Omiki-Tokkuri (Bottle for sacred sake)


 by Ensho

 These days we can easily find a hotel or lodging in any remote area but in old days travelers had big trouble to find a place for the night.

 After Tokugawa government was established in Edo, inns began to open around Bakuro-cho. Of which, the biggest inn was called Karigome-ya.

 The owner of the inn was proud of their origin that started since the beginning of the Shogunate. Their ancestor was authorized to open the inn by the founder of Shogunate, Tokugawa Ieyasu, and given a pair of porcelain bottles for sacred sake with a design of mallow, a symbol of Shogunate. It was family treasure and they used only once in a year, 13th of December, when people of Edo cleaned throughout their houses that was an traditional event of the year.

  It was the custom that hands and merchants who were doing jobs with the inn directly or indirectly, came to help the cleaning.

 That year also, several men were busy to turn back tatami-mat for drying, and others climb to the top of ceiling to dust off, making enormous noise. They had a hectic time and Zenroku, who was live-out assistant of manager, happened to come to the kitchen to drink water and found the treasure bottles just laying there unprotected.

"What a careless thing! Someone who doesn't know this value might handle it sloppily or think it useless and sell to trashman! "

Just then his colleague called Zenroku's name for help.

"I'll come!" Answered to the caller Zenroku took the bottles in his hand wondering where was the safest place.

"Oh, yes, this is good." He put the bottles in the big water pot he just drank water.


 When the extensive housecleaning almost came to end the owner of the inn tried to decorate their Shinto alter and found that the sacred sake bottles were not in the box where they should be. He asked everyone in the house but nobody could tell.

 Zenroku was questioned as well. However, he had been so busy that he slipped his mind completely that he himself put it in the water pot.

 So he replied, "No, I never saw them at all, sir.", like everybody else. The master became pale and made all people search for it furiously, but they couldn't find it.


"Hi, dear, you are so late. It must be big cleaning. Supper is ready." Zenroku's wife said when he got home that night.

"I'm exhausted. No, not for cleaning. The family treasure, Omiki-Tokkuri disappeared in the fuss. Poor master! He was depressed badly. We searched every corner in the house but not found. Some fool must have taken out them from the box and forgotten. Gee, I'm starved. I'd like to take a cup of hot sake first."

Zenroku removed the lid of the kettle on fire.

"Hey, there is no water in the kettle. You can't warm up liquor in such small water."

"Oh, sorry, I was also very busy today. I forgot to add water."

"I always told you, you have to add water whenever you use it. OK, OK, I'll do it."

Grumbling Zenroku filled water in the kettle just then it reminded him something and he stunned.

"Hey! I am the fool!"

"What's up dear?"

Wife asked. Zenroku replied in holding the kettle in one hand and lid in the other.

"I went to the kitchen to drink water and found the bottles unprotected and put it in the water pot. I completely forgot about it! How stupid of me!"

"Really? Good. Go and tell the master immediately. He must be pleased."

"How can I say that? I told him I never saw them at all, so definitely."

"But you remember now. That's OK, isn't it?"

"No, I have no face to do that. He had been so desperate to find it. How could I?"

"Then what are you going to do?"

"Well, you go to the master and apologize. Tell him husband's fault is wife's fault. And if he'd not forgive you, you shave your head."

"No kidding! Why should I shave my head for your fault? Just go and let him know! Now! Quick!"

"No, I can't!" Zenroku groaned miserably.

His wife frowned and snorted.

"Don't shake the kettle. You spilled water. OK, if you can't tell the truth, then use a trick."


"Yes, you know, my dad was fortune-teller."

"Yes he was. Not good one, though,"

"Don't say that! Anyway, so I know the Change of Books somehow. You can use its laws and tell him where he should look for."

"Will it work?"

"Of course! Because we know the answer."

"Well, it's true."

"Se tell him like this ‘As you know my wife's late father was fortune teller, and when I mentioned that you are suffering from missing bottles she told about a secret roll for fortune-telling her father left, according to that I can foresee the fortune’ well, it must be plausible, well.... ‘only three occasions in my life. So I'd like to foresee about the bottles by using’ well... you can't use divining sticks, but good at abacus, so using abacus. And you know, the most important thing is, well, the kitchen was located at east-north, wasn't it? You pretend to calculate and say ‘the God gave a message <mountain and mountain> that means east-north. This symbol changes to <mountain and water’ You shouldn't forget this. Every symbol has a change. ‘And this sign tells that it should be sought inside not outside. The bottle is within house. East-north is where kitchen is located, and it is surrounded by something related to water and soil’ Then go to the kitchen and after searching for enough time you find it in the pot. That's easy. Go and tell him so."

"Hey, I can’t memorize such complicated words. Come with me and prompt behind me."

"Why, it is so simple! Just tell the symbol says <mountain and mountain> meaning east north that changes to <mountain and water> that says it should be sought inside. OK?"

"Well, <mountain and mountain> changes to <mountain and water>, I hope I can manage."

 Mumbling the remarks as his wife told him, Zenroku went to the master.

"Why, Zenroku. What brought you back? You forgot something? What? You say you can foresee where the missing bottles are? Really? Then, please! I'll do anything to get back them."

Though not convinced, the master clutched the last straw.

 Zenroku gathered his courage and took out his abacus, a Japanese traditional calculator that has aligned beads within wood frame. Before the abacus which he is familiar with, he regained his calmness and began to calculate in an experienced manner. Click, click, click....

"Uh...., that's it. Well, master, the symbol appears. It says <mountain and mountain> means the missing thing should be sought inside house and it also means east-north. The east-north of this house is....where the kitchen is located, isn't it? And the symbol changes to <mountain and water> means it is surrounded by something related to water and soil. You know, my abacus sees through anything. It said the bottles disappeared because someone in the kitchen, well, a young girl, did not treat Kojin-sama (God of cooking stove) properly. A young girl in the kitchen is only one, Onabe. Please call her. .....Hey, Onabe, you did not treat Kojin-sama properly, did you?"

"No, sir! I did nothing wrong, sir."

Onabe, a plump, round faced girl, frightened.

"Yes, you did. In the first place, you do not treat humans well. When you served our meals you always ladled generously for young guys. The biggest cut was always passed to young, handsome one, never to married old boy. You should repent."

Zenroku couldn't help to add the above.

 After that all people in the house searched the kitchen throughout, soon a boy shouted in triumph.

"Master!, I found! I found them in the water pot!"

The master was overwhelmed with joy and cried.

"Thank you, thank you, Zenroku! You saved me from disaster. How can I thank you enough? Anyway, we have to celebrate this event. Sit here Zenroku, you are our main guest tonight."

 The master made Zenroku sit before tokono-ma, the best place in Japanese room, and gave a sumptuous dinner for all of the servants. Everybody cheered in happy mood.

 Usually, this time of year the inn did not accept any guest, but it happened their oldest client from West visited Edo out of schedule. He was a manager of big store named Konoike in West and so important client that the master could not declined. And now, he clapped his hand for call.

"Oh, Mr. Konoike called us. I’m sure he would complain about this noise. OK, I'll go."

 So, the master himself went to upstairs and answered the call. He opened the sliding door, saying,

"I'm so sorry, sir. We have some celebration in the house. It must be noisy, but please stand it. It wouldn't take long, sir."

"Oh, you are the master. Good. I wanted to see you. Please come in."


"I heard from your servant, you found the missing bottles with help of Mr. Zenroku."

"Yes, sir. It was a miracle. He could calculate it by his abacus."

"It's wonderful! And I need your favor. Well, our master, Mr. Konoike, has a daughter of 17 years old who got ill these months and never recovers well. We made every famous faith healer pray, but failed all. The mater worried badly and told me to go Edo to find good healer. Could you ask Mr. Zenroku to come to West with me? I'm very sorry to trouble him in the busy year end, but our master waiting me eagerly."

"That's good, sir. You are the most important client for us. He will be pleased to help you.

"And we will pay him a gold per day and leave 30 gold here, estimating that it will take 30 days. And if he made her well we will reward him as much as he like."

"OK. Wait a minutes please."

The master went to downstairs and called Zenroku.


Zenronku, then floating in the room with monkey-red face, answered his master with big smile.

"Ah, master, I, (hiccup), got drunk so happily tonight. I'll show you now, (hiccup), Kappore-comic dance."

"OK, OK, you can show anything, but before that I want to talk you something."

He explained the request of the Konoike.

"So you have to visit West to heal the daughter of Mr. Konoike. You can help them, of course?"

All of a sudden Zenroku became sober.

"What? Me? Go to West? Well, I...., well, West is long away, so, well, I have to talk to my wife first, sir."

"All right. But he waits your answer. Go home and back immediately with your answer."

"Y, yes, certainly, sir."

Zenroku went home with heavy heart.

"This must be a punishment of Kojin-sama. I shouldn't use God's name. (sigh). Hey, I'm home!"

"Hi, dear. I've been worried. Went well?" Wife hurried to him.

"Beyond well!"

"What do you mean?"

Zenroku told her about the daughter of Konoike who had been ill.

Wife's face beamed.

"Konoike! That's a giant store in West! How nice!"

"Aren't you silly? The daughter is not laying in the water pot."

