The Yurei Child

Translated from Edo Tokyo Kaii Hyakumonogatari

In Edo, in the vicinity of Nipponbashi (modern day Tokyo), there was an important shopkeeper named Kenhei.  Every year Kenhei would make a trip to Kyoto to buy stock for his store, always buying from the same seller, a widow women living with her daughter.  This daughter had stolen the heart of Kenhei, and she had no plans to give it back.  So, with the consent of the mother, they were pledged.

In the following days Kenhei said:

“I am a man of Edo, and so it is my wish to move our family to Edo where we can live out our days in ease.  I will return first and make the necessary preparations, then come and collect you.  What do you think?”

The daughter was pleased, and answered:

“I know that we have not yet the money to move, so we will wait for you here in Kyoto.  By the time you come again next year, we will be ready to go and live with you in Edo.”

With this pledge, Kenhei returned happily to Edo.  But on the trip back, he became terribly ill and unable to work.   The daughter was unaware of this and waited patiently for Kenhei to come and collect her and bring her to Edo to live together.  When the promised day came and went, she thought she had been betrayed and was overcome by sadness.  Such was her grief that she died.

Kenhei, still in Edo, believed that the daughter was waiting for him in Kyoto.  Just as he was wondering what she was doing now, he heard a voice:

“Is this the residence of Kenhei?”

Kenhei was overcome with happiness.

“What are you doing here in Edo?  This is fantastic!”

They both wept profusely.  But the daughter was bitter with her accusations at Kenhei for not keeping his promise.

Kenhei explained to her about his illness and why he had been unable to keep his promise.  At length he soothed her anger and brought her into his house, where she was introduced as his wife.

When the daughter said:

“And now we must bring my mother to Edo as well.”

Kenhei replied:

“Sadly, I still lack the money and she must wait another two or three years.”

During that time, the daughter, now Kenhei’s wife, became pregnant and gave birth to a boy as round as a ball.

When the boy was three years old, Kenhei went as promised to Kyoto to bring back the mother.  He went to their familiar house where the old widow was pleased to see him again.

She cried while saying:

“Well, well.  This is an unexpected reunion!  It has been three years since my daughter died while waiting for you to come and collect here.  Since she passed away I have had no one to rely on.  I have just lived an empty life here by myself, without compassion or sympathy of others, and here suddenly from Edo is that man who I thought had abandoned us long ago!”

Kenhei was shocked by this:

“What is it you are saying?  You daughter came to my house three years ago, and even now our three year old child is in our house.  Your grandson!”

With this the mother went into the back room where the family altar was kept, removed the mortuary tablet of her daughter.

“Your love for my daughter must have been so great as to call her back so she could live with you for those three years.”

Pulling it from her breast pocket, the mother showed the mortuary tablet to Kenhei.  The daughter’s name was written clearly on it in brush, along with the name of the blessed Buddha.    Kenhei broke down in tears, and after performing the proper funerary rights he brought the mother home with him to live together in Edo.

The child born to Kenhei and his ghostly bride grew up, and he became admired for his great wisdom and gentility by everyone in the province.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. DW
    Aug 31, 2012 @ 22:15:22

    Well, that was a sweet story! Even the old lady… who could have been bitter about the circumstances. I was expecting some ugly vengeance in there somewhere! That was a pleasant surprise.


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