Hanasaka Jiji

Hear this tale on Episode 70 of our Podcast, the Japan Archives.

Hanasaka Jiji

Hanasaka Jiji (花咲か爺) also called Hanasaka Jiisan (花咲か爺さん) is a folktale of Japan centred around a man who can make trees bloom. It has been translated into english as ‘The Story of the Old Man who made Withered Trees to Flower.’

There are many verisons of the tale (and will be added to the site eventually) and as of right now we only have one version on the website.

Synopsis

Hanasaka Jiji
Finding the treasure.

There was an old man and wife who tended to their crops. They were happy but had never had a child. So they loved their dog called Shiro with all their heart. Their neighbours were cold and cruel, and would often hurt Shiro if they saw him.

One day Shiro was barking underneath a Yenoki tree, the old man coming to look sees the dog start to dig here. The old man also started to dig and found a hoarde of old valuable coins, all the while not noticing that his cruel neighbour had been watching the whole time.

They became rich, and a few days later the cruel neighbour asked to borrow the dog. The old man agreed on the condition that he treated the dog kindly.

He took the dog to his own Yenoki tree forcing the dog to find treasure, when it began to dig the cruel man was happy and began to dig. Eventually he found a buried pile of garbage and angered by this killed the dog with his shovel, threw it in the hole he had dug and buried it there.

Few days later he asks where he dog was and so the neighbour says he killed him for behaving badly. The old man falls into sadness and asks for the neighbours Yenoki tree so he may remember his dog. The neighbour agrees to this and so the old man comes and cuts the tree down.

He turns the trunk into a mortar and his wife pounds rice inside it to make some rice cakes, with the intent of holding a festival to remember Shiro. The rice mulitples within the mortar as she pounds and even turns into rice cakes before their eyes. The food was delicous and they knew it was because of their dog, and so they never feared for food again.

Hanasaka Jiji
Making the trees bloom.

The cruel neighbour was again angered by this and asked to borrow the mortar. A few days later he had not returned it and so the old man asked for it to be returned to him. He found the mortar broken and being used as firewood.

He was too kind to be angry at the cruel neighbour saying he could have just asked for some of the rice cakes they had made, and so he requests to take the ashes from the wood home in order to continue to remember Shiro. The neighbour agrees.

It was autumn and he spread some of the ashes underneath his trees and in an instant the cherry blossom, plum and others burst into bloom. People began to come from far and wide to look at their beauty and the old man preserved the remaining ashes.

One day a Samurai arrives saying the favourite cherry tree of the daimyo had died, and would it be possible to revive his tree for him. He climbed the tree to where two big branches split and scattering the ashes they tree bloomed again. The Daimyo was happy and gave the old man the new name of Hana-Saka-jiji.

Hanasaka Jiji
The cruel neighbour is arrested.

The cruel neighbour grew jealous again and gathered the remaining ashes he had from his fire and travelled around looking for someone in need of some magical ashes. The daimyo heard the man passing and thinking it the kind old man called on him to see him revive another tree. They were confused, thinking he must have been a disciple of the kind old man, but he lied and said he in fact was the true master with the magical ashes.

The tree he tried to revive never came back and eventually some of the ashes blew into the daimyo’s eyes. Angered by this the cruel man was thrown into prison for being an imposter and was never freed.

The kind old man and his wife however lived out their rest of their lives in riches and comfort.1

Footnotes

1. Ozaki, Y.T. (2015) “Japanese Fairy Tales” USA: Cavalier Classics.

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