The Cup of Ido

By Kokontei Shinsho, et el.

Ido-no-chawan by Shinsho

 Every business has its own difficulty. Trashman, in Edo period, was not exception. 

 Trashman visited door to door to gather wasted papers and other rubbish. Sometimes they could find some valuable things in the heap of rubbish, especially when they happened to encounter a customer who were about to close up their house and moved. Such customer was so hurry that he had no time to negotiate and just wanted selling out.

 Clever trashman would never miss the chance.

 A trashman called Seibei did not like it. He was very honest man and could not stand to get unreasonable profit. He gathered wasted paper only that was his way of business. People loved his honest nature and patiently waited him even if their rubbish bin was full and over. So his profit was not big but he satisfied himself with steady customers.


 One day he strolled street, calling "Traaash, trash disposer!" as always.

"Mr. trashman, please,"

 A small voice heard from a house in a back alley and a young girl in plain kimono appeared from the door.

"Yes, miss," Seibei answered in small voice as well.

"Could you come in? We have something to sell."

"Yes, miss. Thank you very much."

He entered by backdoor after her. A samurai was standing by the porch.

"Trashman, I want to sell this."

He took a small Buddhist statue in his hand. It seemed very old and stained.

Seibei bowed him.

"I'm sorry, sir. But I handle wastepaper only."

The samurai was mildly surprised.

"I thought you trashmen take anything."

"Yes, sir. Most trashmen do. But I have no eye to distinguish valuables from real rubbish and sometimes it's very risky."

"No, you shouldn't worry about it. I am Chiyoda Bokusai. I live on teaching children at my Terakoya (private schoolroom) and telling fortune in the street. But I caught cold these days and couldn't go for fortune teller. We got rice and firewood from Terakoya but running out cash. We now need money of 200-copper or so urgently. This statue is a heritage from our ancestor, not suspicious one."

"Oh, I do not doubt its value, sir. It seems very good for me. Another reason I do not handle such things is; if it is valued much more than 200-copper I will get more than I should have. I'm not comfortable for it."

Chiyoda Bokusai stroked his chin.

"Um...You have your own style. So you cannot buy this?"

"Well sir..."

Seibei looked Chiyoda Bokusai and his daughter. Maybe they live alone for some reason, both are in shabby kimono but they didn't lose dignity. This girl will turn to be a great beauty if she gets adequate kimono.

"How about this, sir,"

Seibei offered.

"I leave 200-copper in advance and will visit to collect your wasted papers till it amounts 200-copper."

Chiyoda Bokusai said.

"Then take this statue as mortgage or I feel like I begged 200-copper."

"But it seemed valuable. If I carelessly break it..."

"That's OK. It is yours."

"No sir. I can't."

"Then I can't accept 200-copper."

Seibei gave in.

"Okay, sir. I'll keep it. And if somebody wants this dirty, sorry, statue, can I sell this?"

"Of course. This is yours upon I accepted the money."

"Then if I could sell this more than 200-copper we will split the profit."

"Not necessary. I told you, by accepting 200-copper this becomes yours. I have nothing with it."

"No, no. But OK. I'll take it anyway, sir."

Seibei paid 200-copper and left. 



In the late afternoon when Seibei strolled the street calling "Trash, Trash disposer!", a young samurai stopped him.

"Hey, trashman, wait."

"Yes, sir."

"What is that? That one on your basket."

"This one sir? This is Buddhist image."

"I know. I ask you whether it is wood or copper."

"I don't know, sir. But it is very heavy."

"Is it for sale?"

"Well, not exactly. I just keep it."

"Can I buy it?"

"Actually I keep it for 200-copper. If you would pay more than 200-copper, I can sell it."

"200-copper? Very cheap. OK. I'll pay 300-copper."

"Oh, thank you very much, sir. So we can split the profit 50 - 50."


 This young samurai just arrived Edo, transferred from his country with a manservant. He was busy for his new duty in Edo and had not time to arrange his house well. He enjoyed easygoing single life, but he felt a need to decorate the alcove at least. Just when he saw the statue appeared from the edge of trashman's basket.

The statue was so stained that he ordered the manservant Ryosuke to bring warm water and sprinkle salt in it for purification.

The statue was very old and heavy. He carefully held it and cleaned through. The water was immediately darkened. At the bottom of the statue a pulp sheet was attached and something rattled inside. Some Buddhist statue has child statue in its womb. He thought this one of the type. As he continued to scrub it in the water the sheet removed and something slipped out into the water. He fumbled in the water and was astonished. It was gold!

