A folktale of Fukushima

First Dream of the New Year
Japanese French Vietnamese chinese

On the night of the second of January, we dream our first dream of the New Year. I would sit down at the kotatsu* with my grandma and she would get me to make a paper boat. I could use either straw writing paper or newspaper to make the paper boat and I was told to write down these words that my grandma told me.

"I awake to hear the sound of the boats riding on the waves, sailing towards eternity."

My grandma told me to put the paper boat underneath my pillow. And then the next morning when I awoke, she asked me, "What was your first dream of the year, young man?"

I had the cheek to tell her, "I dreamt that you and grandpa placed a New Year's gift of money underneath my pillow while I slept."

"Oh, I see. If that's the case, then we have to give you some pocket money," said my grandma.
"What dream did you see, Toshimi?" she asked my sister.
"I dreamt many dreams, but I cannot remember any of them," Toshimi replied.
"Oh, I see. That's no problem." And then grandma started to tell a story from a long time ago.

Once upon a time, there was a young man. He was honest and hardworking and never ever told lies. In his first dream of the year, he saw large coins and small coins fall from the sky.

The young man pondered, "Up until now, I have lived honestly and I dreamt of large and small coins falling from the sky. That's why I believe that one day, such a thing will happen." However, no matter how long he waited, no coins fell from the sky.

Time passed, the snow disappeared and it was time to work in the fields once more. One morning, the young man woke up and went into the fields. To the east, he could see smoke coming from the mountain.

"Oh, dear. I hope that is not a mountain fire," he said. Taking a hoe with him, he set off to investigate. And indeed, there was smoke coming from the mountain.
"This is bad news," he said and tried to extinguish the smoke with his hoe. As he hit the soil with his hoe, he heard a sound. When he dug into the earth, he discovered a jar there. "Oh, it's a jar," he said and when he removed the lid, he saw the jar was full of large and small coins.
"I saw large and small coins in my first dream of the year. However, in my dream, the coins did not come from the ground. I have led an honest life and I cannot lie to the gods now," he said and returned the jar to the soil.

When he returned home, the avaricious old man from next door asked him where he had been. The young man recounted the whole story to his neighbor.

"What? You put the jar back because the coins did not fall from the sky? If that is the case, then I will go and claim them instead. After all, I did not see any dreams of coins falling from either the sky or being found in the ground," the greedy man replied.

"Yes, please go and claim the coins," said the young man.

The greedy man was overjoyed. "This young man is honest to a fault. It does not matter where the coins came from. I cannot believe he is so stupid not to take advantage of this opportunity. But who cares? I will become rich as a consequence."

The greedy man went to the place where the large coins and small coins were buried and dug up the jar. "There really is a jar," he said. "I wonder how much money there is inside?" He took off the lid and what he found instead of coins were fragments of glass and crockery, and frogs and lizards. He grew very angry.

"I have been made a fool of. He is a despicable fellow. I must get back at him," he thought. He picked up the jar and made his way to the honest young man's house. He placed a ladder next to the house, climbed up to the window from which smoke bellowed, took off the lid and tipped the jar upside down. "Here's your shower of large coins and small coins," he said.

The young man had been sleeping in a matted room. He heard these words and went into the kitchen. "If large and small coins do fall from the sky, then they are mine," he said as the large coins and small coins fell into the room.

There is a saying about honesty being one of life's treasures and this folk tale reminds us that no matter what, we must not tell lies.

This is the story my grandma told me the morning of 3rd January, the morning after my first dream of the New Year.

*kotatsu a foot-warmer with a quilt over it