the death of his first in childbirth some five years previously.

He stands up properly, untwists the cloth in his hands and walks over to the line strung up in the lee of the roof but still outside. Hangs it up. “You happy with Hiroshi, then? Eating enough, not treating you bad? His mother all right?”

Ofune comes up beside him but doesn’t offer to help. “It’s fine.”

“He -” Seikichi breathes. “I ain’t family, and I know it, so I don’t have the right to ask. But I don’t care, so I got no reason to tell.” Some of the clothes are dry, so he takes them down.

“‘Cept to my brother,” she says immediately, then catches herself and says, “There ain’t no problems ‘n you got no business asking.”

Seikichi walks to the door and kicks off his shoes, stepping up onto the floor. Ofune doesn’t, but the way the green smear of her clothes joins with the brown of the floor suggests she’s sitting on the ledge.

“Fair ‘nough,” he murmurs, checking the fire. He tries to imagine the pressure of Shinsuke’s body against his and finds it difficult. Is Shinsuke the kind who holds his own, or would he yield everything? Both prospects appeal. He spreads the cloth out on the floor and starts to fold it, finding the creases half by touch and half by memory.

She sighs and begins, “Shinsuke, he’s -” just as the sound of irregular footsteps begins to clatter nearby, and she cuts herself off with, “Never you mind. I’ll be seeing you. ‘Scuse me.” Her geta thunk against the floor as she stands, and he hears her walk off. A short conversation, in her tones of general annoyance and Shinsuke’s smooth quickness, and Shinsuke makes his way inside.

“Marriage?” Shinsuke asks, and Seikichi can hear the frustrated edge to his voice. Ofune may care for her brother, but she’s terrible at allowing him to see it.

“Hers,” he answers. If Shinsuke had been so devoted to a woman, would Keisuke and Ofune have yielded earlier? Probably not if she had been as inappropriate as Seikichi is. At least this way, there is no question of children of uncertain patrimony, no question of inheritance, because they will never acknowledge him far enough to adopt him as another son to share Shinsuke’s resources.

He does not mean to dawdle until autumn comes, but he does, and becomes hemmed in by the wind and rain. His choice is between wandering through the winter cold and snow, which made him sick not so long ago, or staying holed up in Shinsuke’s home through all the season.

He likes playing while it rains, even if it does mean that the skin head of the shamisen doesn’t ring true. He likes to practice while Shinsuke writes letters, and the two of them breathe together, not talking. He could get used to this way of living, heavy with the echoes of rain and “Yasaburo Bushi” ringing between them. He wants to stay, and he knows Shinsuke would not deny him.

He almost sets out anyway, but then the rain begins to pour down, and one night the sharp cracking of thunder wakes him to the soft rustling and quick gasps of Shinsuke pleasuring himself. After that, he can’t bring himself to leave.

Some days later, it rains again, but not very hard, so he goes walking a bit, talks to Chiyo some, and hums to himself on the way back, an ornamented version of “Ohara Bushi.”

When he returns, Shinsuke gets up from the floor to see him again, lays a hand on his shoulder and offers to take his coat. Seikichi gives it to him, and watches Shinsuke’s blur as he puts the coat away in slow longing movements. Seikichi imagines he can feel Shinsuke’s hunger, and he realizes: If I do not give in to him now, I will pass this winter desperate, and neither of us will be happy.

“I didn’t know my coat was so interesting,” he says, and flatters himself to imagine that Shinsuke’s gasp is the same as the one from that night during the thunderstorm while he pleasured himself, and which Seikichi listened to as he did the same.


Translator’s Notes

Readers may notice a change in the speaking style of the characters from the previous translation. The original story of Tsugaru Min’yō, “Shin Setsu,” like “No Luck and No Chance,” is written with the characters speaking in a distinct Japanese geographical accent known as the Tōhoku dialect. That overtone was deliberately omitted in the translation of “Shin Setsu,” but after further consultation with Chawan Emiko and a linguist, that was changed for “No Luck and No Chance.” In the English translation of “No Luck and No Chance,” the dialogue is meant to resemble an accent one would hear in the southern United States, to reflect some of the social overtones of the Tōhoku dialect.

In the original Japanese, one section of dialogue is copied directly from “Shin Setsu.” To reflect the fact that the two sections of dialogue are identical in the two stories, that passage in “No Luck and No Chance” has been left in the Standard American English that was used in “Shin Setsu.”

* The title is from the final verse of the TAKAHASHI Chikuzan version of the traditional Tsugaru song “Yasaburō Bushi.” The Chikuzan version contains fifteen verses instead of the nine or ten found elsewhere. Below is a translation of the lyrics; the first nine are copied from a translation by Dr David W. Hughes and the final six are my own, with assistance from Sumi H..

One: In Kizukuri Newfields, off in a corner of Shimo-Aino Village is Yasaburo’s house.
Two: Asking a few people for help, he got a bride from Mankuro of Obiraki.
Three: This bride brought the Three Objects [dowry] –
Four: She weeded the fields morning and night, but when she came home late, she was scolded.
Five: Scolded, picked on, scowled at – and denied her three meals a day.
Six: Used harshly by unreasonable parents-in-law – blood flowed from her ten fingers.
Seven: No matter how hard she worked, they wouldn’t rub soothing oil on her.
Eight: The sun doesn’t shine on Yasaburo’s house, yet it even shines in Mogawa Forest.
Nine: All the parents here are devils; all the brides who come here are fools.
Ten: Instead of letting her eat, they hide all the botamochi [sweets].
Eleven: On storehouse-opening day they taunt her and leave it closed.
Twelve: The mountain god with horns coming up resembles our old lady.
Thirteen: Even though he received brides from all over, none of them met with the old lady’s approval.
Fourteen: “Don’t sit there crying; go hull the rice” – her spilled tears soaked the grains.
Fifteen: No luck and no chance; her tears flowing, she took her own leave.

Hughes translation taken from here: http://www.komuso.com/pieces/Yasaburo_Bushi.html

** Ueda Akinari, Tales of Moonlight and Rain. “The Blue Hood.”

*** The opening lines of one set of lyrics for “Tsugaru Ohara Bushi” (津軽小原節).

**** “Enjoy” is a liberal translation of “asobu” (遊ぶ, to play), which has a well-established sexual meaning in Japanese, especially where prostitution is concerned, akin to an archaic use of “sport” in English. The pause in the line of dialogue is not present in the original Japanese; it has been added in the English edition to make clear the sexual connotation of the language. According to Chawan, Ofune’s reaction is not one of squeamishness at the concept of Shinsuke and Seikichi having sex but rather at it being more than a financial transaction.

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