"Ryosuke!, Ryosuke, come here quick!"

"Aye, master, what's up?"

"I cleaned the statue with water. Something rattled inside. I thought child statue in womb. The pulp was removed and something slipped out. See this."

"Woh! This is gold!"

"Yes, it is"

"How many, sir?"

"I counted 50-gold."

"You bought this statue from trashman?"

"Yes. For 300-copper."

"You are lucky man, really!"


"Of course! You paid only 300-copper and got 50-gold. Nice job, sir!"

"Do not say silly! I bought this statue, not this money. Maybe the former owner sold this for need of money without knowing about this gold. I must return this money to the owner."

"Excuse me, sir. You are real samurai indeed."

"By the way you know where the trashman lives?"

"No, sir."

"That's a problem. What should we do?"

"Don't worry. Trashmen have regular course every day. We'll find him even tomorrow."

"Yes. Fortunately I have no duty for few days, I'll watch the street."

 "Hey, Gen, you are so late today. You are always first one here for lunch. Good job today?"

"No, not at all."

Trashmen in the territory gathered to the front yard of a temple every day for lunch. They had lunch and chattered tidbit of incident in the day. A trashman called Gen grumbled.

"I don't know what's wrong. But today is not good day, I'm sure. "

"What's matter?"

"Do you pass the street of Load Hosokawa's mansion?"

"Oh, yes. I walk there everyday."

"At the third or fourth wing from the corner of the mansion, have you ever been stopped by young samurai?"

"Yes, I got it!"

"You too?"

"Yes. He told me put off the towel on my head."

"You too?"

"Yes. He looked at my face and said "No, not such burdock face. Go away.""

"That's true. You have burdock face. Ha, Ha, Ha.."

"Do not laugh. You got it too?"

"Yes. He told me "No, not such crater face. No need anymore. Go away.""

"Yes, you have full of crater."

"You shouldn't say."

"Got even."

"Anyway, isn't it strange? Why he stopped every trashman and checked?"

"Yes. I'm also wondering."

"I know the reason."

A man joined in with grin.

"Tome, you know the reason?"

"Sure, I know."

"Never believe the big talk Tome."

One of trashmen jeered, but they really wanted to know the reason so they looked Tome expecting.

Looking around them Tome began to talk.

"You thought you were unlucky but actually you were lucky not look like the man the samurai searching."

"Who the hell he is looking for?"

"His enemy. He wants to avenge his father who was a master of kendo in the country but tragically killed by his rival."

"How come?"

"The rival wanted to be the status of master and one night he ambushed the master and killed him on the deserted street."

"But the master should have attained full proficiency in kendo. Why such man was killed so easily?"

"Because he was drugged in his liquor. So his son, the young samurai, swore to revenge and came to Edo to look for his enemy."

"But why he is checking on trashman?"

"Because he heard the enemy was disguised as trashman."

"But, but,"

All the trashmen looked at Tome dubiously, and one of them said.

"You know, the young samurai called me through the window. If I am the enemy he looked for I could run away while he turns to the door."

"Well, in that case he will throw a knife."

"Is it true?"

"Such as that I thought!"

Tome burst to laugh.

"Hey! We almost believed it! Don't listen him, guys!"

"You should not be angry. He is the big talk Tome."

Now all trashmen were laughing when Seibei joined them.

 "Oh, Seibei-san, were you sick? It's been a long time since we saw you last."

"Yes, actually I had a cold for days."

"Are you all right now?"

"Yes, thank you."

"How about your business?"

"Busy. You know I handled wastepaper only and every customer kindly waited me for long so I'm very busy today."

"Have you passed the street of Lord Hosokawa today?"

"Not yet. I'll take there after lunch."

"You have to take care when you pass the house at the corner."

They cautioned Seibei about the young samurai.

"Really? I know the samurai. I traded an old statue with him the other day. I wonder it is connected with this."

Seibei said uneasily. Tome shook his head.

"Nobody knows. Why you handled such thing? It's not your way of business."

"Yes. But I met a samurai gentleman who needed money very badly, I sympathized with him and advanced 200 copper for wastepaper. He handed me the stature for pledge and I promised him half of the profit if it is sold. I'm going to visit him to give the money today."

