I have forgotten that they were stories I heard from another and feel an intimacy with them as if they were my own direct memories. On World:. Humankind, with its long history, is by now a corpse bound to a tree with the ropes of convention. If the ropes were cut, the corpse would simply fall to the ground. Prayer in one's mother tongue is a manifestation of that pathetic state. On Live To :. It's not right to live so long in this world only moving backward.
On Life:. Going back to Tokyo? I think I can trust you. Would you accompany this old lady to Tokyo? She's had some hard times. Her son was working at the silver mine at Rendaiji. But he and his wife both died in the flu epidemic. They left three chil dren behind. We couldn't think of anything else to do, so we talked it over, and we're sending them back to their old hometown. That's Mito in Ibaraki Prefecture. But this old woman doesn't understand anything, so when the boat gets to Reiganjima in Tokyo, would you put her on a train to Ueno? I know it's a lot of trouble, but we're begging you.
Just look at her. Don't you think it's pitiful? Two girls, about three and five, held her hands. I could see big rice balls and pickled plums in her dirty bundle. Five or six miners were looking after the old woman. I was pleased to accept the task. We're counting on you. We really should see her all the way to Mito, but we can't. The launch rocked violently.
The dancing girl kept her mouth shut tight, staring at the same spot. When I grabbed the rope ladder and looked back, she tried to say good-bye but gave up and merely nodded one last time. The launch headed back to the wharf. Again and again Eikichi waved the hunting cap I had just given him. As the launch receded in the distance, the dancing girl began to wave something white. The steamship left Shimoda. I leaned against the railing and gazed at Oshima in the offing until the southern tip of the Izu Peninsula vanished behind me.
It already seemed long ago that I parted from the dancing girl. When I glanced into the cabin to check on the old woman, I saw a group of people gathered around her in a circle, consoling her. I felt relieved. I entered the cabin next door. The waves were choppy on Sagami Bay.
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I was tossed left and right as I sat. A crewman passed out small metal bowls. I lay down, using my bag as a pillow. My head felt empty, and I had no sense of time. My tears spilled onto my bag. My cheeks were so cold I turned my bag over. There was a boy lying next to me. He was. The sight of me in my First Upper School cap seemed to elicit his goodwill. After we talked for a while, he asked, "Have you had a death in your family?
I did not mind that he had seen me crying. I was not thinking about anything. I simply felt as though I were sleeping quietly, soothed and contented. I was not aware that darkness had settled on the ocean, but now lights glimmered on the shores of Ajiro and Atami.
My skin was chilled and my stomach empty. The boy took out some sushi wrapped in bamboo leaves. I ate his food, forgetting it belonged to someone else. Then I nestled inside his school coat. I felt a lovely hollow sensation, as if I could accept any sort of kindness and it would be only right. It was utterly natural that I should accompany the old woman to Ueno Station early the next morning and buy her a ticket to Mito.
Everything seemed to melt together into one. The lamp in the cabin went out. The smell of the tide and the fresh fish loaded in the hold grew stronger.
In the darkness, warmed by the boy beside me, I let my tears flow unrestrained. My head had become clear water, dripping away drop by drop. It was a sweet, pleasant feel ing, as though nothing would remain. Author's note: What is written in brackets are explanations that I added when 1 was twenty-'seven. MAY 4 It was about five-thirty when I got home from middle school. The gate was closed to keep visitors away.
My grandfather was sleeping alone in the house, so he would have been troubled if anyone came. But no one answered, and the house became quiet again. I felt the loneliness and sadness. About six feet from my grandfather's pillow, I called again: "I'm home. But I didn't have you here to help me go since morning, so I've been lying here groaning, just waiting for you.
I was going to turn over to face west. That's why I was groaning. Will you turn me over to face west? All right? Now put the quilt over me," my grandfather said. One more time. Let's do it over, okay? You did a good job. Is the tea boiling? Later would you help me urinate? I can't do everything at once. Help me. I did not know what to do. I'm going to go. Is it all right? It hurts. It hurts!
The Dancing Girl of Izu and other Stories by Yasunari Kawabata
His labored breathing and fading voice in the depths of the urinal, the sound of pure water in a valley stream. The tea was ready, so I had him drink some. Coarse tea. I held the cup to his mouth as he drank. His bony face, his balding, gray head. His quivering hands of skin and bone. His Adam's apple in a crane's neck that bobbed as he gulped. Three cups of tea. You bought me that high-quality tea, but they say it's poison to drink too much of it.
