Kuniteru (1808 - 76)
The Seven Wonders of Honjo, 1886
14.75 x 10 in (37.46 x 25.40 cm)
This set of seven prints was homage to the strange happenings in the Honjo are of Tokyo. Published by Kojima. 1. Following Wooden Clappers On the 20th day on the month of the sign of the bear, when the moon grows white and even the paper street lanterns that shine in every direction fail to brighten the gloominess of the street, rain will come with a rushing downpour. On that day, the temple bells resound with the tones of the afterlife. At first the cries of the nighthawks and street walkers, the sellers of soba noodles and bottled beer, of tea noodles and red-bean bread, will harmonize with the resounding bells, but these sounds will fade out and die away as the night stretches on and the people grown thin. While trying to make your way home in the dark and the rain, covering your paper lantern with the sleeve of your raincoat to prevent it from soaking and going out, you will hear the sound of a pair of wooden clappers banging together behind you. As you walk on, the bang of the clappers will synchronize with your footsteps and the faster you run the faster and closer the sound of the clappers will come. This is the spirit known as the “Following Wood Clappers”. 2. The Unlit Soba Shop Above the bridge that spanned the flowing canal, a soba shop stood whose paper lantern had the words “28” written on it in thick, bold characters. Even when all the fires were put out, and the street was in darkness, this lantern would continue to shine, without candle or oil. Those who tried in vain to douse the lantern would meet with no success, and misfortune would fall upon their household. 3. The "Leave It Behind Straggler" There are days when the clouds are too thin to carry rain, but pour down anyways. On such a day fish can be pulled from the water with abundance. A fisherman need only cast his rod about without care, lazily chatting with his friends without any other care, and the fish will come. When a day like this pulls to a close, those stragglers remaining behind may be witness to a mysterious phenomenon when they finally make for the road home. From the moat in which they have been fishing, a voice comes telling them to “leave it behind…” This may cause them to only shudder in their hearts, but as they try to leave their feet become heavy and drag on the road. Their big sacks which had been filled with fish become suddenly empty. It doesn’t matter if they listen to the voice and empty their sacks, or if they ignore it and struggle to make their way home. It doesn’t matter if they put only a little back in the moat, and still try to make off with a mere remnant of their catch. Either way, they will find themselves with nothing to show for their day’s labor. 4. The Foot Washing Mansion On the 3rd street in the Honsho district there lived a woman named Hanamoku. At her house, a mysterious thing was known to occur. At the time when the flowers were sleeping and the ushimitsu plant was blooming, a horrible, rotten stench would invade the house, and a giant foot bristling with hair would descend from the ceiling accompanied by an enormous sound. If you washed the foot, it would soon disappear back into the ceiling. But if you didn’t, the giant foot would rampage though the house until satisfied. 5. The One-Sided Reed There was a villain named Tomedo whose heart was wicked. He attempted to seduce a young widow named Oyoshi, who held an amulet in the shape of a shogi chess piece that he desired. When she refused him, he became enraged and killed her, pruning off her left leg and arm as if she were a bonsai tree and throwing them into a ditch. From that time, the ditch grew nothing but a weed called kataba no ashi, which means “one-sided reed” and has leaves that grow on only on the right side. Even now, they say that this reed is the spirit of Oyoshi. 6. The Sending-Off Lantern Even though it is called spring, the weather is bitter cold and the rain is falling. The coming and going traffic dies down in the face of a wind that pierces the body, and the bell of the temple of Houan-ji can only be distantly heard. On tall wooden geta a warrior stumbles drunkenly helped along with his tottering steps by a companion. While suppressing a shudder, the companion says: “My lord, this is a desolate area…” The lord laughs and replies: “There are foxes and tanuki and other mysterious beings here.” Looking ahead of them, they saw the light of a lit lantern which they attempted to follow. However, when they got closer to the light, it suddenly blinked out leaving them in pitch blackness. This was the Sending-off Lantern. 7. The Procession of the Tanuki Almost every night would come the sound of the taiko drums. At times they would sound very near, at times they would sound very far away, and a local fisherman, overwhelmed with a desire to see the interesting site, became exhausted almost to the point of death while trying to find the players. After a night of hard searching, it was all he could to make his way back home where he quickly lay down and fell soundly asleep. The first thing he noticed was the song of a bird, so close it was like it was being sung into his ear, and his eyes sprang open at the mysterious sound. While he thought he was comfortably at home, the dew was still clinging to his raincoat that still covered his body and the sounds of the forest were rumbling with his loud snoring. “My wife will be angry at me”, he thought, and he was a man filled with deep regret. Even here in this world there are such things as a procession of magical beasts.