"You shouldn't have done that. You don't know about antique at all. It could be half broken, maybe the head came off and just attached to the body. You know some people are superstitious, especially when they pray God for something they want to achieve, for example. If the head of the statue comes off they would take it bad omen."

"Oh, no! If so he must be angry with me! That's why I don't like it. What should I do?"

Seibei trembled.

"You should take another route."

"But that street is the only way to get to my customers."

"OK. Then walk the street quietly, not calling."

"Well, good idea."


So Seibei walked the street without calling. The street was very long and the house where the samurai lived located near the end of the street. Unfortunately Seibei was experienced trashman, you know, and as an expert his calling was uttered unconsciously.

"Traaash! trash disposer!"

"Hey! Trashman! Wait!"

The young samurai at the window shouted.

"Oh! No, no, no! Sweet, sweet candy!"

Seibei tried to deceive but it was too late.

"That trashman seems strange. Go and get him, Ryosuke!"

"Yes, sir"

The manservant, Ryosuke rushed to the street and caught Seibei.


"Hey, why did you try to slip away? We'd been looking for you these days. Come here quick!"

"I, I'm so sorry, sir, but I knew nothing!"

Ryosuke almost dragged Seibei to his master.

"Here he comes, sir,"

"Good! Oh, yes, you are the man indeed!"

"I'm so sorry, sir, I didn't recognize the defect. Please forgive me!"

"What are you talking about? You remember the statue you sold me, don't you? Well, it was very dirty so I cleaned it with water."

"Oh, yes, sir. It was so old and such things sometimes concealed an invisible defect. But sir, I didn't know it at all, believe me!"

"Just listen! There was a pulp sheet attached to the bottom of the statue. Wet in the water the sheet came off, and something which was rattled in the body spilled into the water. You know what it was? Can't believe! It was gold! 50 pieces of gold!"


"I bought the statue but I didn't buy the money. Therefore I have to return the money to the owner. I assume he is in financial difficulty, otherwise he wouldn't sell his family treasure."

"Yes, sir, he and his daughter seem to have big problem. He, Mr. Chiyoda Bokusai said he taught children at his terakoya in daytime and went the street for fortune telling in the evening but he was sick for weeks and ran out of cash."

"Poor man! You know where he lives. Will you go and return this money immediately?"

"Yes, sir! With pleasure! You are real samurai. I will give this money and take a receipt. So may I have your name?"

"No, no need to tell him my name."

"But he is very strict man. He wouldn't accept the money without knowing you name."

"OK. Then just tell him my name is Takagi Sadayu, a retainer of Load Hosokawa."

"Mr. Takagi Sadayu. Certainly, sir. Oh, how he and his daughter will be pleased! Could you keep my basket here? I'll fly."


 The good-natured trashman happily visited Chiyoda Bokusai.

"Mr. Chiyoda, good news, sir!"

"Oh, you are the trashman. I'm afraid we have not much wastepaper yet."

"That doesn't matter anymore. The statue, the statue you left to me,"

"What happened to the statue?"

"The statue was bought by a samurai, called Mr. Takagi Sadayu the very day, for 300-copper. I had to give you the half of the profit but I caught cold and couldn't visit you. I'm sorry, sir,"

"But I told you that was yours. Therefore all profit is yours."

"It doesn't matter either. Listen, Mr. Takagi cleaned the statue in the water, just then the sheet that was attached to the bottom came off and gold spilled out. Can you believe it? it counted 50. Some 50-gold, sir!"


Chiyoda Bokusai said as if finding gold in the statue was ordinary thing.

"Mr. Takagi told me he bought the statue but not the gold so this money was yours. What a noble man he is! So please accept this money and write its receipt."

"No, this money is not mine. Mr. Takagi's. Go back with that."

Chiyoda Bokusai pressed his lips together.

"No, no, Mr. Takagi told me it's yours. Please accept it."

"Maybe it was hidden by our ancestor for descendant. Blinded by small money, I sold our family treasure. There is no excuse. I was punished because of the imprudence. On the other hand Mr. Takagi's heart was in the right place so Heaven rewarded him."

"Don't take it seriously, Mr. Chiyoda. Mr. Takagi offered it from his kind heart. With this 50 ryo you can buy anything. Your lady daughter is now of marriageable age, she needs new kimono and ....."

"Shut up!"


"I, Chiyoda Bokusai, would not do wrong thing no matter how poor I am."

"This is not wrong thing, sir. Mr. Takagi told me..."

"No word anymore! Just go back with that money!"


