October, 2010

This page is written monthly
by Harumi Okochi.
Sometimes Harumi's friends join.
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previous issues.


Moon Serenade

By the Waters of Minnetonka
Moon Deer          
How near           
Your soul divine!        
Sun Deer,           
No fear            
In heart of mine.        

Skies blue          
O'er you            
Look down in love.       
Waves bright          
Give light           
As on they move.       

Hear thou           
My vow            
To live to die,         
Moon Deer,          
Thee near,          
Beneath this sky.

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen!
Autumn is here, and are you enjoying it?
In Japan, October is the month of moon. Moon is visible all the year round, but maybe this is because the sky is especially serene and the moon appears quite clear now.

Here and there, people have tea ceremonies in appreciation of the moon. Literature has been written on the theme of the moon, so were poems like Tanka and Haiku.
Moon makes you sentimental, doesn't it?

In my memory, about 60 years ago, my mother was often humming a beautiful song in the kitchen. I remember the melody, and the short words 'Moon dear, and Son dear'.
Long afterward, I found that this song was 'By the waters of Minnetonka', based on a sad legend of Indian, The Siouxs. It is like Romeo and Juliet, the love between two hostile tribes, the Moons and the Suns. A beautiful girl Moon Deer and a brave young man Sun Deer fell in love with each other, but their love was a prohibited love. Lovers died in the Lake Minnetonka, and their souls went up to the moon.This song is said to have become very popular all over the world in the early 1910's.

Come October, I sometimes remember this song together with some Japanese children's songs about the moon. There are so many.

And there are many stories about the moon. You can guess how deeply Japanese have been attached to the moon.

Among the stories, the best and the most well-known is 'The Story of Taketori'

Under the moon, please enjoy the story, with a cup of tea in your hand. The time of the story is almost 1000 years ago. The place is Kyoto, the Capital at that time. In the story, you will see the word 'August moon'. Please note that this August is lunar calendar August. It is October moon now.

  The Story of Taketori

There once lived an old Taketori (bamboo-cutter) who, going one day to the bamboo grove, came upon a glowing bamboo. Cutting its trunk, what should he find inside but a tiny baby girl.
A gift from God- he thought . My wife and I shall raise this child with loving care. In cupped hands, he carried the baby home to his delighted wife.

Thereafter, whenever he cut a bamboo, he would find gold coins inside. Soon, Taketori grew rich, and nearly as soon, the baby girl became a young princess whose luminous beauty lit the entire house.
Before long, there were five suitors who came daily and stood outside the house, rain or shine. Taketori, impressed by their devotion, asked Kaguyahime(the Shining Princess) to choose one for a husband. Let each try to find for me a fabled treasure-she replied. Then we will know the one who truly loves me.

To Prince Ishi she gave the task of finding Buddah's stone bowl. Yet, he, the shrewd fellow-sure that no such bowl could be found-sent, in a brocade bag, an old bowl from a nearby temple. Oh, the perils of my journey!-he wrote, but Kaguyahime, finding within the bowl not a glimmer of the Sacred Light, sent it back.

Equally shrewd was Prince Kuramochi. Asked to bring a jeweled branch from the tree of gold on Mt. Horai, he hired craftsmen and set them to making an identical copy. Yet, the Princess just sighed to see it, and as the Prince bragged of his adventure, into the yard stormed the craftsmen, demanding payment for their work.

The Minister of the Right was to obtain fur from the Chinese fire mouse. I'll pay any sum-he said to the merchant ships-If you bring one back from China. In just seven days it arrived, a skin of blue and golden hue. It looks real-Taketori said. If it doesn't burn, it is-replied his daughter. When put in the fire, it burnt to a crisp.

A jewel from a dragon's neck was the Chief Counselor's quest, and he ordered his men out to find one. Impatient, he set off himself upon the sea, but met a raging storm. the thunder roared, and-thinking it the angry dragon, he prayed for its forgiveness. The storm subsided, and he returned, exclaiming -The Shining Princesses is a scoundrel!

The Deputy Counselor was the most pitiful. Asked to obtain a certain cowrie shell possessed by swallows, he had himself raised in a basket to a nest on a high cliff. Reaching into the nest, he yelled-I've got something!-then fell from the basket. Before expiring, he managed to look within his clenched fist-it was a swallow's hard dung.

The Emperor desired to meet Kaguyahime and called her to the Palace. She, however, refused his command. Intrigued, he went to her house, where he saw her sitting bathed in radiant light. The Emperor's heart was stolen. He began to write her letters, and she replied to them, in earnest. Thus, 3 years passed.

One Spring, Kaguyahime took to sighing sadly while watching the rising moon. By summer, her sighs had turned to soft weeping. What is wrong?-Taketori asked. I am sad, for I must leave you-she said, revealing to him the truth. I am from the Kingdom of the Moon. A retinue shall come for me when the August moon waxes full.

On the night of the August moon, the Emperor sent 2,000 warriors to guard Kaguyahime. Along the tops of walls and roofs the warriors stood, while inside, the Princess waited with Taketori's wife. When the people from the moon come, you will be unable to fight them-she said, sobbing-no matter how you try.

As the moon shone brightly on the house, celestial beings in beautiful raiment came riding down upon a cloud.The warriors felt their bodies grow numb until they could not draw their bows. Then, the Emperor of the Moon spoke from the cloud-Bring forth the Shining Princess. At this command, all the doors in the house sprang open, and out she stepped.
The Shining Princess went to the weeping bamboo-cutter and his wife-On moonlit nights, look up and think of me, sometimes. Then giving a last letter and the medicine of immortality to the Emperor's messenger, she ascended to the heavens, followed by hundreds of celestial beings.

After she was gone, the Emperor had no desire to live, much less use the medicine of immortality. On his orders, the medicine and the letters were carried up Mt. Fuji and burnt, for he wished the smoke to rise up to the Shining Princess.The smoke, they say, is still now on its way to the heavens.

How did you enjoy the story of Kaguyahime?
Kaguya hime is one of the important motifs of the paintings on the sliding doors of the Kiyomizu-dera
Temple in Kyoto.
These pictures were painted by Kiyoshi Nakashima, who is an artist born and grown up in my town Karatsu. Mr. Nakashima donated his paintings to the Temple. I wish I could go and see them in the near future.

By Kiyoshi Nakashima

I hope you will see Kaguyahime and Moon Deer tonight if the sky is clear and the moon is full.

See you next month!

Thank you very much for visiting this page.
I hope you will return next month.
Yours, Harumi Okochi
Proprietress of

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