This week’s Photo Challenge Twisted didn’t mean much till I found this photo I’d taken in my local Sushi Bar ( I did move the figurine, just a tad.)
The women’s twisted hair and that knotted Obi sparked a rewrite of a traditional folktale I’ve been working on –
Long, long ago in Old Japan there was a young man who loved his old father dearly. Not long after his son’s wedding, the old man died and the young man withdrew into his work as he grieved for his father.
Early one morning, he brought his wife in to show the piles of baskets he had made and said he must go to the market. She helped him stack them on his back and waved him off on his walk to the nearest town. She felt pleased to see him at last like his old self again. Such fine, strong weaving attracted many buyers so he sold out quickly. and made a good profit. Before returning home, the shy young man had time to wander the stalls.
An array of silver objects caught the light. He had never seen anything like these before. The Gaijin vendor signalled they were delicate and would break if dropped. He nodded as the young man gingerly picked up the nearest. One glance and he was amazed … for there was his father looking at him.
“Oh father!” he muttered, lifting his eyes to the sky, “What are you doing here in the town?” No voice spoke from the clouds.Was this some kind of magic? Looking around him, he wondered why his father had come back to see him. He quickly bought one, tucked it safely in his belt and anxiously hurried home.
As soon as he got there, he placed his precious object in their family shrine and said nothing of it to his wife. From that day on, he prayed fervently each dawn and dusk.
Naturally, his young wife noticed how much time he spent praying. One day, after her husband had gone off to gather more bamboo, she looked inside the shrine and gasped. There, she surprised a lovely young woman who looked back at her. She quickly closed the door … only to look again several times through the day. The woman was always there.
As soon as her husband came home, she turned on him angrily. and pointed to the shrine “How dare you bring home another woman! You worship her! How could you do this to me?”
“What woman?” her husband stammered. “That is my dear departed father in there!” He rushed to to make sure. Yes … there was his father, looking worried. As he stepped back with a sigh of relief, his wife pushed past and grabbed the disc . One triumphant look and she handed it back saying “That is not your father … that is a jealous young woman!” Then she hurried away.
They argued till they were speechless and miserable. After a sleepless night, the young man suggested they talk to the wise nun who lived in the village temple.
One look at the pair and the nun ushered them in. She listened with a kindly smile while the pair took turns to tell their part of the story. When tears had been shed and both were finally still, the nun stretched out a hand for the source of their troubles. After she studied its smooth surface, she exclaimed. “Goodness! This woman has repented and become a nun. It’s best that she remain here, for a time, in the temple.” Then she opened a wooden chest beside her, put in their mirror and closed the lid.
It did not take long for the news of the arrival of a wonderful mirror to go round the village. The young couple laughed together when they, in their turn, heard the story from a friendly neighbour. How mistaken they had been! How foolsih! How marvellous!
Next morning, they found their furoshiki swathed mirror on the doorstep and agreed it should be hung by their door so anyone could look in it. The tale of the mirror spread to many districts. The young couple gained status as the first family in that village to own one and they were not the last … to see their truth … in a mirror.
A Japanese Twist©2018Meg Philp
Adapted from ‘The Mirror’ by BANG, Garrett, Men from the Village Deep in the Mountains. New York, Macmillan, 1973: 67- 9.
Some of the sources consulted
Japanese Bamboo weaving
Japanese Historical Timeline
Mirror (See History)
Sacred Mirror: Japanese Imperial Regalia
All text and photos by Meg
Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License and is also Copyright © under Australian Law.