"Are you still there? If you stay for a moment longer, hey, daughter, bring me sword!"


Seibei flew away and went back to Takagis. Takagi Sadayu waited him.

"How was it? He must be pleased, I'm sure."

"No, sir. Not at all."

Seibei described the meeting. Takagi frowned.

"What a stubborn man!"

"Well, such that Mr. Chiyoda insisted the money is yours so please take it."



"I told you I bought the statue but not this gold. I, Takagi Sadayu, would not do wrong thing!"

"This is not wrong thing, sir. As far as Mr. Chiyoda said it is yours you can take it fairly."

"Shut up! Just go back with it! Quick!"


"You still there? If you stay for a moment longer, hey, Ryosuke, bring me sword!"


Scuttled away, Seibei, who was so honest man that it never occurred him to take the money himself. At a loss, he visited his landlord, who was a kind of mentor and people ask his help whenever they are in trouble. After detailed the whole story, the landlord said.

"I've been handled many troubles to date, but never heard such story. They are real samurai. I like it. I will try to settle the problem between them."

The landlord visited Takagi Sadayu with his idea that they will split the money into 20 ryo each and 10 ryo to Seibei.

Takagi Sadayu accepted the plan but Chiyoda Bokusai would not. Finally the landlord said,

"Then how about this, Mr. Chiyoda? There was a story about sedge hat as security for 100-gold. Mr. Takagi said he respected your spirit and wanted to follow you. So you should give Mr. Takagi something you use everyday for the 20-gold. He'd like it."

Chiyoda Bokusai smiled.

"A sedge hat as security for 100-gold. Interesting. OK, then I'll give him, well, this cup. This is an old cup from my father but I use it everyday for drinking tea and medicine."

Chiyoda Bokusai gave the cup and accepted the money finally. That came to end and this incident became a topic in the city and reached Lord Hosokawa's ears. The lord summoned Takagi Sadayu, heard the story again, and wanted to see the cup, which Chiyoda Bokusai gave Sadayu for the value of 20-gold. When the lord was listening the story, a man, who was a famous connoisseur of antique goods happened to present there. He took the cup and cried.

"My lord! This is a famous cup called Ido! I swear."

All people present were stirred by his remark. As a result the lord wanted the cup and gave Sadayu 300-gold.


Hours later, Takagi Sadayu folded his arms and fell into thought in front of the 300-gold.

"Ryosuke, come here."

"Aye, master."

"As you know I showed our lord the cup Mr. Chiyoda gave me. It turned out to be a famous cup called Ido, the lord wanted it and gave me 300 gold. I can't keep it all by myself. Do you know where the trashman Seibei lives?"

"Aye, this time I know."

Seibei was called and Takagi Sadayu explained the above.

"So I can't keep this money to myself. I should split this with Mr. Chiyoda following the late example. What do you think?"

"Gee whiz! Those fuss for 50-gold. I don't know what will happen for 300 gold."

"Yes, I'm afraid so too. But anyway I have to. Will you talk Mr. Chiyoda about this? We will reward you for your help."

"Certainly, sir. I'll try. Anyway Mr. Chiyoda must come from distinguished family even though he has fallen on hard times now."

Seibei visited Chiyoda Bokusai.

"Excuse me, sir."

Seibei went in the house through back door. Chiyoda Bokusai greeted him friendly.

"Oh, Mr. trashman. Thank you very much for your help the other day. I believe you bring me luck. Actually, one of my acquaintance offered me a position."

"That's a good news. Congratulation, sir."

"What brought you today? I'm afraid our wastebasket is not full yet."

"No, no, I didn't come for that, sir. Oh, miss, could you keep the door open? (I have to run away in case)."

Seibei began to talk. After finished, Chiyoda Bokusai smiled broadly.

"That's very nice. I'll accept his kindness."

"Really? What a relief! OK, Miss, you can close the door."

"By the way,"

Chiyoda Bokusai cleared his throat.

"I thought you told me Mr. Takagi was a single man."

"Yes, sir. He lives just with a manservant called Ryosuke."

"Well, you know, I have a daughter here, Yuki. She is 17 years old, not good looking, but after polishing a little she will have average looks. I want to give her to Mr. Takagi. Will you suggest him about that?"


"Doesn't she deserve? As a woman she has a general knowledge of etiquette and household things."

"Oh, I won’t mean that. She is the best young lady I know of. But..."


"If you polish her too much, you will make another fuss."


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