The Smoking Husband

Translated from Konjaku Monogatari

A man from Yamato province had a daughter, who was in love with a skillful flute-player from Kawauchi province.  The two were married, and they lived together for two years that were full of love and happiness.

Sadly, the husband was struck by a sudden illness and died.

The woman was overcome with sadness, and would do nothing but cry and mourn her husband.  Other men came to her earnestly and with good intentions, but she would not even distain to look at them, and filled her life only with memories of her dead husband.

Three years passed in this way, until one summer night when the woman lay crying at home, she thought she heard faint strains of the flute music her husband once played.  Listening closely, she heard a voice from the next room, saying “Please open this door and let me in.”  There was no mistake.  It was her husband’s voice.

The woman peeked through a gap in the boards of the door, and saw her dead husband standing there.  He was playing a song that he had composed for her long ago.

He looked exactly as he had when he was still alive, and when seeing him the woman was chilled to the bone and overcome with fear.  She looked closer, and saw smoke escaping from the folds of his hakama trousers that covered his kimono, even where they were bound by a cord.  When the husband spoke, more smoke came from his mouth.

“What is this?  You were so sad and weeping and longing for me that I could get no rest!  But now that I have come back to see you, you sit there shivering in fear?  If that is the kind of greeting I get then I will just go back.  For this I withstood the scorching heat of Hell?”

And with that said, the man disappeared.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Matt
    Oct 08, 2011 @ 19:52:06

    Aww, what a shame. But what a twist that he was in Hell.


  2. lucretia13
    May 22, 2013 @ 05:12:06

    What a lovely story. The konjaku monogatarishū is probably my favourite setsuwa collection. Which scroll is this story from?
    I never expected the husband have returned from experiencing hell. In most of the stories i’ve read they just take a hell tour and come back home/to life.


  3. jeremy
    Sep 01, 2021 @ 06:21:25

    honestly, this made me feel a sadness, i was not expecting that last part. lol.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Copyright notification

All translations and other writing on this website were created by Zack Davisson and are copyright to him.

Copyright notification

In accessing these web pages, you agree that any downloading of content is for personal, non-commercial reference only.

No part of this web site may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of Zack Davisson.

Copyright notification

For rights clearance please contact Zack at:

zack.davisson (at)

Thank you.

%d bloggers like this: