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Mimi-nashi Hoichi, or Hoichi the Earless is one of some 20 ghost stories and strange tales from ancient Japan. Originally published in 1904, Kwaidan was the culminating life work of Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904) a writer of Greek/Irish descent who devoted the last 14 years of his life to living and working in Japan, writing books about the culture and translating into English the Kwaidan tales. These tales also inspired the Japanese film of the same name: Kwaidan (1965)
Hoichi the Earless is the tale of a talented, blind musician who lives with Buddhist priests. One night he's escorted from the temple to give a command performance to a private audience. Hoichi is unaware that he's been escorted to a cemetery and that his performance is for the dead warriors and courtiers of an ancient clan killed in battle.
When the priests and Hoichi discover this, it is too late. To protect him the priests paint his entire body with prayers, to ward off the spirits. They have neglected, however, to cover his ears. When he is summoned again that night, the ghostly escort cannot see Hoichi save for his ears...so he tears them off of the musician.
11" X 11"
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Ubazakura (Cherry Tree of the Milk Nurse)
Ubazakura is the story of a milk nurse who sacrifices her life to save the young girl in her care. Before she dies the milk nurse asks the family to plant a cherry tree for her to the god to whom she prays. For the next 250 years the cherry tree blooms on the anniversary of the milk nurse's death.
The tale of a hunter/falconer who searching for game one day encounters Oshidori (Mandarin Ducks). To kill these ducks is bad luck but the hunter is hungry, so he shoots the male. Later that night the hunter is visited in his dreams by the spirit of the female, who escaped. She curses the hunter, tells him he cannot imagine the horrible thing he has done by killing her husband and tells him to go see what he has caused the next morning, at the same river. When he does, the female duck does not fly away. She swims towards the hunter, then tears open her own body with her beak, killing herself...
The hunter shaves his head and becomes a priest.
Two woodcutters are caught in a terrible snow storm. Finding shelter in a boatman's hut the men encounter The Woman of the Snow. She kills the older man, turning him to ice. But she is attracted to the younger woodcutter and spares his life on the condition that he never speak to anyone about what he has witnessed.
The young man recovers, meets a beautiful woman and marries. They have several children and though they are poor, they are very happy. Years later he tells his wife about the night long ago, and the Woman of the Snow. He cannot remember if it was real or some strange dream. Yuki, his wife tells him it was no dream and reveals her true form as the snow witch. She curses him for breaking his promise to her and spares his life only for the sake of the children. In the next moment..she leaves him and the children forever.
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