"Of course not. Never mind. They say the daughter is sick? Sick person is not so difficult as missing thing. Actually to find missing thing is most difficult. So don't worry."

"What to do?"

"I'll tell you, OK? You sit by her bed and see her face as well as the Change of Books alternatively. As seeing the patient closely enough, any layman can say whether it is incurable or not. If it seems fatal, say that she is cursed. And if you are asked what curses her, say it is God. And we humble humans can never guess the will of God."

"I see. But if they ask whether she will die or not?"

"Then, say: evanescent wind will never choose time. Every man and woman must die eventually."

"Yes, that's true."

"My dad used to say so for serious patient."

"(Chuckled) yes, I remember now”

"So you know what to say."

"But If they ask how soon will she die?"

"Say nobody can see how soon we will die. The man's life span is not a matter of us, but God's only. That's OK. You can visit West at the expense of them. And they give us 30 gold in advance? What a relief! With that we can pay all debt, still we can keep much. While you are in West I'll go to Kabuki theater in afternoon and storyteller's hall in evening. Maybe I can buy new obi (belt). Oh, how nice!"

"I never feel nice at all!"

 Anyway Zenroku had no choice and he and the manager of Konoike left as soon as next day. After 7 miles on foot the party including Zenroku, manager and a few laborers for baggage, reached Kanagawa where the manager always stayed at a regular inn called Nippa-ya.

 In front of Nippa-ya, the manager frowned. Usually this hours of the day every inn made a din by welcoming guests of the day, but today the Nippa-ya was strangely quiet.

"It seems odd. Nobody comes out. Hello, Hello, Excuse me!"

"Who's there? Oh, Konoike's manager, excuse me, sir,"

The middle aged mistress of the inn came out and greeted them. She seemed quite upset.

"What's up, ma'am?" The manager asked.

"We have big trouble now, sir. The lord Sasshu's retinue stayed with us 3 days ago and he found his purse gone next morning. The purse contained 75 gold and a confidential letter for Shogun. There was no sign of burglar from outside, the officials believed the culprit must be insider, and my husband was blamed for his negligence."

The wife sobbed.

"What a misfortune!" The manager who long acquainted with the couple sympathized deeply. The wife continued to talk in weep,

"We can manage about the money, but nothing for the letter. They say that is so important."

"Hey!, I have a good idea!"

The manager turned to Zenroku.

"Mr. Zenroku, you said your inspiration will work for three times in your life. You used it once in Edo, will use in West, still you have another inspiration left. Could you help them? Ma'am, this Mr. Zenroku has remarkable ability to foresee things. I saw the miracle before my own eyes."

"Well, I...., yes, one, two, oh, yes, I have another chance."

Zenroku counted his fingers and sighed inwardly. He regretted he didn't tell them his ability limited to two occasions. This time, he knew very well even his wife could not handle it. He said.

"OK. I'll try. By the way do you know who stole it? No? Pity. If you knew who did it, it is very convenient. Well I can't perform fortune-telling in noisy place. You have detached room? Good. And, can I come out from the room into the street? OK. What ? An offering? Flower? No need such things. Wait, well, yes, prepare 2 or 3 big rice-balls in peel of bamboo (a packed lunch in classic version), 2 pairs of straw sandals, paper lantern, and candle."

He ordered strange offering and told them nobody should disturb him till morning.

When a temple bell told midnight, he told himself,

Well, it’s time to escape. Forgive me everyone, I didn’t intend to do such thing but I can’t help. Please don’t think of me bad.”

and took one of straw sandals and began to pass a string. Jest then, he heard someone sneaking up his room. The soft footstep stopped in front of his room and whispering voice said,

"Excuse me, great master, .... great master from Edo,"

"W...who is it? Are you ghost?"

Zenroku answered with trembled voice. Now before his rounded eyes a pale, young girl, 17-18 years old, entered room quietly.

"No, sir. I am a maid of this inn, and," The girl wept.

"it's me who stole the purse."


"Yes, sir. My father in the country got ill since this fall, I asked my master to advance my wage in order to buy father's medicine, but he refused because I already borrowed money from him. I knew it was wrong to steal money but I need it to save my father. (sobbing) My master was detained and the inn was prohibited to do business. How sorry and regretful I am! They said your abacus will tell who did it when the bell boomed at midnight. Did it appear already, sir?"

Zenroku just listened her story with mouth open, but now he came to himself.

"O, of course! It appeared clearly."

"I'm so sorry, sir. I'll fetch the purse, sir."

"Wait! Where did you hide it?"

Zenroku stopped the girl, she sat again.

"I stole the purse but I had no idea what to do, so I hid it in the clapboard of Inari Shrine (Harvest God) in backyard which was left broken since the storm of summer."

