E81 A Troubled Stomach


Show Notes for episode 81 of our Podcast – A Troubled Stomach.

Story Notes

A Troubled Stomach

Now this is a tale which can be found in the konjaku monogatari shū, a tale revolving around a man known as Fujiwara no Tamemori from the Province of Echizen. A Province he was made Governor of in 1029AD.

The story relates how whilst Governor in Echizen (though he did live in Kyoto) he had failed to give his rice stipend to the Palace Guard. Now in response all six groups of guards came to his house, and made themselves comfortable outside his home, refusing to let anyone in or out.

The day was hot, and all were sweating very much and eventually a senior retainer from the home open the front gate of the property and stated that Tamemori wished to speak with them.

Knowing it was hot, he made the suggestion he could talk to them through a screen if they came inside in small parties and so at first the Left and Right Inner Guards entered into the property.

They were relieved and thought his offer was rather kind, and so they entered, not only to drink, but to tell them the reason why they were camped outside the man’s home.

When they entered they found the area ready for them. Long mats laid on the floor, with several tables all facing one another. And so all the men sat down. Upon the tables they found dried and salted sea bream, salty salmon, salted horse mackerel and more sea bream this time pickled in miso. In addition to this they found bowls piled high with ripened plums.

In came Kanetoki from the province of Owari and Atsuyuki from Shimōsa. Both were followed by the most senior of members of the Inner Guards.

Wine was ordered, but was very slow to arrive. And so all the men began to feast on the salty food and plums.

Tamemori, it was then announced was suffering from some stomach trouble and would soon come to talk with them once they had finished their food.

The wine was first given to Kanetoki and Atsuyuki, and due to the heat they had sat in for many hours their thirst was very high. And they had three cups of the wine which was rather cloudy and sour. But they drank regardless due to their thirst. Once it was quenched they passed on the cup to the next man waiting.

It was then that Tamemori appeared behind the screen to talk with the men.

He addressed them saying he never thought his failure of generosity would set them against him, and that his land had been in drought. He had given what he could, but now he had nothing left to give them. Even his staff were now going hungry due to the rice stipend that had already been taken.

The men all listened to his dilemma, Kanetoki and Atsuyori replying that, though they understood his problem, his failure to supply rice meant they also now had no food. And the men were growing rather angry at their situation. And that is why they had arrived this day, to tell him of their predicament.

However, all the while they had spoke, the stomachs of all the men had been making unsettling sounds. Some tapped their batons on the table to try and cover the sound, other tried various tactics to also distract from their sudden problem.

The Governor from behind his partition could hear it all, and he could make out that all the men were now doubling over with terrible cramps.

Kanetoki suddenly stood up asking to be excused before bolting away, all the other men quickly following in his footsteps. They all suddenly had terrible diarrhea and some went before they could get their trousers off. Others made it to the edge of where they were sitting before they couldn’t hold it any longer. And other just went where they had been sat. 

But all the men were laughing as it happened to them. All of them laughed and said they had no complaint. They knew Tamemori would try something when they visited and they had been so greedy with the food and wine they deserved what was happening to them.

The men left, laughing, the retainer who had initially asked them to enter now asking for the next set of men. When they men who were waiting saw the state of those who had entered, they all broke out into laugher and retreated back to wear they had come from.

This tale was enjoyed by all those at court, as Tamemori had always been an old scamp and had a knack at making people laugh.

And the guards never returned to his house again to make any demands. 

Sumikko no Heather

Today Heather found a senryū for you to enjoy.


With lukewarm tea, gradually promoted warmly

Header Image: Fish from Pixabay.


  • Tyler, R. (1987) “Japanese Tales.” New York: Pantheon Books.

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