A folktale of Fukushima

Take* is Sake** – The Inspection of Unrefined Rice Wine-
japaneseFrench Vietnamese chinese

Long ago, it was customary every May for peasants to make homemade, unrefined rice wine – otherwise known as doburoku. Although it is now perfectly legal to brew this wine, in the past it was forbidden.

In May, the elderly villagers would wear short coats when they entered the rice nurseries to transplant rice. As it would grow cold, they would drink sake before dinner in order to keep themselves warm as they worked.

At this time of the year, an official in charge of distilling would visit the village saying, "As peasants everywhere brew sake (rice wine) at this time of the year, I will be making an inspection."

The villagers had worked out a code – and there was only a subtle difference between the drum rhythm used to signify taking a break from work and the drum rhythm used to signify the arrival of the distillery official. The work break drum went "don-don-don-don-don." And the arrival of the distillery official went "do-do-don-don, do-do-don-don, do-do-don-don." When they heard the latter drum pattern, the villagers would leave the rice fields and hide the rice wine.

One day, the distillery official visited a certain private home.

"Good day, old lady. Have you made some sake?"

"Yes, I have," she replied.

"Oh, I see, old lady. Do you know where the sake is kept?"

"Yes, I do," she replied.

"Can you take me there?" asked the distillery official.

"Of course," she said and left the house.

"Oh, so the sake isn't in the house," the distillery official said to himself as he followed her out. "Perhaps there's a special shed where they make it," he mused. However, they walked straight past the shed until they reached the farm road.

"We're going all the way to the rice field, I see," pondered the distillery official. He was fast on the old lady's heels as she crossed the field. And he asked her, "Old lady. Is this the place?"

"Yes, it is."

"I see. So where is the sake stored? Let us go search for it," he said.

"It's here."

"What? Here? But this is a bamboo grove."

"That's right. You wanted me to show you take – you know, bamboo."

"I didn't want you to show me take, old lady. I wanted you to show me the sake. Are the barrels of sake kept here?"

"Oh, I understand, sir," she said. "I am old. I mistook sake for take. I do apologize. Growing old is troublesome. But it can't be helped. Old people grow deaf, you know," she apologized humbly.

While the old woman was diverting the distillery official, her son and his wife took the opportunity to hide their barrels of sake.

And the moral of this story? One should never make fun of the elderly, because they are much cleverer than you! They have their part to play as much as the young do.

*Take – the word for bamboo in Japanese
**Sake – the word for rice wine in Japanese