"I see. OK, don't worry. I'll help you. Leave the purse as it is and go back your room. Take care not to be seen."

The girl thanked him and gone. Zenroku grinned himself broadly.

"You did it, Mr. Zenroku, ha, ha, ha. Maybe I ought to have ordered sake for offering instead of straw sandals. Anyway I have to inform them. They must be worrying."

Zenroku called the wife of the inn. The manager of Konoike, who couldn't sleep either, joined them.

"Is it appeared, sir?" The manager asked.

"Yes, " Zenroku replied importantly.

"My abacus said, the purse has actually not gone but disappearance of the purse means a curse of God. The name of God is, (clicking abacus), well, ni (two)-nari, means Inari Shrine. Have you Inari Shrine in this house? You have? In backyard? And it has been broken since the big storm in summer...hum...but your main building not damaged at all. Have you fixed the shrine? No? That's why! The shrine was broken in behalf of your main building. But you never thanked Him and left it broken. The God was angry and hid the purse. The purse is now, (click), under the clapboard, well, (click), five, the fifth board. Go and look at."

Having torch they went to the shrine and found the purse.

"Miracle again! You are genius, Mr. Zenroku!"

The manager of Konoike cried with respect. Zenroku held up his nose in the air.

"Oooo, that's nothing."

Next morning the girl who stole the purse served his breakfast. He made sure nobody listened around them and told the girl.

"Come here, girl, and take this."

He gave the girl some money wrapped in paper that was a part of reward the wife of the inn gave him for gratitude.

"You can buy medicine for your father. OK, OK, don't cry. You are good girl. But you know, stealing from others is not good, and it will be punished eventually. Never do it again. Understood?"

 Overwhelmed the girl just nodded repeatedly.

 Few days later, they reached Edo. Since Zenroku showed miracle twice already, nobody doubted his ability. They treated Zenroku as most important person. He had no chance to escape this time, so he began to perform austerities, exposing himself in water and fasting for 3 times 7, that is, 21 days.

At the end of the 21 days, he told himself.

"Gee, I know this would not work at all. Maybe I have to end it with "evanescent wind will never choose time". Poor daughter. And poor her mother and father, they love her so much."

Exhausted from fasting, he dozed off.

"Zenroku, Zenroku,"

 Someone called him with heavy voice as if it came from deep ground. "Who's calling me?" Nobody in this house would call him without respect title. He was still half asleep when he found an old man standing before him. The man with white hair, white beard to the ground, seemed some 100 years old.

"Who are you, sir?"

Zenroku bowed unconsciously.

"I, Inari Shrine, the guardian deity of Nippa-ya."

"Oh!" Zenroku prostrated.

The God continued.

"Days ago, thou hast shifted the blame for stealing onto me in order to save a girl."

"I, I'm so sorry, God. Please forgive me, please, please,"

Zenroku rubbed his head to the floor.

"No, I don't complain. Actually, I am quite impressed by thy shrewdness. After you left the inn my shrine was fixed and improved, people worshipped me because they recognize my power. I was promoted to the first rank."


"Therefore, in return, I can tell thee how to cure the daughter of this house. Listen! In ancient days, Prince Shotoku competed with Moriya on Buddhism when this area was called Namba Horie, an inlet. Opposing Buddhism, Moriya threw many Buddhist statues in the inlet that made here a land. This house was built on the such Buddhist statues. Dig the 42nd pillar from corner of west-north, 3 feet and 5 inches, and thou wilt find a statue, 1 feet 2 inches. Worship it and the daughter wilt recover completely and the store prosper. Never doubt it!"

"Oh, thank you, thank you, God. I'm sorry to trouble you coming from far away....Oh, nobody here. Was that a dream? Doesn’t matter. I'll let them know."

Zenroku clapped his hands for call. The kin of the daughter gathered at once.

"You must be tired, sir, but my daughter will......?"

The father started at once.

"Listen carefully and respectfully!"

Zenroku raised his voice and people prostrated. Zenroku repeated the remarks the Inari God told.

"....... therefore worship the statue and the daughter wilt recover completely and this store prosper. Never doubt it! ..... Oooo, I'm hungry!"

"Sure you are, sir. We'll make our cook to prepare a soup at once."

"I'd rather sake and sushi."

 They dug around the 42nd pillar of the house for about 4 feet, and one of laborers' tools was stopped by something hard. It was a statue in 1 feet 2 inches. Zenroku convinced them the daughter got well when the statue appeared, so the master of the store opened his rice granary to the poor. The daughter got well.

 Zenroku opened his inn at Bakuro-cho by support of Konoike, but he never did fortune telling again.


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