Friday, March 26, 2010

happyaku-bikuni

There is a story of Happyaku-bikuni (800 year old nun), which tells of the longevity of the people of Obama.

In Obama, there once was a rich man named Takahashi Gondaiyu. One day, he was invited by a fisherman for dinner.

He went over to the fisherman's house and happened to see the kitchen area. The food that they were preparing was something he had never seen before.

One of the dishes that they brought out was a platter of sliced ningyo (mermaid). Skeptical of eating the ningyo, Gondaiyu ate the other foods and didn't touch it.

The fisherman insisting that this ningyo was gochisoo (special foods for a special occasion) wrapped up the ningyo and sent it home with Gondaiyu.

Gondaiyu reluctantly brought it home and tucked it away in the kitchen where no one would see it.

That night, his 16 year old daughter found the wrapped ningyo and tried a piece. It was so delicious that before she knew it, she had eaten all of the sliced ningyo.

The next day, her father looked around for the ningyo but couldn't find it. His daughter confessed to eating it. Her father worried that something bad would happen to her because she ate it.

As the years passed, everyone but his daughter aged. More years passed and everyone in her family passed away leaving her still looking young but very alone and sad.

Everyone in the village gossiped that her youth was due to eating the ningyo.

Since she was alone, she decided to become a nun and travel around Japan to bring happiness to others. Everywhere she went, she planted a tsubaki (camellia) tree.

Finally when she was 800 years old, she returned to Obama and entered a cave. Near the cave she planted a single tsubaki (camellia) tree and told the people of the village, "when this tree dies, you will know that I too have died".

The tree still stands today next to the cave near an area next to the Yahata shrine.

19 comments:

Helen said...

What a great story! I'd never heard that one before. Thanks for telling it. :-)

Jonathan said...

Fantastic story, did you get to see the tree in person?

jalna said...

Such an entrancing story!

Tamara Marnell said...

When I first read the title my English brain saw "Happy Aku-Bikuni" and I was very confused. Then when you said "hundred year-old nun" it took me half a minute before the lightbulb went off: not happy-aku, ha-pyaku. Oh, the fun of translation.

Rowena... said...

Kat, you definitely take blog post of the day with this one. You know how much I love cultural stories and legends....what an absolutely engaging story!

K and S said...

Thanks Helen, glad you enjoyed it :)

Actually did get to see the tree and cave Jonathan, but felt a little funny as I was about to take a photo of it, so I didn't.

Thanks Jalna :)

Actually when I first saw it I read "happy" too Tamara, they should put in hyphens here and there, don't you think??

Thanks Rowena. This was one story that really caught my attention, especially since they actually had the cave and tree!

Take care everyone!
Kat

momijitomitsukoshi said...

What a beautiful story. I want to know if she is in the cave. I know it can't be true, but part of me kind of wants to see what's in the cave!

K and S said...

We wanted to see inside the cave also Momiji, unfortunately it was fenced off.

Take care.
Kat

KirkK said...

Hi Kat - I've never heard that story before... I too would have loved to know what's inside the cave.

K and S said...

I'm sure if there weren't a fence, a LOT of people would've been in there Kirk :)

Take care.
Kat

Debinhawaii said...

What a beautiful story--I love stories like that. ;-)

K and S said...

Glad to share it with you Debinhawaii :)

Take care.
Kat

Barbara said...

A fascinating story Kat.

K and S said...

Thanks Barbara, I'm glad I was able to share it with you.

Take care.
Kat

Jenster said...

Sliced mermaid! Must have been an acquired taste. :-)

Seriously, that was a very intriguing story. Thanks for sharing it, Kat.

K and S said...

Definitely something you would want to be told about after you've eaten it Jenster ;)

Take care.
Kat

Afua Richardson said...

I'm drawing a comic book about mermaids and was searching everywhere for more information about the Yao Bikuni but never knew the man's name. That was an incredible help. Thank you for sharing your story!.

Afua Richardson said...

Do you mind if I link your blog post in my bibliography sources?

K and S said...

Sure Afua, please link our post to your sources :) hope your comic book will be a success.

Take care.
Kat