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Main > Japanese folktales > Fairy tale "The Chrysanthemum Show"

The Chrysanthemum Show

Yoshi-san and his Grandmother go to visit the great temple at Shiba. They walk up its steep stairs, and arrive at the lacquered threshold. Here they place aside their wooden clogs, throw a few coins into a huge box standing on the floor. It is covered with a wooden grating so constructed as to prevent pilfering hands afterward removing the coin. Then they pull a thick rope attached to a big brass bell like an exaggerated sheep-bell, hanging from the ceiling, but which gives forth but a feeble, tinkling sound. To insure the god's attention, this is supplemented with three distinct claps of the hands, which are afterward clasped in prayer for a short interval; two more claps mark the conclusion. Then, resuming their clogs, they clatter down the steep, copper-bound temple steps into the grounds. Here are stalls innumerable of toys, fruit, fish-cakes, birds, tobacco-pipes, ironmongery, and rice, and scattered amidst the stalls are tea-houses, peep-shows, and other places of amusement. Of these the greatest attraction is a newly-opened chrysanthemum show.

The chrysanthemums are trained to represent figures. Here is a celebrated warrior, Kato Kiyomasa by name, who lived about the year 1600, when the eminent Hashiba (Hidéyoshi) ruled Japan. Near the end of his reign Hashiba, wishing to invade China, but being himself unable to command the expedition, intrusted the leadership of the fleet and army to Kiyomasa. They embarked, reached Korea, where a fierce battle was fought and victory gained by Kiyomasa. When, however, he returned to Japan, he found Hidéyoshi had died, and the expedition was therefore recalled. Tales of the liberality and generosity of the Chief, and how he, single-handed, had slain a large and wild tiger with the spear that he is represented as holding, led to his being at length addressed as a god. His face is modelled in plaster and painted, and the yellow chrysanthemum blossoms may be supposed to be gold bosses on the verdant armor.

Next they looked at eccentric varieties of this autumn flower, such as those having the petals longer and more curly than usual.

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