So I drink coarse tea.
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- The dancing girl of Izu and other stories.
I sent it this morning. You did. Has he somehow caught wind of it? While I was reading, I heard someone approaching. I turned away from the table. Omiyo was a farm woman about fifty years old. She came from her own home every morning and evening to cook and do other chores for us. I told her that you were seventy-five years old and the reason why you are resting in bed. I said you had been eating well for a month, but without a bowel movement, so I wanted her to consult the god.
She said, 'Age being what it is, nothing happens suddenly. It's old age. Omiyo kept on talking. Get more down his throat than you have until now,' but she did say, 'The creature likes sake. Still, it used to be that even a single flake of dried fish would get stuck in your throat, but lately you can eat sushi or rice balls in a single bite.
Oh, yes, and the way your Adam's apple bobs up and down makes me worry. When the Inari god occupies the medium and then when the god leaves her, her Adam's apple bobs, too. And on top of that, you drank an awful lot of sake a while back. I would guess what the medium said today was on the mark.
I was confused, overcome by a strange anxiety. They said, 'Did she say that he was going to die? She said it was a demon. I told them I had only gone to have your fortune told because you hadn't had a bowel movement in a month. I said, 'You [she meant the creature] should not be bothering an old established family like this. And besides, why would you cause a person such harm without any reason?
If you want tea or food, just say so and we'll give you some. Hurry up and go. I thought it would be good to offer tea and rice to the northwest corner, starting tomorrow. And would you let me take one sword out of the storehouse to keep away demons? We'll take it out of its sheath and place it under the mats in the sleeping room.
Then I'll go consult the Inari god once more tomorrow. I wonder if it's true. Did you ever borrow money from him? Would the creature be eating that? There, his Adam's apple moved. The food is really going into a human mouth. How foolish, how foolish to imagine. But, the words "a creature is eating" were carved into my head and would not leave.
I took a sword out of the storehouse, waved it about over my grandfather's bedding, then put it underneath. Afterward, I thought it a bizarre act myself. But when Omiyo saw me cutting through the air in the room, she spoke very seriously. That's the way. How people would have laughed if they had seen me, thinking I was crazy. It finally got dark. Occasionally, as I read, I could hear a frail voice send a shudder through the night air and the sound of Omiyo's footsteps each time as she went to help my grandfather relieve himself.
Soon it seemed that Omiyo had gone home. I gave my grandfather tea to drink. I wondered if the creature was drinking this, too. That's stupid. There couldn't be anything as weird as that. I'm a third-year middle-school student. Tea is fine, and it's good plain. It's bad for you to drink tea that tastes too good. Ah, this is fine. Where's my tobacco? Oh, those eyes that I thought would never see againthose eyes can see!
I was happy; a gleam of light had pierced the dark world. He probably had his eyes closed at the time. I must have been worried that he would die that way. Brandishing the sword a while ago seems odd now. It seems foolish. But the words "a creature in his belly is eating and drinking" have taken hold of me. It's about nine o'clock now. My brain feels as though it has been washed clean. About ten o'clock, Omiyo came to help my grandfather urinate. Which way am I facing now?
Oh, I see. I'm going home. There's nothing left to do now, is there? MAY 5 Morning. As soon as the sparrows started chirping, Omiyo arrived. Two times? You got up at twelve and three to help him urinate? You're so young to have to go through so much. Think of it as repaying a debt of gratitude to your grandfather. We have a new baby at home, so I can't stay over here. Okiku knows what it is to give birth to a child, but she doesn't know what it is to care for one. She had just had her first baby at the time. I went to school. School is my paradise.
Omiyo came about six o'clock in the evening. The same thing happened. It's strange. She didn't say it was a creature, but a demon. She said, 'It's not just. The medium said, 'He's a little better these days, isn't he? He's probably not eating and drinking unreasonably. He's quiet today. I began to puzzle again over whether there might really be such things as demons.
The smoke from the incense that we had bought with some of the little money in the house swirled around my grandfather's pillow and drifted over his bed like a brilliant, clear autumn stream. I won't be able to come here. The way it looks now, I don't think he'll ever sit up by the charcoal brazier again. I was worried that my grandfather might die before I reached a hundred.
