Book review “Kousetsu Hyaku Monogatari 巷説百物語”Posted: April 5, 2011
“Kousetsu Hyaku Monogatari is the first book of the Kousetsu series by Natsuhiko Kyogoku , while “Warau Iemon” was one volume of his another series, “rewritten classic stories in Japan.”
This book consists some short stories. The all of the stories are titled names of yokai.
Yokai is a class of preternatural creatures in Japanese folklore, like a monster or ghost.I will introduce the first story, “Azuki Arai.”
It is set in the Edo period.
Momosuke was a writer. While he aspired to be a drama-writer, now he was writing riddle stories for children.
One day, on the way of his travel, he came across some strange people when he stopped at a small shack to take shelter from the rain.
There were some men and a woman in the shack. They too were taking cover from the rain.
One of them, a man who looks like an Ongyo— Ongyo is a person who wears Buddhist monk’s clothes and begs for money while scattering paper talisman. — suggests to play “Hyaku Monogatari” to kill time.
Hyaku Monogatari means one hundred stories. It is a game which was popular in Japan during the Edo-period. People in a room have to tell one hundred mystery, strange, ghost or monster stories. It was said that something mysterious would happen when all the stories were finished.
Momosuke was happy to hear the suggestion because he really loves mysterious ghost or monster stories, and he frequently traveled around Japan to collect them. His dream was to publish a hyaku monogatari book someday.
The woman began to tell her story. It was a story about a monster cat. She said that her sister, whose name was Oriku, met with the monster cat. It was the the day before her wedding. After seeing the cat, she became mad suddenly and shut herself up in a shack in a mountain. She refused to have a meal and died in the end.
It was a strange story.
Momosuke knows many monster stories, but this was the first time he had heard it.
When the story ended, they heard a strange sound from somewhere as though someone was washing rice or beans. Hearing the sound, some of the people in the shack said that it was the sound of a monster called “Azuki Arai.”
“Azuki Arai” means azuki beans washer. It’s a yokai.
There were many old tales about Azuki Arai in Japan. It’s said that it make the sound near a river, so that a person will become confused, and they will fall into the water. It’s also said that it sings, “Shall I wash azuki beans or eat a human?” while washing azuki beans.
Momosuke noticed that one man in the shack, whose name was Enkai, seemed to be uneasy while hearing the woman’s story. Moreover, Enkai overreacted to the word “azuki beans” sensitively.
Next, the middle aged man began to tell his story. Although it was a story about Azuki Arai, Momosuke didn’t know the story.
He was a master of a large wholesale store. There was an employee who had a special ability in the store. His name was Yasuke. He was a boy who had an interectual disability, but he had a strange ability. He could correctly add up the number of beans in a scoopful of azuki beans in an instant. The master was interested in his ability and gave him an important position in his shop, even although Yasuke couldn’t anything except for very easy job.
However, Yasuke was killed by someone and his body was discovered in a river.
From the day, a strange incident began to happen in the store. People in the store heard someone’s voice singing, “Shall I wash azuki beans or eat a human?” It was Yasuke’s voice and azuki beans was scattered in the entrance.
After all, an employee, called Tatsugoro, confessed his crime to a magistrate. He was jealous of Yasuke and killed him secretly. He became half mad because he saw Yasuke washing beans.
When the second story ended, they heard the sound of azuki beans again.
Suddenly, Enkai, who was silently listening to the story, cried out.
He looked scared and paniced and rushed into the rain. After the rain stopped, he was found dead. He probably slipped in the rain and fell into the river.
It appears as though he was confused by the azuki beans washer.
The people agreed that this accident was due to the youkai.
The Ongyo rang a bell and prayed: “Ongyo, si-tatematsuru-”
However, afterwards, Momosuke found out the truth.
It was not monster’s evil doing but a human’s.
The man who looked like an Ongyo, was in fact an uncommon liar, whose nickname was “Komatakuguri-no Mataichi.” Komatakuguri means swindler. His job was to solve problems or negotiate a private settlement using his gift of the tongue and elocution. This time, his duty was to find a murderer.
The dead man in the river, Enkai’s real name was Tatsugoro.
He had raped a woman called Oriku who was going to marry with another man the next day. Oriku became mad because of her ordeal, shut herself up in a shack and died. He also killed her brother, Yasuke, because Yasuke saw him do it. Oriku and Yasuke’s father suspected him of the murders, but he had no evidence. So he requested the service of Mataichi.
The woman, Ogin and the middle aged man, Jihei who told the two ghost stories were his accomplices.Mataichi and his accomplices trapped Tatsugoro. They followed him who traveled and,lired him into the shack seizing the rain. the shack in which
It got down and this hut was the very hut in which they took shelter was the exact one in which Oriku had shut herself up.
Mataichi only intended for Tatsugoro to confess his crime by being frightened by the stories, but Tatsugoro killed himself because of his fear of hearing the names of his victims in the ghost stories, and the sound of the azuki beans. It was true that Yasuke had a special ability adding up the number of beans in a scoopful.
After finding out the truth, Momosuke thought that it was better that this incident appeared that it was due to the monster.
Mataichi said, “Shall I wash the azuki beans or eat a human-”
It is the outline of “Azuki Arai.”
This story tells about Mataichi’s work (which is called “sikake” in this book, and it means a scheme or plot) and the encounter of Mataichi and Momosuke.
Mataichi is a komatakuguri. Although he dresses as a wondering monk, he is a faithless man who believes neither in God nor Buddha. Although he is a scoundrel, he is very likable character. When he solves a problem, he skillfully kids people into thinking that it was due to a monster or a ghost.
His accomplice,”Yamanekomawasi is a beautiful woman who is a street performer who uses a puppet. “Kotobure-no Jihei” is an expert in disguise. In a later story, “Yotsudama-no Tokujiro” appears. He is a showman and an expert hypnotist. They act in various roles in their work.
After this first story, Momosuke started to cooperate with them.
He is a writer and is well versed in monster and ghost stories, so he is able to give reality to Mataichi’s work.
They deceive people using the monster or ghost stories but, actually don’t believe in them. This is especially true of Matachi. He declared “There is neither soul nor a after world. Those things exist only in people’s minds. A dead person is only a dead body.” in the last story of the book.
This is the first book of the Kousetsu series. The later books are also fantastic.