A folktale of Fukushima

The Snows of Aizu
Japanese French Vietnamese chinese

This is a very old story that my grandmother used to tell me.
There is a rice-reaping holiday that farmers observe. It starts with the harvesting of the rice when all the rice is neatly spread out to dry – this is known as Niwajime. Niwajime means to separate rice husks for home use and hulled rice to be sold in spring, summer and autumn and placed in measuring containers. Once this is done, the farm work is complete and the farmers' wives are free to go to their family homes. It is customarily only possible for the wives to spend two nights away from their husbands, but during Niwajim" it is permitted for them to stay four nights in their ancestral homes.

At this time, a group of old women gathered from here, there and everywhere to drink tea. After all, they had no babies to look after anymore.
It was a balmy autumn day and a priest from Izumo arrived out of the blue in the village.

"I have such walked a long way. I wonder if there is anywhere nearby where I could find a cup of tea?" he said. And as he looked around, he spied a flag blowing in the wind reading "Teahouse."
"That will do the trick. I'm going to ask for a cup of tea. Old lady, could I beg cup of tea?"
"Yes, of course."

As the priest drank, he heard the noisy sound of voices from the back of the shop. "Old lady, has there been any trouble in the village?"
"There will be trouble. Big trouble."
"What kind of trouble?"
"Tomorrow the feudal lord will visit the village. He's going to tear apart the well and our homes and he's threatening to double the land taxes. It has not been a plentiful harvest this year. If the taxes are doubled the menfolk will have to sell their daughters. The village is in uproar," the old lady explained.

"Oh, really? That is indeed a serious problem," the priest paused to think for a moment. "Please tell your menfolk at the back of the teahouse that I will make snow fall. Put your minds to rest and sleep well. It will be cold when you awake tomorrow morning, so please tell everyone to prepare two or three extra blankets," the priest told her.

The old woman returned to the back of the teashop and informed everyone about what the priest had told her.

"He's just a poor priest. We shouldn't pay any attention to him. Silly old woman," said the men, although they had no alternative plans of action. They left the teahouse to go home.

And the next morning, the snow was falling heavily. The wooden houses, the roofs and the roads were covered in a layer of pure white snow.

"Although the priest is poor, he is no mere beggar," said the men to each other and as they spoke a herald of the feudal lord arrived.
"My lord cannot possibly go outside in this heavy snow. The visit is being postponed," he said.

The villagers were delighted and they gathered together. "Although the priest is poor, he is no mere beggar," they said. We must find him as quickly as possible and thank him." The split up into groups and searched high and low, but they could not find him anywhere.

This priest was in fact the famous Kukai*. Now bear this in mind, even when it snows, we must remember that this snow is a gift from Kukai. We must never complain about it being too cold or too hot or having too much to do at harvest time.

*Kūkai, also known posthumously as Kōbō-Daishi (The Grand Master Who Propagated the Buddhist Teaching), 774–835, was a Japanese monk, civil servant, scholar, poet, and artist, founder of the Shingon or "True Word" school of Buddhism.