Perhaps I had believed my grandfather would be saved if only I could reach a hundred. And now that I suspected my grandfather might be dying, I wished at least to transfer his image to this diary while I still could. But, "a demon is cursing him" was it a superstition? Or no superstition at all, but true? MAY 6 "Has the boy gone to school yet? It's six in the evening now. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. For supper he had two thin rolls of seaweed-wrapped sushi.
Omiyo put them in his mouth, and he swallowed them whole. I listened from the bath. He did not normally ask such things. Then, a moment later: "It's still early, but I'm awfully hungry. Are you feeding me supper before the boy? I could not hear the rest, just that laughter again. I felt sad as I sat in the bath. The only sounds in the house are the tick of the wall clock and the jet of the gas lamps. From the dark room in the back: "It hurts.
If hurts. Oh, it hurts. It sounded as though he was appealing to heaven. Finally, the voice stopped. Then again. Ah, it hurts. As I listened, over and over I repeated the words in my heart, "It won't happen suddenly, but gradually his body will get weaker. He has his common sense back. He's more moderate about his eating. Nevertheless, day by day, his body. MAY 7 "Last night he woke me up once to help him urinate and two other times to turn him over and to get him some tea.
But I had gone to bed at midnight, so I just didn't wake up. I appealed to her. If my headache gets better, I'll stay here until midnight. Even in the daytime, if I don't come for two hours, when I do get here, he says, 'I have lived my life crying,' so I've been coming every hour.
Later I reconsidered what I had done and grieved and cried over my unfortunate grandfather. There is no task more odious to me than this. After I ate, I turned back my grandfather's quilt, and held the urinal bottle. I waited ten minutes and nothing came. I realized how much strength had gone out of his belly. I complained while I waited. I grumbled. It should come out on its own. Then my grandfather begged my forgiveness. When I looked at his face, which grows more haggard day by day, his pale face where the shadow of death dwells, I was ashamed of myself.
Finally, "Oh, It hurts. My shoulders grew tense just listening. Soon, the clear tinkling sound. When I was about to leave for school: "I wonder when I'm going to get better? Isn't that a blessed occur rence? The gods and Buddhas won't abandon me. That's almost too good to be true. When I got home from school, the gate was open. But the house was silent. Later on, would you help me urinate? It is a book that my grandfather dictated to Jiraku. This was a book on the latter. My grandfather never realized a single one of his life's ambitions. Everything he did was a failure. How does he feel in his heart?
Oh, how well he has lived through adversity to the age of seventy-five. The strength of his heart. My grandfather's habit of saying "I have lived my life crying" is his true feeling. There were even people who came from far away to have him check their plans. He probably thought that by publishing his Theory of Safe House Construction he would save people from the misfortunes of this world. It was not as though I believed or disbelieved his divination or geomancy. I recall that I had only a vague sense of what they were.
Even so, no matter how far out in the country we lived, I can't believe that, being sixteen years old and a third-year middleschool student, I did not call a doctor to examine my grandfather, who had been constipated for a month. Instead, we had merely consulted a fortune teller at the Inari shrine and imagined he was possessed. There was a convent temple in our village. Apparently my ancestors had founded the temple long ago.
The temple buildings as well as the temple mountain, woods, and fields were in my family's name, and the nuns were listed in our family register. It was of the Obaku Sect, and the Bodhisattva Kokuzo was the principal image worshiped there. Once a year, on the "Thirteen Pilgrimage," the place was bustling with children who had turned thirteen. Anyway, a priest who had been secluded in a renowned mountain temple two and a half miles north of our village was to move to this temple.
My grandfather was very grateful. He chased out the nuns and relinquished the temple property. The temple was rebuilt and enlarged, and its name changed. During the construction, the Kokuzo and five or six other Buddhist images were kept in the parlor of our house. Because of this, the house was filled with the green smell of the temporary reed mats that had been used because there was not enough money to install reg ular straw mats. The one who was so devoted to the new incoming priest, who rebuilt the temple, and who also laid mats in our parlor was the rich man Toyokawa.
This morning Omiyo said, "I made rice cakes to celebrate the birth of the child, enough for thirty families. But we received gifts from more places than we ever expected, so I have to make some more. Thirty houses' worth? More than that? In a village with fewer than fifty houses, a family like yours gets gifts from that many people?
About eight o'clock in the evening when she was about to leave, she said to my grandfather, "Do you need to urinate? MAY 8 This morning my grandfather looked forward to Omiyo's arrival. He reported my unkindness to her and complained endlessly. Maybe I was at fault. But 1 was angry at being awakened time after time in the night.
The Dancing Girl of Izu
And besides, I hate helping him urinate. Omiyo spoke to me: "All he does is complain. He thinks only of himself and not the least about the people who take care of him. Even though we care for him, thinking of it as our mutual fate. I always ask him if there is anything he needs before I go to school in the morning, but today I left without saying a word. Of course, by the time I got home from school, I began to feel sorry for him. Omiyo spoke to me: "I told him about going to have his fortune told the other day.
He said, 'Thank you for going for me. I vaguely remember eating everything in two bites. I seem to remember being able to drink a lot.
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After supper, my grandfather spoke: "Omiyo, I am going to tell you what is on my mind an intimate talkso you can feel relieved. Give me my supper. I didn't know. I forgot. His words become quieter, more dejected, harder to catch as the days go by. He repeats the same things over and over, ten times or more. Well, now I am sitting at my desk with my writing paper spread out.
Omiyo sat down and got ready to hear this so-called "intimate talk. That's right. While I am alive, I want to do something about that seal. But, anyway, I gave it a good try. I even went to Tokyo and met Okuma [Okuma Shigenobu]. I have grown so weak sitting in this house. Oh, we had more than forty acres of fields and all I wanted to do was make them the boy's during my lifetime, but it amounted to nothing.
Then he would worry about the divination of the house. He would build and tear down and rebuild, selling off the fields and woods for a song. One part of the property he lost wound up in the hands of a sake brewer named Matsuo from Nada. My grandfather was always thinking that he would at least like to get back this part. He wouldn't have to flounder about after he graduates from the university.
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It would be unfortunate if he has to depend on the Shimakis [my uncle's family] or the Ikedas [my aunt's family]. If those fields belonged to the boy, he could stay on in this house even after I die, consulting with Gozen [the monk who came to the new temple that I. If only I had money like a Konoike [a name that means "rich man"], he wouldn't have to hustle for a living. In order to bring this all about, you see, I had planned to go to Tokyo, but unfortunately I can't go.
But words are not enough. If I hurried and made the boy the master of a solid family, he wouldn't need other people to take care of him the rest of his life. If I could see, I could go to Okuma and there would be no problem. Oh, no matter what, I'm going to Tokyo. I want you to talk with Jiko and Zuien [the new priest at the temple and his dis ciple] at Saihoji [our family temple], please.
Tell them I'm going. My grandfather knew something about Chinese medicine. And my late father had been a doctor who had graduated from a medical school in Tokyo. My grandfather had picked up a few Western medical techniques and spiced the knowledge with his own version of Chinese pharmacology. He had been dispensing medicine to the country people for a long time, with an obstinate confidence in his self-taught expertise.
This confidence grew even stronger when an outbreak of dysentery occurred in the village. It happened the summer of the year that the Buddhist images were left in our parlor during the reconstruction of the convent temple that I wrote of earlier. In our village of fifty houses, about one person per family was stricken with the disease, a large number of victims. It caused such a panic that they built temporary quaran tine shelters in two places. The smell of disinfectants reached all the way out into the fields. Some villagers even said the disease was a curse for moving the old Buddhist images from the convent temple.
Anyway, my grandfather's medicine cured some cases of dysentery quite readily. Some of the patients were saved by keeping them hidden at home, not letting them be taken to the hospital, and secretly giving them grandfather's medicine. There were even patients in the quarantine hospitals who tossed aside the prescribed medicine and took my grandfather's instead. My grandfather's medicine cured some people whom the doctors had given up for lost. I do not know what medical value it actually had, but my grandfather's treatment had indeed proven uncannily effective.
Thereafter my grandfather began to consider making his medicine known to the world. He had Jiraku write a request by which he received permission from the Ministry of Home Affairs to sell three or four kinds of medicine. He printed up some five or six thousand wrapping papers with the shop name "Higashimura Sanryudo" on them, but ultimately his medicine production came to naught.
Still, plans for that medicine remained in my grandfather's head until he died. My grandfather had a childlike confidence, certain that he could get the assistance he needed if only he could go to Tokyo and see Okuma Shigenobu, whom he esteemed so. Besides the medicine, he was probably also thinking about the publication of his book on safe house construction. Current Affairs. Historical Fiction. True Crime. Profession: Author. Event Coordinator. Film Executive. Foreign Publisher. Literary Agent.